You are currently browsing the monthly archive for August 2009.

Just wanted to give you all a heads up that we are the honored family at today’s Rainbow Babies’ & Children’s Golf Classic, a major fundraiser organized by the Rainbow Foundation. Mark and my dad and brother are golfing (which has nothing to do with the fact that we’re the honored family — they would’ve found any excuse to participate!) and then the boys and I will go for the dinner and I get to give a little speech (my favorite thing).

Betsy Kling of Channel 3 news is the MC, so there’s a chance some of it might be covered on the 6 o’clock news on WKYC. If there’s anything signifcant, I’ll link it here, especially for those of you who aren’t local.

And then tomorrow, we start a new month, filled with many a milestone. Braedan will start kindergarten (wow), we take possession of the new house (yay), Austin will turn three and start preschool (on the same day), I have two articles being published in national magazines (yay again) and we’ll round out the month with another hospital stay and CT scan (yikes). Life is surely never dull . . .

We went to visit Braedan’s school on Tuesday. We just showed up and got buzzed in, so I could show him around since we did all the orientation/Open House/playdates at Boulevard before we bought the new house.

The secretary walked us around, showed us the music room and art room, the gym and library. We checked out the three kindergarten classrooms which are tucked into a quiet corner (yes, with actual walls around them!). There are actually four classrooms back in that wing, one extra for the kindergarteners to eat lunch in so they don’t have to navigate the sea of “big kids” in the regular cafeteria. That room also has a Smart Board, which is very cool . . . and makes me feel sort of old. When I was teaching in this district, not so very long ago, we were advanced enough to have four computers in each classroom and were able to hook one up to a wall-mounted television for whole group instruction, but that pales in comparison to the technical wizardry of the SmartBoard.

His teacher wasn’t in that day but we met some others and everyone was super super friendly.  He and the little guy even got lollipops from the music teacher who was a teeny bit nicer than ours 25 years ago (that was sarcasm–how many of you remember the dreaded Mr. Bataglia?!). The school seems to do a  really good job of keeping the kindergarteners segregated in their own secure little area. They enter and exit through their own entrance and have their own smaller playground in the back of the school. Braedan was not super pleased with this fact since he favors the more challenging monkey bars, but I loved it. It’s tucked away in this enchanted garden, complete with pebble walkways and little benches scattered underneath the trees. It’s sort of magical.

I have yet to bump into my old fifth grade teacher, who is still there (the famous “Mr.I”). He ought to last at least a few more years so maybe he’ll get another (half) Dietrich in his class.

All in all, it was a lovely experience and gave Braedan a concrete image of what “big kid school” looks and feels like. Like any five-year-old, he was especially impressed with having a water fountain inside his classroom! Ah, to have such easily met standards . . .

While I’m on the subject of cute things Braedan has said, I might as well share the very funniest thing to ever come out of his mouth. This was right after Austin was born, around the time Braedan referred to “Mommy’s milk containers” (I’ll let you ponder for a moment which body parts he was talking about with that one). I was in the bathroom getting undressed to take a shower when he walked in, pointed at my still swollen belly and shouted, as if he had just made some terrible discovery, “Mom! They left a little bit of Austin in you!”

Ha! A little bit of Austin, indeed. I had given birth a mere ten days earlier!

Ask most moms though and they’ll tell you, even years later, . . . maybe the doctors did leave a little something in there. (See beautiful belly roll here.)

We finally got Braedan’s teacher’s name in the mail (Mrs. Murphy) and his assigned first day (Thursday, Sept 3 — the kindergarteners are split into thirds for the first three days for a calmer transition) making this all so real.  My little guy, suddenly a big boy about to go off to real school. Wow.

It’s funny, as a child growing up and then as a young adult living in Boston or Los Angeles or San Francisco, every year on my birthday, when I’d talk to my dad on the phone, he’d always always say, “Oh, I remember the day you were born.” And I don’t think I quite believed him or at least I didn’t understand just how vivid those memories can remain, how they are totally seared into your brain, until I had kids of my own.

But of course, I remember the day Braedan was born like it was yesterday. I will spare you all the gory details (and oh my, were there gory details), but that moment when he finally let out a big cry and then the doctors held his little face up for me to see before whisking him off to the NICU (I wasn’t kidding about the gory details), that moment when I first beheld him, all bruised and scrunched up but already beautiful . . . This was my child, my son, my baby.

when I first saw his face

when I first saw his face

 And then the years went by and he was so sweet and so loving and made us laugh at the silliest times. I remember when he was about eightteen months old and he woke up in the night and called out to us, but we were still in that god-awful crying-it-out stage, so we lay in our bed carefully ignoring him, hoping he would just fall back to sleep on his own. But he kept crying and calling for us and eventually, out of a combination of frustration and clever problem solving, he shouted, “Moooooommmmmmeeeeeeee, Daaaaaaddddddddeeeeee, ANYBODY!” We both sat up and laughed so hard and then decided he had finally earned our presence and went in to get him.

