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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Stop It

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.

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You think if I promise him fruit snacks every day for the rest of his life he’ll stop?

Can I, Please, Have This Child Back?

Alex and I spent a week in Florida, visiting my wonderful grandparents (his great grandparents).

He was perfect.

Seriously.

I kept wondering if I had accidentally grabbed the wrong kid on my way down, because this child? Is far too well behaved to be my child.

He was immensely polite, saying “please” and “thank you” every time it was appropriate. He even looked at me after saying a very quiet thank you to “gramma” (what he calls his great grandmother) and said, “Gwamma didn’t say you welcome…” When he got her attention again, he quietly told her that she didn’t say it and when she apologized and said it, he responded with a smile and a “tankoo” (to which she immediately had to say “you’re welcome” again or risk the polite police coming down on her again).

More amazing than his courteousness was his independence. Alex played by himself for the majority of every day we were there. He ran around the pool (“I bein’ caweful!”), splashed his toys in the water (“Look, Mommy! Dey’we gettin’ wet! Dey swimming!”), piled rocks, and did a lot of pretend play with his toys (“He’s making you a sanwich. Hewe. You want a big sanwich?”).

When we were around other adults, he was interactive with them. He wanted to play with everyone, but when they weren’t interested in playing with him he said, “otay” and found something else to do.

He was a perfect child. He didn’t cry once, and only fussed a bit when it was time to sleep or he was ready to get out of his highchair, which, by the way, was a miracle in and of itself. Alex has not sat in a highchair at home for months without a giant fuss.

Seriously, whose child did I take? And how do I get him back? Because the minute we stepped back in our home he was a whining, fussing, bossy and rude little person. “No, not like dat! NO! I want fwuit snacks! NOOOO! Give dat to me! Dat’s mine! NO! Don’t touch me. Don’t talk to me! NO! I don’t want to build a castle…YOU build a castle. NO! Not like dat! NO! It needs a bottom! NO!”

It’s a darn good thing he’s cute even when he’s obnoxious.

Florida!

Whirlwind

The last few weeks have been busy.

I took four final exams, a quiz, and did a barrel full of homework.

I had blood drawn, went to seven various other appointments, dyed my hair and didn’t spend nearly enough time with Alex.

I drove six hours to visit my bestest friend in the whole wide world.

I drove another six hours home, picked up Alex from daycare, and spent the evening marveling over the fact that he somehow grew an inch and learned approximately one thousand new words and phrases while I was gone for three days.

Today, I’ve spent the entire day playing with Alex and dealing with ridiculous amounts of paperwork. I’ve printed forms, registered to have my fingerprints taken by the FBI, finally got Pitt to give me my financial aid, and received instructions for my surgery tomorrow. No food, fluids, alcohol, cigarettes, nothing, after midnight. I can’t go to the bathroom in the morning because I will be getting a pregnancy test (no, there is no way) and I must shower not once, but twice with anti-bacterial soap.

This whirlwind has been stressful; it’s been horrendous (I get unnecessarily stressed about exams) and wonderful (spending time with Sarah and her family).

Tomorrow I get to forget about it all. I will be knocked out, cut open, and when I wake up I will get to spend time doing absolutely nothing but resting. And right now? That sounds pretty nice.

But then it will be back to the grindstone. Finishing up all of the things I have to do for nursing school: more clearances, some vaccines and tests, more paperwork, applying for more loans, buying books, and spending as much time as humanly possible with my son.

He won’t be this cute forever. And I need to breathe it all in while I still can.

Alex

Broken Hearted And Refreshed

For Memorial Day weekend, I was given the opportunity (Thanks, Zach!) to drive to upstate New York to visit my bestest friend in the whole wide world. We met during my second year of college when we had jobs that required us to have training together. From the second we had our first conversation we were hooked. She told me this weekend that after we hung out the first time, “I was like, yup! She’s my new best friend.”

Some people just connect. It’s more than shared interests, trust, and the ability to have fun together (though we certainly have all of those things); it’s this unexplainable event that occurs. Honestly, I’ve never experienced “love at first sight,” but if I had to call my relationship with Sarah anything it would have to stem from that. We just knew that we would be friends forever. And through everything over the past few years, my pregnancy the year she graduated, her living in Boston and soon New Orleans, we have made it.

