And Then? France

I sort of, kind of, (totally), forgot that I never actually wrote about the second half of our amazing trip to Europe in September. We spent a week in Italy, enjoying a little of this, and of course a little of that. Italy, to put it simply, blew my mind. I had no idea it was so gorgeous. I had no idea the people were so nice, so beautiful, so interesting. I had no idea that I could fall in love with a location.

Cinque Terre

After spending one night in Florence, we woke up early to catch a train. From Florence, through Milan, we landed in Nice, France. Nice was, well, it was nice. Very, very, nice.

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Found a Nice beach. (Tee hee.) (Sep 20)

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Unfortunately one night in Nice is not nearly enough time to get to know the city, so obviously I will just have to return again some day. We wandered around a bit in the evening, and even less the next day, but what little I saw was beautiful. The ocean, of course, was exquisite.

From Nice, we took a train to Avignon, another super cool walled in city, built with winding streets that made it nearly impossible to ever be conquered. We spent three nights in Avignon, visiting the Pope’s Palace, wandering the narrow cobblestone streets, and, of course, eating lots of food and drinking lots of wine.




The views at the top of the Pope’s Palace were spectacular. I could have stayed up there for hours, just staring off into the distance, figuring out what each little village was, what role it had in various historical times.





The Pope’s Palace was an amazing thing to see. These two buildings were exquisite: at once beautiful and horrifying because of the clear strength of the fortress, not to mention the religious imagery.




Three nights in Avignon was plenty, and we were all ready for the final portion of our trip: Paris!


Unlike Avignon, three nights in Paris is not enough. Not enough by far. In all honesty, we didn’t do very much in Paris besides walk around and eat, and I probably could have done exactly that for another week or two.


Our visit to the Musee Rodin was a highlight of the trip. It was a cool, cloudy, day, and we spent our time wandering the gardens. Sculpture is one of my favorite (maybe favorite?) forms of art, so this was a really enjoyable experience. We weren’t able to tour the inside of the museum due to renovations, but the gardens were plenty for a tired eight-year-old boy anyway.

Musée Rodin

Musée Rodin

I had so much fun taking pictures throughout Paris, and I hope I really do return some day. There is so much more to see, to do, to experience.

Musée Rodin



I will keep my fingers crossed that this wasn’t a once in a lifetime trip. That some day, some way, we will return to Italy and to Paris. I still think about our trip on a near daily basis. I remember the beautiful trees, the amazingly old buildings, the gorgeous mountains, and, of course, the best coffee, wine, bread, and food.

What a trip.


Oh, That Boy Of Mine

First, it was eczema. Then came the wheezing. A few episodes of wheezing, one of which led to our diagnosis of Asthma, followed by the growth of an allergy to dogs, and now?

Now there is something else. Well, there is at least one other something else. Maybe two.

A few weeks ago, Alex was complaining about an itchy scalp. With his eczema, it’s no surprise that he would be itchy in various places. I pilfered through his hair, just to make sure it wasn’t, gasp, lice. (It wasn’t.) Everything looked fine, but I didn’t want the poor kid to be itchy all the time.

I knew that olive oil could be put on his scalp to add some moisture, but the thought of then having to wash it out wasn’t exactly something I wanted to live through. So, I visited the all-knowing Mr. Google.

Mr. Google told me that apple cider vinegar can be very helpful for dry, itchy, scalps. I had heard about apple cider vinegar being used for conditioner, and had in fact thought about using it myself, but hadn’t made the connection that what is moisturizing to hair could also potentially help with a dry scalp.

So, I plopped Alex in the bathtub, and with a handful of cotton balls soaked in apple cider vinegar, I spread it around his scalp where he indicated it was itchy. We let it soak in for a few minutes; Alex played with his bath toys, I played on my phone while sitting on the floor of the bathroom.

When I rinsed it off the smell went away completely (something I was concerned about) but then I noticed something. The sides of Alex’s face were red. They looked raised, red, and kind of like a welt. I thought that perhaps I had pushed too hard putting the apple cider vinegar through his hair? Maybe I was holding his face there and was squeezing hard? Did he hit the side of his face while playing? None of those things were true; Alex cooperated fully and I didn’t even have to hold his head, the only place I could have put any pressure was where the cotton balls touched his hair, and I definitely would have noticed if he smacked his face off of something.

The welts went away by the time we were finished getting ready for bed that night, and I completely forgot about the event.

Then, yesterday. Yesterday, we were eating lunch. Alex was having his usual smorgasbord lunch: strawberries, blueberries, goat cheese on almond crackers, some pieces of ham, and a few of my chicken wings from the night before.

July 14

After lunch, Alex was sitting on Zach’s lap in his office. They were watching some sort of trailer for a new iPad game, when Zach asked me what was around his mouth. I looked, and, sure enough, there were raised red welts around his mouth. We had him wash his face, but the welts remained.

