Sunday, November 30, 2014

Hope's First Birthday!...

Dear Hope,

Today was the big day!!  Your First Birthday.  I don't know about you, but this was the fastest year of MY life.  It seems like last month - or last week - or even last night - that we laid eyes on your beautiful (and I mean beautiful) face for the first time.
And I'll never forget how Brian reacted when he met you!  He was in love from your first moment together.  It only got better when you came home from the hospital!
This year has been quite a roller coaster for me.  One day you will read this and understand why.  Finding out you existed just as we said goodbye to your brother felt like a free fall - exhilarating and terrifying and frantically grasping for a parachute - all of it.  From the second we knew you were coming, you were loved.  From the second we knew, you were cherished.  You grew and grew under my broken heart and somehow along the way...your love mended it.  I will never be able to fully describe how much your smile has healed our family this year.  How your snuggles in the dark of night have been like a balm to my soul.  How watching you bond with Brian has brought us so much comfort.  

I'm not sure I really knew how much I wanted a daughter until you were here!  It is so much fun to watch you "mother" your babies... to put you in dresses and headbands... and to plan a "Princess Birthday Party!"  I've loved every minute of it.

For your birthday, I even tried something new.  I took you and Brian to a portrait studio for the first time ever!  We went to the Target Portrait Studio in Plymouth Meeting (where I grew up!) and had a wonderful experience.  (Thank you to our lovely photographer, Danielle - you were great!)
I also wanted to get some photos of you with your brothers.  Gavin was represented, of course, in our usual subtle way.  This time it was by the "Super G" pin on Brian's sweater!
There is so much love between you and your brother.  I hope that never stops.
I do know that Brian is your protector - and I'm sure that will never change!

This morning we couldn't wait for you to wake up!!  Like a true Princess, you slept in a little late.  As soon as we heard a little peep we all went rushing up to greet you with Happy Birthday!

Finally the time came for the party!!  I decided I needed to use my "It's A Girl!" mailbox cover for the occasion.  Ha!
You wore your beautiful princess dress and hat (during the first half of the party only because obviously you had two outfits.  Ha!) and your brother (and all the boys) had a crown!
All of your special birthday party guests were given a tiara, a feather clip or a crown for their hair.  Oh, and fancy beads, too!  Granny and Aunt Bean looked simply royal!
Daddy set up the camera so we could get a group shot of everyone at the party!
The big news of the party was that you started walking!!!  You took a few steps last night, but today something really clicked.  You walked more than you ever have - and so confidently!  I was so happy that this moment was shared with family and friends.  And it was such a trip to see you standing to greet your friend, Myron!!  You look like such a big girl!
After everyone arrived, I changed you into your birthday shirt for the cake and presents portion of the shin-dig!  But before we lit the candles, you had another trick up your little sleeve!  We've been trying to get you to do "Sooo Big!" forEVER!  Aunt Bean was the one to pull it out of you - and you did it for the rest of the night... over and over!

Cake Time!!!!!
You really weren't sure what to do with this little cake that was ALL for you.  You've never had anything remotely close to that on your tray!  This was truly your first taste of sweets. You started off very dainty and ladylike with just a tiny finger poke...
...and then you got a little more daring.
And then you just WENT for it!!
Here was the big Princess cake for everyone to share!
Brian helped you open all of your presents and, boy - everyone was so thoughtful and generous!
You were having so much fun with your friends and your cousins - it was so sweet to watch you hold your own with everyone.
Your friends, AJ and Sarah, gave you a bear that plays "peek a boo" with a blanket.  It's the cutest thing we've ever seen!!  You are already in love with this little guy!
Brian picked out a toy cell phone that lets him record personal messages for you.  
"You know - in case Hope misses me when I'm at school she can hear my voice!" he told me.  

He recorded this as his first message:
"Hi Hopi.  I love you.  You are special!  I can't believe that you are one.  I love you!"
He really couldn't WAIT to give it to you, Hope!
Aunt Bean gave you a talking and singing tea set!
It really was a great party.
After the party, I attempted to get your 12 month photos in your chair.  I'll let the pictures tell that story!
"Mom, I'm a walker now. Why would you expect me to sit??"
"And I'm asleep..."
Today was the perfect celebration of a wonderful, bittersweet, peace-filled and joyous year with you.  I can't wait to see what you have in store for us every day.  You really are our dream come true, Hope Leong.

Happy First Birthday!!

Love, Mommy.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Eve of One...

