Monday, September 28, 2015

The Truth Is...

It's the night before Gavin's birthday. Tomorrow we will celebrate the day he would have turned eight. The truth is... we're not doing so well. Any of us.

It has been two years and five months since he left us so suddenly. Generally, as you know, I am positive. I can put a positive spin on most anything. But not lately.

Brian is especially struggling which I think has put us in a tailspin. There are just some hurts that can't be fixed.

There is not a lot worse in this world than losing a child... or watching a child suffer. I am currently experiencing both.

It has been two years and five months since our beautiful son died. And suddenly it feels like a dream. Did this really happen to us? Did I really watch Gavin die right in front of my eyes? Did I really speak at his funeral? How did we get here? And why... why... why.

The truth is, I will never get an answer to why. At least not while I'm alive.

Tomorrow we will celebrate the day my life as a Mother truly began. We will celebrate the boy who changed my life in every way. Five and a half years later my world would come crashing down when he was ripped away from us. Tomorrow I will try to remember his life - and not dwell on his death.

The truth is, right now, that is hard. For all of us.

And that is how I'm feeling on the night before my eighth year as Gavin's Mommy.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Brian Leong's Best Week Ever!!...

This has been such an exciting week for Brian, my sweet and thoughtful little boy.

It all started on Monday when he came off the bus to discover that our new kitten was in the front seat of the car! Can't get better than that, right?
All week, he's been having fun getting to know Mia and taking very good care of her. 
Each week, Brian's teacher sends home a list of ten vocabulary words. The children need to come up with original sentences and make tally marks next to the word for each sentence they create. Then they need to add up all their tally marks. The two student who come up with the most sentences by the end of the week win prizes. All week we had so much fun with this. (I'm not sure who was more into it, to be honest!) Our goal was ten sentences for each word - and we did it! One hundred sentences in all!!

Friday came and I sent him off to school with little reminders - "Don't forget to write your spelling words in all lower case!" "Remember - it's a-n-t!" "And don't forget who you are. Wait, who are you?" I joked.

Friday afternoon as his bus pulled up to the corner, I could tell in two seconds that something was up. He came bounding across the street to me - breathless. And out it all came...

"Mommy!! Look at my crown! I am "student of the week" for being the best boy!! And I won the vocabulary words contest! My prize was this cool calendar that has all these activities for each month and I can't wait to do them with you! And my friend Jake gave me this awesome star ring! And I'm SURE that I got a hundred on my spelling test," he practically shouted at me!

"That is SO great, buddy!! I'm so excited - about ALL of it!!" I told him.

"All I need to do is get a goal in soccer and this will be the BEST WEEK EVER!" he added.

The next day, at his third soccer game, he got a goal. We decided the rest of the weekend should be a big celebration.

We baked brownies - and ate too many, as if that's a thing. We played a crazy game of "tag" as a family which I'm still recovering from. Saturday afternoon we went to a local farm and Brian made a new friend in a beautiful horse who seemed to gravitate to him. 
We also stopped by an old school house from the 1800s that we have driven by at least one million times since Brian was born. 
We always said we would stop by when it was open for a tour on the weekends and never did... until this weekend! It took all of five minutes to view this one room schoolhouse - but it was fun!
We ended Saturday attending something called "The Abbeyfest" at the Daylesford Abbey near our home and Brian experienced his first concert!! I listen to a station called "The Message" on Sirius/XM pretty much all day in the kitchen. It's contemporary Christian music and I've loved it since I was young. Brian knows many of the songs and we often sing and dance to them in the kitchen together. Seeing the person who sings the songs that come out of the iPad in our kitchen actually sing them live - it was quite a trip for Brian. 
We saw Matt Maher and he was great!! 
Brian's friend from school, William, was there with his Dad and we all hung out on the lawn together for the concert. At one point, the entire lawn was lit up as people held candles.

 It was a magical night under the stars. Even Hope got into the spirit with some spontaneous dancing!!

Sunday afternoon found us in our old neighborhood for the annual block party. It was so fun to see our wonderful neighbors - and Brian was happy to run and play with his good friend, Daniel. It was the perfect way to end the best week ever.

 Tonight, going to bed, he asked for a story and chose the book "Remembering Gavin" that one of his teachers made for him after Gavin died. We've read it a hundred times. But tonight, when I got to the end of the book, Brian fell into sobs. So many feelings... so many fears... so much grief for one little heart. 

Every night, Brian asks me to tell him a story from when I was little. Tonight I suggested that I start telling him stories from when he and Gavin were little... and through his sniffles, he said he liked that idea. 

