Thursday, April 30, 2015

Seventeen Months!...

Spring has sprung!
And so has Hope!
She is 17 months old today.
This month she has changed a lot. She's taller, heavier (they are my scientifically precise measurements) and is really losing that "baby look" which makes us a little sad!
She also has a LOT more hair. It's coming in dark brown and every once in a while she has a little curl in the back! 
There are some things that haven't changed much. Hope is still very, very, very (I mean VERY) active! If she's not here - she's there - if she's not there - she's back here - if she's not - wait, where is she?!?!? That is a perfectly accurate description of my day. After Brian's finished his breakfast, the kitchen chairs go up on TOP of the kitchen table. The art table chairs have been in the basement for weeks...along with my desk chair. The coffee table gets pushed up against the couch and then big toys fill in the gaps - and then I pray that she won't try to climb on the coffee table! She looks so innocent, doesn't she?  Ha!
The key for Hope is to keep her occupied. We read for two seconds and then share "tea" for three seconds and then make doggie sounds for five seconds and then chase each other for ten seconds and then play peek a boo for two seconds. If you're out of breath reading it - you can imagine how I feel (and look!) most days! We also spend a lot of time outside or on the playground we have in our living room. This month she has mastered climbing up the rope ladder and the rock wall to get to the slide. Can you believe that? She climbs up so fast without any fear and sits right on the slide all by herself. It's so shocking to me - even still - and I see it happen at least thirty times a day. I'm obviously right there behind her - but she rarely needs my help anymore. She is such a tough little girl!
She has been getting a few molars in over the last couple weeks. I'm not sure the amber teething necklace is cutting it for these chompers. She's been a little on the cranky side and not sleeping as well as usual during the day. 
I've always been blessed with good sleepers - and if they're not sleeping, they've always just hung out in their cribs and entertained themselves. Thankfully, Hope is no exception! I love to watch her on the video monitor when she's awake. She talks to her little lovies or will sit and "read" one of the books I put in there for naptime.
She loves books - just like her brothers did at this age. The book she's holding in this photo, "Going on a Bear Hunt," was Gavin's - and it was a BIG favorite of his when he was Hope's age.
It's not unusual to see her sitting quietly with a book (she's capable of sitting, believe it or not! Ha!)...
...or even roaming around the house with one in her hands. I hope she loves to read as much as I used to!
Seventeen months flew by. My little baby is growing and changing so quickly - right before my eyes! 
I love spending my days - as exhausting as they are - getting to know her sweet and exuberant personality. She is such an individual and I hope she stays that way always!

Today was an exciting day for me because I had my first "professional" essay posted on! The piece was about how to survive Mother's Day when you've lost a child... something I know a little bit about. If you'd like to read it, you can find it HERE. I'm also excited because that means that I can put some of the money I earned from this into my "fundraising" account! When I hit a certain number, I'll write a check to one of the charities we support. And then when I hit that number again, I'll write another check for the next charity. I'm really thrilled to have the opportunity to work for the money as a way to continue honoring Gavin's life.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Biggest Payoff of All...

The Easter Bunny brought Brian an airplane this year. It came in plain, undecorated cardboard pieces and we both thought it would be a fun activity to do together. Every so often, we'd sit on the floor - markers and crayons riddled around us - and carefully color the airplane's body, the wings, the nose. It was all under his strict instruction, of course. There were days that he wasn't interested in working on it. There were also days when I was quite tired of seeing it laying there - unfinished. There was even one day when I reminded him that a whole week had gone by and he hadn't wanted to touch it - maybe it was time we tossed it in the recycling.

"NO!" he said. "I have so much fun doing this with you!"

There were even days that Daddy got on the floor and contributed to the coloring scheme! It took a long time, but today we finished it. I put it together and Brian and I added the finishing touches. 

He even chose a model name and number for the plane:  VAAV 90,000. Sounds good to me.

We took it outside and he tested it in the yard.

I have to say, the aerodynamics were impressive.  I remarked to Brian that it was a shame they didn't leave room for a flight attendant and he said, "That's okay. I can be the pilot AND the flight attendant! Watch." And then he turned his body clear around and asked the air, "Would you like a snack?" 

