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So, it’s taken a little longer than we expected (doesn’t it always?), but our renovation projects are finally coming to a close.

To refresh your memory (it has taken a while), here are some Before pictures and here, some During.

We moved into our new bedroom the weekend before last and are loving it. We have this enormous bay window with the most incredible view. This is the scene that greeted me each morning last week:

I have yet to order blinds, which is becoming more and more of  a problem every day as the trees continue to shed their leaves.  I should probably be doing that right now (there’s always so much I should be doing instead of blogging!), but those few days of glorious color inspired my autumn decorating theme:

Duvet cover coming soon

Love birds (thank you, Etsy)

The closet is done as well and what a joy it is to no longer have to rummage through the storage boxes under my bed to find clothes. Here are some pre-moving in pictures:

And my, how quickly we’ve filled this thing up:

I can’t quite believe I’m posting pictures of my closet for
all the world to see. I feel a little Kim Kardashian.

The glass for the shower was just installed today and now Mark and I have to tackle painting the bathroom. We’ve been doing all the painting ourselves to save a few bucks, which has been a huge job because of all the trim and cabinetry.  But every day, we’re a tiny bit closer.

And this evening, when Braedan walked into the bathroom to see the completed shower for the first time, he exclaimed, “Wow! This is like that dream house we saw on TV.”

Indeed.  And in so many ways.

Well, that was quite a homecoming. As I pulled up to the house yesterday afternoon, I was on the phone with my sister-in-law hearing all the details from her fabulous swimming experience and suddenly I started squealing, “Oh my god, I LOVE my house! I LOVE MY HOUSE!”

She said, “Go, get off the phone, enjoy it.”

Sooooooo … remember this place?

Now this place:

Love, love, love it.

… of sorts.  Tomorrow it will be one year since we moved into our new house. And while that makes me feel a bit guilty about the number of boxes still stacked in the guest room, I could not be more pleased at the drastic difference between our lives then and our lives now.

We were stuck in those awful months of never knowing where we would sleep each night. I remember the Friday before we moved, eating dinner with Mark’s parents who had come by to help us finish packing, when I went upstairs to wake Austin from an unusually late nap. And he was burning hot.

Oh, the dreaded fever. Anything but a fever right now! But a fever it was. So I called the oncology department and they told me what I already knew: pack a bag and get on down here.

We spent the next two nights in the hospital, while random friends came over to pack up our house. I had had grand plans of weeding out all the useless stuff instead of moving it along with us. But no, I opened boxes over the following weeks stuffed to the brim with everything from matchbox cars to pots and pans to shoes too small for either of my boys.

I had to beg and plead and cajole and threaten the doctors and nurses to speed everything up so we could spend our very last night together in the only home either of my children had ever known. We made it, Austin and I released on noon the day before the moving trucks arrived.

What a lot of drama for one family to endure, my god. But today, this is home. And we rest assured that we will get to sleep here each night.

I know, I know, it’s overplayed. Surely (“Don’t call me, Shirley” — couldn’t help myself there), there are  a hundred more important stories for the media — and the public — to focus on today. And maybe it shouldn’t matter so much. But you know it does.

So today, I am Cleveland. And I hope, as it says in this excellent article (except for the “beleaguered” part), that you will be Cleveland today too. There are many many reasons we all choose to live in this city and not one of them is because of LeBron James. We can be great without him. In fact, we are great without him.

But we still really really want to win tonight.

Mark is going with my dad and brothers and I will choose to watch basketball over Grey’s Anatomy for the first time ever.  And no matter the outcome, I will be Cleveland again tomorrow and the day after that.

Who’s with me?

There is definitely something to be said for Facebook and birthdays.  Thank you all for the many many well wishes today. I’ve had a lovely day, actually a lovely weekend including dinner out with my husband on Friday and again with my family yesterday.  Today started with homemade waffles and bacon, much to the delight of my little people.

Then an 80-minute run through the snowy sidestreets with my girl Christie. I felt great throughout but waaaaaay older than my 37 years as soon as I was finished.  Then — and perhaps you’ll find this pathetic but try not to judge — my special alone time was a trip to Target. It was special. Really. Braedan tried to weasel his way into it (unsuccessfully) by saying he had let me go to the grocery store alone the day before. Not as special.

