Sometimes It Is All About Me

1909945_504747559740_419_n I was 21 when I found out I was unexpectedly pregnant with Alex. I was in my junior year at Smith, but would be graduating a semester early. While I had originally planned on attending medical school after graduation, I had left that idea behind when I realized how much I didn’t want to be a doctor. Instead, I decided I would get a second degree in nursing. That way, I’d still get to work with people and help them get or stay healthy, but I wouldn’t have to make the sacrifices necessary to become a doctor.

It was all planned out. Two more semesters. I had recently made Dean’s list again! I was finally in My Place. Feeling Good. I’ve Got This, I was thinking of my life.
1928953_504747594670_2185_n 1909558_504614775840_2737_n
Things obviously worked out, but not in the way I had always planned. Instead of graduating a semester early, I ended up graduating a semester late. We borrowed money, Zach had to finish college with a newborn at home, life was really, really, tough for a while, but we survived. I finished my semester at Smith, getting bigger by the minute, and then was able to have Alex and finish my degree in Pittsburgh over the next year. Smith was so wonderful, and essentially my last semester worth of credits was my “semester abroad”…it was just in Pittsburgh and took a year after taking a semester off to stay home full time.

But during all of this, during our figuring it all out, finishing up college degrees, trying to accept the change in life plans, fighting back tears (or not fighting back and letting them flow) regularly, I lost myself.

I got stuck. I got trapped. I was so consumed by being the “21 year old who had a baby” and a “young mom” that I lost track of who I really am.

Yes, I am a young mom. Yes, I did have a child earlier than originally planned. But does that define me? No.

And now, nine years later, I think I’m finally, finally, realizing that. I am not the sum of my motherhood. My motherhood is part of me, but it is not me.

I removed piercings when I found out I was pregnant. I couldn’t stand the thought of people already judging me for being pregnant and then double judging me for my piercings, too.

I became more “preppy” or “conservative” in the way I dressed. I wanted to look “mature” (or something?) and I did everything I could to not instantly be regarded and, in my scared mind, judged, for my age. I constantly worried about it. My age was mentioned routinely when I was out with Alex. It still is. “Are you a nanny?” “Oh, you’re too young to have him!” “Wow, you must have been a baby when he was born!” “Where are his parents?”

In December I turned 30. A milestone, for sure. I’m still the youngest mother in Alex’s class. I expect I (almost) always will be. At this point, I have some friends and acquaintances who have babies, are pregnant, or are married and will likely be having babies in the near future. I have some contact with a few schoolmates from high school and college who have children around Alex’s age, but we are a rare breed.

Thirty, yo. (Dec 18 part 3)

A photo posted by Allison Barton (@allisonbarton) on

Regardless of my insecurities year after year, it is something I’ve been recently working through. I’m not over it, but I’m trying to pay attention to how it has shaped who I’ve become over the last nine years since I found out I was pregnant. It’s made me defensive, a trait I never would ask for in myself. I can be rude, quick to react, and I definitely can come off as arrogant. I am realizing that a lot of this has to do with how I view myself as a young mother. Or, more accurately, my worries about how other people view me.


Here I am. A thirty year old mother of an eight year old. I am working on myself. Me. Not who I think I should be. Not who I think people see me as. Me. I finally got a tattoo that I’ve been thinking about for six years. Six Years. I kept not doing it because I was scared. Scared of judgment. Scared that it wasn’t the “right” thing to do. But I did it. And it’s so me. One hundred percent me. And if people judge me?

Screw them.


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Did it. (Nov 25 part 2)

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I can be a mother. I can have tattoos. I can wear whatever I want. I can shave the side of my head, or dye my hair. I can wear a cashmere sweater and pearls and show off my tattoo and undercut at the same time, and that is all me. I can go out and drink with my friends, or I can stay home and go to bed at nine. I can be thirty and act forty, or be thirty and act twenty, because who is to say what makes these acting?

We’ve all grown a lot in nine years. And we have a ways to go.

Baby to Child.

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Italy, Man, Part Two

After our amazing first couple of days in Italy, it seemed like nothing could top the experiences we’d already had. How could something beat the views? The awesome towns? The delicious food and wine?

