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Our St Baldrick’s adventures are not yet over.  Tomorrow, Mark will shave his head for the sixth year in a row at AJ Rocco’s downtown.  The schedule is a bit different this year, with the head-shaving event taking place before the parade instead of after.  It makes a lot of sense since the meaning of people’s sacrifice can be easily overshadowed by the throngs of drunk people meandering through the bar. But it’s also sort of a bummer because I’m not sure I can muster the will to drink beer that early in the day (for the sake of St Patrick, though, I will certainly try . . . I am a Gallagher, after all).

One of the cool things about tomorrow is that the executive director of the national St Baldrick’s Foundation is coming from California to knight a true Cleveland St Baldrick’s hero: Tom “the Fro” Barnard.  This man, who has a stuffy ol’ day job at the Art Museum, grows his hair from March 17 to March 17 every year. And he is not called The Fro for nothing. Really, check out his page in the link above or just look below.

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In the past six years, he has raised $33,000 for St Baldrick’s and is poised to hit the $40,000 mark any minute now. As far as I know, he has no personal connection to childhood cancer; this has just become his thing. And he’s embraced it in a really big way. And now, in St Baldrick’s hallowed tradition, shavees are welcomed into the Knights of the Bald Table in their seventh year. So we will be there by noon tomorrow to witness Tom’s grand event.

Join us if you’d like, even though the weather won’t quite compare to last year, when my children wore shorts (look!):photo(53)

Or at least plan to be their next year when my own sweet Mark will become a  knight.  (He always has been, if you ask me . . .)

Thank you doesn’t come close.

Counting the cash and checks we brought home today, plus our online donations, we have currently raised $39,620. Fabulous. And, of course, it was so much more than that.

And we’ll be on Fox news, channel 8, at 6 o’clock tonight.

I will now repost what I wrote after last year’s event, because there’s no point in reinventing the wheel here.

As I tuck my beautiful bald boys into bed tonight and tell them, yet again, how proud I am of them, I will think of all the other mothers out there saying the exact same thing at the exact same moment.  Mothers and fathers, and wives and, yes, husbands, uttering those very words. Just down the street from us and on the next block over and a mile away and clear across town, all of us leaning over to kiss those fuzzy heads and whispering, “I’m so proud of you.”

Because they’re heroes. Every one.

. . . play hard. That’s my motto.

Science Week was a huge success, thanks to the brilliance, creativity and hard work of many. Check next Thursday’s Sun Press for some nice coverage with pictures. And there should be video up on the Cleveland Heights Patch site soon.

And now, as I reach a state of exhausted delirium, I’m ready for a serious vacation. And I’m getting one, starting early tomorrow morning as I head off to Tulum, Mexico with six of my high school girlfriends to celebrate our 40th birthdays.

I couldn’t let 2012 have all the fun.

I love the Olympics. Love, love, love. I love the cheesy emotional pre-stories, focused on hardships real and imagined in the athletes’ lives. I love the over-the-top attention on America’s sweethearts, like the women’s gymnastics team, or on America’s heroes, like Micheal Phelps. I can still remember the feeling I had in the winter of 1994, sitting on the floor of my college apartment in suburban Boston and watching Dan Jansen in his last ever Olympic attempt. The lead-in story was all about his sister’s battle and eventual death from cancer and about how Jansen, clearly the best speed skater in the world, simply couldn’t manage to win gold. But he did that day and I will never, ever forget it. I love those moments.

But one thing I don’t like about the Olympics is the inherent assumption by media, audiences and athletes themselves, that if you don’t win gold, then you’re a loser.  These people are the absolute best in the world at what they do. Imagine being the second best in the world at something. The second best in the whole world. Heck, imagine being the eighth best in the world at something. That guy in the last lane of the pool, who straggled in to eighth place in the 200 meter breaststroke? He’s better than 99.99999999896825% of the people in the whole entire world (or something like that).  But, oh, at the Olympics, he came in last. Loooooo-ser.

