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Ah, what a difference a year makes. Last Mother’s Day was not so good. I mean, the weather was nice enough that we were able to go on our annual picnic and hike. But the cloud that hung over my heart at that moment, the horrible certainty I carried in me that this would be my last Mother’s Day with two children, could not be lifted.
Yesterday, on the other hand, was cold and rainy and we didn’t really do much (although staying in your pajamas until 1pm is pretty special), but it just doesn’t matter. I don’t need intricately planned outings or lavishly wrapped gifts to celebrate being a mother. A pile of school-made cards and two sweet boys snuggled up beside me as we wiled away the morning reading Harry Potter in bed is more than enough. (And bacon and eggs — thanks, Mark.)
But the icing on the Mother’s Day (oooh, now that’s a good idea . . . Mother’s Day cake) came Friday afternoon with our visit to Austin’s oncologist. Confirming all that I’d reported two weeks ago, his chest x-ray was clear and his kidney numbers hold steady. So, we can now say without hedging that Austin is truly and officially three years cancer-free, 60% of the way to the other, much more pleasant C-word.
Since his new doctor is still learning his case, she showed me an email she had requested from a member of Austin’s team at Rainbow, providing a broad overview of his five-and-a-half years of care. Much of it was formal and technical but I scanned quickly, with Austin quietly Minecraft-ing beside me, searching for any hint of editorializing. Maybe a little clue of his future or a confirmation of what we’d believed was, well, a pretty big deal. And it was there: “Austin has had an impressive and complicated course of treatment since his initial diagnosis in July 2007.” Impressive and complicated, indeed.
Today, we just use word “impressive.”
I really am the luckiest. Not only do I get to visit exotic (and warm!) locations around the world, but I get to do it with a group of girlfriends that is fun, funny, smart, interesting, brave, adventurous, supportive, nurturing, loving, hilarious and — least I forget — gorgeous.
The little beach bar next door to our house, perfect place for drinks at sunset
The view from right outside our bedroom window
Beach bar again
These pictures are really nothing compared to the much better ones I need to download off Shutterfly. The jungle adventure shots of us ziplining, rappelling and aero-cycling are must-sees.
Thank you, girls, for making our trip such a super fantastic fabulous wonderful restorative and all-around special experience. Mexico should expect us back again soon.
And thank you, Mark, for taking such good care of the boys in my absence and never once complaining.
Did someone say lucky?
I guess that last one should have been titled The Year in Picture. This one can be the Year in Pictures.
2012 started with a family trip to Jamaica, with requisite swimming, horseback riding and playing with cousins:
Once back at school, Braedan was the youngest kid in the district to join Ski Club. He enjoyed it immensely despite record little snowfall:
At the end of February, Mark and I went to Charleston, South Carolina with friends. A wonderful weekend in a beautiful and charming city:
March was dedicated almost entirely to St. Baldrick’s events, from the Bluffton Basebald trip to our Cleveland Heights event to the always fun downtown head-shaving. I was surrounded by bald people all spring long, which could not have made me more proud:
Then we ventured off to Colorado for a spring skiing adventure, complete with an ambulance ride to the medical center for Austin’s low oxygen levels:
We fully expected May to kick off the grand two-year cancer-free celebration, only to instead plunge into sixteen days of darkness and despair upon believing Austin’s cancer had returned yet again. A lucky double rainbow and a long overdue MRI provided intense relief at the end of the month and our good-year-gone-bad reverted to great.
Then it was summer and all the joyous relaxation that comes along with it, including endless hours of baseball. baseball, baseball, swimming and waterskiing in Chautauqua and biking through Europe:
And of course, our tenth wedding anniversary and our super celebration-of-everything party:
Fall meant back to school for Braedan and off to school for Austin:
More travel, this time for Mommy and Daddy on their own:
Plus birthdays and fall sports, school events and some “little” surgeries, a lot of lost teeth and holidays, holidays, holidays. Of course, this was all interspersed with fighting, crying, whining, random ailments and injuries, complaints about school and battles over homework, boredom, sibling rivalry and the like. But I suppose that’s what makes it all worth it. The year ended with a few days of skiing in Chautauqua in near magical conditions:
It was definitely a year to remember, filled with significant milestones and an awful lot of globe trotting. But what matters most is what remains: health, happiness, family, friends, luck, love, laughter. We’ve got it all.
Mark and I are currently halfway through a five-day ten-year anniversary trip to Napa Valley. I know, are you just dying of jealousy yet? But do note that this little trip was five years in the making.
