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… 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.
This is like some big cosmic joke.
Last night was fine: typical, long, with many interruptions for checking blood pressure and administering medications. In between the two bags of blood, he was given a diruetic to lower his blood pressure so he peed through his diaper (twice) and we neeeded to change the sheets at 2am. None of this is unusual; just makes for less-than-restful sleep.
His platelets had finally gone up as evidenced by this morning’s lab work and we had a new plan for monitoring his blood pressure (which I’ll explain later), so we were cleared to go pending one good blood pressure reading. Which we still haven’t gotten. After the bags were packed, we were informed we’d be staying another night to make sure the many tweaks to his meds take effect. I had conveniently run out of insulin and, thinking I’d simply be home soon to refill my pump, hadn’t eaten anything. So, my mom, the other regular player in our musical caregiver game, came to relieve me.
Mark, meanwhile, woke up early and filled my station wagon with all our lawn tools to take over to the old house in preparation for today’s showing and tomorrow’s open house. (Had you forgotten about that old house? Yes, we had too — basically just ignoring it since our move and hoping it might disappear. After a month and no disappearance, Mark put in a solid three weeks of work, patching nail holes and polishing floors. It just went back on the market last week and we have two scheduled showings plus an open house this weekend so are very hopeful. Anyway . . .) he was heading over to do lawn work and stopped at a stop sign when — Bam! — the lawnmower backed up and the handle smashed through my rear window. Oh lovely. You know even the ever-calm Mark was dropping f-bombs with that one!
Then (because there’s more), after he cleaned the bits of glass out the car and fixed up the yard, he rented a U-Haul truck to transport the rest of the swingset (which had been frozen into the ground on moving day). Buuuuuuuttttt, turns out it was too tall to fit in the truck. Luckily, there were five guys there replacing the furnace (rememeber that little problem?) so they helped him load it onto one of their flatbed trucks and ever-so-slowly drove it the two miles over here. But (there’s always a “but”), just past the very busy intersection of Coventry and Cedar, it fell off! Simply slid off the back of the truck onto the road! Oh man. Thankfully the person behind them had enough sense to keep a safe distance. They all jumped out and hoisted it back up and off they went. It didn’t even break, if you can believe that.
So, here we are, making room in the backyard for the swingset, overseeing the installation of the new furnace, arranging for a major car repair, . . . and trying to lower Austin’s damn blood pressure. I mean really, it’s like some absurd comedy in which we unwittingly star. Our lives have become something of a joke. Thank god we have a sense of humor.
My postings will surely be sporadic this week and next as we are in the throes of packing up our house and I can barely make my way through the maze of boxes to reach the computer. We’ve only been here for eight years but, oh my god, do we have a lot of stuff! I don’t know how on earth people manage to move out of houses they’ve lived in for twenty, thirty, forty years. I am a pack rat, for sure. The amount of already-used wrapping paper I have stored on my third floor is embarrassing. Some of it is so crumpled that I’d never even wrap a present in it. Time for the recycling bins . . .
The new house should be finished tomorrow and then a cleaning crew will come through on Thursday. I’d actually considered taking you all up on your many offers of help with that until my mom convinced me that no one really wanted to spend their precious free time cleaning my dusty house and instead offered to pay for a service. So thank my mom and dad when you see them next!
We’ll make some trips over the weekend with carloads full of gear and then the moving truck comes on Monday. So, in a mere six days, we will be sleeping under our new roof.
Austin’s doing fine. We hit a “sore spot” with one of his shots over the weekend and now he’s been fighting them, which is really a bummer because we’re still in three-a-day right now. But Braedan, my child who screamed bloody murder when he got his second H1N1 shot two weeks ago, has been begging for injections. We gave him one — just an empty syringe poked into his leg — last week upon his request, and now he keeps asking for more! Oh boy.
Austin’s blood counts are down but I’m hoping they’ll have risen by the time we go for labs on Thursday so I can send him to school next week. Not only would this make the move easier, but when Mark got home yesterday and asked Austin about his day (our dinnertime ritual, often dominated by Braedan, the big talker), Austin said, “I didn’t have a day.”