Alex deals with a rash around his mouth chronically. At this point, we are pretty sure that it is a contact rash due to wheat. His eczema also flairs up after wheat, so it would make sense to me that the mouth rash could be related to that. But this? This redness was completely different than eczema, and completely different than his usual rash.

So, naturally, I needed to figure it out. I didn’t remember the previous event right away, though. I thought about the food he ate: could it be the strawberries? Unlikely, since he eats them multiple times a week. Same goes for the blueberries, goat cheese, and almond crackers. He also eats the ham for lunch at school at least once a week, and then often for a lunch on the weekend if he doesn’t want what we are having. Couldn’t be that.

That left the wings. There were probably 4+ ingredients in the sauce (they were delivered) and any one could be the culprit.

Finally, I remembered the bathtub situation. I remembered the big red welts on his face. Apple cider vinegar! There must be some apple cider vinegar in the wing sauce!

And so, I experimented. I wet a bit of cloth with some apple cider vinegar, and I put a bit on a cheek and on the inside of his wrist.

Yup, I experimented on my child.

Sure enough, his cheek turned red. It wasn’t the same raised welt as the others, but we also didn’t let it stay on his skin for very long like it would have during his bath or while the wing sauce sat on his face (messy kids!) while he finished eating. It was definitely red, though, and clearly caused by the apple cider vinegar I just rubbed on his cheek.

That boy of mine? Add apple cider vinegar as a list of possible things he is allergic/sensitive to. (Hopefully it’s something that doesn’t affect him systemically. It is vinegar, after all, so maybe it was just in contact too long with his skin and any body would react that way?)

Oy vey.

July 9

Not a Vegan

For the Fourth of July, I had to stop at the store to pick up a few items. We were having the grandparents over, and while we were being provided with a lot of essentials, there were things that were necessary to make it a lovely day.

Alex and I went into the store, him plopped in the little seat in the cart (if anyone asks, he’s 35 pounds. I’m sticking to that.), me holding my phone with the Groceries App list open.

As we were picking up berries for maybe the best fruit tart ever, Alex excitedly said, “Mommy! You have to get more raspberries because they look sooooo good.”

I agreed, and we grabbed an extra half pint of raspberries just because.

An older man was picking out strawberries right next to us and commented that he loves to see kids excited about healthy food. I agreed, and we went on our way around the store.

Fourth of July

One thing is for sure, that kid could almost entirely survive on fruit if I would let him. Particularly berries, and particularly when they are in season.

But he also loves most other food. Honestly, I can’t complain about him as an eater. There are days when he won’t eat, but there are days when he scarfs down whatever I put in front of him. His favorite snack is a salad.

In the car on the way home from the grocery store, Alex was asking me about what our meal would be that evening. I told him we were having cheeseburgers, which he loves. “What are burgers made out of? Cow?”

“Yes. Most hamburgers are made with beef, which is from a cow.”

“And the cow is dead? Someone kills it?”

“Well, yes. The cow is dead. Someone has to kill it to get the meat.”

Alex made a frowny face and declared, “That’s not nice. Why can’t we just take the meat without killing the animal?”

I tried to explain how much that would hurt the animal. How we can’t just chop off a piece of a living creature.

“Mommy, that sounds mean. I don’t want to eat animal ever again.”

I told him that was fine! He could eat his berries and have corn on the cob for dinner.

He asked me if he could have some cheese for a snack when we got home because apparently thinking about where food comes from made him hungry. I told him of course, and then he asked me about cheese. How it’s made. I reminded him that the cheese we eat comes from either cows or goats, primarily. We went into…details.

“Oh. Mommy? I’m never eating meat again OR milk from animals.”

“Okay, sweetie. Berries and corn for dinner it is!”

“Oh, I can’t eat a cheeseburger?”

“Well, our cheeseburgers are made with cheese and ground beef, both from a cow.”

“Oh. Mommy? I want to eat a cheeseburger, but I don’t want to eat any other animals.”

“Okay, sweetie. You can eat a cheeseburger and no other animals. …so, no more chicken nuggets, okay?”

“Chicken nuggets are chickens! I will only eat chicken nugget chickens and cheese burgers.”

We then discussed bacon. Chicken-thigh kebabs. Sausage. Eggs. His favorite food in the world: goat cheese.

Let’s just say, this kid isn’t going to become a vegan any time soon. Kid likes his meat, and I don’t think he will ever give up goat cheese.

Day 60: July 4

He Has Great Ideas

“No, Alex, you may not have a fourth serving of fruit snacks.”

“No, Alex, you can’t have cool whip for dinner.”

“No, Alex, you may not throw your action figure at me. Or anyone.”

He almost always asks. I guess that’s a good thing. Instead of just doing something he knows he isn’t supposed to, he asks first. He generally still does it, and then gives me a look like what are you going to do about it, huh?