We spent the weekend hanging out with her amazing parents, drinking Corona, enjoying the nice weather outside on the back porch.

Being away from Alex, though, was hard. This was the first time I have been away from him for more than a night, which happens pretty regularly with my mom living only a few minutes from us. This was different.

I dropped Alex off with his “Manga” (Grandma) in the early afternoon and made the 6-hour drive North and East. When it came time for his usual bedtime I felt a bit empty, knowing that not only was I not going to be putting him to bed, I also wasn’t going to see him first thing in the morning. I wouldn’t be giving him dinner, breakfast, snacks. There would be no wrestling, no diaper changing, no super-cute kisses. No hand holding.

It was strange. I could stay up late, sleep in, eat without a little mouth asking me for more and more of my food. I could drink beer without worry of Alex deciding he wanted to drink it himself. I could go to bathroom in private!

But I missed him.

When I came home it was a lovely little reunion, regardless of the fact that when he saw me he asked me for “Manga” and to go outside.

Sometimes it takes a little time away to realize just how great things are. I have this awesome little man in my life, and as wonderful as it was to be able to have some adult-only time, I wouldn’t change what I have for anything.

He’s my world.

Swinging

Leaving The Summer Sun

Alexander and I are home. We arrived about 15 hours after we were supposed to. In case you were wondering, USAirways is on my bad list. (They wanted to reroute me like this: Take my original (delayed) flight into Las Vegas and “wait around for a few hours.” I looked at the man with my mouth wide open and disgust in my eyes and said, “You mean overnight?” He blinked a few times, paused, and finally admitted: yes, overnight. At 7am the next day I could then take a flight not to Pittsburgh. Instead, I could fly to Philadelphia. Where I could wait around for a few more hours (about 5). Then, I could finally take a flight to Pittsburgh where I would arrive approximately 26 hours after I left California. All with an infant. And a single small diaper bag that was packed for a 12 hour overnight flight. I refused to take their given reroute and made them give me a better one.)

It was all worth it, though. Spending time with my family in the unbelievably perfect weather was amazing. Here is proof:

There were blue skies and dry heat every day. On this particular day, I was told it was “kind of cloudy” by my Uncle:

"Cloudy" day in CA

There were birds and dogs galore! My Uncle and Aunt have four birds and a dog, and my Mother was there with her dog.

Jackson Dog

This is Jackson, my Mother’s wonderful corgi. He was so well behaved, even though he is constantly jealous of all of the attention that Alex gets.

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And we have Lola, my Uncle’s wonderful lab.

The birds were wonderful. First we have Pappy:

Pappy Bird

Then we have Sydney:

Sydney Bird

And then we have the love birds, Pure and Simple. There are actually two, but they are (almost) identical, so here is just a photo of one:

Love Bird

Poor Uncle Mike accidentally gave Alex a bunch of scratches on our first day! He was carrying him sitting on top of his shoulders, and walked under a tree. Unfortunately, Alex was up too high and came into direct contact with a few branches. He had scratches all over his forehead and a few over his lips. He was a trooper, though, and only cried for a few minutes. Mike, on the other hand, would not stop talking about how he almost killed my child.

Alex's beat up face

While my Mother has been away all summer, Alex has obviously grown enormously. Babies tend to do that. He has grown physically and changed in so many ways. The reunion between Alex and his Grandmother was beautiful. He remembered her, something we were both unsure about, and I have not seen her that happy in a long time. It will be great to have her back in Pittsburgh, not only for babysitting purposes (Mama needs a break!) but also for Alex to have another consistent person in his life again besides Mom and Dad.

Reunited with Grandma

Alex enjoyed playing in water most days we were there. He would splash like crazy in the bucket full of water, having a great time.

Playing with water

Splashing in a bucket

Of course, being in California, we had to go to the beach. We took a nice ten minute drive to the coast, where it was 25 degrees cooler, and enjoyed an hour playing in the sand:

At the beach

At the beach

At the beach

While we were there, Alex learned to climb up stairs. Fast. I had been putting off buying baby gates, but now that he is up the stairs before I have a chance to stop him it is definitely time to make that purchase!

