One, Two, Three and Bumblebee

The car, wearing a diaper. Naturally.

What, you don’t put your robot-car in a diaper?

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A failed attempt at posing with the toy.

"Where's Alex?" "I hiding REAWY well."

He’s not the best at hiding. Especially because when you say, “Where is Alex?” he either says, “I’m here!” or “I’m hiding!” or, my favorite, “I’m hiding reawy well right…here!”

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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The Plague

The Plague came, and good grief I wish the last little lingering fight it has would just leave.

Alex came down with something about three weeks ago: fever, nasty cough, “thwoat huwts!”, constantly running nose. He seemed to recover pretty well, only to come down with another something nasty yesterday.

During his cough, I came down with the same thing. Fever (up to 102.6, high but nothing serious at all), sniffly, hacking up a lung, and busy answering the dreaded question: “Do you have Swine Flu?!”

I don’t actually know the answer to that. It’s possible it was Swine Flu, and it’s possible it was just a flu, and it’s also possible it was just a nasty, nasty, cold that then turned into a sinus infection. (And oh my god sinus infections are awful! This was my first, and it’s still hanging around, though it’s not causing me any pain at this point. Phew!) Regardless, Alex was fine after that illness, and I’m fine. And chances are if you catch it, you’ll be fine.

But here’s the thing: The flu kills people. Every year. Especially babies, young children, the elderly and anyone who has other conditions that put them in a compromised health status. And this current flu? Is hurting otherwise perfectly healthy individuals.

While it may not hurt you, it does hurt others. So if you are telling yourself, “I don’t need to get vaccinated against the flu. I probably won’t get it, and if I do it’s not a big deal!” you are right…kind of. But the thing about immunizations that most people seem to not understand: it’s not only about you. It’s about protecting others.

The more people that don’t get the flu, the more people won’t die from it. By preventing yourself (and your family) from getting it, you are also preventing the people you come in contact with from getting it. By immunizing yourself, you are protecting people who are unable to get vaccinated and who could become deathly ill. You are protecting the people who, for whatever reason, the immunization did not work on.

It’s not only about you, it’s about others. If you have the ability to get vaccinated, you should do it. Or at least think about what not getting vaccinated means: it means you may get sick, which means you may have to take time off of work, pay for medicine, find someone to watch your kids while you are struggling with a fever; it means you will probably get someone else in your life sick; it means you may carry around the illness and give it to someone who couldn’t be protected from it and could end up in the hospital because of it.

Yes, I am pro-vaccine. Absolutely, unapologetically, pro-vaccine. It is a choice that each person must make for themselves, and I would neither force a vaccine on someone nor judge them harshly for choosing not to get a vaccine. But this year, with this flu, we are going to see a lot of people die. More than the seasonal flu, and more “healthy” people than usual. Earlier this week, there were multiple people in the ICU (at the hospital I work in) with the H1N1 flu, one of whom was 6 months pregnant and in a coma.

Yesterday, we took Alex to the pediatrician because he was having trouble breathing. The night before, he had a runny nose and a cough. In the morning, he was still coughing, and it’s possible he had a slight fever. By the time he woke up from his nap at daycare, he was wheezing, using his whole body to take in shallow breaths, and was in clear distress. He’s an otherwise healthy kid, but whatever he managed to catch in the last few days? Made him unable to breath. It’s possible it wasn’t a flu, but if it was something that could have been prevented? Well…a sigh is all I have for that.

Nebulizer

Why I Love This Age

So far, two has been a pretty amazing age. I’m still not over my fascination with Alex’s language development, and I have a sneaking suspicion I won’t be over it for a long time.

Because my time is limited these days (and by “limited” I mean “practically-non-existent-oh-my-god-how-is-it-November-holy-crap-I-have-how-many-tests-next-week-good-lord-did-my-son-grow-eight-inches-since-I-last-saw-him”), instead of making potentially entertaining posts about individual occurrences, here are two Alex snippets:

Instead of naming the colors (which he knows for the most part), he has decided it is much more entertaining to name what color it is not. Case in point: The other night I took out four crayons, each a different color, and asked him, “What color is that crayon?”

“It’s not blue!”

“Yes, but what color is it?”

“Umm…it’s not yellow!”

“Yes, but what color is it?”

“Umm…it’s not…orange!”

(For the record, it was a red crayon. And it was also not purple or white.)

Anyone who has had any experience with toddlers can tell you this, but: sometimes, they make no sense. None. Zilch. Zip. Nada. It’s not only because the way they say words is, well, less than perfect, it’s also because sometimes they just say really, unbelievably, random things.

Alex was drawing (again) tonight, and started talking about pandas. Nice pandas, mean pandas. A panda playing with a shark, who had eyes…and a tail.

Me: Whatchu talkin’ about, Willis?

Alex: Nooooo, Mommy! I not Wiwus, I’m Ass-ix!”