Which brings me to my brilliant idea, which is not mine at all but stolen from our family friend affectionately known as Uncle Pauly: the ninth man. The Olympic committee should establish a ninth lane with a non-world class athlete.  Not just an overweight couch potato — that would be too obvious, but someone who’s in good shape. A college athlete or a weekend warrior, someone fit and strong who can run, jump, swim, dive, or leap next to the rest of the competitors. Can’t you just picture that neighbor of yours, the one who’s out early every morning running in rain, snow or oppressive heat, dashing along next to (or, more likely, lagging behind) the rest of the track runners? Or some young, strong, high schooler attempting the long jump after the other eight have competed … where do you think they’d land in the sand?

Of course, it would never happen — the legal wrangling it would take to allow some average Joe onto the parallel bars or the 10m springboard diving platform would be the first of many hurdles. But it sure would show the rest of us just how talented all those athletes are. Yes, even the ones who “lose.”

It was magical.  That’s really the best word to describe it. The weather held out beautifully and the party was most certainly held outside in the yard, where we had always envisioned it (and what we — ahem, Mark — had worked so hard for). It had a wedding-like quality, which was both good and bad.  Bad only in the sense that all these people had come to celebrate with us and we managed to have very few meaningful or long conversations with anyone. It was lots of quick minutes with one group or another before moving onto the next arriving (or departing) guests.  I now want to have many smaller gatherings where we can actually sit and connect with our friends (and boy, do we have the leftover beer and wine for that!).

I do have two regrets. The first, pretty minor, is that I fully intended to use my last blog post to ask people to take their own pictures and post them.  That way I would have seen the evening from many different perspectives, all the small groups that formed here or there, on the lawn or the porch or even the treehouse deck. But I totally forgot and it wasn’t until the sun had already set that I thought to ask our helper girls to go around and snap some shots.  The flash on my iPhone isn’t very good, but they definitely managed to capture the magical quality of the yard with all its twinkling lights.

Shiny happy people

Representing the westside

(You must all know that, if you’re in my life, you have implicitly granted permission for me to publicly display your photos, official release form or not. And you all looked lovely anyway, so no complaining.)

My second regret is much bigger and it’s that I didn’t take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to thank everyone publicly.  You know that whenever there’s a microphone available, I find a way to speak into it! And yes, we had a microphone and yes, I had something in my head to say, but there never seemed to be the right moment. It all went by in a flash, until suddenly I took a breath and there were just fifteen of us sitting out on the porch (which we did until 3am). When one of my girlfriends said she was surprised I hadn’t spoken, I said that I’d intended to, and they then convinced me to stand up and do it right there.  I felt a little silly, since I was speechifying to my nearest and dearest (and a few late night randoms) but of course, I didn’t need much arm-twisting.

I will write it to you here tomorrow, I promise, a belated Thank You edited from what I can only imagine was some margarita-induced rambling. But for now just accept our thanks for coming and sharing in the specialness of the night with us. And thank you for all the wine and gifts; I made the stupid mistake of separating everything from their cards and gift bags as soon as I opened it and now I can’t figure out who brought what. Oops!

And one more photo of the party aftermath … tonight’s recycling:

I find myself studying the five-day weather forecast with an intensity matched only by that of ten years ago, as I nervously planned my outdoor wedding.  That day turned out to be way beyond what I would have happily accepted, with sunny skies and a high of 78, followed by a glorious sunset and an evening just chilly enough for women to have to wear the suit jackets of their dates as we danced under the stars.  As of this particular moment, the forecast for this Saturday’s big celebration looks very similar: a high of 79 (a relief in this oppressively hot summer), dipping to the 60s as the night goes on.  No jackets required this time though.

