Disadvantaged?

I have received a few e-mails from Pitt regarding scholarships and grants that are available for disadvantaged students. One of them is a scholarship for nearly ten thousand dollars, and another is a nursing grant of an unknown amount. For both, a short essay is required explaining why I should be considered for these scholarships.

The term “disadvantaged” is not a term I like to use. The connotations are enough to turn me off from using that word to describe myself, and then when I look back on my life I don’t think I was disadvantaged. I had a great childhood! I had a mother who loved me, took care of me, treated me well. I had extended family who visited and who I was able to spend time with. I always had a home, food in my stomach, clothes on my back. I went to private school! I attended a wonderful liberal arts, private, college.

But am I technically disadvantaged? Yes. Growing up, I didn’t have money. My mother lost her job, her life savings, her retirement, and her mental health. We lived on her social security disability, which is not exactly a comfortable amount of money. When some of my friends were getting cars for their sixteenth birthdays, I was shopping at the thrift store with my mom for winter clothes.

But. But. Here I am. I’m comfortable, happy, well-educated. I had a mother who fought for me to have the advantages I had: private school, financial aid, scholarships. I do not look at myself as disadvantaged. But. Here I am, going back to school full time. Living on one income, with immense debt. School debt, life expenses debt, debt out the wazoo. A huge personal loan to pay for Alex to attend daycare while I go back to school full time for a year.

As a young, unmarried, mother, I suppose I am “disadvantaged.” I haven’t had any income since 2007, and that income was from my job in college. Even though Zach has a perfectly reasonable income, we struggle every week to pay our debts on time while still keeping food in the house and gas in the car. I still don’t like that word, though. We are fine, not disadvantaged.

But, I’m still going to apply for these scholarships.

And I hope that Alex never has to apply for these types of scholarships. More importantly, even if he does, I hope that as an adult he looks back on his life and thinks, I wasn’t disadvantaged, even if maybe, according to some, he was.

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Let The Bargaining Begin!

I wasn’t prepared.

When I said, “if you open your mouth and let me brush your teeth we can finish watching Caillou,” I fully expected to get a screaming, “NO!” in my face. Instead, Alex opened his mouth and let me brush his teeth. When I was finished, he asked, “Caillou now?”

I thought it was a fluke.

When I told Alex, “If you put all of your dinosaurs away I will pull out those blocks that you so desperately want to play with,” I fully expected nothing to happen. For the dinosaurs to stay sprawled out all over the floor and for the incessant, “bocks! Peeeease?” to continue. But instead, Alex put away every single one of his dinosaurs and then asked for help pulling his blocks out from under the table.

I thought it was just a coincidence. He just happened to put his dinosaurs away when I wanted him to.

“If you walk up to your room and let me change your diaper we can go outside and blow bubbles.” He not only walked, he ran to his room. And he didn’t kick, scream, or fight me at all while I was changing his diaper. Then, we played with bubbles.

Whenever he wants to pull out more than two toys/sets of toys, I tell him he has to put one away in order to get the other one out. “If you want to play with the Little People blocks, you have to put away your dinosaurs or the cars.” The most amazing thing is that he then puts away some of his toys.

This bargaining? Is awesome. While Alex is often very good about most things, on those times when he decides he needs to have something RIGHT.NOW or he absolutely will not do whatever it is I need him to do? “If you do X, we can do Y” always works.

The other day, this is what I overheard:

Alex: “Help! Balloon. Can’t reach it! Daddy help. Too far away. Need the help!”
Zach: “If you give me a kiss I’ll get it for you.”

Worked like a charm. Alex gave a kiss and got his balloon.

It may not be the best way to get affection, but I may try that next time I need a little love.

Drinking from a big, real, glass

“If you give me a big hug, I’ll let you drink out of that big glass again.”

A Little Bit

Just a small peak at Alex’s language:

Language acquisition is fascinating. The way that children learn to communicate is something I would love to one day learn more about. Currently, I just love listening to him figure out new words, learn how to put words together. I love the look in his eyes when he says a full sentence (or two or three) and I repeat it back to him word for word. When he says a new word or sentence and I understand it immediately his eyes light up. When he says a full sentence that I am unable to understand, he sometimes gets very upset, tilting his head down and looking away from me.

My worries about his language development have (pretty much) dissipated. He talks all the time, communicates exactly what he needs, and surprises me most days with a new word (or ten). His narration of his life can be pretty hilarious at times, too:

“Walk walk walk. RUN! I’m running! Going down the stairs. Trying to fall down the stairs! Oh no! No fall down the stairs! Careful, Alex*. Careful down the stairs. Walk walk walk. Getting The Ernie! Oh no! What happened to Ernie’s hat? I broke it! I fixed it! Oh no! Where is the ball? Mommy help. I FOUND IT! Mommy play? Chasing the baby. Mommy chasing the baby. Run run run. I GOT YOU!”

