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Well, it wasn’t quite the party extravaganza we had last year (I told you I couldn’t beat that one), but Austin did have a very successful Lego Mania bash on Saturday.
We managed to fit in both the Lego relay race (carrying Lego pieces on a spoon from one bowl to another)
and the Lego pinata (filled with Lego candy)
before the rain storm (um, I mean, hail storm) hit halfway through the party.
Then it was twenty rambunctious (and mostly male) schoolchildren running around the house. We corralled them long enough for Lego-shaped crackers and cheese,
and Lego-shaped watermelon with grapes,
and (you guessed it): Lego cake
Then it was gift-opening time and I bet you’ll never guess what he got. Here are some clues:
What ever are we gonna do next year??
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.
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.
OK, perhaps I didn’t make myself clear. I am not sending out individual invitations unless I know that you don’t read the blog (yes, there are still a few people in our lives who don’t). So, if you’re reading these words right now, then you’re not getting an invitation. For one thing, it would take too long. Plus I’d be afraid that I might miss someone. And the Paperless Post site I’m using isn’t free, unlike Evite. It’s only a few cents per emailed invitation, but still, I’d rather put that money into indulging you at the party itself.
But you are actually invited. If you’ve ever commented on a post or “liked” a status update, if you’ve delivered us a meal or hosted Braedan during a hospital stay. If your child shaved his head or if you donated on the heads of my children, if you walked beside us at the CureSearch Walk (which, no we didn’t miss this year; it’s been moved to September) . . . then you are invited. Even if you’ve done none of those things, but have followed along quietly and consistently over the years (or months), then you also are invited. I know some of you are sitting there reading and saying, “Oh, well, she couldn’t mean me,” but I do!
I can see that several hundred of you read Tuesday’s post and that more than 100 of you clicked through to view the invitation so the fact that only eight of you have responded is going to hurt my feelings. And we don’t want that . . . So, come on and celebrate with us! It’s been brought to my attention that there’s no Decline option on the Paperless Post site (but do please check out my carefully chosen postmark on the envelope). Sort of strange, I know, but you can probably just use the Comments section for that. I want you all to come, but I don’t really want ALL of you to come. Our yard isn’t that big.
Well, my friends, it’s more than time to celebrate. When Austin first finished cancer treatment way back in the winter of 2008, I remember thinking about having a big party until my mom and I sat down with a list of registered Carepage readers and realized we simply didn’t have enough room for all those people. But now Mark and I have a huge yard with a huge porch and even more to celebrate (as that 2008 party would have obviously been a bit premature).
Austin is not keen on being the center of attention, so we’re wrapping many milestones into this one bash, and … on Saturday, July 28 we are hosting a great, big, long, loud and late party to celebrate all that is right in our lives: Mark is turning 40 in November (if you can count that as something that is “right” in our lives….), our 10th anniversary is in early August, our house projects are pretty much/almost/really close to done and, of course, last but far from least, Austin is two-years cancer-free.
Our fun and fabulous (and tree-friendly) invitation can be found here. Please know that even if you don’t receive an official invitation delivered to your email, you are indeed invited. Yes, all of you. Of course, I have no idea who or how many “all of you” are, but if you’ve ever gone to bed at night with fear and sadness in your heart after reading my updates or with relief and joy in your heart after reading my updates, then I’m talking to you. Leave your computer behind and come celebrate with us in person. But you must let me know that you’re coming! We really need a head count if we’re going to be even the slightest bit prepared. Of course, there are a few of you who may want to plan a surprise visit, but you better really be worth it. No fair “surprising” me with your presence if you live ten minutes away.
And note, Austin’s good health may be at the core of this party, but Austin himself will only be here until about 9pm and then he and Braedan will be shipped off somewhere quieter. In other words, call your babysitters, people, this is a grown-up party.
See you in a few weeks . . .
Austin’s To Do list from yesterday:
Join cousin’s soccer team, follow cousin around field in the opposite direction of ball for entire game . . . Check.
Make pirate hats with my pals at my birthday party . . . Check.
