If you were to look around our home, our yard, our kids, you would find so many gifts. So many items that were generously given to us by our families and our friends. It's shocking really, how much of our lives are supplemented, bolstered, held up by our friends and families. That extends far beyond things. Don't get me wrong, our kids have everything they need, and my husband and I both have to work full-time jobs to ensure that they do have everything they need along with plenty they want. Most importantly, they are loved more than any kids have ever been loved and we are here. Yadda yadda yadda, it's the hand-me-downs that really make me smile and smile big when I think of where they came from.
I'm a big thrifter. A big, HEY IF IT IS IN THE ALLEY LET'S TAKE IT (dumpster diver!) and yet my husband is COMPLETELY skeeved out by that concept. But what's a million times better is taking on our friends' toys and clothes that have been much loved and much cherished and giving them new life AND THEN passing them along after we are done - given they are still in good shape. I've gotten some of my favorite clothes, boots and coats from Ebay used, because who can afford new AND then they are already broken in. Perfect.
FREE IS ALWAYS BETTER. Free from someone we know is the only way for my husband.*
There's this new-to-us kitchen in our basement. OUR BASEMENT. Which acts as a playroom for our kids. OUR KIDS. Sorry, I still can't believe this is my life sometimes.
The kitchen was given to us. Given to us after our friends Jeff and Nicole (Jeff and my husband have been friends FOREVER) and their twin boys and little girl had outgrown it and it needed fresh little hands making soup and mimis and spreading pretend mustard on the phone. The kids were hesitant to give up their toys because come on! But when they were told that the little twins would really like playing with them, they kindly handed them over. Kindness and compassion start young. The phone and microwave still work and I'm just amazed that the sound effects and lights are still in working order. I love that this came from another set of twins who I'm told brought their parents continuous cups of tea. We also got wooden puzzles, a cart full of "food" and other toys that were lovingly passed our way.
See that dragon costume hanging up on the left? That came from a box of costumes from my incredible friend Tara who writes the blog You Know it Happens at Your House Too. She sent cowboy boots too because she lives on a real live farm! The greatest treasures packed into a little box that we didn't open until we were settled in our new home.
THIS STROLLER OH MY GODS. My lovely friend through blogging with Chicago Now, Beth (her blog is here), swooped in to rescue us one day last spring when our double wide went CAPUT and generously loaned us her Bob. Now, you all know Bobs are the shiznit of strollers, and no way could we afford this, but we are third family to use it and couldn't be happier about it.
The sweatshirts they are wearing are hand-me-downs too. They came from a dear friend all the way in Canada.
I've known Katie since probably 2nd grade. That's us below. Cheerleaders for Halloween, yo.
Well, Katie's kids have outgrown all their Little People stuff and we benefitted. Have I mentioned how much I enjoy being an OLD MOM? Many of my friends have kids that are growing up now and we get their discarded stuff they are WAY TOO OLD FOR NOW MAN.
The one on the left was my Lynnie's when she was a wee lass and the one on the right was my husbands. There was no discussion, but when the time came, we somehow had a rocking chair for each kid that was special. The people around us care for us. Watch over us. Love us.
I met Kitty through my blog. I never got to meet her son, Aidan. But I know their story. I know he was a little boy who didn't deserve to go through what he went through with cancer. He was only 3 when he died. And yet he brought so much joy to everyone around him while he was here and continues to spread it around. Every time I see my kids on their playset, I think of Aidan. I think of a little boy who should still be running around and playing without a care in the world. I think of his incredible parents and the fact that they still spread joy and not bitterness. I'm so thankful for Kitty's friendship and the light she shines. She continues to work tirelessly for Pediatric Cancer Research through Aidan's Army. She inspires us to not rest until there is a cure.
My girlfriend and cohort Sheila, aka, Mary Tyler Mom, brought over a box of her sweet Donna's clothes last Winter. Donna had cancer too. Donna is gone way too soon too. That's why her clothes are so precious. I see photos of Donna wearing these pieces and my heart leaps. Too much light lost. My girl has worn every piece the last year or so and each time I am reminded and catapulted into that space of gratitude. I didn't know Donna either, but thanks to Donna's mama I sure feel as though I did. Sheila is a rock. She will never stop fighting for her girl and for others going through the same thing. If you can get to a place of using your tragedy to help others, you are a beacon of hope. Sheila and Kitty are beacons of hope.
That swimsuit. GIRL PLEASE. Donna loved fashion.
We missed out by not knowing these kids. But I'm so impressed with their mamas for keeping them alive and in our line of focus. I love these kids. These kids I never got to meet. And yet, they get to live on a bit with my family. And that is incredibly comforting and wonderful. It's bittersweet. But I feel happiness when I see them playing in my home. With my kids. And we tell their stories. We must keep telling their stories.
My babies wore some of my clothes as tiny babies that my mama had kept. My boy wore some of my nephews clothes. They are fragile and safely stored away again now in my attic. We have boxes of clothes for both a boy and a girl from a cousin of my husbands that have been so lovingly kept and sent our way.
We have so many stories of people who care about us that have rooted for us for so long and continue reach even deeper for us now that they are here. We couldn't do it without you , friends and family.
Our village is strong. And these kiddos are going to hear all the best stories over and over again. Where they came from and where all their fun toys came from. So that when it's time for us to pass them on, they can tell the tales and add their own chapter. We have given a bunch away already to charities and passed a bunch on to friends and family. I would love to hear the stories they tell of our twins. I love to think of who these kids will be someday. All these kids. And to keep the ones who were taken way too soon alive in our memories right along with them.
Turns out, some of the very best gifts in life ARE indeed, free. AND with those incredible gifts, the best part is we get to pass it all on. The circle, the stories, the kids, the love. It all keeps flowing if we pass it on and share the stories. Hand-me-downs are magical. In more ways than you would think.
* I love you all but if you start sending random stuff to us, my husband will get really creeped out. Thanks love you!
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