The lowlight of the day came when I unpacked the lamp my parents gave me and the boys decided to “make snow” with the styrofoam packaging (after being told not to), giving way to an hour-long clean-up. Like we really don’t have enough snow for them?

We rebounded with homemade pizza and a rousing pillow fight. Then I snuggled in between my two boys and read another favorite, Miss Rumphius. If you have kids and don’t know Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney, you really must find it.

And the best part: no hospital stays, no ER visits, no medical emergencies. Just me and my three favorite guys under the roof of our wonderful new house. So, I’m another year older . . . with a few thousand more wrinkles and gray hairs (and stiff muscles)? Oh well, I’m still lucky.

You should’ve seen me trying to put Austin down to sleep last night while he kept insisting, “We are NOT sleeping at the hospital!” It was after ten when he finally conked out only to be roused a few hours later and whisked off into the cold dark night. But he happily watched the empty streets pass by as we drove home at 1:15 am and quickly crawled into our own beds. There is something to be said for waking up in your house with your family all around you.

And after some moments of blissful normalcy this morning, I went to flush his PICC line . . . and it was blocked. Oh, I was so mad. SO mad. It is the worst feeling to sit there and attempt a necessary medical procedure on your child only to have it fail.  I tried a couple of times, afraid to push too hard; was able to draw blood off of it but only with a lot of resistance and air bubbles. Right as I was fuming about what to do next, the charge nurse from the floor called to see how everything was going. “Weeeellllll,” I began and she said, “Oh no.”

So we spent the next several hours down in the clinic, the absolute last place we wanted to be, waiting for the “central line Draino” to work its magic. Which it did, of course. And then, back home, finally home.

Speaking of performing medical procedures on your own child, his injections are becoming quite a production. He is fighting them tooth and nail, and has to be pinned down by me while Mark attacks him with that needle. It’s all sort of ridiculous and would almost be funny if it weren’t so awful. We’ve tried all the tricks recommended by professionals — have given him options (which leg, where we sit to do them), we’ve given him needles to stick into stuffed animals, and have explained over and over that we don’t want to hurt him but have to do this to make him better. But nothing works. He simply will not have it. And because he is squirming and tensing up his muscles, the damn shots hurt all the more.

Ah, how many more marbles indeed?

The past day and a half have been a little better.  Austin learned (through some trial and error) that flying into a rage wouldn’t prevent him from being re-hooked to his pole, so he makes the most of his few minutes of freedom and then begrudgingly allows his nurse to screw that IV tube back to his PICC line. I tried to take a picture of him running laps last night but he was too fast for my phone’s camera, just a streak of baldness dashing by.

And the very good news, confirmed just moments ago, is that he is allowed to go home tonight after his post-chemo hydration. Which happens to fall at some crazy time like 12:30 in the morning. But a late sleep at home beats sleep at the hospital any day.

Just goes to show the enormous benefit of advocating on behalf of your child. We push them a lot, I know, always proposing new schedules or ways of doing things. None of our requests are in any way harmful to Austin or his health, but they do sometimes go against hospital norms. Things there get done a certain way simply because that’s the way they’ve always been done: routines, routines, routines. But if you have an idea or want to tweak to the system, and have good logic to back it up, the doctors and nurses will indeed listen.

Proof positive: Austin was shackled and soon he will be freed.

Long awaited photos of the kitchen, with a few of the “before” ones so you can fully appreciate the transformation.

My "new" kitchen, circa 1965

The “view” towards the backyard

A slight improvement, yes?

 Another lovely view
This next picture is really and truly the “after” of the above spot:

This is looking towards the front of the house and the small door to the traditional dining room,

that we’ve instead opened up and turned into the family room, giving us the best of  modern home design within a hundred-year-old house.

That’s it for now. Nothing else is ready to be photographed yet!

(And sorry for the ridiculous formatting — I imported pictures from a bunch of different locations and WordPress won’t let me correct it.  Can’t dwell on that for too long, now can I?)

I lost my voice. Both literally and figuratively. We’ve had no phone or Internet access until today, six days into living here. And blogging from my cell phone is a drag (too much SHOUTING). So, my “voice” has been temporarily silenced.