Five years ago, in the summer of 2007, Mark and I had the grand idea that we were going to travel to Napa in the fall, celebrating having made it through the first year of our second baby. I had done a bunch of research and had chosen a place to stay, whose name and contact information were scribbled onto my weekly To Do list, a room ready to be reserved with a single phone call.
Needless to say, that phone call never took place. And, instead of an autumn trip to Napa, we embarked on a three-year journey to the center of hell. Otherwise known as the world of pediatric cancer. I could launch into a litany of “instead of this (wine tasting), then that (chemo),” but I’ll leave it at this: this trip’s been a long time coming. (And I can only laugh to imagine having left a recently weaned Austin with my parents for a week, when I went on to nurse him til 25 months.)
But oh my, are we enjoying ourselves. Talk about indulgence! I think I’m consuming as many calories at breakfast (fresh pastries from the famed Bouchon Bakery delivered to our porch) as I usually consume in a day. And certainly drinking as much wine in an afternoon as I usually do in a week. And loving every minute of it.
Today’s tastings were part of a 30-mile bike ride, definitely the way to go (luckily the temperature had dropped from 100-plus to the mid-80s).
And we are staying in just about the most fabulous and charming place I’ve ever stayed (and I’ve stayed in lots of charming and fabulous places!). It’s eight cottages, each with its own mini-kitchen, indoor gas fireplace, outdoor wood firepit, all encircling a small grassy field perfect for croquet.
Mark and I seriously encourage seven of our favorite couples join us here for a repeat trip in the next five to ten years. Feel free to nominate yourselves!
Well, it wasn’t quite the party extravaganza we had last year (I told you I couldn’t beat that one), but Austin did have a very successful Lego Mania bash on Saturday.
We managed to fit in both the Lego relay race (carrying Lego pieces on a spoon from one bowl to another)
and the Lego pinata (filled with Lego candy)
before the rain storm (um, I mean, hail storm) hit halfway through the party.
Then it was twenty rambunctious (and mostly male) schoolchildren running around the house. We corralled them long enough for Lego-shaped crackers and cheese,
and Lego-shaped watermelon with grapes,
and (you guessed it): Lego cake
Then it was gift-opening time and I bet you’ll never guess what he got. Here are some clues:
What ever are we gonna do next year??
Yesterday was indeed another day. And a good one at that.
Started with an early morning Dunkie’s run by Mark (nothing like junk food at 8am to get the kids up and at ‘em). Then off to school, with an end-of-Friday visit by Mommy and Braedan, complete with frosted zucchini muffins (not too junky, those) and a read-aloud by big brother to a class of cute and giggling kindergarteners. The whole event was tinged by a bittersweet encounter with a teacher’s aide I knew from my Coventry teaching days, who stopped me in the hallway with a hug and whispered in my ear how fervently she had prayed for this day.
His teacher using a magnifying glass to search for gray hairs.
More Lego gifts in the afternoon (god, I love how those keep them quietly engaged for such long stretches). Then homemade pizzas with the Gallagher clan, more presents and the as-requested key lime pie.
Today, a couple of hours of soccer accompanied by Daddy (so Mommy can finish last-minute party prep and cake decorating), followed by hopefully sunny skies and a gaggle of excited school children eager for Lego mania.
And as I said yesterday on Facebook, not a single day goes by when I am not keenly aware of how lucky I am to have this boy in my life. It’s been a crazy, unexpected, awful, wonderful, unlucky and extremely lucky six years.
Happy 6th Birthday to my sweet love, the one and only Austin Gallagher.
Mere minutes after that quickie marriage ceremony, my dad waved his hand at the army of workers behind us, busily setting up tables and chairs or creating extravagant floral displays and said (only half-jokingly), “Now you guys are married. What am I paying for all this for?”
Oh dad, marriage schmarriage. That’s for the wedding.
We never had any intention of forgoing the pomp and circumstance of a great big wedding celebration, but the man we’d chosen to officiate our ceremony, our grad school professor, mentor and friend Robert Lewis, was not actually “official.” But no question he was our guy. Brilliant and hilarious, his friends booked him to speak at their funerals long before it was necessary. I actually had the honor of speaking at his funeral, after he passed away on this very date seven years ago.
Fittingly, Robert, Mark and I all met on the same day, at grad school orientation. And I was equally taken by the tiny octogenarian in low-top All Stars as I was by the tall, dark and handsome classmate who sat down beside me in the lecture hall. So we worked around the legal requirements and got married the day before our wedding.
And what a wedding it was. My photos are somewhat limited, so here’s a picture of our ceremony spot taken today:
And here are some shots from that glorious day ten years ago.