Was it a terrible ending to the "Best Week Ever?" I don't think so. If Brian truly remembers "who he is" - "a Leong" - he'll know that it's possible to balance grief and joy. That "letting it all out" with a good cry or throwing boxes in the garage or talking to your Mom and Dad about your fears and sadness is healthy. If he remembers who he is - then he will also remember who I am... the Mommy who will always be honest with him, always be there to listen or sit in silence or give him a pep talk. 

It is not easy to bear witness to a child's grief. But boy, is it an honor. And it is an honor to be Brian's Mom. I love this sweet child with all of my heart.

Someday I aspire to be "Student of the Week" - because he sure is one of my greatest teachers.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Day I Thanked Sunshine...

It all started one morning at breakfast when Brian gasped and pointed out the window. Strolling across our patio was a cat. Ugh. Instantly, Brian sprung out of his chair and walked to the window.
"Can I go out and pet her????" he asked.
"ABSOLUTELY NOT!! Don't touch it, Brian. You don't know if it's wild or sick or is filled with fleas..." I said.
I really don't like cats.
But it is pretty, I thought.
Obviously, we went outside. Mostly because I'm a sucker.

The cat was not at all scared and came trotting up, sat down and looked at us. We spent a good hour out there with this "thing" and I felt strange things happening inside me. Some kind of softening to a CAT! Annoyed, I went inside. That night, Brian excitedly told his Daddy what happened. Almost on cue, the cat appeared in view and he went out to meet her. Almost immediately after the kids were in bed, Ed ran to the store for cat food. I was feeling pleased about that, strangely. Annoyed, I went to bed.

The next morning, I vigilantly checked the window to see if I could spot her. I found myself out on the patio making "pss pss pss" sounds. She came running right to me. I started giving her commands, like I would if she had been a dog. She followed every one. There was that weird feeling again! Annoyed, I put out the food and some water and sat next to her while she gobbled it down. She didn't have a collar and looked to me to be healthy. She really is beautiful, I thought.
The next morning, she was back again and I bounded outside to greet her with a head scratch. Yes, it certainly was a head scratcher that I was so happy to see her... that is the truth. I asked our new neighbors if she was their cat - nope. I asked the previous owners - not theirs! The kids and I even drove to some local farms to ask if she was their barn cat - no one recognized her.

That night, we decided to name her Sunshine. "It's the perfect name for her since she brought a little Sunshine into our lives!" We went out and bought toys and a brush and a breakaway collar with a bell and started to make a shelter for her to sleep in at night.
What. Was. Happening. To Me.

Then... she was gone. 

Every morning I looked out the window. Every afternoon I was out making "pss pss pss" sounds. Every night I was calling her name.

A couple weeks later - right before Brian started his first day of First Grade - she was back. She waltzed into the yard like the prodigal kitty. She stayed a couple days, so I decided to call our old vet and he graciously made a house call to check her out. He told me she was definitely a she - that she was spayed - that she seemed very healthy and appeared to be about five years old. He congratulated us and I felt excited. I guess we had an outdoor cat! I had no intention of bringing her inside. One, I don't like cats. Two, I can't predict how Hope would handle a cat - and how the cat would handle Hope. Three, I'm just not ready for a pet - and we had planned on getting a dog down the road...certainly not a cat!

That night, Ed and I took the long walk down our driveway to do some gardening work. Sunshine followed after us and sat near us to keep us company - and then followed us back up and went to her usual sleeping spot.

Then... she was gone. A week went by. And then another. I called her name into the wind at least once a day. After a while, I stopped looking out the window. She wasn't coming back - I was convinced. It was no longer a strange and foreign feeling. I missed this beautiful being and wasn't even ashamed to admit it. I couldn't stop thinking about her.

Last Sunday, all of us were out running errands together. One of our stops happened to be near a pet store. I've no idea what led me to go in there - I didn't think they had pets, just pet "stuff." But as soon as we walked in, there were two cages with three cats. Brian and I instantly gravitated to one - a black and grey kitten named "Grace." Coincidentally, the volunteer from the rescue organization they were from walked in the door to do their daily care. I heard myself saying "Excuse me - can we hold this little kitty?"
After we handed her back and were getting up to leave, Ed said to me... "Wait. You're leaving without her?" He knew before I did. He usually does.

About three hours later, I was getting interviewed by a representative from the animal shelter. She told me she would need to call our vet for a reference and would get back to me. I quick sent a message to our old vet (the one who made the house call for Sunshine) and told him to expect a call asking for a reference - that we were about to adopt a kitten. I expected him to be surprised - but I'm sure he saw it coming a mile away. I'm a sucker for animals, but even I didn't see this coming. A cat! ME! 