Plus then, I lost my voice, due probably to sheer exhaustion. Woke up Thursday morning unable to talk, my already raspy voice about ten notches down on the raspy scale.

But, here I am, blogging from my new home office, with so much to say.

The house, first of all, is fabulous. We are absolutely loving it. Of course, we’re still maneuvering around boxes and still opening three drawers before we find the one with spoons in it, but each day, we’re feeling more and more settled and are all very happy here.  Mark and I have been thoroughly impressed with how well the boys handled this transition, how independently they’re playing in their new playroom, how they’re sleeping in their own rooms (well, Braedan is, and Austin at least starts in his room, but a rousing game of “musical beds” is nothing new in our family).

We love how we’ve decided to configure our space and it all feels surprisingly cozy, despite the larger size. I do promise pictures in the next week or so, but right now there’s still too much clutter for you to be able to appreciate anything anyway.

And Austin is doing great. He recovered quickly from his feverish stay in the hospital and has been racing around like his regular old self. His platelets are low (a common side effect of chemo), so we had three clinic visits for labs last week, but aside from a directive against “rough play” (yeah, right), all has been normal, including the rest of his blood counts.  So normal, in fact, that he went to school last Wednesday and had not just “a day” but a spectacular day, according to his teachers.

Because his platelet count is low, he’s not supposed to take his blood thinner and because his other counts are normal, he hasn’t needed his Neupogen, so he’s had no shots at all for the past several days. This coupled with the fact that he’s allowed to be around other kids has made it feel like an enormous break from cancer. Like he’s a totally fine kid with no hair who has to take a few extra oral meds each day. It’s really quite lovely. Oh, but he does have an ear infection! He had a truly rough night on Thursday with much complaining and crying and ear tugging, and sure enough, at clinic on Friday, he was diagnosed with a double ear infection. But as any mom who’s witnessed the amazing efficacy of Amoxicillan knows, this is an easy one.

We were scheduled to go back in the hospital this coming Monday for five days of chemo, which is being postponed due to his platelet count. We have labs again Monday morning and if his counts have risen, we might reschedule for Thursday. Or it could be delayed until the following Monday. Not knowing is hard in the practical sense, as I have friends trying to coordinate our meals and playdates, but I’m also willing to take each extra night here (somehow I thought I’d be much farther along in my unpacking by now. . . ?). Plus I’d love to send Austin back to school Tuesday and Wednesday next week. I will certainly keep you all posted.

For now, you can rest easy knowing that all is well in the Gallagher household.

We’re hanging in there, thanks to an army of friendly volunteers helping wrap, pack, carry, load, move, feed and care for. Austin is still in the hospital, but should be released tomorrow which means that, yes, thankfully, we will have our last night together here on Edgehill Road, a minor issue in the grand scheme but one that seems extremely important to me nonetheless.

His fever continued to rage throughout the night on Thursday, due in large part to his adamant refusal to take Tylenol. He doesn’t usually mind Tylenol (and, in fact, sometimes he downright loves it . . . ) but on that particular night, he simply would not take it. I think it was the one thing he was able to exercise some control over and he would not give that up. Finally, around 2 in the morning, the nurse and I held him down and forced it into his mouth.  He, of course, spit half of it out but enough made it into his system to begin the long slow (and very necessary) process of lowering his temperature. Early the next morning, I told him we wouldn’t be allowed to ride the tricycle in the hallway if he had a fever and he happily and quickly downed another dose. He then turned to me and said, “Ok, let’s go.”

He was briefly allowed out today after twenty-four hours of no fever but only while wearing a mask (because of his cough). He was surprisingly okay with this rule and donned his Mickey Mouse face mask while cruising the halls:

His counts have been slowly rising but we need to wait until his blood culture continues to be negative for bacteria growth. I think the deadline is midnight tonight so if all goes well and no last minute symtoms arsie, we should be sent home before lunch on Sunday.

The small fact of our being together in our home one last time somehow makes all the insanity of these few days bearable. And trust me, there has been insanity. Take, for instance, the gas leak at the new house in the main line from the street that required a full crew out there on this 15-degree morning digging a new hole and placing a new pipe. But, it’s fixed now, the heat is up and running yet again. And, as is somehow always the case, this too will be okay. We will be out of that damn hospital and home together. Home here and then home there. And that is all that matters.

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