*Yes, he really does say this to himself. Sometimes it’s just “be careful!” in the exact tone that I use when saying it to him, sometimes he uses his name. Which, if you watch the video, you’ll notice sounds little like Alex and more like “ass ix.”

The Little Things

I have come to accept that over the course of the next year I will miss some firsts. And I am in the process of accepting that that is okay. I don’t need to witness the first everything. Instead, I will focus on the adorable, wonderful, frustrating, awesome, silly, things that Alex does now, even if they aren’t brand new. Even if I wasn’t the first to see, or notice.

Take, for example, Alex’s use of “a piece of.”

It all started with his birthday cake. “Alex, do you want a piece of birthday cake?”

“Yeah! A piece of birfday cake!”

Then, for the rest of that day he would ask for a piece of birthday cake. Then, for the entirety of the next few days he would ask for a piece of birthday cake. Then, he would ask for a piece of anything.

“A piece of a yogurt?”
“A piece of milk?”
“A piece of orange juice?”
“A piece of blueberries?”
“A piece of medicine?”

He’s also mastered the understanding of half. He knows when something is broken in half, he sometimes fusses when things break in half, and he has even demanded that I cut things in half. “Cut it in half!” “No! No break in half!”

A few weeks ago, he asked me to cut his milk in half. He was not terribly understanding when I explained to him that I wasn’t able to cut his milk.

It’s the little things that will keep me going this year:

The fact that Alex finally (sometimes) says “Thank You,” even if it comes out as one big word: “Tankoooo!”

The fact that Alex almost always says “Bless you” when someone sneezes. Even himself. He reminds us all to be polite.

The fact that Alex continues to call Batman “Fatman.”

The fact that Alex runs up to me on the days I am able to pick him up from daycare, yelling, “Mommy!” while waving his arms enthusiastically and immediately asking to be picked up for a big hug and kiss.

The fact that Alex loves to build things. He asks regularly to “build a tower? Build a house? Build a tunnel?”

The fact that Alex tells us directly when he doesn’t like something. “NO WIKE IT!” (His “L” sound is still a struggle.)

I take these little moments and remember them throughout my long days at school. When a patient asks me about my life, which so far every one has, I share the little stories of my son with them. It’s amazing what a difference the silly little anecdotes can make for my sanity and for the comfort of someone in pain. I even had a patient tell me, “no wike it!” when I asked how their lunch was that day; a big smile formed across their face.

These little moments have not been well documented in photo form lately. I haven’t touched my camera in two weeks. But I keep these moments in my head, and here in written form. I may end up missing out on a few weeks of Alex’s growth in photos here and there, but I will do my best to keep up with his life here. Even if it means taking ten minutes out of my weekend studying, because I’d rather miss a question on an exam than forget that when Alex was 2 years old he was obsessed with Caillou, screamed, “NO WIKE IT!” and gave the sweetest kisses.

Dinosaur hat (cropped)

At Least It’s Not “Why?” (Yet)

Alex doesn’t really understand questions. He doesn’t get the who-what-when-where-why when I ask him, and he never asks any of them, either. (That’s not entirely true. He understands “who?” and “where?” quite well, but he doesn’t say it.)

I’m sure that it’s coming, but I’m happy to not yet have to deal with all of the WHY? questions.

Instead of the WHY? questions, we get a special kind of question here. When something changes, his TV show goes to commercial, a ball rolls under the table, his tower falls down, he asks, “What happened?”

More specifically, he asks, “What happened to the ____?”

“What happened to the ball?”
“What happened to the tower?”
“What happened to the Caillou?”
“What happened to the Daddy?”
“What happened to the Elmo? What happened to the Ernie?”

Everything gets “What happened to the” in front of it.

It’s pretty darn cute.

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“What happened to the smiley cookie?” (It broke in half. He was very distraught.)

Rough Year Ahead

I’m beginning to understand why, on our first day in a skills lab, a professor told my accelerated nursing group:

“Tell everyone you love that you will see them next year.”

When she said that, I cringed. I don’t want to wait a year to see everyone I love. In a year, Alex will be three. I can’t not be a part of his life throughout this next year. There is no way I can possibly just say, “see you next year, buddy!” I can’t survive a year without enjoying date nights, watching quality television and movies, cooking a meal, with Zach.

How am I going to make it through this year?

I don’t know the answer to that, all I know is this: I will make it through. And while I will certainly be less of a part of my son’s life, have less quality time with Zach and more quality time with my 1000+ dollar books, I will make it. The year will go, and I will come out on the other side with a second Bachelor’s degree. I will make it through.

“I’ll see you next year, buddy, more often. But I’ll do my best to be with you one thousand percent whenever I get to see you this year.”

Family shot!