Oh, and speaking of attire (because I know from experience that this is an inevitable last minute issue for at least half of you), I am wearing a dress. Because it’s my party and I can wear what I want to.  I do not care in the least what any of you wear, but we do intend to be outside for the vast majority of the evening.

If you haven’t RSVPed, it’s not too late. Well, it’s almost too late because the food and drink orders have been placed, but I’ll be kind and still let you come. I know Mark always likes to know what to expect in terms of food when we go to these things because he is not as easily satiated by finger foods as I am, but that’s what we’re having — don’t come hungry for a full meal, it’ll be more in the “heavy hors d’ouvres” category.

My boys will be most pleased when this event is over and done with because Mark and I have been heavily engaged in house cleaning and yard prep. I always feel guilty when I read those little sayings on people’s Facebook pages like, “Please pardon the mess, my kids are making memories” or “My children won’t remember the dust and clutter; they’ll remember the laughter and playtime.” Well, my kids will remember the clean house and the hard work it took to get there!

But we’re close to done and mostly just excited.  And for those of you who are unable to come and said you’d drink a toast to us, we’ll be sure to drink one to you too, but it’ll have to be one collective toast to all of you at once or I’ll never make it through the night!

I know it’s redundant to ask people to “please RSVP” since si vous plait is right there in the request, but please RSVP.  We’re making the final call on how much food and drink to order by this weekend so I need the most accurate count I can get. So far, we have 127 confirmed guests plus another 30 or so who are “stopping by.” And that’s with at least another hundred who are regrettably out of town, at weddings or with visiting guests. So, needless to say, it should be quite a shindig.

I’ve said this before but it bears repeating, this is a grown-up party.  My kids and a few others will be here until about 9 or 9:30 and then are walking over to their friend’s house to crash.  I know some people are planning to bring their kids, at least early, which is fine if that’s the only way you can come but just make sure they know that the evening is not designed with them in mind.  I so don’t mean to be rude or exclusive or anything (I like kids, I promise!) but just don’t want anyone to be surprised or disappointed if their kids end up bored with all the grown-up talk and grown-up food. Just fair warning! Babes in arms are always welcome.

And, no you don’t need to bring anything.  This is in large part a Thank You for all the love and support and food and gifts we’ve received in the five years since Austin’s first diagnosis. So, thank you, but we’ve got you covered!

We’ve been busily preparing the house and yard (although I cannot bear to weed my sunny — and absurdly overgrown — garden in this disgusting heat), so it’s mostly indoor tasks I’m completing. We are very excited and I wouldn’t have said that I was at all nervous except that I had a bizarre dream the other night where 1) All sorts of random guests showed up an hour early and I hadn’t yet gone out to get the food (why I thought I could wait until 6:30 the night of the party to get food is beyond me) and 2) I lost one of my front teeth right before the party started (a la Braedan) and was worried about all the toothless pictures of me that were going to appear on Facebook, so was trying not to smile!  Ha. Maybe I am a bit nervous!

But if you RSVP, it’ll make me feel much better …

An addendum: If you’ve already let me know that you’re coming (or not) via email, text, Facebook or in person, consider yourself RSVPed and skip the Paperless Post site.  I’m keeping a separate master list.

I just got my event planning package in the mail from St Baldrick’s today. I eagerly opened the box and found my three beautiful boys looking back at me, several hundred times over. I received fifty posters and 1500 pocket brochures, every one of them featuring this image:

Image

This is the picture, taken at last year’s AJ Rocco’s event, that is printed on the cover of millions of pocket brochures and thousands and thousands of recruiting posters AND, perhaps most exciting of all, on the huge banners that will hang behind shavees at every event across the country. I have yet to see one of those but I can only imagine how moving it will be.

So, here’s the task I propose to all of you, especially those readers who live in other cities and states: Well, no … wait, first things first. Please, if you’re planning to shave or if your child is planning to shave, (which is probably more likely), please do register online. The sooner you register, the more money you’ll raise and the more money you raise, the bigger difference you make. If you need a little extra motivation, I suggest scrolling through the images featured on St Baldrick’s Facebook page — they really capture the immense pride of shavees and the emotion (and fun) of these events. Here’s Team Braedan and here’s Team Austin.

