A little belated, sure, but no less genuine.
Happy Father’s Day to this handsome devil.
You are an amazing, caring, thoughtful, kind, fun, father.
Alex and I are lucky to have you.
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.
My wonderful not-so-little Alexander:
Today you are five. Five. It sounds so very old, probably because it means you are officially a whole hand in years.
You have been counting down to five for months now. No birthday has ever held the same excitement before, and I can understand why five seems like such a big deal. It sounds mature. It sounds very kid-like. Very school-aged. It’s not baby, toddler, or preschooler. It’s five.
Yesterday, you had your first day in your new classroom at the same school. You entered their version if Kindergarten, a smaller class with fewer students and only one teacher. You had a great first day, and I hope that continues throughout the year!
Throughout this year, you will grow. You will grow in height, likely losing the last of your chubby cheeks and gaining even longer legs that will be nearly impossible to fit into appropriately waisted pants. Throughout this year, you will grow in so many other ways, too. I know this is true because it is true every year. From four to five you shocked me with your ever increasing vocabulary, your understanding of simple math, and your amazing memory. If we read a story one time, you could tell me the entire plot months later! Even your teachers commented on that fact.
At four, you couldn’t say your “r” sounds. You also couldn’t say your “l” sounds, so “I wuv you” remained the cutest thing you said for a number of months. Then, you slowly outgrew the wuv and entered into love.
And love you do. You are an amazingly sweet boy, hugging and kissing at every opportunity, cuddling whenever possible, and generally being a lovable little guy. You are sensitive, quick to be upset when scolded, and quick to beam when praised. You have won the hearts of so many people already, and I can’t wait to see how this wonderful aspect of your personality grows.
As a baby, you weren’t the most cuddly. You liked to be held, but only if it meant you could play or look around. In some ways, you never outgrew this. Cuddling is much more commonplace now, but it always involves lots of conversation, a movie, or quietly playing in some other way. You still crave a constant source of entertainment, and for that I can’t blame you.
Luckily, the world remains pretty fascinating to you. While we have entered the “I’m boooored” phase of childhood, for the most part you find ways to entertain yourself with the world around you. This, of course, involves lots of questions. “Why?” is a favorite, naturally, but my personal favorite of your questions is always the more complicated, “how does that work?”
You look underneath things to figure out where sound is coming from; you fiddle with your toys again and again to determine exactly where it is that a click is made, to figure out what part of one piece goes into what part of another. You follow wires, notice breaks, determine the cause of an effect. Your fascination with how things work is, well, fascinating.
And I know that this love for The How will continue to grow, and we will do our best to nurture this in you. I also know that this year you will learn so much more; you will learn more than I even think possible to cram into one little brain in one short year. You will learn to read and write. You will learn more words, more math, more and more and more.
You will learn new ways to share your stories, and new ways to share your love.
I hope I can continue to learn new ways to show you how much I love you as quickly as you learn new ways to show me. Because I love you. More than anything. And I hope you have the absolute best fifth birthday, and a most awesome year as a five-year-old.
So much love,
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.
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?)
Alex is his parents’ son.
Such an obvious thing to say, but it is impossible to look at this kid, let alone actually spend time with him and get to know him, without knowing exactly who made him.
“There once was a Zach and an Allison…” and then there was an Alex, a perfect combination of the two of them, with a little bit of extra Zach for good measure.
It’s a given that Alex was actually cloned. He looks so much like his father I have, at times, wondered how it is possible that my egg didn’t actually hold any of my DNA.
Beyond mere looks, they are alike in so many other ways: both very particular in how they want things done, both extremely focused on what they like, both able to charm just about anyone they meet.
There may be one thing Alex got from me, though: he wears his feelings on his face.
That child is completely unable to hide exactly what is going on in his head. It all shows in his face, his eyes, his mouth. And that, I have to admit, is entirely from me. My face and eyes? Give everything away.
Like most weekends these days, last weekend was a whirlwind. I absolutely love that I am now a part of the weekend-life. After 14 months of working every other weekend, it is so amazing to know that no matter what? At the end of my work week I have two solid days with my family. My boys.
Our weekends are busy. Maybe I’m catching up for all of the lost weekend time from last year, or maybe this is just how it will be forever; either way, I love it. I love spending this time with Zach and Alex, going out to movies, enjoying nice dinners at night with Zach, going to ice skating and hockey class, having lunch or brunch with grandparents, enjoying meeting friends out on the farm…
On Saturday afternoon, I took an introductory photography class from the wonderful Burgh Baby. After having a nice camera for almost 2 years, I had yet to explore anything but the automatic settings. It was time for a change.