"Mommy, Daddy, ANYBODY!"

"Mommy, Daddy, ANYBODY!"

And I remember once right after Austin was born, I was sitting in the rocker nursing him and reading Braedan Barnyard Dance while he acted out all the movements (“Twirl with the pig if you know how”). But there’s a line that says, “Bow to the horse, bow to the cow,” and because Braedan didn’t know what the word bow, he instead called out, “Bow wow, Horse! Bow wow, Cow!!”

Not quite sure what to think of that little brother....

Not quite sure what to think of that little brother....

And this has gone on for years, memory after memory, cute little saying after cute little saying, some written down, some lost forever. New skills attempted and new skills mastered. And then suddenly this past Saturday, he announced he was hungry for lunch, and I suggested a peanut butter (actually, sunbutter made from sunflower seeds for my allergic children) and jelly sandwich and started to move towards the kitchen to make it for him. But he placed his hand on my back and said, “It’s okay. I’ve got it, Mom,” and proceeded to make his very own and almost perfect sandwich.

Ready for anything

Ready for anything

So now, the countdown begins. We are a mere ten days away from kindergarten. Use the comments section to share your family’s back-to-school traditions, the best trying-something-new-but-scary-and-exciting books, your funny memories so we can all be better prepared.  And by “all,” I mean both Braedan and me.

Every day we know we’re lucky to have Austin.

As I’ve said before, I try hard not to hover over him, I push myself to let him be a normal kid, taking risks and falling down and all that. But sometimes, I let him go too far. On Wednesday, after Phyllis’ funeral, there was an “after party,” which is sort of an ironic name for the gathering: “Phyllis’ after party” indeed. But anyway, it was at a cabin on Lake Erie, a place where Dom’s family has gathered for years. Grassy field, tables of food, a steep dirt path down to the waterfront.

So, of course, the kids all head down there. The older ones were swimming, Austin playing in the sand, Braedan climbing on the huge rock formations that jut out over the water. He wanted to explore beyond where I could see, so Austin and I decided to climb up after him. We scrambled up and down, hopping from one rock to another and ended up out on a wide flat spot overlooking the lake. I turned the other way to check out the place Braedan to which was hoping to venture, which was much too steep and slippery for a five-year-old.

Did you read what I just wrote? I turned the other way. . . and not only that, but I lingered for a moment. “It is pretty,” I said to Braedan, looking at the trees dangling over the water. And then I heard a cry, a quick scream, and turned back to see Austin’s hands up over his head as he fell between two rocks. Slipping away from me, in an instant. A split second. That’s all it takes. I was there in two seconds and could see he’d only fallen three feet down so I could easily reach in and pull him up and out. He was scratched up, banged his chin on one rock and then bit his tongue, so there was blood and he was certainly crying, but it was nothing, nothing, compared to what flashed through my mind in thsoe two seconds when all I could see was his hands disappearing from my view.

We were probably twenty feet over the water, on a jigsaw puzzle of rocks, some jutting up over one another, some with dangerous gaps in between. That night, after we were home and everyone was safe in their beds, I could not stop my mind from imagining all the gory possibilities. What if he’d fallen all the way through, down to the water and smashed his pretty little head on a rock? Or what if he’d gotten stuck, actually trapped between two huge boulders? What would we have done? No emergency vehicle could have reached where we were except for a boat. How long would it have taken before a boat with a crane arrived to move these rocks out of place? Could a boat with a crane even move those rocks out of place? I was actually thinking, “Are you kidding me? After all we’ve been through, after all he’s been through, this is how it happens? This?!”

He was upset with me too. The rest of the day, he kept asking in an accusatory little voice, “Why Mommy not holding Awtin on rocks? I want Mommy to hold Awtin on rocks!” As I put him to sleep, I apologized yet again and said, “I’m just glad you’re okay.” He looked at me with horror, like “Hel-lo, do you not see the band-aid on my chin?”

Yet again, Austin, yet again, I’m just glad you’re okay.

This one’s for Phyllis.