Later that day, Brian, Hope and I took a walk around the block. I told him how happy I was that we finished the airplane - even though it took us forever to do it! I asked him what he liked best about the plane and his answers really left me thinking.

He didn't talk about how cool the plane was - or how fun it was to play with. He didn't even talk about how well we colored it! His favorite part of this cardboard toy was us. 


He loved coloring together. He loved that I would sit on the floor. (Some days that is quite a miracle due to my Rheumatoid Arthritis, let me tell you!) He loved when I told him stories from my days as a flight attendant. And he loved being silly with me. 

"But Brian, we do those kinds of things a lot!" I reminded him.

"I know," he replied. "But you asked me what I liked about the plane and that is it!"

Sometimes as parents we think the big things will give us the biggest payoffs. We think our children will be happiest with the priciest toys, the fancy, expensive birthday parties, the major vacations. It's easy to want to please them in the biggest ways.

But I'm here to tell you - Brian is here to tell you, actually - that it's not necessary.

Do you know that when I think back to my life with my parents, the first things that pop into my mind aren't the big things. They aren't even on my list of favorite memories - even a Disney trip! The best moments for me were the many nights my Mom sat beside me when I was going to sleep, rubbing my back and letting me talk. Or not talk. It didn't matter because I just loved having her there. Or when my Dad would write me poems or letters on birthdays, graduations, special events...or for no reason at all. 

The smallest things can sometimes - actually, oftentimes - produce the biggest payoffs.

I hope one day my children will look back and remember...

The bedtime gigglefests.
The love bomb dates when the answer was always yes.
Spending hours at the art table.
Hearing Santa's bells outside their bedroom windows.
How they felt when their Daddy walked in the door from work.
Spending time having fun with their cousins.
Laughing about 18 years of store bought birthday cakes.
Getting love from their Granny. 
So much laughing.
Pencil measurements in the doorway.
And Gavin. I hope they always remember Gavin. 
Even though Hope will never know a life with him, I hope both she and Brian remember that he was always there. Every day and in everything we do - he was there.
Every night, Brian asked me to tell him a story from when I was little.

Many, many years from now - when they are telling their own children bedtime stories about life when they were little, I hope they tell them it was filled with love...
The biggest payoff of all.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Close As Our Own Backyard...

"How many children do you have?"

It's the question I love.  It's the question I dread.  Most of the time I just say, "I have four!" and hope they leave it at that.  But they usually don't.  There are some that want more information, as I would.  Boys, girls?  How old are they? Do they all get along?  I take a deep breath - knowing that this could be the conversation ender right here...

"I have four, but two are in Heaven."

Silence.  Gasp.  Then comes the I'm sorrys and the awkward comments and wide eyes that scream "get me out of this conversation!!!"

No one likes to talk about death.  It's just the truth.  But where does that leave the Mom who wants to talk about the life of their child?  I love to tell people that I got to hold Darcy for 5 1/2 hours on Mother's Day.  My first Mother's Day as a Mom of a daughter.  I love to talk about Gavin, as you know, and tell people how incredible he was.  But death has a way of becoming a big road block.  That's unfortunate.

I also love talking about my two children that are here on Earth!  
Brian is getting sweeter and smarter and cooler every day.  This past Friday night was a planned "Mother/Son" event hosted by his school.  Nearly all the boys and their Moms were going to a baseball game about an hour away.  Now, I really don't care for baseball (or any sports!) but I didn't tell Brian that!  I bought the tickets and told him how excited I was.  The day before the big game, we realized that rain was in the forecast.  That was it for Brian.  He decided that it didn't sound like much fun at all to sit in the rain.  He also wasn't keen on the long drive - or the late night.  As a reminder, he is six.  Not seventy six.  Moving on...