Fortunately, I had just the chance to practice some of the things I learned the next day. Sunday morning, before the sun even came up, we were all awake and getting ready to take Zach downtown for the Pittsburgh Marathon 2012. He ran in the relay with some coworkers, and, of course, Alex and I had to be there to cheer him on.
We had a long wait. After dropping Zach off at his relay exchange, we went to where he would be finishing and waited for the fun to start.
I enjoyed exploring the manual settings of my camera. While the vast majority of the pictures turned out horrendously, I did get a few that I greatly enjoy.
Finally, after at least 45 minutes, the marathoners started coming. Alex enjoyed the sights. From the strange spectators to the strange runners, we saw an array of sorts: a Batman, a mustache-dude, people with paint all over their bodies, an Iron Man, and a few familiar faces as well.
All in all? I love weekends.
Now I just need to figure out how to have more of them. And have them last longer. More weekend, more often!
(And I am going to partake in my own marathon-of-sorts, hopefully: Project 365. We’ll see how long it lasts!)
In three(ish) years, a lot has changed. I went from being a typical college student to…well, whatever I am now. A mother. An almost-nurse. Tired, but happy. A hopeful soon to be home owner. The owner of a seriously awesome new camera.
In three short years…
I had a baby:
One undergraduate degree from Smith College was completed.
I graduated from Pitt with a second bachelor’s degree, this time in Nursing.
And then, to top it all off, I had the most amazing congratulatory dinner celebration last night. A surprise, full of wonderful food, family, and amazing gifts.
As Zach, his parents, my mother, grandmother and long-time friend showered me with love and affection, I came close to tears. As I watched everyone take turns entertaining Alex throughout our long evening, just as they all had numerous times throughout the past year, I came close to tears. When Zach offered me an assortment of my favorite beverages, and as my favorite cake in the world was brought out after dinner, I came close to tears. Every gift I opened? Brought me close to tears.
Again and again I thought about how unbelievably lucky I am. Looking around the room as most of the people I care about gathered to celebrate me and my accomplishments, I felt, mostly, grateful. And also undeserving.
Don’t get me wrong, I am proud of myself. I am perfectly able to toot my own horn and say that I accomplished a lot over the past few years. This past year (or three, really) has been hard. Really, really, hard. I had to finish up my first degree while staying home with a new baby. I spent the next year taking two classes each term as I prepared to start yet another degree, still staying home with Alex. None of that could prepare me for the challenge of returning to school not just full time, but F.U.L.L. time. Taking more than a full course load each semester and then adding in an average of 24 hours of clinical, all while attempting to still be a mom, a partner, a daughter, a friend…it was almost impossible.
At times, I thought my god, what did I get myself into? I am never going to be able to do this. But then, somehow, it was over.
Only it wasn’t just somehow.
I could never in a million years have gotten through the past three years on my own.
And I can never in a million years thank the people in my life enough.
To Zach, my mother, my grandparents, Zach’s parents, and the friends and family who have supported me:
Thank you. I could not have accomplished any of this, or anything, without you.
I asked him, politely, to stop.
Last weekend, Zach and I went away for two nights. Two entire nights I was away from Alex. Before Alex I would never have understood the agony that a parent feels leaving a child for that long. I mean, hello?! You are getting away from your kid for two days! Have fun! Enjoy being a real person again! And I totally did. I forgot all about the fact that I’m supposed to be an adult. It was a blast. Plus, it was a wedding so it was romantic and beautiful and there were flowers and an open bar and there was dancing and it was pretty and it was full of love and happiness and…
I missed Alex. The second I got in the car for the five hour drive away from here I missed him. When it hit me that not only would I not see him the next morning, but also I wouldn’t see him the next afternoon, my heart sank. When I realized that I wouldn’t have to deal with the arguments surrounding food or cleaning up or, well, anything, I felt a small sense of relief. But then I felt sadness. Those tantrums may not be fun, but the moments of pure joy make it all worth it. A slight, sad, pressure hung around pushing on my chest the entire time I was away from him.
And when we returned, when I was able to get a hug and a kiss from little Alex, I realized something:
He didn’t stop it. I asked him to not change, to not grow, to just…stop. I made sure to say please! But he didn’t listen. He grew. He changed in two days. He sounded more mature, finally beginning to pronounce his “r” sound, and he looked more mature, with fading chubby cheeks.
You think if I promise him fruit snacks every day for the rest of his life he’ll stop?
I can’t wait to be done. I miss taking pictures. I miss doing nothing. I miss Alex. I miss Zach. I miss my life.
I miss my blog, too.
Yesterday, Alex asked, “Where did you go, Mommy?”
I told him, “Today I was taking care of sick people.”
“Oh, you took cawe of sick people on da school bus?”
According to Alex, when I’m not with him? I’m on a school bus.