The mother/mother-in-law of our closest friends passed away on Sunday morning after a fast and furious battle with pancreatic cancer. She was diagnosed in late January, went through two rounds of treatment including both chemotherapy and radiation, and deteriorated rapidly in the past month. She was only 59.

This was a woman of extraordinary physical beauty, I mean a real knock-out. The kind of woman who, after people would meet her, they’d turn to Dom and say, “That’s your mom? . . . Wow.”  And just a few years ago, they would’ve said, “That’s your mom? . . . Damn!”  That was what you noticed about her first; there was no way not to. But she was warm and sweet and tons of fun. You could tell she surrounded herself with friends who laughed hard and loved hard. She adored her two granddaughters and you know they would have just loved having a grandma who let them be glamorous and extravagent and maybe a little bit naughty, experimenting with make-up or highlighting their hair long before their mother would have allowed such things.

Back in the day

Back in the day

But I was struck today, as we were driving home from her funeral, with the fact that she, as a beautician and stylist, spent her life making other people look and — this is important — feel beautiful. She, who must have always been the prettiest one in a room, gave that gift to so many others, even if it was just through a great, but temporary, haircut. She was spreading the wealth, in her own special way.

With Lola a few years ago

With Lola a few years ago

So this one’s for Phyllis. And for all those who knew her and loved her, especially Dom and Christie and Braedan’s future wife Lola. And for those who will never really have the chance to know her and love her, especially Austin’s future wife Olive.

Her life was cut short, there’s no doubt of that. But those she leaves behind feel lucky today, lucky to have had her while they did.

Listen to his fabulous adventure Mark and I went on yesterday . . .

First of all, my parents took both boys to Chautauqua for the weekend, a first for Austin and a first for me (I’ve never been in my own home for two full days without them, ever). So, did Mark and I decide to party all night or sleep in late on our day off?  Nooooooooo. No indeed, instead we got up at 4:45 to drive a U-Haul truck an hour and a half to Youngstown to this Kraftmaid warehouse located there. I’m not sure if any of you have heard of this place, but apparently there are TWO in the country, one in Utah and one in my own backyard. All of the overstocked, returned and floor model Kraftmaid cabinets from every Home Depot and Loews in the country end up at one of these two places, where they sell them for outrageously low prices.

It’s quite a system too, let me know if you want the real nitty-gritty details (what to bring with you, what time to arrive etc) and I’ll post it all here because they don’t have a website and it seems to be a bit of an insider’s secret. I found some info online in do-it-yourself forums and remodeling blogs, so we were pretty well-prepared. We got there at 6:30 and stood in line to get numbered wristbands, #229 and 230 (which means that many people were in line before 6:30!). At 7:15, they randomly pick a number and then let in 150 people while the rest have to wait for the next number to be drawn a half hour later. The number they picked? 220! So we were the ninth and tenth people to walk through the doors! You then dash around and mark anything you might want to buy with a piece of masking tape with your name on it. If something’s already marked, you can put a #2 next to your name and wait a few hours to page the #1 person to see if they really want it. Once we found our way around and located the aisle with the particular wood and finish we wanted, and once we learned to read the SKUs to differentiate the Cherry Peppercorn from the Cherry Kaffe (which was probably the hardest part), we labeled like crazy. We ended up buying twenty-five cabinets–everything from base cabinets with pull-out drawers and special racks for pan lids to wall units with wine racks built in to a fabulous seven-foot high double french door pantry unit for $110!! All in all, we spent $1300 for what would cost almost TWENTY THOUSAND if we’d order them from Home Depot! Yes, you read that right. If you haven’t remodeled a kitchen lately, perhaps you’re not familiar (as I wasn’t until a few weeks ago) with how jaw-droppingly expensive new cabinets are.

Now they’re not perfect, mind you. Some have scratches but most of that will be hidden when they’re mounted to the walls or flush against one another. And some of the door styles don’t match but we can switch them out and buy new matching ones from Home Depot for a fraction of the cost of the entire cabinet. But all in all, it was an incredibly worthwhile trip, even after including the cost of the U-Haul and the storage unit we had to rent to hold it all! Now I’m going to work with our contractor to lay it all out and see what other pieces we need to complete the space. I think we’ll go back one more time to buy molding and toekicks (which cost $5 and $3 for eight feet versus $75 and $50 at the stores). You can also buy all the interior kits like roll-out trash and recycling bins or cutlery dividers for $5 a piece.

It was pretty incredible and everyone was surprisingly civil to one another. There was no shoving or racing past competitors and I never saw anyone take someone else’s tape off of a cabinet. If you’re doing  a kitchen (or bath, they have sink vanities too), I definitely recommend it and would be happy to provide you with more details. I even read on one forum a post from a woman in New Hampshire who drove here and said it was totally worth it. If you come from afar, maybe we can put you up in our new house!