Today has been somewhat bittersweet!  It was my last Saturday "photo shoot" with Hope.  Her 52nd week with us - it all just flew by.  I was very excited about this particular photo, though.  Hope had been gifted this gorgeous Hartstrings dress from our dear friends, the Wongs, and to me it just screamed Gavin because of the blue and the timelessness.  It also begged me to attach one of our "Super G" pins to the middle of the bow.
I wanted the last photo... on the eve of her first birthday... to really honor Gavin.  In many ways, I feel she was dropped straight from Heaven.  From Gavin's arms to ours.  This photo needed, for me, to be about both of them - Gavin and Hope.
The little monkey you see is very, very special.  It was Gavin's and he slept with it in his bed every night.  It was actually next to him every night in the hospital leading up to his death as well.  Hope became attached to it immediately and it has been with her in her crib.  She can press the monkey's belly to hear lullabies - and each time we hear the music come over the baby monitor, we smile.
Tomorrow is Hope's first birthday party!  It's just a small gathering of family and friends.  We're having a Princess theme because, well, I love any excuse to wear a tiara.  There will be tiaras and fancy beads and feathers and crowns for everyone to wear!  

Remember my playground fundraising event?  One of the auction items was from a little company in California called "Little Jubilee."  When I saw the auction item - a free party in a box - I knew that I had to bid on it.  Hope was only five months old, but when I went on the Little Jubilee website I knew I had to have the Princess Jubilee set!  I bid and bid until I was the winner so I could use the set for her first birthday party!! Hope was very intrigued when the box arrived.
I am not a Pinterest Mom (or person in general!) so to me this was like opening a box FROM Pinterest and just setting it all up - easy-peasy! 
I set everything up (it made it so easy having these fun things to make it a little more special!) ahead of time so today I could spend the whole day with Brian!

It may be Hope's first birthday - but to me a first birthday is really about the people who "survive" the first year.  The winner of this year is Brian.  He has been a remarkable big brother from the very beginning.  I told him I wanted to take him out on a "Love Bomb" date and he was so excited!!  A "Love Bomb" day in our house is a day that is totally about one child and one parent.  Brian gets to pick where we go... what we do... what he eats... all of it.  It's a day when the answer is YES (within reason) and the rules are broken (hello, dessert before dinner!) and the focus is on him.  Brian chose to go to Arnold's Family Fun Center - a place that he (and Gavin) loves to go.  Before we left, he drew me a picture and wanted to take a picture of us.

"You look pretty, Mommy."  he told me.
"Do you think I look handsome for our date?"
We had so much fun playing video games... skee ball...
and bouncing in the bounce house.
There was an unfortunate incident when we were attacked by a killer shark, but Brian was able to fight him off after he took my picture.  (His idea to pose!)
When it was lunch time, I asked him if he wanted to go out anywhere - maybe get pizza or cheese burgers.  Nope!  He wanted to go home to eat lunch, collect his sister and visit Santa Claus!!  So we dressed the two of them in their Christmas outfits and off we went!
We have had a great relationship with the Santa at our local mall over the last several years.  Last year, in particular, was incredible.  (You can read about that magical experience HERE)  I was, admittedly, disappointed when we showed up to find a new company and a new Santa today.  I was so looking forward to seeing our "friend!"  But this Santa (and the whole experience, actually) was lovely!

You could feel Brian's excitement while he waited...
...and Hope was completely intrigued with all the decorations and lights.
Brian told Santa that he had been a good boy and a good brother (all true).  He asked for Lego Star Wars sets, race cars, a trampoline and a bounce house!  (I was surprised to hear him ask for a bounce house out of the blue.  True story - I bought one on a crazy sale last week!!)
He was also sure to ask Santa to bring his little sister some dolls.  He never forgets her!
What a difference a year makes...
After our visit with Santa, Brian wanted to head to the fountain in the center of the mall.  It was always a favorite spot of Gavin's and it's become a tradition for us to visit that fountain any time we're in the mall.
Gavin will always be a part of everything we do.
We ended Brian's love bomb day with a backwards dinner (dessert first!) and reading a "Magic Treehouse" book before bed.
Life will sure be different when we wake up in the morning!  Hope will be a big one year old.  But, she will also be a WALKER!!!!!!!!!!!  Look what she started this morning!

Wondering what's in her mouth?  Why, it's a probably dirty paint brush that she took from the art table.  I pictured an idyllic first steps moment - you know, when she takes her first steps into my outstretched arms and falls into me giggling and a tear falls down my cheek because I'm oh, so happy?  But what really happened is I saw her in slow motion put the paint brush (dry) in her mouth and she was so distracted that she started to walk without realizing what she was doing.  The paintbrush still hanging from her mouth. a move sure to win me "mother of the year" - I chose to grab my phone to videotape the walking and decided that I was exposing her to culture by letting her ingest art.  (Sounds good, right?)

And this, my friends, is how you parent when you're 44.  I definitely don't sweat the small stuff anymore.

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