It's been a while since I've written. This is probably the longest time I've been away! But it has been for a good reason. A great reason, actually! The Leong family has embarked on a brand new adventure. On July 17, Ed and I made settlement on our new home!
The last several weeks have been a whirlwind and quite overwhelming. My personal concern (really my biggest concern!) has been Brian all along. As we got close to the move date, he started to get quite emotional about leaving the only house he's ever known. I never tried to talk him out of his feelings. Why would I? It was emotional for me, too! So there were several nights when he would let it all out and I would just hold him, nodding in agreement. Things turned around pretty quickly, though. I tried to make his last morning in the house special. We spent time laughing in the "Brian-Gavin" room and making plans for how we should decorate the "Brian-Gavin" room in our new house.
He chose a Superhero theme, quite fittingly.
We also had a fun "last breakfast" amidst all the boxes. The movers had already started packing the day before. For a woman with two small children and a case of Rheumatoid Arthritis - having a team dis-assemble, pack EVERYthing, move it all and re-assemble was a HUGE gift - to me AND to Ed! It also saved me from spending days in bed recovering. Seriously!
We made a point to collect some of Brian's special treasures - like Lego sets he had displayed in his room - and had him place them in his new playroom in the basement. It really made things more "real" to him - and gave him a feeling of ownership and pride. He loves that his new playroom has built in cabinets so he can show off his masterpieces and keep them away from Hope's curious hands!
The previous owners of our new home have been wonderful. The wife and I have been in contact a lot and she's been so helpful. It was obvious how much this home meant to their family. I wanted to do something special for them, so I had an artist create a watercolor portrait of the home. I wanted to be sure that she captured the cherry blossom and magnolia trees and the stained glass in the front doors - some of my favorite features of the house. The painting was a big hit and I was thrilled to give them a piece of their home to take with them.
I had explained to her how happy I was that their home was surrounded by cherry blossom trees - the same type of tree we had planted after Darcy died. To me, it had almost been like a sign that this was meant to be our home. When Ed and I arrived at our new home on settlement day, she had left a gift for me on a shelf. "From one Mom to another" she wrote. Inside the box was a gorgeous, fragile cherry blossom made of glass. I can wear it on a chain or as a pin. I was so moved by this gesture - it's really something I will always treasure and never forget.
I loved the painting I had done so much that I decided to surprise Ed with a portrait of our home! A lot happened in this house, you know. This was our first home together. We fell in love and moved here - I drank too much here - we fell out of "like", understandably - I got sober here - and then... we had Gavin and then Brian and then we lost Darcy and then we lost Gavin... and just in time, we had Hope. We persevered here. We witnessed miracles here. We made thousands upon thousands of happy memories. Gavin lived here and progressed beyond expectation here and took his first steps here. I feel so, very lucky to not only have found Ed - but to have lived in such a beautiful home with him, raising our children together. I am sure a very special family is waiting right around the corner ready to buy our home and will make their own wonderful memories in this house. They will be a lucky family, indeed. There's magic in them there walls.
I want to tell you about the artist who created these watercolors for me. I found her by chance on Etsy. Her name is Elaine Jackson and her shop is Jackson Home Portraits. I HIGHLY recommend her. I mean - HIGHLY. I am pretty confident that she's a magician because she had these portraits done in mere days! Did you look how she painted the stones - and the bricks - and the stained glass pieces?? She was such a joy to work with and paid attention to every single detail I gave her. These are such nice gifts to give for so many different occasions.
The first couple weeks after the move were really overwhelming. Ed was off the whole first week, I put Brian in a full day fun camp at his school where he spent time with his friends, and I relied heavily on my family to help me with Hope. I hired my niece, Claire, for many of the days and she was great!! Keeping Hope (and sometimes Brian, too) occupied and safe was a HUGE help.
My Mom was a big help, too. One day she completely unpacked my dining room (which was once hers!) and placed every bit of Waterford crystal and china in the display cabinet. (p.s. - my dining room is not located in a local garden center.)
Once we spent our first night in the house, Brian never shed another tear over his old house. Not one. But I am making a point - no matter how busy we are (which is very busy!) - to do something fun and special every single day with him. It's important to me to imprint happy memories at this new home immediately to set the tone for our future here. He picked his own room (which was based on which side of the hallway he was in the old house) and he loves it. He still sleeps in Gavin's bed and wants Gavin's name hung on the wall right near his own. Our new backyard is beautiful. The previous owners created a true sanctuary with a foot bridge and a stone garden, unique landscaping including an apple tree that bears several different kinds of apples! Brian and I love exploring the yard together - and we always find something new.