We spent a day with a local tour guide walking around Cinque Terre, which is a small area consisting of five towns built into the coastline along the Italian Riviera. These little towns are picturesque, with the classic (at least to my mind) image of Mediterranean coastal towns: lots of multi colored buildings built into what appears to be the side of a mountain.

Cinque Terre

It is rumored (no idea of its accuracy) that the houses are all painted different colors so that when the men were off working in the sea, fishing, or perhaps on their way home, they could easily look back and know which house was theirs and thus which house had their wives and children inside them. It’s a nice thought, isn’t it?

Cinque Terre

We only ended up visiting three of the five towns, a fact that to me simply means I have to go back one day. Each of the little villages was similar, consisting of narrow winding roads, steep stairways, and laundry hanging from windows. Each village also had unique features, from the size, to the steepness, to the popularity, to the beach access, to the specific types of food. I really enjoyed walking down the tiny, narrow paths, up steps upon steps upon steps, and hearing the stories about the residents pouring boiling oil from the second or third floor of their homes onto the Pirates who routinely got lost among the narrow streets.

Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre

There is a trail you can take between each and every town, and otherwise the towns are only accessible by train or a very narrow, not recommended to traverse, road. When the towns were built, the only access was by foot or by sea.

Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre

When we reached the second town on our stop, we had to put our feet in the Mediterranean Sea. How could we not? The water was warm, and blue, and just…perfection. The pictures don’t do it justice because I’m a total amateur, and the haziness of the day really made it tough to capture some of the amazingness of it all. I swear to you, though, the water was a blue I’ve never seen before. It reminded me a bit of the Caribbean, but a deeper blue.

Cinque Terre

Alex started off just putting his feet in, but that quickly became a laughable endeavor of staying dry. His shorts got wet, his shirt got wet, and pretty soon we let him take his shirt of and he ended up totally submerging himself in the waves.

Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre

After so many busy days, we had a day of rest: a day of hanging out by the pool, a day to do laundry, snack, read, and recover. The pool was a bit chilly, but was so clean, salt water!, and so crazy beautiful as it overlooked the mountains and farm land and the small personal vineyard.

Pool Day

Pool Day

Alex, of course, loved this day. While he found some aspects enjoyable in our busy days of walking around and doing tourist-y things, he was so happy to have a day at “home” to relax.

Pizza Chef Workshop!

As if the day couldn’t have been perfect enough for Alex, we ended the evening with a five hour Pizza Making Workshop with a real chef!

Pizza Chef Workshop!

We made the dough from scratch, and got to enjoy cheese, wine, cecina, a chickpea flour flatbread that was so good I wished I could eat one whole pan of it, while we waited for the dough to rise.

Pizza Chef Workshop!

Each one of us got to make a pizza, picking as many toppings from the beautiful array of meats, cheeses, and vegetables, as we wanted.

Pizza Chef Workshop!

In the end, we were handed certificates, indicating that we “passed” the Pizza Chef Workshop.

Pizza Chef Workshop!

It was a great night, and we all went to bed stuffed. Between the appetizers, our home made pizza, and then the chefs making us a few different dessert pizzas to try (nutella, sugar, pear and cheese!), it was a great way to spend our last night in the Villa.

The next day, we packed up. We said goodbye to the amazing villa, drove about an hour away, and spent a few hours in Florence before taking a train to France the next morning. I could easily have spent another day or two wandering around the beautiful streets of Florence, but even the limited time we were there was lovely. The shopping alone could have been an all day activity!



Florence was cool. The artists, the craftsmen, the gorgeous buildings, the religious history, the bridges, and, of course, the street vendors.



We definitely got sucked in, as a group, to the street vendors selling all sorts of goods, and ended up buying a few things. Alex found a bag, eyed in on it right away, and wanted it so badly. “For my friend here? 100 dollars,” is how the conversation started with the salesman. Alex, of course, nodded and said, “YES!” instantly. Laughing, we got the vendor down quite a bit, and Alex ended up really, really, happy with his purchase. He also learned a bit about haggling, a very important lesson that school would not have taught him.