Second, if you simply can’t bring yourself or your child to do it– which I totally get (no need to apologize!), please consider making a donation on the heads of one of my boys: Braedan here and Austin here (better yet, please take the extra few minutes like you did last year to split your donation neatly between them).

And now, for my challenge: Send me pictures! If you are out and about, anywhere at all, and you see one of those posters, PLEASE snap a picture of yourself in front of it and send it to me. I would love to have a collection of images from around the country featuring the three most beautiful bald men I’ve ever seen.

It takes all of us ….

We have been buried in the flurry of holiday activities lately. Shopping and wrapping, addressing and mailing, baking and baking and eating and eating. The boys and I baked a holiday breakfast of muffins and breads and fruits to deliver to the Oncology Floor recently. (There was no blizzard-induced walk home after this one, thank goodness.)

That same day, we were entertained by 120 first and second graders singing their hearts out in their production of “Flakes,” a very sweet song and dance concert in which each second grader recited an individual line.  Below is the one and only Braedan, whose pretty face is hidden by his snowflake cap. His part came in the middle of a story line about how each snowfake is different, even though, at first glance, they all look alike.  The other kids had lines like, “Some are very short and some are very tall, Some have lots of hair, others none at all.” But no line was so perfectly suited to its child actor than Braedan’s:

(Having a little trouble with the technology here — will fix on Monday.)

In case you weren’t able to understand him (even though he was the most understandable of the bunch!), he said, “Some of them are singers, others like to dance. Some would play golf every day if their spouse gave them the chance.” What you don’t get in this video from the afternoon show is the appreciative laughter of the parents at the evening show.

Thursday, we celebrated his birthday at school with mitten cookies, a reading of The Mitten Tree (a truly lovely children’s book if you need a new one) and some mitten measurement. Friday, the parents hosted a second grade brunch in place of a traditional class party since there were two assemblies in the afternoon.  We made a zillion pancakes and waffles, with the help of a lot of extension cords, and were thankful that no one brought unasked for candy and cookies.

And today, my Braedan is eight and the real whirlwind of the holidays is upon us.

So, we’re busy and more busy and busier yet.  But we do take the time to appreciate what we’re not doing this holiday season: We’re not juggling visits with family around visits to the hospital. We’re not choosing presents that are only appropriate for use in a hospital bed. We’re not frantically canceling family vacations. We’re not dazed and exhausted and wondering how on earth we’ll manage to play this damn cancer game any longer.

We are not sad and afraid and worried. We are not sick.

We are, instead, this:

Merry and bright

Happy Everything from all of us to each of you.

I’m not sure whether this qualifies as an early Christmas present to ourselves or a late Labor Day/Halloween/Thanksgiving present, but . . . our master bathroom is finally (finally!) finished and usable.

The most recent delay (of about six weeks) was entirely of our own doing.  We had agreed early on to do all the painting ourselves to save some money. Well, because it’s a bathroom and because it’s all cabinetry requiring oil based paint, it took a really, reeaaaalllly lllloooonnnnggg time. (Thank you, Mark, for all your after-hours work.)

But I am thrilled with the finished product and, as I was enjoying my first soak in the tub last night, I knew that it was definitely worth the wait:

Party in the shower, anyone?

The view from our bedroom (boys in the bathtub not part of my original intended design!)

Cabinetry and the view through to the bedroom

The vanity, still lacking hardware (but yay for double sinks!)

The boys got a trial run in the deep-soaking tub with jets tonight but their raucous splashing has earned them a three-month ban.  Awesome, more for me. Oops, that’s not very Christmas-y of me, is it?  Oh well, it was supposed to be a Labor Day present . . . .

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