Enjoy pirate ship cake (and give kudos to Mommy for not letting anything fall apart before I got to blow out my “cannon” candles) . . . Check.
Race around the yard with my mates searching for treasure chest filled with candy corn and Silly Bandz . . . Check.
Make it to four alive, relatively healthy and remarkably happy . . . Check.
Well, the show must go on. The tree was finally removed today and the cable line was finally repaired today (after we were promised it would be yesterday and the day before that and the day before that). So finally, finally, here I sit again at my computer with a quick update of the past few days. Because preparing for this party was not the only thing on my to-do list.
Austin had another ultrasound yesterday, a follow-up from last month’s when we saw that shadow on his liver. (Yeah, that seemed fast to me too.) Well, everything remains as it was. There is still something visible on his liver but it is unchanged from the last time, always good in the world of potential cancer. We again went through the various possible options for finding out what it is and determined that none of them are practical or safe or effective. As our oncologist said, moving forward (or not) all depends on our tolerance for not knowing what this thing is. And, in truth, our tolerance for not knowing is quite high. All the reasons we had against extra action a month ago stand today. So we will carry on and re-image in four more weeks.
His other lab results look excellent. His hemoglobin is still high, which means no need for blood for a good long while (phew). His blood pressure is down, in an almost perfect range for an (almost) four-year old. His creatinine remains where it was two weeks ago, which is good good good. And, in perhaps the best news of the day, his oncologist said there’s no reason to see us again before his next ultrasound, scheduled for October 7. A full four weeks! Woo hoo.
And now, the boys are at the Tribe game with their Gramp and “Uncle Pauly,” the house is (almost) spotless, the tables, chairs and twinkle lights are all set in the backyard and all there is left to do is hope the weather forecast is wrong. Now how hard can that be?
And so, another year goes by.
Today was Austin’s third birthday. Of course, we can’t make it through this day without reflecting back over his birthdays past and how very far we’ve come in three short years. We celebrated his first birthday while home on furlough, five days “off” sandwiched between 14-day and 15-day hospital stays. That was the year when everything was still so uncertain; we were still in the thick of cancer, with no sense of what the next minute or day or year could bring. So on that day, Friday September 21, 2007, we had everyone wish for him at the exact moment of his birth. And at 11:48am, all over the country and maybe the world, friends and strangers were blowing out candles and sending wishes off into the universe, carrying hopes of birthdays to come on their wings.
Then last year, when he turned two, everything seemed normal, extraordinarily ordinary. We threw a small party in the yard with family and friends and as he blew out those candles, I thought he would last forever. I imagined him growing up, going to school, riding a bike, learning to read, having a girlfriend, graduating from high school, going off to college, getting a job, getting married, becoming a father. I believed all of those things would happen, surely with some bumps, maybe not in the perfect order. But I really believed they would happen.
And then came March. And another tumor.
And suddenly, I felt like a fool. Like an ass. Like how could I have let myself be so naive, so hopeful, so trusting. How could I have so thoroughly believed the worst was behind us when the worst seemed just about to begin? In those weeks, I wasn’t sure he’d make it to 3, let alone 30.
But today came. And, because life is once again back to normal, it was all about dinosaurs. He had a party at the park yesterday complete with a mom-made 3-dimensional triceratops cake. Now before you go thinking I’m Robo-Mom (as Mark called me with affection late Saturday night as I pieced together this chocolate and lemon monstrosity), this cake was far from perfect. In fact, by the time the party began, the head had come loose from the body, the horns were toppling and we were all joking about dinosaurs becoming extinct. But Austin was beaming with pride as he announced, “Dat a cool cake, Mom.”
So I’m back in that place yet again, that place of believing so thoroughly in all he will do, see, be in his life. Of knowing he will go to kindergarten and learn to read, he’ll ride a bike and play (non-contact) sports, he’ll kiss a girl (or boy . . . whatever) and drive a car. There will be setbacks and maybe worse than setbacks. But we’ll make it. He’ll make it. Just look at him . . . .