All in all, I couldn’t have been happier with our time in Italy. The only thing that would have made it better would have been more time, but for our one week stay? It was pretty much perfection. Delicious food, wine, a happy child, really beautiful sights, and an opportunity to experience just a touch of another culture.



Seven And Three Quarters

Lately, Alex has been a little obsessed with the idea of becoming a big brother. (Spoiler alert: he’s not.) I’m guessing it’s because there have been a few babies born lately, and probably most intriguing to him is that one of his friends, who is older than him, became a big sister just about a year ago. So he’s had the pleasure of seeing adorable new babies join his friends’ families in addition to some new humans joining our extended family.

“Mom. If I ever was a big brother? I’d be so good at it.”

(In case you were wondering, he would be nice, make the baby laugh, keep it distracted when it wanted to cry, but probably not ever change a diaper.)

I also think a lot of this talk about wanting to be a Big Brother is a way for him to talk about growing up. He’s becoming more and more independent as the months pass; he’s more and more capable of being a human in the world. He no longer needs me to help him get ready, he shuts the door for privacy sometimes, I feel comfortable leaving him in places by himself sometimes, and he’s even learning how to prepare some real foods (with supervision).


The other night he asked to stay up a little later than usual to watch a show with Zach. I agreed, as long as he would put himself to bed entirely. “That means you go upstairs, put on pajamas, brush teeth, climb into bed, and go to sleep. By yourself.” He agreed, and I rejoiced! He’s not hard to put to bed. In fact, I kind of love our routine. But when it’s a beautiful night and I have the option to sit outside with a glass of wine and read by myself for twenty minutes? Well, sometimes that wins.

When the show ended, Alex walked outside in his pajamas and hugged me. “Mom, I really don’t want to put myself to bed. Will you please just sing me a song? I promise I’ll go to sleep right away after that.”

How could I say no? (I couldn’t. After having a discussion about how when you say you’re going to do something you do it, because now how can I trust his word? Blah. That kind of thing.)

We walked upstairs, hand in hand, and I tucked him in and sang him a song. Our routine. “Mom, don’t put my noise machine on tonight.”

“No noise machine? Why? You love your noise machine!”

“I know. I don’t need it. I can give it to my baby brother or sister. They will need it more than me.”

“There is no baby who needs it, bud. You can use it as long as you want and it doesn’t make you a baby.”

“I know… but Mom. I’m growing up.”

“I know, bud,” I said, frowning.

“Oh, don’t be sad because then you will make me feel sad,” he returned, choking up.

“I’m not really sad. I mean, I guess I am. But I’m also proud. I’m mostly proud and only a little sad. You are becoming an amazing person and I love watching you grow up.”

“Okay,” he whispered while holding out his hand, silently asking me to take it in mine.

He closed his eyes, and I kissed him goodnight.

My little guy really is growing up. “I’m almost seven and three quarters, Mom. I’m not a little kid.”

Nope. You sure aren’t, bud.


This Space

I’ve been blogging to some extent for over fifteen years now. I had a very early LiveJournal, then my own website/blog a few years later, and then, when Alex was about 6 months old, I started this ol’ thing here. Allison Says, because I wanted to say things, and writing things is one way to do that. It was a way to connect with other local moms, of which I knew approximately zero, a way to share with far away friends and family, and maybe most importantly it was a way for me to put my thoughts and feelings out there.

Thoughts and feelings aren’t my forte. Well, thoughts are certainly in my wheelhouse, and feelings usually come with those thoughts, but sharing them? Not so much. At least, not about me. It’s not something I’m proud of, and it’s not something I’m particularly ashamed of. It’s just how I am. If we’re close and you ask me my feelings about something? I will tell you. But the chances of me coming out on my own, without a prompt, are slim to none. Those thoughts and feelings stay where my brain and self think they belong: buried inside.

Playground Fun

But I shared things. I shared our struggle to finish college, which we both did, and then I went and got a second degree. I shared my concern about Alex’s language development. I shared our sleep struggles. I shared when he was finally potty trained (thanks, Zach!). The world knew about me going back to school to get a degree in nursing, when I got my first job, when Alex started Kindergarten. But then the regular business turned into general laziness, and even when I found time to blog I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to say. Allison Says not a lot.