“Of course you had a day,” Mark replied.
“But no,” said the little one, “I didn’t go to school.”
Oh sweet boy. Time to get him back in there so he can “have a day.”
Back to the hospital today, for the next round of chemo. My little guy was zipping about the halls on his tricycle all afternoon, a sight completely incongruous with his balding head and IV line. But typical Austin, nonetheless.
This week includes the third of his three new drugs, one we’ve never had before that’s supposed to be the worst of the bunch. So far, he’s fine but we’ve barely begun so we’ll see. He only gets that one twice, today and tomorrow, and the other one he’ll get through Wednesday and then we’re home again.
Speaking of home . . . listen to this one: You know how we thought we’d stay in this house until the end of treatment and then make our big move into our big house? Well, have you ever heard me say that things do not always go according to plan? Our furnace, the one here in our current house, is on its last legs, a little fact we discovered on Friday. And it definitely needs to be replaced (I do have a recurrent fantasy that involves some random new homeowners complaining to their friends, “Can you believe it? We just bought this house and the furnace needs to be replaced already?!”). But no, this is our responsibility and it needs to happen sooner rather than later. The big problem is the amount of dust and asbestos (yes, asbestos) and unsafe air it’s going to kick up into Austin’s breathing space. It is possible to do it in a more contained way but considerably more difficult and, duh, expensive.
So we looked carefully at our situation and realized it was just plain silly to stay here: our house is ready (or will be in two weeks’ time), it’s clean and safe (or will be in two weeks’ time) and it’s where we want to be. So, it’s where we’ll be . . . in about two weeks’ time.
They do say the three most stressful events in life are 1) serious illness/death (which — hello! — should really be two separate things), 2) divorce and 3) moving. Good thing Mark and I are doing fine!
But, really, we’re excited for this. I’d been wanting to move anyway, not fully sold on our decision to wait. It’ll be a crazy few weeks, there’s no doubt, but then we’ll be there in our new space, the home we’ve created, and we’ll be happy. Those fears Mark and I had about whether Austin would always associate the new house with feeling lousy seem unfounded — he likes the hospital after all. What more proof do I need that he can be happy anywhere?
There is certainly something to be said for expecting the worst. These past two days have been so much better than I was anticipating. So much better. Now, it’s only two days and many of the effects of chemo are cumulative and therefore get worse as time goes on, but so far, it hasn’t been bad at all.
Austin feels totally fine. He’s eating and sleeping and playing like his regular little self. Mark and I have spent most of the past forty-eight hours wheeling the IV pole around behind him as he zooms his ride-on car around the nurses’ station, lap after lap. He’s eaten big hefty meals and has been peeing and pooping like a champ. Radiation is our one “outing” each day, requiring a trip to sedation and then a quick (I mean ten-minute!) visit to radiation before heading back to our regular space. Every time one of us goes home for a few hours, Austin sends numerous requests for additional toys, so his room now looks like a Toys R Us ad book. He chases the nurses with his remote control cars and is often found wearing his goggles in bed, chain saw in hand, ready for anything.
Oh, and before I forget, I deeply apologize for any rapid heart rates or spikes in blood pressure I caused by last week’s post that referred to “18 to 30 MONTHS of chemo.” As I think most of you figured out, my sleep-deprived self meant to write 18 to 30 weeks. It is, at times, understandably hard to think straight. I used to blame this on “mommy brain” but am finding that “chemo fog” affects more than just the immediate patient.
In other news, we pulled our house off the market last week as we can’t have strangers dragging their germs throughout it during showings. (Plus we can’t devote time and energy we simply don’t have to preparing it for showings.) We do need to keep it super-clean but not necessarily super-neat. Plus, we’re unable to move into the new house until the construction is completely finished and any unfinished portions are safely sealed off. This decision, of course, means a major mind shift for me, who was excitedly planning every new inch of our space. But we’ve decided that such a drastic change in our everyday surroundings probably isn’t wise right now, so will likely stay here until treatment ends. Both boys feel safe and secure here, they know their way around, the routines feel normal. It would be a shame for Austin’s first weeks and months in the new house (and all of our first weeks and months in the new house) to be tainted by cancer treatment.