And yes, once we’d recovered from our cabinetry adventure, we did go out last night and did sleep in this morning.

This one cost FIVE DOLLARS because it doesn't have a door!

This one cost FIVE DOLLARS because it doesn't have a door!

 

A double door wall unit for $60 (it's upside down)

A double door wall unit for $60 (it's upside down)

 

We're going with a very dark cabinet (obviously) with white and gray marble countertops, white trim around the windows, wood floors and lots of natural light.

We're going with a very dark cabinet (obviously) with white and gray marble countertops, white trim around the windows, wood floors and lots of natural light.

 

I love this shot. The color shows up so nicely in the natural light.

I love this shot. The color shows up so nicely in the natural light.

Just wanted to point out my two new pages listed above: Sites of Interest, which profiles a bunch of cancer-related organizations and their websites (and also includes some very cute pictures from this year’s St. Baldrick’s event) and Navigation Tips, which explains how I’ve organized my posts on this site, as well as a few other basic how-to’s.

Now I’m off to do some reality-based housekeeping . . . .

Remember I told you many months ago that I had an article coming out in Caring Today? This is a magazine targeted to caregivers that is distributed largely through hospitals and doctors’ offices (might be hard to find while you’re waiting in line at the grocery store . . . ).

It was actually my first accepted essay and it was supposed to come out in the summer issue, expected in June. I’d already been paid for it, deposited my check and everything, but nothing happened. I hadn’t heard from them in months, there were no updates on their website, I was actually beginning to think that maybe they’d gone out of business! (Boy, that wouldn’t be a good sign, now would it . . . a bit of a curse on my publishing career?)

Well, last week the editor called and left me a message apologizing that she hadn’t been able to use my piece in their last issue but hoping to include it in the fall issue, but she wanted to first check in and see how Austin was.  Now her message wasn’t that simple. You see, the last communication we’d had was in late March when I sent her a brief message informing her that Austin’s cancer had recurred (as we then thought). She replied back with shock and sadness, sending heartfelt wishes our way. But that was the last she knew. So here’s this poor woman, leaving me what’s essentially a business voicemail inquiring about my son, whom she had every reason to believe was either in treatment or dying. Oh, you should have heard her. It was almost funny, only because he is neither in treatment or dying, to hear her hem and haw and try to delicately ask a question that might well have had the worst possible answer.

I called her back as quickly as I could to put her out of her misery with my best short-version answer of why it wasn’t actually a recurrence and how totally fine Austin now is. Needless to say, she was very pleased and we then talked the business of publishing.

She’s happy to not have to include such depressing news in my tagline, I’m happy to even get a tagline, it’s a win-win.

I see many of you have taken a virtual tour of our house.  Looks pretty nice, doesn’t it? I must say, those wide-angle lenses are remarkable because there are some rooms I barely recognize!  No movement yet but hopefully this weekend’s Open House will be productive. Of course, it’s supposed to be the hottest day we’ve had yet this summer!  Mark wants to put out a bucket of ice cold water bottles for everyone who comes through. Not a bad idea . . .

A lot of you have asked about the new house and our timeline for moving. If anything were set in stone, I’d have already let you know! But we do take possession on September 17 and then work will begin the following Monday. We had originally planned to redo the entire kitchen and mudroom plus a major renovation on the second floor to create a master suite (new bath and walk-in closets) out of two smaller rooms and an existing bath in desperate need of updating. Oh, plus refinish the hardwood floors and paint most of the rooms. But when we got the estimates in from our various contractors, they were all well over what we’d hoped to spend. Well, no they were about exactly what we hoped to spend but included the labor only leaving nothing for those little expenses like cabinets and countertops and appliances. Imagine that — my vision outpaced my budget!

So, we’ve decided to scale back quite a bit and do this in stages, with stage 1 being the kitchen/ mudroom/laundry plus basics like flooring and painting. The master suite will take place sometime next summer. I’ve had to go through a bit of a mourning period since I’d already gotten very attached to the walk-in closet and sanctuary-like bathroom that existed only in my mind. We’ll still have our own bathroom though, which is a big plus.

As I’ve learned from my new obsession with all things HGTV, renovations never seem to stay on schedule but we are hoping to be moved in before Thanksgiving. I have a feeling that the next few months of this blog will be dominated by this project (as will the next few months of our lives). I will try to keep you entertained with many before and after photos!

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August 2009
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