His obsession with candy and dessert is no surprise. Not only is he a kid (what kid doesn’t love sweets?), he comes by his love of sugar honestly. My weakness is definitely sugar-laden foods. Brownies, M&Ms, ice cream. If they are in my general vicinity, I have a really hard time not consuming every last drop.

This love of candy and sweets can make it hard to get him to eat anything real, so generally we bargain. Actually, we bargain everything. Or threaten. “If you don’t let me brush your teeth you don’t get to have story time before bed” works like a charm. “If you don’t let me get you dressed for the day I won’t wrestle with you on the bed” convinces him that getting dressed is a good idea.

He’s figured this bargaining out, though, and now tries to use it on us.

“I know what’s a good idea! I’ll go into the kitchen and eat a carrot, and then I can have the entire container of cool whip.”

More often than not, though, he goes straight for what he wants and doesn’t even offer up an enticing offer. “I know what’s a good idea! Let’s have cookies instead of chicken!”

Yeah, you wish, kiddo.


I Think This Means I’m a Fat Kid (With a Lot of Vices)

The souvenirs one brings back from a trip not only tell a lot about what that person values, but can also tell a lot about the place those souvenirs are from. Obviously it’s possible to get a magnet and a shot glass anywhere, but I easily could have purchased one hundred shot glasses per magnet. And 99 of those would have had the fleur-de-lis on them.

Here is what I brought home with me:

Crawfish mardi gras beads

Naturally, I had to take home some Mardis Gras beads. Fortunately, all I had to do to get them was go to Mardis Gras World. No flashing required.

Shot Glass


A shot glass and magnet were mandatory.

The most appallingly delicious pie ever

The most appallingly delicious pie I have ever had. I ate two while I was there and brought two home with me.


A praline. I’m not a fan, but Alex insisted that I bring him home a cookie from my trip. So, I obliged. And of course, before even giving me a hug or a kiss when I returned he shouted from his seat, “Mommy! You bwought me cookies fwom youw twip? May I have dem now, pwease?”


“Slap Ya Mama!” Um, enough said.

T-Shirt for Alex

The only reasonable t-shirt I could find for Alex. Most of them were neon or said inappropriate things (even for the tots) or had too many sequins or more glitter than is appropriate for anyone, boy or not.

Save Our Shore

Save Our Shore

This beer is an attempt to help out with the oil spill. Remember: everyone drinks down there, so why not make a commitment to donate 75 cents for every purchased bottle? We drank one and then I purchased one to bring home.

Haunted History Tour Fan

The Haunted History Tour paper fan. I didn’t use it on the tour, even though it was hot, because I was too busy enjoying the tour guide and the beer that we, as a group, stopped to get half way through the tour.

Knight and Horse

The gift that my best friend bought for Alex’s birthday. Of course the knight and his horse have the fleur-de-lis plastered all over them.

Hand Rolled in New Orleans, Cigars

Cigars. Hand-rolled cuban cigars.

Louisiana Fish Fry

Some Fish Fry. It was super cheap, and now I’ll be forced to make some fried fish. Plus: YUM.

Cafe Du Monde Beignet Mix

Some Cafe Du Monde Beignet mix. Again, I’ll now be forced to make them. Darn.

It’s Like a Rash

After I gave Alex a bath at 9:50pm tonight, thanks to a surprise vomiting episode in the car on the way home from the airport, I started looking through the few pictures I took in New Orleans. And by “few” I mean about 140, and let me tell you that is not anywhere near close enough to actually capture that place. Especially given that I only took pictures on two days. (I didn’t want to deal with having my Nice! New! camera while we were out drinking. Ahem.)

As our tour guide on the Haunted History Tour told the group:

New Orleans is like a rash. It gets under your skin. You leave; it’s gone. But it will always creep back into your skin. You can never forget, and you will always come back.

I can’t do the city justice, especially having only spent five days there.

I can tell you what I took away from it:

It’s beautiful. Absolutely, phenomenally, beautiful. The french quarter made my heart swoon. Looking up at the traditional spanish-style homes (not french style! The french homes all burned down not once, but twice, and the spanish said “you’re doing it wrong! Try our style!”) made me realize that I want one. Those balconies! Oh, those balconies!


It’s hot. It’s humid. It’s a swamp. It doesn’t matter that you are a hot and sweaty mess, though, because so is everyone else.

Mardis Gras World

New Orleanians? Are wild. They are obsessed with sports, the fleur-de-lis, adding “-eaux” to words that shouldn’t have them (“Geaux Saints!”). They are proud of their city. And they are sick of people looking down on it or pitying it because of Katrina. (Seeing the closed down hospitals and drinking a beer in a bar that was 7 feet under water, though? Weird. And I couldn’t help but bring up Katrina.)