If we wait until this is over, the move can be all the more symbolic. We will be moving into that new house as a new beginning, with a new lease on life, happy and together and alive, and we will not bring any cancer with us.
I think it’s sort of funny how much you all appreciated seeing my “human side” in that last post! I certainly have never meant to paint a picture of us as gliding right through this crisis (or these crises) without rearing our own sometimes ugly heads. We have handled it all very well, I’ll give us credit for that, but there is no perfection in this household.
Speaking of this household, or at least this house, I should also make clear that we have no regrets about our decision to move. We absolutely love our new house and are super excited to live there (whenever that may be!). Now selling one house and renovating another is definitely time-consuming but it actually hasn’t been all that stressful. I like projects (and this house will provide me with projects for a long long time), so have enjoyed immersing myself in this one. And as anyone who knows me well can attest, if I weren’t busy doing this, I’d be busy doing something else!
Not to mention, one of the main reasons we bought this particular house is for the enormous and partially wooded backyard in which my boys can climb, dig, hide, run, play, leap and explore. I have every intention of them doing that for many years to come. Both of them.
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!
After weeks and weeks of organizing closets, washing windows, spreading much and repainting walls, we are finally on the market!
The sign went up on Saturday, the brokers’ Open House was yesterday (where the house won rave reviews) and the first official Open House is this Sunday. So, if you know anyone looking for a completely finished, move-in ready, brick center-hall colonial . . . Geez, I sound like a realtor!
So far, the process has been pretty painless (except for my arm which is rather sore from washing every single window on our first, second and third floors). The house looks fantastic which is great motivation for keeping it looking fantastic. It’s so true what they say about how your house never looks as good as it does when you’re trying to sell it. All those little imperfections that you live with and don’t even notice suddenly jump out at you, and then once you make whatever usually minor improvement was necessary and see how easy it was and how good it looks, you wonder how you’d lived with it so long in the first place.
Seeing the sign up in the yard was a little bittersweet. We have loved this house and have had lots of happy moments in our seven-and-a-half years here. I can only imagine what it’s like for the woman moving out of our new house, who’s lived there for forty-five years, raised her children living there, lost her husband living there . . . bittersweet probably doesn’t adequately describe her emotions about leaving. But we’ve met her and I hope she has a sense of the love and joy that is moving in there. Like I said before, we will pack it up and take it with us.
If it can fit in the truck!
We have found it, it is perfect . . . and it is ours.
There is definite chemistry with this house. I ran by it a few weeks ago, on one of my favorite blocks — a classic Cleveland Heights street where the trees on either side form a canopy over the road so you feel as if you’re driving through a quiet, green tunnel. I hurried home and looked for it online but found nothing, so called the office to learn it had gone on the market a mere five days prior. I arranged for us to visit and the papers were signed exactly one week after we first stepped foot in it.
It is so perfect for us. SO much better than the other one, which would have had much unused space. This one gives us everything we’re looking for: big yard, a master suite and what will be a mudroom that Pottery Barn Kids would die for. There’s room to grow, but we’ll fill it up nicely and use every bit of it. The yard is almost three times the size of our current yard, partially wooded and green from every angle. It’s also right down the road from a great public elementary school that parents and kids alike are satisfied with. My own alma mater in fact. I wonder if my mom still has my brother’s Fairfax Falcons t-shirt (I wonder if they’re still called the Fairfax Falcons!).
It’s a major fixer-upper though, that’s the bigggest difference from the other one. The woman who is moving out has lived there since 1964! She raised four kids there and is now widowed and much too old for a five bedroom, four bathroom home. It’s been well-kept, the systems maintained and upgraded, good roof, some new windows, all that, but the kitchen is stuck in the 60s and the bathrooms a few decades earlier. I’m thrilled with this actually because as anyone who lives in a hundred-year-old house in the Heights will tell you, once a kitchen has been remodeled, it’s hard to justify doing it again even if you don’t love it. In our current house, the kitchen was redone before we bought it and while it’s very nice (by hundred-year-old house standards), it’s certainly not the cabinets or flooring or countertops I would have chosen. So this new house gives us the opportunity to create exactly what we want. And I can’t wait.
