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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.

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And now, after many months of patient waiting, I present to you . . . my mudroom:

Like I said, the name “mudroom” just doesn’t do this place justice.

Control room, maybe? Situation room?  Super room? Mud mansion??

The view to the back yard

I guess they like it.

I know you’d all be jealous of me, except for that pesky little issue of having a child with a sneaky cancer for the second time. At least, I’ll be organized . . . .

Finally, some long overdue pictures of the ongoing progress at the new house. Now remember, these are still seriously stuck in the “during” phase, so you either have to vision or just trust that I do!

Did I mention that I was building the world’s most awesome mudroom? In fact, I think it needs a new name because MUDroom just doesn’t do it justice. I’m leaning towards “super-room.”

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I only have exterior views because it's too dark in there.

How’s this for a nice playroom?  Don’t miss Austin there sliding across the newly refinished floors.

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The third floor

And, of course, the kitchen. The cabinet doors aren’t on yet so that makes it hard to get a good sense of just how awesome it will be in the end.  Remember these “before” pictures?

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This was a few weeks ago . . . it gets better

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That hole is the future site of a new window.

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Site of the future fridge (and Austin exploring the pantry cabinet)

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The all-important "beverage area"

That’s it for now. Next week, I’ll have some of the bedrooms which are almost finished. We’re still waiting waiting waiting for someone to make an offer on this house. But I guess we’ve already used our weekly allotment of good luck, huh?

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 told you he doesn't like to sit still!

I told you he doesn't like to sit still!

Lots of loose ends. First, the current house: Not much movement here.  We’ve had really good turnouts at all our Open Houses and have received lots of positive feedback but no offers. It’s frustrating but we keep reminding ourselves that it only takes one person or one family to make this happen. So we’ll just keep plugging away and hope that that person walks through our door sooner or later (well, sooner rather than later would be nice!).

And the new house: I love it, love it, love it. But this is no small project. Demolition started on Monday and we’re now in the process of framing out the new kitchen.  Tomorrow the GC and I will lay out the entire room, using all the cabinets we bought at the Kraftmaid warehouse and figuring out exactly what else we need to complete it. Then Mark and I will head back to Youngstown on another cabinet-hunting adventure this Saturday. Anything we can’t find on this trip, we’ll order that very day from Home Depot. Work will be done in two months at best, but you know how that goes. I’d love to be in before Christmas. A week ago I was saying Thanksgiving but I’m trying to be realistic here.

I promised to entertain you with before and after pictures but you’ll have to be quite patient for that. So here are some before and during pictures:

My "new" kitchen, circa 1965

My "new" kitchen, circa 1965

 

The window stays . . . and that's about it!

The window stays . . . and that's about it!

 

Another lovely view
Another lovely view
Recognize this?

Recognize this?

What's for dinner, Mom?

What's for dinner, Mom?

And now for the other loose ends: Austin is doing slightly better at school although my departure is still pretty ugly. I was the Parent Helper on Monday for his birthday so that was obviously fine. Yesterday, he screamed like mad and I left feeling totally awful yet again. Today he cried but with a little less fervor (just a little). He still participates in the activities, does his art project and eats his snack and all that, but he’s not interacting much (or at all) with the other kids. I know it will get better but it’s still hard to leave him each day when he’s so miserable.
Braedan, on the other hand, absolutely loves school.  Aside from waking up in the morning, he has no complaints. There are about six different kids he now refers to as his “new best friends” and he adores his teacher. And I have to admit that even with my high expectations for this school, I am floored by how much he is learning. Every single day, he has some new skill or tidbit of knowledge (yesterday he was talking about the cypress tress in Van Gogh’s Starry Night) and it is such an exciting thing to see — actual growth and learning occuring before my very eyes. When I leave his room at night, I can hear him clapping out the syllables in words while he lies in his bed and talks to himself. He’ll be reading in no time and I can’t wait.

The long awaited transfer of the keys has occurred and the house is ours!

Emily moved out yesterday and the deal officially closed, so by the time I picked Braedan up from school, we were able to walk back to our new house. Of course, there are many months ahead before we can actually call it home, but we’ve spent plenty of time there in the past thirty hours, digging up bushes, stripping wallpaper, taking down dusty old curtains. The boys have had a blast running up one flight of stairs and down another or coloring on the walls (which I made sure they understood was a special event only and not something we would do everyday on our new — about to be painted– walls!). We had a picnic on the living room floor for dinner last night which they thought was pretty fabulous.

