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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:

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Once back at school, Braedan was the youngest kid in the district to join Ski Club. He enjoyed it immensely despite record little snowfall:

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At the end of February, Mark and I went to Charleston, South Carolina with friends. A wonderful weekend in a beautiful and charming city:

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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:

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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:

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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.

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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:

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Backroads 2012 076008017

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And of course, our tenth wedding anniversary and our super celebration-of-everything party:

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Fall meant back to school for Braedan and off to school for Austin:

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More travel, this time for Mommy and Daddy on their own:

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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:

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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.

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The whirlwind celebration year continues.

We’ve just returned from nine days overseas, mostly spent biking in Holland and Belgium. I know, I disappear for two weeks from your inbox and that’s what I’m up to? Remember when you used to worry that blog lapses meant we were stuck in the hospital, out of computer range?  No, nothing so serious these days; just our first ever Family Backroads trip, accompanied by my parents and a group of 26 intrepid travelers, cycling from Amsterdam to Bruges.

I know when you think “bike trip,” you picture roughing it: bedraggled travelers lugging everything they own on their bikes, sleeping in tents exposed to the elements, nothing but ride, ride, ride. But Backroads is far from it, trust me.  There’s always a support van, for one thing, should you decide the distance or the rain are too much for you. Plus they carry all your luggage from fancy hotel to fancy hotel, leaving you with nothing but a day pack filled with snacks, camera and hopefully (but not in our case) rain gear.  And there’s so much wine, cheese and chocolate that even if you do ride 190 miles in six days, you might pack on a few pounds. But most importantly, they make traveling with kids feel like an actual vacation.

We would bike together in the morning, Braedan on his own (logging in a total of 120 miles!) and Austin on a piccolo attached to Mark’s bike.  Morning rides were usually about 20 miles long, on entirely flat bike paths along canals or cow pastures, passing many a windmill. Then we’d gather in a town or park for lunch, followed by an additional (much faster) ride for the grown-ups while the small set was whisked off on some perfectly executed kid adventure, including a trip to the beach, canoeing, and the highly anticipated Kid Olympics. One afternoon the adults got a tour of a 15th century brewery while the kids went on a chocolate scavenger hunt. And yes, if you so desired, all were welcome to go scavenging for chocolate; Mark and I opted for Belgian beer instead. Even the dinners, which took place at restaurants much too fancy for my picky eaters and which lasted much too long for my antsy boys, were made enjoyable by the ever-present Kids’ Table.

Braedan does AmsterdamOn the ferry

The boys in Gouda

The view from atop the brewery

The other view from atop the brewery

Lots of cheese

Lots of bikes

Lots of windmills

Austin picnicking with Grampy

The view from my hotel window in Bruges

The super cyclist

When the kids are happy…

the grown-ups are happy.

 

We polished off our adventure with a quick trip to London to stay with friends for two nights.  It was a little hectic and a lot crowded but nice to catch up with my dear college friend after ten years. And the kids were beyond thrilled to ride the London Eye, a definite trip highlight, and to make yet another set of new friends. I think it’s time to set Braedan up with his own email account so he can keep in touch with all his new besties.

“Look kids, …” (you know what that is, right?)

Now it’s home for laundry, more laundry and back-to-school shopping. Oh and parents, if you’re ever looking for a quick way to shift your kids from their late-night summer schedules to a more school-friendly early bedtime, I’ve found the magic bullet: just drag them along on an eight-hour overseas flight with a six-hour time change. Piece of cake.

Nice post for me to leave sitting out there for more than a week, huh? Hope nobody accidentally stumbled across my blog or they’d never return!

I happened to be on vacation last week. Yes, a real, super fabulous, sort of random, lucky-for-me vacation. You know how my parents go on these bike trips every year? Well, my dad had his knee replaced in the spring and then his other knee scoped in August and my mother was suffering from bike trip withdrawal and pathetically requested my company so she wouldn’t have to go an entire year without a Backroads trip and I, being the good daughter and not wanting her to suffer too much, sacrificed myself and tagged along.

Okay, well, that’s not exactly how it went. It was really my husband who sacrificed me and let me go along. Thanks to short work days for Mark and long playdates for the boys, I had the distinct pleasure of going with my mom for a week of cycling through coastal Maine. I know when people think “bike trip,” images of roughing it come to mind. But no, this is quite the opposite. We certainly worked hard on our bicycles (there are no flat parts of Maine, as far as I can tell), but these trips are quite luxurious, with leaders taking care of every detail and van support in case you want to quit (needless to say, we never did) and lovely hotels and inns and fantastic gourmet dinners each night. For me, the combination of intense exercise, quaint seaside towns and delicious food and drink could not be more perfect.

Day One: Ready to go

The weather was iffy (and that’s an understatement) but the scenery was beautiful. We were quite close, in  fact, to where the boys and Mark and I went last fall.

Best of all, we had a great group of fourteen cyclists and two leaders, and spent a significant portion of our non-biking time just talking and sharing and laughing.  We knew we were willing to get to the heart of the matter when our second night dinner conversation revolved exclusively around religion, inspired by one lapsed Mormon and many lapsed Catholics.  So much for not talking religion or politics with strangers!

