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!

Beautiful!

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.)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 every.single.store 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.

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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?”
“Twees!”

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.

Thanks

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.

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

Wrestling

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

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How To Blame Your Baby For Making You Fat

I like to blame the fact that I got fat on pregnancy and nursing. I gained the typical 35 pounds while pregnant with Alex, and I like to think that my ravenous hunger while nursing contributed to my weight gain.

In reality, it’s not because I was simply eating more while nursing or holding on to that pregnancy weight. In reality, it’s because I started cooking. And I blame my son for that.

Cooking was never something that I didn’t like, but it wasn’t something I did a whole lot of. I mean, I was in college. I had professionals cooking for me at every single meal. When I didn’t want what was being served, I went out to eat. Or ordered pizza.

But then I had Alex. And, you see, Alex was a picky baby. He was picky about how he wanted to be held, and if you weren’t complying to his demands he would wail. There was a three week period during his first two months of life when I was the only person that could put him to sleep. I tucked his little legs under his belly and held him on my chest. It was a very specific position, with a certain place to put my left hand and a certain place to put my right; a certain tilt of his head resting on a certain place on my chest.

While he has always been rather independent, even as a young baby, when he was tired, not feeling well, or otherwise feeling the need for some lovin’, he needed to be held. So, he spent the vast majority of his time on my chest as a baby. As fun as it is to hold a baby on your chest, not only is it tiring, but also it is boring. What, exactly, was I supposed to do? Thank GOD for slings.

When you have to wear a baby on your chest for 8 hours of the day (I won’t mention night times because that was a whole different story involving rocking to sleep for half an hour and then hoping he would sleep by himself for more than five seconds) there is only so much you can do. Especially when the person being worn on your chest won’t let you sit down. No, it wasn’t just that he had to be held. He had to be held and you had to be standing. And not just standing still. No, you had to be rocking back and forth or somehow moving around.

So, I started cooking.

Anyone who has ventured into cooking for the first time probably knows that there are so many recipes out there. And the ones that sound the best? Aren’t exactly the ones that are low in calories. I turned to many an online-recipe-blog, picked the recipes that sounded the best, and started making them. Pot roasts, stuffed chicken, casseroles, stir fry, stew, cheesy-fatty-starchy-calorie-filled goodness. I won’t even mention the secrets I learned when it comes to baking.

So, I got fat. I got fat while standing on my feet wearing my kid on my chest. I baked cookies, made bread from scratch, and learned a lot about food. My brain filled with knowledge and my butt filled with adipose.

When I finally realized that I had to make a change, I was scared. What are we going to eat? I don’t have a single recipe that is okay for Weight Watchers! I can’t even use butter when making eggs?! I can’t bake cookies anymore?

But I figured it out. And my love for cooking grew exponentially as I discovered that not only is it still fun to cook while not using added fats, it’s more fun.

So, my brain filled with knowledge about the healthy way to stir fry vegetables and my butt slowly lost the adipose. Alex no longer needed to be worn all the time, and instead began “helping” me cook.

“Help me stir! Want to help. Have a piece of pepper? Pour the pepper in the pan? Stir the veggies! Need to help, Mommy. Need to help.”

I can blame my baby for making me fat, for sure. But I can also blame him for making me not care that he made me fat. It was worth it.

Eating Pizza

A Boy And His Food

Like most parents of toddlers, I have a constant supply of snacks with me. Even on Friday night when the Burgh Moms got together I found a small bag full of crackers in my purse. A selection of Elmo crackers, Cheddar Bunnies, and some Gorilla munch. You know, Just In Case.

I learned the hard way that having something for Alex to munch on at all times is an absolute necessity.

Alex loves to eat. This kid can eat his weight in food, often a few times a day. This morning? Two waffles, two pieces of banana bread, a handful of grapes, some strawberries and a small bowl full of cereal. After hearing “mo? peas?” over and over again, I would give him more food. And then more. And then more.

It shouldn’t surprise me that he eats so much. Not only has he not slowed down in his growth yet, he also runs all. the. time. It’s a rare moment when he sits down for more than a few minutes to read a book or play with something. The vast majority of the time he is running back and forth, demanding my hand to take him outside so that he can run up and down the block, climbing up and down the stairs again and again, climbing onto and off of the couch, running around the dining room table and tackling me. And then repeat.

So, I guess when he’s running around he needs to have a bite every few steps, right? Makes perfect sense.

Happy to be snacking

He was actually still sick when we went to the park on Friday when this picture was taken. He still ate all day long.