I got the call the next day that little Grace was ours and I won't lie - my heart leapt a little. I arranged to pick her up the next afternoon. Before that, I quick read as much as I could about kitten care... what supplies she would need... and asked my Facebook friends to tell me anything and everything. I ran out to the store and loaded up the mini-van with a carrier and a litter box, scratching toys and a cat tower... and lots of toys. And that evening, before Brian went to bed, the two of us snuck back to the store to say goodnight to our new kitten - that we'd see her at "home" tomorrow.
Hope and I went to pick her up while Brian was at school. I couldn't wait to see Brian's reaction when he got home. The very nice representative that approved us met me at the store to hand her over. The store gave me a free bag of food and coupons toward anything I purchased for "Gracie" which was so nice! 

Brian got off the bus that afternoon and I had the kitty in the front seat in her carrier - just waiting for him. He was so shocked - and so, so happy. 
Brian is very sweet with animals and really loved this kitten. We had a family meeting to decide on her name. Brian loved the name "Gracie" but was concerned because his good friend's name is Grace. He feared that both of them would be confused if they were together (ha!) or that his friend Grace may not like that our cat has her name! But he thought we should keep Grace it's now her "middle" name. 

Let me formally introduce you to... Mia Grace!
The shelter suggested that we confine Mia for a few days or a week. We started out keeping her in our laundry room - but it became too difficult since that's a high traffic area. 
Not to mention, it was too easy for Hope to get into everything. She even tried to climb on the cat tower to get to Mia!
So we decided to move her. She is now in our master bathroom most of the time and is very happy! She loves playing with the kitty she sees in the triple mirror!
She loves to sit in the window... her shadow in the sunshine...
...and lounge around, as kitties do.
We visit to play with her many times a day.
 I recently bought a harness and leash to let her explore the house - and even outside! I don't want to let her loose and risk her not finding her way back to her litter box. At night she hangs out downstairs with me and Ed. Right now she's sleeping in my lap!!
I was most concerned with how Hope would be with a pet. She has surprised me so much! She loves Mia and says "aaaaaaa" every time she softly (and I mean softly!) pets her. She will throw Mia's tiny crinkle toys and then laugh as Mia races around chasing them. The best is when she shows Mia her toys or her bubbles or her dolls - or tries to feed her from her own snack cup. 
I have a feeling that the two of them will be best buddies. I'm always supervising when Hope is near Mia - and it's a good thing. Hope can be a little aggressive with her insistence that Mia kiss her. She grabs her tiny kitten face and plants one on her!! Mia is very patient with Hope - but animals are certainly unpredictable. 
Coincidentally, Sunshine showed up in our yard the very day we brought Mia home. Almost like she knew. I went out and thanked her. Yes, I know how wacko that seems. But I am convinced that Sunshine was sent to me to open my heart to an animal I always thought I hated. The time I spent sitting with her in the yard - and the time I now spend holding a purring Mia - is close to meditation. Who knew that snuggling with a soft, purring, sweet cat could be so relaxing. If I had high blood pressure issues - she would be the cure!

This will be my one and only dedicated post about our new addition. I mean come on, I'm not a "crazy cat lady!!" Please. But I really should end here. I need to finish up her birth announcements and sewing her Halloween costume.
(Just kidding. I don't sew. I totally bought her costume. Ha ha!!)

Friday, September 11, 2015

It's That Time of Year Again!!...

It's that time again!! My favorite time of year. Wait - maybe it's my second favorite time of year. My first is the end of labor day weekend which, to me, signifies the end of LEG SHAVING SEASON!! WOO HOO!!!!!!

Sorry - I got distracted.

My favorite time of year is the Just Between Friends Consignment Sale! The one I go to is coming up the week of September 21st! If you've been around as little as a year, you know how utterly obsessed I am with these twice yearly events. I am involved in the sale in Oaks, Pennsylvania. It takes place in the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center - which happens to be the same place that donated space to me for my HUGE playground fundraiser! (There may be sales near you - it doesn't hurt to check their website.) If you have kids, grandkids, nieces or nephews, students... basically if there are ANY kids in your life, you owe it to yourself and them to attend one of these sales as a shopper - and maybe as a seller, too! I am both... a shopper AND a seller. Selling at the JBF sale is simple. And if you do it my way, it's a piece of cake.

Let me walk you through my process of preparing to sell at the JBF sale.

The first thing I do is spend a little time in the kid's closets and drawers pulling out the clothes (unstained, of course) that they have outgrown.

Next I spend some ALONE time in their playroom and gather a ton of toys that I am SURE they will never miss. My plan is to sell them which will give me money to buy new ones at the sale!

Next, I look for the box I had set aside to hide those toys only to find that it has been hijacked and made INTO a toy.
I get the kids involved in the sale, too. Here is Hope making sure that all of her shoes fit or if there are any that can be tossed in the sale box...
Too small.
Too big...
Just right!
Sometimes it's easy to get off task - or fall for the "look how cute I am loving this toy I haven't played with in two years" act. But it's important to stay focused.
Wait a minute. Hope isn't even TWO yet! She is totally keeping that dog.
 And this caterpillar.
After putting all the clothes on hangers (easy!) I stick everything in my trusty mini van and drive it over to my Valet Tagger!! Didn't see that one coming, did you??