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My favorite part was Day Two, the toughest by far, which included a climb up Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park, the highest point along the North Atlantic seaboard. As our leaders described the route, they predicted it would take us 40 to 45 minutes to bike the 3-and-a-half miles up. Forty-five minutes for three-and-a-half miles? On a bike?! That seemed crazy to me and as soon as I thought, “I could run it faster than that,” I knew how I’d be spending my afternoon.

After cycling more than thirty miles on unpaved, trafficless paths, I met our van at the base of the mountain and handed over my bike, ready to  tackle a run up the mountain. “Oh-kaaaay,” my leader had said when I suggested it at lunch. “We’ve never had anyone request that before.” Which, of course, made me want to do it even more.

A few hundred yards into my run I had a brief moment of doubt — what was I thinking? — which quickly dissipated as random drivers and cyclists cheered me on. Every time I got a wave or a clap or a toot of a horn (or even a head shaking), I’d smile and just keep going. (It always helps, you know, like today as I ran down North Park and someone leaned out of a minivan window and shouted, “Run, Krissy, run!” I haven’t a clue who it was but I sure appreciated it.)

Partway up

Still going

The hardest part was not knowing how far I’d gone. Because I was slower than usual (and had forgotten to look at the exact time when I started), I had no idea if I was just around the bend from the top or only halfway there. It reminded me of those final weeks of Austin’s treatment when we were never sure of how much more chemo we had ahead of us. It’s always easier when you have a clear goal, an end post, to set your sights on. The not knowing makes it so much harder, both physically and emotionally. Do I push now and finish strong or conserve for all that remains ahead?

The whole run reminded me of the cancer journey.  Cancer’s like that, you know. One small step, one foot in front of the other. If you look up and try to take in the whole path ahead of you, you’d be too overwhelmed to ever even start. The summit would seem insurmountable. So instead you put your foot down and you take one step and then you take one more. Focus on the one tiny inch in front of you — that’s what my dad said before we started the second round of chemo. Just that one little inch. And before you know it, you’re there. You’ve done it.

And then it’s all downhill.

We head back in to the hospital tomorrow morning, after a quick stop in the clinic for labs.  His blood counts have been great for the past week (so great that he’s gone to school three days in a row — a veritable miracle!), so I don’t imagine we’ll have any trouble getting cleared for chemo.  We’re scheduled to stay until Tuesday, but will again lobby to be released late Monday night like the last time.  And if we can manage to get started a little earlier in the day tomorrow with his pre-hydration, that would move each day’s schedule back a few hours and we might be lucky enough to be driving home by 11 o’clock on Monday night instead of 1 o’clock on Tuesday morning.

The hardest thing about this upcoming stay is going to be the absence of my number one helper: my mom.  My parents left on Monday for a two-week bike trip in New Zealand.  Yes, New Zealand, about as far away from Cleveland as they could possibly get (excepting, maybe, Antarctica?).  They planned this trip months ago and when Austin relapsed, my mom wanted to cancel, but we insisted that they go. They’ve canceled three other trips on our behalf: one around the time of Austin’s birth, another when he was recovering from surgery during Round One and another following Round Two’s surgery. The first canceled trip, which of course we all thought would be the only canceled trip, is sort of a funny story: A few weeks before Austin was due to be born, my parents were supposed to go on another bike trip, maybe in Prague (they really live it up, you know) and we were concerned that Austin might have to be delivered early. So my dad told me to ask my OB for statistics, he wanted percentage points of the likelihood I would give birth during that time frame or not. My OB, who knew my parents quite well outside of me and my pregnancies, said to tell my dad that if they went, there was 90% chance Austin would be born and if they stayed, there was a 90% chance he wouldn’t be. They stayed. And he was born two days after they would have returned home.  That’s probably the most accurate prediction ever made by an OB.

Anyway, we insisted my parents stick to their plan for this trip and go. My mom, of course, has been wracked by guilt. Because not only do we have a five-day hospital stay but my brother and sister-in-law are due to have  their second child in five weeks . . . and their first one was born, you guessed it, five weeks early. You know, my mom has all that pent-up ex-Catholic guilt about the tineist things so just imagine what she’s been going through leading up to this.

But we are all doing fine (really, mom,  if you’re reading this as you relax in the summer breeze of some gorgeous New Zealand countryside, we are FINE). We will simply handle this.  There’s no real reason for that second baby to arrive early, just because his brother did. And for us, it just means a considerably more boring five days. The hours at the hospital creep by and it gets extremely tedious, but oh well, we can survive tedium (just this once, at least). We are fine, Mom, I promise.

Now I know there’s a whole slew of you reading this thinking, “Oh! This is my chance. I can help!” But we’re good.  Braedan is covered with playdates and sleepovers and birthday parties for the entire five days. Meals are being delivered to our door each evening. We purposefully scheduled this round to coincide with the weekend. And, because my mom is the only person who Austin willingly stays with at the hospital besides me and Mark, there’s just not much you can do in that department. He’s not even totally willing to stay with her. In fact, he does an extraordinary amount of screaming and crying when I walk out of that building without him, just to make sure my own maternal guilt is in full gear.

Before my parents left, we made my mom promise that if she was actually going to do this, then she had to have a good time. There was no point in her flying halfway around the world (and abandoning her children in their hours of great need), if she wasn’t going to have a good time. I hope you know I’m kidding about the” hour of great need” thing. But mom, if you’re reading this way over there, I hope you know I’m not kidding about the having a good time thing!

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