But I’m gonna have to wait. The woman is moving into a condo that won’t be available until mid-September and then we have about three months of work to do before actually moving in. So this will be a long slow process (which very well might drive me crazy), but I am excited enough with this house that I’ll just have to deal. We’ll register Braedan at Fairfax and start him there before we move in (let me know if you’re a Fairfax family — or one on the fence, maybe I can convince you to go public with us!) and hope to be living there by the end of the year.
All of the qualms and issues we had with that first house — whether it felt right to us, if it really represented who we are — have completely dissipated with this one. This is our house, this will be our home.
It really wasn’t our dream house. But it took us a while to figure that out. Actually, it took us being outbid to figure that out, so we’re quite thankful and none of you need to offer us the sympathy that you’ve been very kindly offering over the past week.
It was a beautiful house, fabulously redone, and there are a few rooms that I still wish I had the chance to repaint and decorate and live in. The dining room, which had a curved wall of windows, and the 26-by-26-foot living room are among them. Yes, you read that right: TWENTY-SIX square feet. How does that make my city-dwelling readers feel? Those rooms and the walk-in closets and the master bedroom will all be missed. But the kitchen, which aside from my “office” is where I spend all my time, was less than ideal. It had been updated and had great countertops and nice cabinetry, but because of the attached garage, it did not have a view of the backyard or the driveway. And now that the house is not ours and never will be, I can admit what a huge problem that would have been. In our current house, I can easily see the kids as they play on the swingset from my regular position washing dishes and I can see who goes up and down the driveway, and it would have been very isolating to not have that view (to not have any view actually; the sink faced a granite wall). So we are not disappointed to not be moving in there.
But we do love the block and we are ever hopeful that some other opportunity might arise there in the next year or so. In the meantime, we are continuing on with the improvements we furiously started on our house a few weeks ago, albeit more slowly now that an impending move isn’t driving us forward. Those of you who’ve been following this story since the beginning may remember the ceiling that fell in back in September of 2007. This was right in the midst of the absolute worst week we had ever had, which has only ever been topped by the more recent “recurrence” weeks. We found out on a Wednesday that Austin’s primary tumor was resistant to chemo and that it had grown by 50% over a four-week period. He then had that almost six-pound tumor and the entire right kidney removed on Friday. He was released from the PICU late Friday night and was just embarking on what proved to be an excrutiatingly long and difficult road to recovery, while Mark and I were anxiously awaiting the pathology results that would define the rest of our lives, when Mark went home on Saturday afternoon to find that Braedan’s bedroom ceiling had fallen in. Just crashed to the floor, in various bits and pieces of dust and plaster. Well, we obviously couldn’t be bothered with it then and there, and after a few months we moved Braedan into what was then the second floor office and moved the office downstairs to the sunroom (which, while beautiful and sunny, was never actually used when it was the sunroom). And Braedan’s original room has sat empty for the past year and a half! No, not empty; it has become the “art room,” which means it is strewn with construction paper and markers and crayons and glitter paint at any given moment. If you have an “empty” room in your house, you won’t be surprised to hear that it has also become the repository for anything and everything that we’re not using or that we don’t know what to do with. From my winter clothes, which have yet to make their way up to the third floor cedar closet, to all the pants and shoes my boys have outgrown to suitcases full of law books, it has turned into a space that is much easier to ignore than to tackle. Part of the reason we never repaired the ceiling is that there is also something wrong with the chimney that runs through the walls of that room. So anyway (!), we have finally found the source of the chimney problem which will be surprisingly easy and cheap to fix and will finally repair the ceiling and then repaint the walls and hopefully move Braedan back in there before we end up putting the house on the market.
So this was all a long and convoluted way of saying we are glad the deal fell through on the white house. It just wasn’t “us.” Mark described it as that feeling you have when you’re single and you know someone else who’s single and available and they’re nice enough and smart enough and attractive enough and you really feel like you just ought to give it a try, but something just isn’t there. The chemistry, the “this is it, this is right” feeling, just isn’t there.
We’re gonna wait for that.