Get this - I am DONE after that. My incredible valet tagger does all the work. She does any needed research to figure out the names of toys and what the prices should be... she enters every item with a description and price on the JBF website... she prints out tags and attaches them to every single item... and she even delivers all of my things (which then become "our" things since she gets a WELL DESERVED cut from my earnings!) to the sales floor. I could be as involved as I want to be with the pricing of the items, but I trust my valet tagger and have only made a couple changes here and there in the last two sales! We have made a lot of money together - and she does 90% of the work!

What do I do after I drop everything off on her doorstep? Unfortunately, there is so much more required of me after that.

Like hanging in the playroom...
Or spending a lot of time on a Lego project.
Lounging on the couch - which is non-negotiable.
And taking Brian to his soccer practice and his games.
Basically, using a Valet tagger with JBF means you can spend more time with your family and still make money!

Some may see it as taking the easy way out - I say, well of course it is!! Minimal work + making great money, regardless... that, to me, is a win-win.

I would love to meet you at the sale if you're coming! The details if you are hoping to sell your items - including instructions, tips and deadlines - can be found on the JBF Western Main Line website. You can find that HERE.

If you are planning to shop, the sale opens to the public on Thursday, September 24th, from 9am-8pm. Same hours on Friday! Saturday they are open from 8-5 and then, get this, Sunday is the half price sale! Many items are reduced half price from 8-3 on the last day of the sale.

I am so excited - and love that I have nothing to do now but just stroll in and shop for Hope and Brian's winter wardrobe including snow suits and boots... new toys... maybe even Christmas presents! You wouldn't believe how many things are brand new at these sales. Can't wait to give you updates as I find my treasures! You can follow me on Instagram @kategavinsmom on September 23rd when I'm at the pre-sale. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Reporting From the Sidelines...

I grew up in a family of very sporty guys. My Dad and brothers watch sports, play sports and go to sporting events. Growing up, it was a big part of our life. Well, let me rephrase that. It was a big part of THEIR life - and because I was the youngest, I was carted to every practice, every game, every everything. And the TV was typically turned on to... you guessed it. Sports. And now many of our nieces and nephews play sports and are even getting looked at by colleges, which is incredible! 

I was super happy - thrilled, even - when I married Ed. I mean he doesn't hate sports. He had played sports back in the day. But it's not a big part of his life. And I made sure he wrote in the prenup that he couldn't change his mind. (Kidding.)

Anyway - I would be lying if I didn't admit secretly hoping that I would have children who preferred the theater arts over sports... or anything, really (except illegal activities) over sports. (Kidding.) I felt I had paid my dues playing with my imaginary friend under the bleachers at my brothers' basketball games. Paid my dues swatting flies at my other brother's soccer games. I was done.

Except for one teeny little thing. I ended up with a boy who likes sports. 

Brian played T-Ball for two years - and loved it.
And now he is playing soccer for the first time this year and...
And I have to be honest. I love ALL of it. (NOT Kidding! Well except for standing in a field with flies swarming over my head.) And I find it all hilarious that I have a child who enjoys sports despite me!! Ed was out of town on the night of Brian's first practice and I continued to text him pictures, videos and "OMGs!!!" as I watched him in action out there on the field. 
We never taught him anything about soccer - and here he was running around chasing the ball like he knew what he was doing! I was stunned. And holy cow did he look cute.
The day of his first game arrived. He's on a team with three of his classmates, which makes it even MORE fun! (I missed one in the shot - you'll have to take my word for it that he's just as cute as the others)
The two coaches are very encouraging and patient. 
Granny came to watch Brian's first game - you can hear her in the background acting nervous and saying things like, "Get in there!" "Follow the ball" "Oh oh oh!" She made ME nervous for a bit. Was I supposed to get in there? Does Brian need me? And I AM trying to follow the ball, Mom - but I'm also trying to stop these FLIES from following ME!!! But, as it turned out, she was talking to Brian...

The good news is, Brian has my back. He has already given me several soccer tutorials. I know very little about soccer - but let him think I know nothing. He LOVES to teach me.
And I am loving every minute of it. I even found myself yelling and cheering! I just started copying the things Granny was saying. She is a seasoned veteran, after all. This is not her first time cheering from the sidelines!
Brian seems to be catching on to the game. I was so surprised to see him constantly running up and down the field non-stop. I asked him about it later...
"I figured out that if I keep running the whole time the flies can't catch me, Mom!" 
Well, well, well - at least I know he's mine!

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