It reminded me of the day we took possession of this house seven-and-a-half years ago. We were supposed to get the keys on March 1, which happens to be the day after my birthday. Wait, let me back up. The months surrounding our purchase of this hosue were ridiculously full. I was training for a marathon, which I was excited about but was very time consuming. We were moving into our first home, also time-consuming. We (oops, I mean) I was planning our wedding, which I loved doing but because it was out of town and because it was at my family’s summer house and not in a facility equipped for big events with things like chairs and bathrooms and dance floors, was majorly time-consuming and fairly exhausting work. And most of all, the thing that topped it all off, the thing that was almost too much on its own, was my job which I absolutely, postively hated. I don’t think I have ever hated anything more than my job that year. I was teaching middle school in Cleveland, a position I had sought out believing it was a critical time to make a difference in kids’ lives. Well, I don’t even want to reminisce about all the horrible details that made that school so awful but suffice it to say, I was exhausted and stressed, beat down day after day.

So my birthday came and I made it through one more day and came home to Mark, who was preparing to take me out to dinner, “somewhere special.” I remember that I had changed into my comfy old overalls when I got home from work and I looked at Mark and said, “You mean I have to change my clothes?” And he thought about it for a moment and shook his head no, I’d be fine just as I was.

We get in the car and he suggests we drive by the new house, which was just a few blocks from the duplex we’d been renting. Then he pulls in the driveway to “show me something” and eventually leads me in the front door where dinner is set up on the living room floor, complete with candles and balloons and my presents hiding under a wheelbarrow (the first of my new homeowner-themed gifts).

So while last night with the kids running around like madmen, doing cartwheels on a wall-to-wall carpet that will soon no longer be, was not exactly as romantic as our first first house experience eight years ago, it was a pretty happy moment nonetheless.

And now the real work begins . . .

We live in a nice house. We have a yard for the kids to play in and friendly neighbors and have renovated enough rooms to make it almost perfect. Almost. I can’t help but fantasize about having a master bathroom, one where I don’t have to share precious counter space with Spongebob toothpaste and that doesn’t smell like stale pee every other day (little boys have notoriously bad aim, you know). I fantasize about having closets in my own room instead of using half of Austin’s and the one in the spare room and the drawers below the linen closet in the hallway. I fantasize about a mudroom, complete with hooks and shelves for each person’s boots and cleats and backpacks, so we don’t trip on the shoes that inevitably pile up in the back hall.

So we’ve been looking. Just casually, without a realtor, we’ve gone to Sunday open houses in our community, never venturing outside the borders of Cleveland Heights.  Every time we check out a house I can  picture us living there. I mentally move us in, decide which colors ot paint the walls, know who would reside in each bedroom. But Mark is skeptical (or maybe he’s just practical), considering the cost of utilities and noting the number of improvements we’d have to make before we really loved it.

But this past weekend, we visited a house that I’ve passed over several times, skipping its previous open houses and not fully considering it, because it is a mansion. Not just big, not even just huge, but a mansion. And they are practically giving it away. It’s owned by a relocation company and they just want to be done with it. I mean, it is an absolute steal. And there’s nothing wrong with it, this is no fixer upper. It has redone floors and a gourmet kitchen and a master suite complete with two walk-in closets, an office and a “glamour bath.” That is a silly word to use, I know, but this IS a glamour bath. It’s on a great street with family after family of young kids. Little ones live on both sides including a five-year-old boy right next door who Braedan could walk to elementary school with every day for the next six years. There is nothing wrong with it, except that it’s so damn big.

The living space is reasonable. The first floor is smaller (relative term!) than the rest because there’s an attached three-car garage that adds considerable square footage to the second and third floors. But we would use the first floor in its entirety. And the second floor is divided up so that there are two bedrooms and a bathroom close to the master suite (oh, I love saying that: master suite), with an additional two farther down a long hall, that could be used as a playroom and maybe a workout room (oh, I love saying that!). So the boys wouldn’t feel far away from us in the night, which was a concern in some of the houses we’ve looked at.

I’m not worried about living in the bigness of it. We could definitely use it (with the exception of the third floor, which the realtor aptly described as a city unto itself). But I worry that I would feel uncomfortable having that be my house. Maybe it’s silly (and this is yet another way I am like my mother), but I would almost be embarassed to call that my home. It’s so grand. What would it say about us? What snap judgements would people make when they see that we live there? I can already picture myself for years to come telling people we’d only bought it because it was so outrageously cheap. Do I need to excuse our excess? I don’t know.

I’m always trying to instill in the boys the idea that we can’t have everything we want, that sometimes other people will have fancier cars or better toys or a bigger trampoline than we do (this house comes with a trampoline, by the way, so both boys are fully committed to the move). I read them The Lorax, both for its protect-the-environment message and for its not-so-subtle hint that “biggering and biggering and biggering and biggering” is not what everyone needs. And yet here we are, thinking about seriously biggering.

I welcome your thoughts on this one. How does where you live define who you are? How do you turn down something so incredible, that you can actually afford, because it’s “too much”?  Mark and I lay awake last night talking about it, reminding each other and ourselves that we’ll never find a house that nice for that value, and I commented yet again about how torn I was. And Mark said, “We’ll make the right decision. And whatever decision we make, we’ll make it right.”

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