What a Trip

Our flight left on Friday evening and we didn’t return until two weeks (and one day) later.

Here we goooooo. (Sep 11 part 2)

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It was the longest trip I’ve ever been on. By far the longest for Alex, and Zach, too. We’ve been lucky enough to go on a few one week trips, but two weeks is a whole different thing.

Through Paris, we flew into Florence, Italy, where we picked up a rental car and drove into the hills of Tuscany for one week.

Super rainy first full day, but it's still gorgeous and so cool to be here. (Sep 13)

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The little village we stayed in was wonderful. It was very small, with only a few restaurants, and no grocery store. We had to drive to the “big” town a few kilometers away for the grocery store.

Alex, Zach, and I travelled with Zach’s parents, and met up with two uncles and their wives for the week in Italy. We visited Pisa, Lucca, Florence, and a few small villages. We ate tons of food, and drank a ton of wine.

Selfie time. Obviously. (Sep 14 part 5)

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Our second week was France, leaving behind the uncles and aunts. After Italy, France had a lot to live up to. It didn’t disappoint.

Good morning, Avignon. (Sep 21)

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We are jet lagged, exhausted, surrounded by dirty laundry, and so, so, happy. Experiencing something like this, a two week trip to Europe, is an unbelievable experience.

It still feels surreal.

(More to come. But: jet lag. Laundry. Errands. Over two thousand photos to look through. You know, the normal life stuff.)

Look what we finally found! (Sep 24 part 3)

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Second

I changed schools a few weeks into second grade. The school that I had attended in first grade wasn’t working so well in second. I came home crying, afraid that I was going to be shot on the bus. I came home crying because all of my friends went off to the “Gifted Program”, which I missed getting into by one IQ point during whatever test they give first and second graders. Whatever test none of us could sit through, yet decided my public school fate. A test I have since learned how to take, but at the time just wanted to finish so I could get back to the classroom. I came home crying because I was bored. Literally bored to tears. I came home crying because I was miserable and felt like I didn’t fit in and never would and no one seemed to care.

Second grade ended up being an amazing year for me after I switched schools. I still know people that I met that year; I still consider one of them a good friend. I remember my teacher Emily. She was short and had very short hair. I remember the reading corner and I remember getting into trouble for saying “sucks” again and again without even realizing the word was coming out of my mouth. I remember pretending to read faster than I could because I wanted to be with the two friends I made the very first day I started. I remember eventually getting to join their faster-reading group after a few months.

I no longer hated school. I no longer came home crying.

Alex started second grade on Monday.

I don’t want Alex to hate school. Not at this point, when he will likely have many memories from this year of school. Not at this point when he is able to comprehend the importance of school but still hate it. Not at this point when he is forming his opinion about himself as a student, as a learner, and as a person.

He didn’t come home crying the first or second day. Instead he cries in the morning before it’s time to go. At pick-up, he tells me that he had a bad day: they had a writing assignment and he didn’t like it, he isn’t in a class with any of his friends, his teacher was “cross” (not to him, mind you, but to other kids), the kids are all mean. There isn’t enough time to play, or to eat, or to talk. He doesn’t want to read out loud or write or learn new ways of doing math.

First Day: Second Grade

It’s hard to figure out how much of his hatred of school is related to the school itself and how much is related to his fear of failure. His anxiety. I have no doubt in my mind that every kid is not mean, regardless of how many times he tries to convince me it’s true. I have no doubt in my mind that he isn’t the only kid who isn’t reading at a fifth grade level as he begins second grade. There is no way that every single thing was terrible, horrible, no good, very bad.

First Day: Second Grade

I’m sure it’s a combination of factors. Whatever that combination may be, I have to hope that today will be a better day.

First Day: Second Grade<

Growing Up Is Losing Some Illusions, In Order To Acquire Others

Oh, my sweet Alexander,

Today marks the day that you turn eight years old. Eight. A huge number. Two away from double digits and closer to being a teenager than I can manage to think about just yet.

DSCF0120 You are marvelous. I’m honestly not sure I tell you that enough. I’m not sure you know just how much I adore you. Just how much you are adored by me, your father, your grandparents, your fake uncles and aunts. How well liked you are by nearly every adult you meet, and how sought after you are as a playmate. We tell you, sure, but do you get it?

All children are special, and I know I’m very biased, but I honestly think that you are unique. Outside of the fact that I’m your mother and obviously think you are great, I truly believe you are spectacularly special. You are one of the most kind-hearted, sensitive, and sweet, people I’ve known. You still ask to hold my hand. Every night, I sing you a song before bed. You want kisses, hugs, and cuddles every single day, multiple times a day. You won’t let people kill bugs, you have decided you don’t want a dog (besides the fact that you are so allergic) because you don’t want to be sad when it dies, and when I so much as get a little angry at you? You get very upset, sometimes cry, and it’s not an act.

The other night, as I held your hand and rubbed your back, tucking your blankets in around you, I told you a list of things you had done that day that made me happy. We had spent the day with one of your friends, and I couldn’t help but choke up as I explained all of the things you did, how you handled yourself, that made me so proud to be your mother. You were willing to put aside what you wanted for your friend. You were willing to ask them how you could help when they got upset, kindly asking what was wrong when they started to melt down, quietly nudging them back into happiness and asking how you two could make your time together work. You were so mature and kind, and I’ve never told a story about your behavior that made me as proud or tear up as much as this one.

Last Day of First Grade!

Every year, I write you a letter on this blog. Every year, I love to talk about what you learned. You learned to walk. You learned to talk. You learned to run and throw a ball and swim. You learned to read and write and do simple math. You learned to be more independent. But this year? This year you showed me what you’ve been learning all along: how to be a good human.