We decided that we should come up with a "Plan B."  Brian's "Plan B" was for the two of us to go to the Movie Tavern and then to Arnold's Family Fun Center! So that is just what we did.  We had dinner and warm brownies at the Movie Tavern and saw "Home" (which we don't recommend)...
...and then we went to Arnold's!  We had a blast.  We played Skee Ball and Air Hockey.  Brian won the jackpot on a video game...
... and we played Black Light Miniature Golf!  He definitely gets his golf skills from his Daddy.
We laughed and laughed that night.  On the way out of Arnold's Brian said, "Hey Mom!  Get me dancing on video!"  He really plays a mean air guitar.
The night wasn't what we had planned, but we definitely got the "Mother/Son" part just right.
Brian is such a great brother to Hope.  As she gets bigger and more active, they get closer and closer.  She loves to watch for his bus on school days.  Now that the weather is getting warmer, we are outside a lot.  The other day, she wandered around on the driveway and her head would pop up every time she heard something that sounded like a bus.  She just couldn't wait for him to come home!
Then finally... the big moment!  She RAN up the driveway to greet him.
It's hard to believe that Hope is 16 months.  Not just because 16 months flew by too fast... but because of all she does for her age!!  This little one is so confident and daring.  It's equal parts awesome and terrifying!  Inside - with hundreds of options in the playroom - she chooses to climb.  She'll climb on the coffee table - on the couch.  She'll climb on any chair she can find and pull out and she always has a cute, mischievous grin when she does it.
It's pretty difficult to get anything accomplished when she's awake, so when I do - even something simple - I feel like Wonder Woman!!  But typically I have a solution when she's awake and I need to do things.  It looks a little bit like this...
...and a lot like this:  
I am a Mom of four.  Two on Earth and two in Heaven.

Some days, Heaven doesn't seem that far away.
Some days... it's as close as our own backyard.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

This is What Two Years Looks Like...

Dear Gavin,

It's been two years.  I can't believe it.  Two years since I held you, saw your smile, heard your laugh, cheered you on and kissed your soft skin.  The time has flown - but it hasn't.  Some days seem to last forever - yet time has so rudely marched on.  To say I miss you wouldn't be enough.  I ache for you.

But today, my birthday, was not so hard.  Your Dad and I feel the days leading up to the day you died - both when it was happening and now - are harder.  It was brutal when it was happening.  So much so that the moment you passed away felt like a relief.  Your body was changing and you were no longer the Gavin we knew you to be.  You were set free - and it was a beautiful birthday gift to know that you were no longer tied down by tubes or machines or pain.  

I woke up this morning feeling so loved.  As I reached my hand under my pillow, I pulled out the most adorable card.  Brian made this on his own without any help, he told me.  It was the best gift.  There's nothing better than a homemade card!

So, as we try to do every day, we celebrated life today.  Yours, mine, our entire little family.  Daddy took the day off and we kept Brian out of school so we could all go to the Please Touch Museum!!  Brian and Hope had SO much fun. I think Hope felt like she had won the lottery when I let her out of the stroller and didn't stop her from touching everything!!

The first experience we had was, fittingly, with water.  They had a little river set up for kids to sail boats and splash and it was so much fun.  

Hope had a great time in a miniature playground just for babies and toddlers!  I could tell she felt like such a big girl - holding her own with the other little kids in there with her.

Brian was the tour guide for the day and didn't steer us wrong.  He found this awesome elephant made out of old toys and collectibles...

He found a room filled with GIANT tinkertoys and we created a house together!

And he found a penny press!  You should see how big his pressed penny collection is now, Gavin!

We went on the carousel two times in a row.  I know you would have loved that.

Brian picked a seat so we could all sit together.

Hope loved the ride...

a LOT!  Ha!

We took some fun pictures...

And then we fell down the rabbit hole.

Brian discovered an entire town down there!  They had a hospital, a shoe store, a brick yard and a supermarket!  Brian and I quickly got to food shopping.  I was in aisle three looking for Pop Tarts while he made a bee line for the fresh vegetables.  Well, fresh plastic vegetables.  That's right, Brian.  Do as I say and not as I do.

Hope found us a new home with a white picket fence and became intensely attached to the stuffed dog that lived there.  That was a sad goodbye.
All throughout the day, we talked about you.  We remembered funny times and sad times, family memories and memories that only you and Brian shared.
So basically, what I'm trying to say, is that today was like any other day.  You are on our minds, in our hearts, in our house and in our conversations every day.  That will never change.

If anyone wonders what it looks like on the two year anniversary of the death of a 5 year old little boy who was our world... looks a lot like life.
I love you, Bugaboo.
Love, Mommy
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