My little buddy.
Today you are three. Three! Can you believe it? It was three years ago that you were born, fighting to stay in the home you had known for the previous 9 months. You didn’t want to enter the world, but eventually you arrived, and boy was it beautiful.
The last 365 days have been quite an adventure. You went from staying home with me all day, every day, to going to daycare full time with me returning to school full time. You transitioned beautifully, and have grown even more beautifully.
You were talking at two, but now you won’t stop! There is a constant dialogue streaming from your lips, explaining every little thing that is happening. You not only talk, you ramble. You tell stories. Long stories. Almost every story ends with someone or something farting. Or pooping. This, of course, is hilarious to you, and pretty darn amusing to me. “Row Row Row Your BUTT!”
This year, you have outgrown toddlerhood. You are officially a kid. Between the incessant chatter, including in depth conversations, the knowledge of letters and numbers, the ability to be taught, in an instant, the definition of a new word, the hopping, skipping and jumping, and the love of all things big boy, you are no longer a toddler. I look at you and see a child.
In another year you will be starting school. Real school. You are ready in many ways now, but I know that the next year will prepare you for the beginning of approximately 18 years of schooling. You will grow more, learn more, mature more. And I will enjoy watching it all, because even the bad moments are only temporary. Every second of every day you are changing, and it amazes me.
This year has been a whirlwind, and I can’t wait to have the opportunity to spend more time with you in the upcoming years. I feel like I missed out on a lot, but as I look back at the year I know that I didn’t miss everything. We traveled to Florida together, and I came the realization that even though I may not be with you all the time any longer, something is going right because you were the most well behaved two year old imaginable.
You say please and thank you, and now excuse me. While you do not fully understand that “excuse me” is not an excuse to simply start talking or yelling or shaking or dancing in order to get someone to pay attention to you, you do know that there is some polite way to get their attention. We will work on that this year.
It isn’t something I am fully prepared for yet, but you are now lying. I know that it actually means you are learning, that you are comprehending the world in ways I didn’t think would happen quite yet. I heard you telling someone, “Mommy said when I woked up I could have fruit snacks for bweakfast.”
I certainly did not. But it’s cute that you thought you could get away with it.
You are smart. You are focused. You are extremely empathetic. Your hugs and kisses are the best ever. I can’t wait to see what the next year brings.
I love you, pooker. Sweetie. Honey. Honey bunny. Darling. Dear. My baby.
I love you, Alexander. Today more than yesterday and less than tomorrow. And I wish you the happiest of happy birthdays on this day.
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:
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.
A shot glass and magnet were mandatory.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Cigars. Hand-rolled cuban cigars.
Some Fish Fry. It was super cheap, and now I’ll be forced to make some fried fish. Plus: YUM.
Some Cafe Du Monde Beignet mix. Again, I’ll now be forced to make them. Darn.
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.
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.
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 every.single.store in the city.)
Bourbon Street is immensely entertaining, but only for one night.
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.
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.
There is so much I love about this age. You are a mere 11 weeks away from turning three, and I just can’t imagine how things are going to get better because they are just so, so, much fun right now.
You talk incessantly. You categorize everything, and make sure I know that nothing in the world is new to you anymore. “Oh, so-and-so has that.” “Oh, I have dat at daycare.” “Oh, Nana always gives me dat.” “Yup Yup! I did dat yestewday.” (Oh, this Yup Yup! thing is super cute in and of itself.)
You tell stories, detailed stories!, about your day. You make up stories about Buzz Lightyear and Batman, Mommy and Nana, all of your friends at daycare.
These stories involve paragraphs. Sentences upon sentences, mostly run-ons. “Once upon a time dewe was a…cowboy! A cowboy named woody and he had a cowboy-girl named Jesse and she wiked to wide on horses and they rided to the park and dewe was cwimbing stuff. And den he fell down and oh no I fawin’ down! Help me! Somebody help me! and den batman came!”
You are silly, and you know it. You purposefully try to make us laugh, and when you succeed? You will continue to do the same thing or modify it to make us laugh even harder. When I chuckle at a silly walk, you do that walk around the room. Five times.
Your imagination is wonderful. Watching you “pick up food” (nothing) from the “refrigerator” (a block) and give it to the “baby” (buzz lightyear) is just adorable. And when you pretend? You tell me, “I’m just be-tending” and that? Is also adorable. You’ve already determined that money makes people happy because you will “givin’ you money” that you “pulled out of ma pocket.”
You have entered the I-love-to-be-naked stage. And I love it. Why wouldn’t I want to see that cute little bum more often? From eating to playing, naked is the way to be.
Most importantly, you are the most loving you have ever been. You know when someone is sad, and you want to make them happy. While I’ve been sick for the past week, you’ve consistently given me hugs and said, “Mommy? Awe you still sick? I’ll make you better,” given me big hugs, a kiss on the cheek, and then continued to say, “See? Awe bettuh!” or the occasional, “You awen’t awe bettuh? Aww…sowwy Mommy.”
You ask for big hugs! You ask for little hugs. You run to give hugs.
Before bed every night we cuddle. You curl up on my lap, far too big to sit on it in any way that doesn’t involve curling up, look up at me and say, “I wuv you, Mommy.” Sometimes you softly brush my cheek. Other times you give a pat and a rub on the back.
I guess I can imagine some ways that things will continue to be more and more fun as you get older. But I’m not ready for those changes yet, because my goodness you are the best. Right now. Right now, you are the best. I couldn’t ask for more.
From Your loving, always devoted, Mommy.