Alex is nearly eight years old (::gasp::!) and it’s harder to decide what to write about. How much privacy do we need? Zach and I differ a bit on our opinions on this, with me leaning more towards sharing, oddly enough. So, do I write about my concerns related to Alex’s reading, his dislike of school, his fear of trying new things? Do I share my worry that he’s picked on, and that he has perfectionist tendencies? Or do I just show the good stuff and brag about how awesome our life is? Because it is awesome, regardless of concerns.

Do I continue to try to write and share things that I really mean, events that really hit home for me? Do I go back to writing slightly more polarizing posts that aren’t 100% about Alex? Do I want to share our happiness and our sadness with the world? And if so, which I think I do as I sit here and recap our lives through blogging, how do I do it again? And how do I keep it within what is acceptable for a growing child who has opinions and wants privacy?

How do I continue to use this space? Keep it as is, very rarely posting anything of “value”? Try to give myself the time to actually write something? Try to share more of our lives, both good and bad?

Why I'm a happy mother. Thanks, boys.

This Space has been something for me. It helped me make friends. It helped me stay sane. It shared our lives, however little I put here, with distant relatives. It’s too important to throw away, but it’s been so neglected for so long. Maybe all of this ruminating, this stream of consciousness writing, will set off what I need to make it a more “useful” space. I want to remember these times.

He Still Fits, But Barely

“Stop being a jerk,” I told Alex as I stood up from our position on the couch, side by side, and walked away. He was refusing to listen. He kept sighing, loudly, and squirming, purposefully stalling, during his reading homework. He wouldn’t even look at the words to read them, and instead just blurted out whatever word he felt like. He was being rude, an ongoing issue, and not doing what I told him to do the first time. He had ignored multiple requests that afternoon. He yelled at me. Twice.

Within a few minutes, he was on the other side of our long couch, curled up in a ball, under a blanket, very upset. He wasn’t crying, but he wasn’t doing anything at all other than sitting there with a frown on his face.

I wiped the counter in the kitchen. I caught up on social media for a few minutes. I felt bad.

“I’m sorry I got upset with you, buddy,” I said as I walked back in to the room where Alex was staring blankly ahead.

“It’s okay,” he said, his voice sounding so small, so young, as I sat down next to him.

“I shouldn’t have called you a jerk. That wasn’t very nice of me, and I’m sorry that I hurt your feelings.”

He moved in closer to me, then stood up enough to sit on my lap.

Bringing his knees closer to his chest, his entire body taking up the length of mine, he tucked the blanket around us. “It’s okay,” he repeated. We talked about his behavior, why I got mad, what I should have done differently, and what he really, really, needs to work on (hint: it’s listening and doing what we say the first time, and being patient with himself and others when doing chores/homework/tasks).

I won’t have many more days to have him curled up in a ball on my lap. He’s so big, so grown up, so independent. He won’t want to cuddle with me forever.

It wasn’t a proud parenting moment. It was an exhausted, frustrated with behavior, unable to deal with the not listening, blurting-out-words parenting moment. It isn’t the first time I’ve said something mean to him, lost my temper and scolded him or yelled, and it won’t be the last.

We cuddled for less than a minute before he was up again, back to whatever activity he was doing before I interrupted him to do his reading assignment.

I don’t think he will remember this. I don’t think he will remember how he could fit so well on my lap for so many years, and then, suddenly, not. But I will. When the day comes when he no longer sits on my lap, I will grieve.

Calling him a jerk was not good. But the moment of calm and quiet, cuddled in the corner of the couch with a blanket tucked around me by my awesome kid? That was good.


Home Again, Home Again

She knew what I was going to say before I even said it.

I had just asked for a minute of her time. I guess that was enough of a hint.

“You’re quitting, aren’t you?” she asked.

I smiled, laughed a little, and nodded in agreement.

I quit my job.

I actually liked (most of) my job. I enjoyed the work I did and I felt, day to day, respected and like I was doing something important. My work was interesting, and I was actually good at it.

But you know what’s more important to me right now? Zach and Alex.

So, I quit my job.

To stay home. For the first time since Alex was two.