He's taken great pride in showing Hope around and helping her navigate the yard and the stone steps to the patio.
Around the side and back of our property, there's a path that goes back into a woody area that is ours. Brian and I love taking "nature hikes" back there. (That's about as "nature-y" as I get - and it's also the extent of my "hiking") We investigate leaves... find cool branches... watch birds... and also watch out for ticks. Ha! One day we were able to get up close and personal with a cicada! Boy, those things are HUGE!
It was a happy day in our house when "The Swingset Man" moved our playground from our old backyard to the new backyard. One of the best parts of our new yard is all the shade from the trees! We spend a lot more time on the playground than we did before.
Because of all the huge trees, I was able to fulfill my own secret dream of hanging a huge swing! I got this "Monster Net Swing" at Target! It holds two people (up to 250lbs) so Brian and I have had lots of fun swinging together. But there's nothing cuter than watching him hold onto his giggling sister as they glide through the air.
We've already made so many wonderful memories in our new yard. We've climbed trees (and by "we" I mean Brian climbed and I cheered)...
roasted marshmallows (and by roasted I mean burned)...
spent time in the hot tub having boat races...
and bonding time...
played lawn darts...
sat on the tractor...
went for wagon rides around the new 'hood...
and one of my favorite things to do? We lay in the yard and look up into the beautiful summer sky through the trees.
A few neighbors dropped by to introduce themselves, which was so nice! And just today, Brian, Hope and I knocked on three doors (the first round in our neighborhood tour) and introduced ourselves. Brian picked out the rose plants and was excited to give them out.
The neighbors we have met are all so lovely - and lucky Brian has a bunch of new friends already! There are several boys that are his age!!
We feel very lucky that our new home has a GREAT basement for the kids to play in. There are two separate playrooms. One has a linoleum floor which is perfect for ride on toys and making messes.
There's lots of space to play together - or separately - or even have a dance party! We wired the room for sound (which means we plugged in a boom box) and have already busted a move on that floor.
Right next door is a very sweet "secret Princess hideaway" room. The previous owners transformed a crawl space under the stairs into a perfect little girl room with a crystal doorknob, working doorbell, bright colors and even detailed molding for an extra fancy touch. It's one of our favorite things about the house - and the kids could spend hours in there (Hope has!). She loves playing with her kitchen or feeding her babies or just hanging out in there.
During this whole process, Hope turned 20 months. This was the best shot I could get of her in her chair that day!
And whoops - she's gone...
I remember it was around this age that I started to have a hard time capturing Brian during his monthly photo shoots... but he wasn't nearly as hard to capture as Hope! This little girl is in constant motion.
Hope loves her room, which we painted a light shade of pink. Every day when she gets up from her nap, she runs over to her window to look outside and yell "HI!" to birds or squirrels or the trash truck - whoever or whatever she sees.
I love that the windows are low enough for the kids to look out and leave their fingerprints and lip marks all over it. (I'm not kidding - I kind of love seeing little fingerprints because I know it doesn't last forever.) Hope loves to find a window and "sit" on the ledge.
Lucky for us, she mastered the stairs going up and down before we moved. She goes down backwards on her belly. Thank God, because our new home is almost impossible to gate.
I joke that I'm going to attach bells to her somehow because all day long she's exploring her new home! "Where in the world is Hope" is something I say about ten times a day. Turn your head for a second and she's running down the hall...
or helping herself to a snack in the pantry...
or re-arranging the kitchen drawers (to be honest, I didn't like how that one drawer was arranged anyway)...
or sneaking upstairs and then yelling down "IAN" or "MAMA" (which is helpful if I lost her in that moment. Ha!)
or creating a one-woman band.
There hasn't been a dull moment, that's for sure!!
The other night, I put the kids indoor playground together. They hadn't seen it for months because it was in storage! When they came down the next morning, I led them to the basement for the big reveal - and you'd have thought it was Christmas. First of all, I'm so happy we can put this monstrosity in the basement and not in our "formal living room" like we did in our old house. But honestly, I'm happy to see it again. It was one of Gavin's final birthday presents. I'm hoping it will satisfy Hope's climbing urges each day. (So far that answer is: not.) The two of them have spent hours on this already!! You may have heard the screeches and giggles wherever you are.
We are so happy here already. The house is wonderful, yes. But we already feel like it's our home - and the fresh start is exactly what we were hoping for. Everyone is here with us - no child or memory was left behind. Gavin and Darcy have a special place in the family room on the mantle and we are going to place Gavin's memorial bench by the trickling stone fountain on the patio that he would have just loved.
Going to bed one night Brian said to me, "Mommy? I think Hopi and me are going to really like it here."
In my heart, I know they will.
We all will.