There are no rules. Or at least, from an outsider’s perspective, there appear to be no rules. You can drink in the streets! You can flash a cop and instead of getting arrested the cop will shine his flashlight on you and proceed to flirt with you! Men go shirtless, women go shirtless. Everyone drinks, everywhere, all the time.


There is music everywhere, all the time. People perform, dancing, singing, dressing as a Pirate and telling Pirate jokes, dressed as a Joker. On various corners people will gather with their instruments, often horns, and play amazing music. Many of the bars have live music, and if you don’t like what is happening in one place you can go next door for something else.


The food is awesome. And Cafe Du Monde lives up to the hype.

Nom Nom Nom Cafe Du Monde

The Mississippi River? Is huge. I know, I know, what a silly thing to say. But it is! Coming from a city with three rivers I could not have imagined its vastness. Our little rivers here in Pittsburgh look puny in comparison.


Girls will flash you, even on a random day in August, if you promise them Mardi Gras beads. I saw far more of that than I could have prepared to see. (Seriously, girls? It’s August. It’s not Mardis Gras. And if you really want some beads? Go buy some. They are in in the city.)

Bourbon Street is immensely entertaining, but only for one night.

That's a LOT of alcohol

Being able to have someone who knows the city is extremely important. Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t have seen much. I would have missed out on the amazing local scene. Like this place, where I saw this guy, who was unbelievable. Potentially the best show I have ever seen. All in a little bar, with no more than 50 people. This video can’t do the show justice, but perhaps it can give you a small taste of the energy and talent that these people have, and the enthusiasm that the crowd had:

Basically, my trip was amazing.

New Orleans, you will be missed. And, like a rash, I am sure you will creep under my skin again some day. I look forward to that itchy day.


If There’s a Tree, It’s a Forest.

Alex is such a little dude these days. It just amazes me that he is, like, a person.

This is nothing new, and I have no doubt it will continue to astound me every other day, but my god language development is fascinating. And just development in general.

“I wike forests.”
“Oh yeah? What’s in a forest, Alex?”

So, trees are in forests. Good. This is true. For about a week every single time we would pass a tree Alex would yell, “Mommy! Look! Dewes a FOWEST!”

A implies B does not mean that B implies A. This is a very complicated concept, apparently.

Take Target. Now, Target sells, well, everything. It has toys, games, clothes and groceries. And because it has groceries, it is therefore, according to Alex, a grocery store.

Every time I tell Alex we are going to the grocery store, he is very disappointed that it isn’t “da OTHER grocery store. Da one wid da popcorn.”

And to make matters even more complicated, I told Alex that we will be going to see his first movie at a movie theater this summer. At the theater, I tell him, we will get popcorn. “Oh! Our goin’ to see a movie in da grocery store?!”

Of course we are, kiddo. Because that makes perfect sense.


This year, more than ever before, I am thankful for my and my family’s overall health. While there have been a number of scary moments throughout the past year, including my own surgery, Alex’s struggling to breath, Zach’s father spending a week in the hospital, and my great aunt being diagnosed with myasthenia gravis, I am thankful that we were all helped. We have health insurance, and for that I am thankful. We have the ability to pay for what isn’t covered, and for that I am thankful. We have each other, a support system, and for that I am very thankful.

I have only been in nursing school for three months, but I have spent over 300 hours working with patients in the hospital. Some are relatively healthy, most are not. Some have family, a lot do not. Some have health insurance, others will be bankrupt after they leave the hospital and receive the bill. Some got better, a few did not.

This year, I am thankful for what I can do. It may not be much as a student nurse, but I have witnessed firsthand what a difference the little I can do makes to a patient. From helping with a bath and changing sheets, to actually listening to what they have to say and going out of my way to get them food that they will consume, to giving them pain medication when their nurse is struggling to keep up with her patient load.

I am grateful that I live the way I do: with Zach and Alex, in a good neighborhood, near my mother and soon near Zach’s parents. We may struggle, but at the end of the day we have food in our bellies, clothes on our back, and a really, amazingly, wonderful life.

Today, I am thankful for a lot.

Today, I hosted Thanksgiving for the first time. And I am thankful that my mother came over early to help me prepare.

Today, Alex said “tankooo” about 50 times. And for that? I am thankful. Those simple words tell me that he is happy, healthy, and becoming a wonderful little man.

Two years ago, we celebrated Alex’s first Thanksgiving:

Thanksgiving 2007

This year we had a friend of the family over with her son. And for the first time, I witnessed Alex truly interacting with another child. They spent almost the entire afternoon and evening playing together, and for that? I am thankful.


I am thankful regardless of the fact that a large chunk of that “interacting” was…active, let’s say.


And for the record, I’m also thankful for sweater vests and the simple pleasure that a paper napkin can bring to a toddler.