(And no, it didn’t happen just like ::snap:: that. This has been a long discussion over many months, many spreadsheets, many concerns, many budgetary considerations.)


The first time I dropped him off at daycare felt amazing. It was only two hours, and we did it once per week to transition him from the only thing he had known: being with me all day, every day, except when he was with Zach or his adoring grandparents. This was the first time he would be with strangers. Strangers who would feed him, change him, play with him.

He loved daycare. And once I went to school on a more-than-full-time basis, he went to daycare full time.

He did great. And I have to admit, it was great for me, too. Two years with a baby, one who refused to sleep, meant that some time away, doing things with only other adults, felt pretty awesome. So, I did just that. Spent more time with other adults every week than with him. Spent more time with other children every week than with him.

I impressed people, made a name for myself, and now I’m quitting.

Alex is very excited. I’m anxiously psyched to begin a new routine. A new day-to-day. Domestic, picking Alex up after school, being there with him on sick days, not having to wake up at the crack of dawn to get to work.

Not having to do every single chore and every single errand on the weekend? I can’t begin to imagine how different that will feel for all of us.

We are lucky. Immensely lucky. It won’t necessarily be something we can do forever, but for now?

I quit.

Little dude cuddles before a few nights away.

Ten Years

It has been ten years since I graduated from high school, and I spent many hours this weekend reminiscing and catching up at my reunion.

I wasn’t going to go. Weekends are notoriously too busy, and I didn’t have the strong desire to spend time with, well, basically strangers at this point.

I still keep in touch with a few people, though, and one of them is someone I have known since second grade. (A mind boggling thought as Alex is making friends and could potentially know these people for the rest of his life.) When a friend you’ve known since second grade is flying across the country for reunion? You kind of have to go.

So I went.

And ten years isn’t that much time, is it? Sure, we’ve all changed in a lot of ways: everyone had graduated from college, was working in some capacity, many were in graduate school, a few were married, and two fellow alums had babies. But then in other ways it seemed like not much had happened. We are all still young, looking relatively unscathed from life. A little gained weight here (hi! Thanks, baby!), some facial hair there, but mostly it looked like the class I graduated with a decade ago.

And it was fun. Great fun.

I’m so glad I went. I’m so glad I got over my anxiety, my fear about being judged for being a young mother, my concern that people would still be stuck in high school mode, my apprehension that the whole thing would be awkward.

Thinking about being a decade out of high school while simultaneously watching Alex as he navigates his way through first grade is something else. I have distinct memories of first grade. Most of those memories aren’t as strong as the ones I have from my time with everyone I spent the weekend with, but they are there. I remember my teacher, some students, my mom. I remember what I got in trouble for (talking, using the wrong color crayon), what I excelled at (math), and the people who began to help form who I would eventually become.

Will Alex remember this year? Will he look back at his time in first grade when he is in high school and remember struggling with spelling? Will he remember that he excelled at math? Will he remember being bored? Will this be motivating or demotivating to him as he enters tougher academics?

I know one thing for sure after spending the weekend with nearly one quarter of my graduating class: I wouldn’t change where I went to high school for anything. And I really hope Zach and I can provide the right environment for Alex as he continues through school. Perhaps one day he can go to his ten year graduation at the same place that I attend my 32nd.

Farm Trip 2014

The Surprise We Kept

Zach’s father just celebrated his 60th birthday. To commemorate the amazingness that is turning 60, Zach’s mother decided we should throw a surprise party.

But not just any surprise party. This would be extra special. Amazingly special. We would get family and friends from all over the country in addition to the family and friends that are close. We would have amazing food, a bartender (!), and lots and lots of fun. It would be hosted at our house, under the guise that Zach would make us all cocktails before a fancy dinner out in order to get Zach’s father, called Big D by Alex (and, let’s be honest, everyone else at this point because kids do that), to our place.

Somehow we managed to keep the secret. Somehow, even though Alex knew for months, no one spilled the beans.

Somehow we managed to get almost all of the many people who love Big D to Pittsburgh, staying in hotels, quietly facebooking so no one knew where they were, eating take-out at our house because we couldn’t go out and risk being spotted! Somehow we managed to absolutely shock Big D.