My little Alex. Who is not Willis. Or red, blue, purple, pink, orange or yellow.

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Only A Slightly Creepy Tradition

On Alex’s first Halloween we spent the day traveling from Pittsburgh to Boston. I put him in a costume because, well, why not? Who doesn’t love a tiny little person dressed up as a penguin to amuse his mother?:

Happy Halloween

For his second Halloween, we went to exactly one house for Trick or Treating, two doors down from us. The very nice woman giving away candy on her porch handed Alex a chocolate bar that he promptly handed right back, walking away from her.

Halloween 2008

This year we had a slightly more exciting Halloween.

At 4:30 in the evening, one hour before Trick or Treating started, Zach, Alex, and I drove to the Halloween store near our house. We looked through the toddler costumes and found exactly one that would work. Most of them were, well, nasty. Or just insanely expensive.

Once we procured Alex’s Halloween costume, we met up with a friend and did a bit of Trick or Treating. Nothing wrong with letting your toddler take candy from a complete stranger, right?

Needless to say, he loved it. While he only said, “Twick oh tweat” once or twice, he said “Tank yoooo!” every.single.time. Even if his thank you was so quiet that only a fly on his nose could hear it, and often was said as we were a few steps away from the intended recipient, I still count it as a parenting success.

And, besides, he looked pretty darned cute as a vampire.

Posing

Alex and “MARKY!” matched, which was a lovely surprise to the evening:

Little vampire

Vampires Mark and Alex

All You Need Is Love

I love my family.

It’s not a “normal” family, though.

My family is my mom, but not my dad. He may have provided me with half of my genes, but that’s all he ever provided me with. Oh, and 50 dollars to help me get on my feet when I started college.

My family is my grandmother. My beautiful, kind, unbelievably compassionate and generous grandmother. And her husband, my “Oompa.” He may not be related by blood, but he is my grandfather.

Zach. Zach is my family. We aren’t married, and as of now have no plans on getting married. We are a family, though.

Zach’s parents are my family. Sure, they aren’t my in-laws technically, but why does it matter?

Sarah, my best friend in the world, is my family. We may have only known each other for 5 years, but she is like a sister to me. A sister that I never had, and a sister that I couldn’t live without.

When I think about my family, I couldn’t be happier. Who says I need a mother and a father? Who says I have to be married in order for Zach to be my family?

Normal is so overrated. Normal? Is outdated.

Living the American Dream is nice and all, but it is not what makes people happy. Having a big house with a nice lawn, surrounded by a white picket fence, is not what brings one to smile. Two kids, a boy and a girl, a dog, and an apple pie sitting on the windowsill? Well, sure, that would be nice. And, yes, I want that. I can’t lie: I want to own a house, paint the walls beautiful colors, bake cookies for Alex as a special snack after a long day at school. But all of that does not guarantee happiness.

What does guarantee happiness? I have no clue.

But my family? Guarantees my happiness.

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

Disadvantaged?

I have received a few e-mails from Pitt regarding scholarships and grants that are available for disadvantaged students. One of them is a scholarship for nearly ten thousand dollars, and another is a nursing grant of an unknown amount. For both, a short essay is required explaining why I should be considered for these scholarships.

The term “disadvantaged” is not a term I like to use. The connotations are enough to turn me off from using that word to describe myself, and then when I look back on my life I don’t think I was disadvantaged. I had a great childhood! I had a mother who loved me, took care of me, treated me well. I had extended family who visited and who I was able to spend time with. I always had a home, food in my stomach, clothes on my back. I went to private school! I attended a wonderful liberal arts, private, college.

But am I technically disadvantaged? Yes. Growing up, I didn’t have money. My mother lost her job, her life savings, her retirement, and her mental health. We lived on her social security disability, which is not exactly a comfortable amount of money. When some of my friends were getting cars for their sixteenth birthdays, I was shopping at the thrift store with my mom for winter clothes.

But. But. Here I am. I’m comfortable, happy, well-educated. I had a mother who fought for me to have the advantages I had: private school, financial aid, scholarships. I do not look at myself as disadvantaged. But. Here I am, going back to school full time. Living on one income, with immense debt. School debt, life expenses debt, debt out the wazoo. A huge personal loan to pay for Alex to attend daycare while I go back to school full time for a year.

As a young, unmarried, mother, I suppose I am “disadvantaged.” I haven’t had any income since 2007, and that income was from my job in college. Even though Zach has a perfectly reasonable income, we struggle every week to pay our debts on time while still keeping food in the house and gas in the car. I still don’t like that word, though. We are fine, not disadvantaged.

But, I’m still going to apply for these scholarships.

And I hope that Alex never has to apply for these types of scholarships. More importantly, even if he does, I hope that as an adult he looks back on his life and thinks, I wasn’t disadvantaged, even if maybe, according to some, he was.

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