Alex, you are a good human.

I couldn’t be more proud.

Love,
Mom

When you turned one!

When you turned two!

When you turned three!

When you turned four!

When you turned five!

When you turned six!

When you turned seven!

Some Days, Part 6 (The Summer Edition)

Heeeeey, Taylor. (June 6 part 5)

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WE LOVE ICE CREAM OMG. (June 8 part 2)

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Hello, gorgeous. (June 9 part 2)

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I think someone grew a little since September. (June 17 part 2)

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Mary Poppins o'clock! (June 18 part 2)

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And he's off to his first overnight camp adventure! (July 9)

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Wheeeeee! (July 15 part 3)

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Friends make Kennywood even better. (July 15 part 4)

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Forgot to post this last night. Cute boys. @zpaine @edibiase @markdotf (July 17)

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Bathroom selfie. #rachbachelmira

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Selfie o'clock! (July 29 part 4)

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He caught a fish! (July 30)

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Swimming with friends. (@secretninjamom's kids not pictured.) (Aug 7)

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First ride of the day. Amazing. (Aug 11)

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Boat day. Aw, yeah. (Aug 15)

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Oh, those boys of mine. (Aug 20 part 2)

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Summer Fun

This was our first summer together in many years. Alex has been going to full time care during the summer, hopping between summer camps or simply sticking with daycare. He’d loved those camps, but with me not working it was obvious that we would spend the summer together. Our first time spending all day nearly every day with one another has been pretty great, and I can’t believe that we are in the last two weeks of freedom. We are officially very close to the start of second grade.

Alex has definitely enjoyed doing absolutely nothing most days. He’s enjoyed being able to tell me that he doesn’t want to go anywhere. Every morning, I ask him what he wants to do, and nearly every day he responds, “I don’t know. Just hang out here?”

So, we do that. He has lots of screen time, jumping between video games, Minecraft, and movies, all of his very favorite activities, and I plan our upcoming trip to Europe, anxiously thinking about how to pack and what activities we will do and where we will get cash and how we will get around and and and…

We’ve also gone to the amusement park a few times, the zoo, swimming, out with friends and family, and recently spent a long weekend in The Poconos with my best friend.

Poconos Vacay 2015

There was fishing, and swimming, and, of course, lots of junk food and marshmallows over the fire.

Poconos Vacay 2015

He went to a few day camps, had an overnight at a far away camp where he slept in a cabin and went zip lining and was without family supervision. So, that was A Thing. (A Thing for his parents, not for him. He loved it and very nearly decided to go for an entire week by himself!)

This summer has flown by. It’s flown by in beautiful colors and I’m hopeful that it won’t be our last together. But even if it is? I’m glad we had it.

Pittsburgh Zoo August 2015

And now we have to work on getting back on schedule, back to the School Stuff, back to the really hard reality that is Alex hating school and barely being able to talk about it. If it were up to him, he’d have summer break forever (but only if I could bring his friends with us on most of our adventures. “You’re fun, Mom, but…I just like my friends, too!”).

Fourteen days left. Let’s make the most of it, Kiddo.

Pittsburgh Zoo August 2015

Friends and Furries

Nearly every year for the last three (four?) years, I have spent some time downtown during Anthrocon, the annual convention for furries held right here in Pittsburgh!

This year? It seemed like a good year to take Alex.

Unfortunately, our schedule was a little tight that day so we were only able to stay and Furry Hunt for about 45 minutes. We were there during the parade, this year marking the first year that the parade has been outside. (Typically, I’ve gone down with friends during the evening and basically just hung out around the main hotel chatting and taking tons of pictures.)

It was busy. SO busy. I have never seen it like this before, and while it’s a good thing for the Furries, it was a bit of a bummer for us. As nice as it was to see a huge crowd gather for the parade, I missed being able to easily see everything and everyone I wanted.

Overall, even during the short time I was there, it was so fun. I adore the Furries and I love taking their pictures.

Friends and Furries

Friends and Furries

Friends and Furries

Friends and Furries

And who doesn’t love spending time with flurries and friends?

Friends and Furries

Friends and Furries

Friends and Furries

Can’t wait to do it again next year!

Friends and Furries

First Grade: Nailed It

Well, I officially have a second grader living in my house.

Last Day of First Grade!

Who let that happen?

Last Day of First Grade!

First grade ended up being an “okay” year for Alex, if you ask him. It wasn’t as fun as Kindergarten, but he thinks it is going to have been a lot better than the dreaded second grade.

He learned to read. He learned to add and subtract and some basic multiplication. He learned to swing really high, run really fast, and climb farther than ever before. He made friends, a few that he will be seeing regularly this summer. He adored his first grade teacher.

He also learned that kids are mean, that they are judgmental, and that they will hurt your feelings again and again if you let them. He learned some ways to cope with that, and the importance of recognizing when to tell a teacher. He learned to say “screw them”, only in his head!, because honestly, that’s the best I could usually come up with and it often made him laugh. He learned that his parents, his family, and his friends, love and respect him, and that anyone who does not is not worth his time.

Last Day of First Grade!

I know I’m biased, but I think he nailed first grade. He came, he saw, he conquered, and now we have an amazing summer to spend together. We have ten weeks of camps, traveling, activities, and days with nothing at all to do. Ten weeks of pools, amusement parks, playgrounds, and sitting around the house finding entertainment in the most unexpected places.

And also, maybe, growing another eight bajillion inches? (First day versus last day of first grade is crazy!)

Last Day of First Grade!