D's 60th Birthday Party

And, yeah, there were many (happy) tears shed.

D's 60th Birthday Party

At one point Alex asked me why people were crying. “Sometimes, people cry when they are happy. They’re happy tears!” I attempted to explain through tears. He looked at me like I was crazy and walked away, only to show up again when cake was served.

It is a funny thing to cry when happy, but I, along with at least ten other people, shed a lot of tears during this party. It made taking pictures a bit difficult at times because everything was so blurry and made me even happier to be the one behind the camera so I could mostly hide my ugly-cry-face.

All of Big D’s siblings were able to make it: three from New England and one flew all the way up from Florida!

D's 60th Birthday Party

Plus their spouses and kids, and kids’ kids!

D's 60th Birthday Party

The outtakes from the family pictures are, by far, my favorite pictures of the day. People who see each other not nearly enough having way too much fun.

D's 60th Birthday Party

And then there’s Alex making this ridiculous face in nearly all of the pictures:

D's 60th Birthday Party

He’s lucky he’s cute and was surrounded by so many people who love him and even more who love his Big D (and therefore have to be nice to him).

It was an amazing day.

D's 60th Birthday Party

We are all lucky to have someone as wonderful as Big D in our life.

A Change Will Do Me Good (Again)

Because apparently I don’t like to keep my life simple, things are changing again.

I am leaving my current job. The hours that were so much better than my previous job were still too far away from what I want. Being away for two or three evenings per week is just not something I can handle. I missed Alex. I missed Zach. I was actually away from them for more evenings than when I was working overnight shifts.

So, in a few weeks I’m starting yet another New Thing. A job that will be regular hours; no nights, no weekends, and no holidays. I was told there could potentially be an evening here or there when I have to “stay late”: six pm. If I left work at that time I would be home in time for dinner, baths, homework…you know, life.

This time could be the time that I finally manage to settle down and develop some sort of normalcy. Instead of changing everything about my time away from home once a year, it would be nice to, well, not.

I can’t miss this little guy’s stories every day after school. I can’t miss out on helping him with homework as often as three times per week. I can’t miss the nightly costume changes, the drama, the emotional turmoil over some kid at school who did something to someone and apparently it’s so terrible that breathing has become optional. I can’t not be there so often.


We all have priorities, and every single person has different ones. I would like to say that I’m career oriented, but, quite frankly, I’m not. I want to do meaningful work, and I want to make my time away from my family worthwhile. I think this new job will offer me not only the hours that I desire in order to be with my family, but also feelings of accomplishment and satisfaction with making a difference.

It’s going to be yet another steep learning curve. Each time I finally feel comfortable in my role, I move on. I finally was really good at being a student when I got pregnant. I was finally comfortable taking the last few courses I needed to get my degree when I graduated. I was finally figuring out the whole MommyThing when I went back to school. I was finally totally comfortable with being a student and a mother when I graduated again. I was finally feeling (mostly) confident in my first nursing role when I left the position. I finally feel quite confident in my current position, and I’m leaving in just a few more shifts. Moving on. Changing things up yet again.

But I’m optimistic that this will be a good change. Kids are what I love. My love for kids can’t only be love for the kids that I take care of at work; it obviously has to include my son. I can’t go an entire day without seeing him more than once per week.

He’s my little man, and I want to help him become a real man.


Bathroom Stuff

This isn’t a post about that kind of bathroom stuff.

The other day, Alex proudly told me that he used the last of the toilet paper in the bathroom. I wasn’t sure why he was so proud, although I had a suspicion it wasn’t going to be something I wanted to hear about, until he went on to explain that he also changed the roll of toilet paper all by himself.


This is awesome. I told him that it was awesome! I said it was fantastic that he was willing to do that, and that it made me proud.


A little while later, I, too, used the bathroom. And, sure enough, there was a new roll of toilet paper put on just like Alex had said. There was a small problem, though.

The toilet paper was put on the wrong way.

I never did explain the right way to put it on because I was just so happy that he did it.

Plus, I love that he is becoming more and more independent, even if that means that sometimes things won’t be “perfect”.