Climbing the stairs

So, all in all it was a wonderful vacation. It certainly was not relaxing, rejuvenating, or peaceful. It was hectic, exhausting, and sleepless. Between Alex being in a new place, having to adjust to a three hour time change, being in a not-baby-proofed home, surrounded by 2 dogs and 4 birds (2 bites from Sydney on Alex’s poor little finger!), teething, having a 103 fever for about 30 hours, getting growled at by Lola, eating a fistful of sand, and screaming for over an hour on the flight home, there was never a dull moment.

Worth it.

Alex in a Box

East Coast, Here We Come!

Alex has adjusted to West Coast time. Surprise? No. We are leaving tonight, so naturally he figures out the time change today.

We are taking another red eye with a flight change in Las Vegas. I’m not looking forward to having to wait around the Vegas airport again, but at least this time our layover is less than an hour. If all goes well, Alex will sleep the whole time in my arms. (Actually, if all goes really well there will be an extra seat and he can sleep in his car seat!)

While this trip has been anything but relaxing, it has certainly been wonderful. Spending time with my family was great and I am going to miss them dearly. Having a gourmet meal prepared for me every night was just one of the many perks of being here! It will be sad to leave, but I am looking forward to getting back home.

I have taken over 300 pictures since we arrived, so once I get back I will have many wonderful photos to share! Alex enjoyed playing outside with buckets of water, we went to the beach, we took a wonderful drive, played with four birds and two dogs, and I started cloth diapering. I’m sure you are really excited about seeing the cute cloth diapers.

East coast, here we come!

Time Zone Change + Baby = Unhappy Mama

We’ve been in California for going on 7 full days. While most of this trip has been wonderful, the fact that Alex still has not adjusted to the time change is, well, not so wonderful. He is waking up between 3:00am and 4:30am every day. Apparently he doesn’t care that he’s only been sleeping for 7 hours! But I care.

I don’t know how to make him sleep in later. Keeping him up later at night doesn’t help. Putting him to bed earlier doesn’t help. Fewer naps? Still wakes up early. More naps? Still wakes up early.

Hopefully tonight is the night that he gets on schedule. If he sleeps like he does at home, he’ll be out at 8:00pm, not make a peep all night long, and then wake up happy, hungry, and ready to start the day at 6:30am.

Who knew that I would be begging for my son to wake up at 6:30am?

Two Flights, No Sleep, Touchy People…

Alex and I had to take two flights to get here. We had to change planes in Las Vegas, of all horrible places. I have never been to Las Vegas, but if the airport is a small taste of the city I never want to go. It was bright, loud, there were drunk people everywhere, and there were slot machines. In the airport. Seriously? You want to gamble while you are waiting for your plane? You want to get drunk at the kagillion bars that are in every wing of the airport? It was only midnight Las Vegas-time, but it was 3am my time and I had been holding a heavy infant for hours while carrying a million bags all over the place since 5pm, so needless to say I was not in the mood.

Anyway. Alex was great. He slept the entirety of both flights. Unfortunately for me, he’s a big boy. Quite frankly, he’s too big. It was difficult to get comfortable holding him, and every time he picked a new position his foot or head or arms would either be touching the people sitting next to us or jamming themselves into the arm rests or out into the aisle where they could be run over by the (two dollars each) drink carts.

The worst part about the flights, though, was the twelve people that touched Alex. Yes. Twelve. I counted.

On the second, short, flight, there was a middle-aged woman sitting behind us. She had bleached hair, too much jewelry, a god-awful wedding ring, and was wearing spandex, leopard-print, pants. Talk about tacky. She fit right in at the Las Vegas airport. Unfortunately, as always, Alex was a charmer. He kept smiling at her, peaking around the chair, trying to play peek-a-boo. She was having a grand ol’ time playing with him. I was fine with it all, as it was distracting Alex from the fact that it was 3am and he was exhausted. Until she touched him. She put her nasty, super long, fake nail covered hands all over his face. She touched his hands and his hair. Again and again. And again.

I turned around and gave her a nasty look and didn’t let Alex get anywhere near the back of the seat again. She was the twelfth person to touch him that night, and I was fed up.

What makes her even worse? She was hacking up a lung the entire flight.

If Alex gets sick I’m going to find that tacky woman and punch her.

Alex Playing With Keys

California, Here We Come!

Alex and I leave for a ten day vacation in California on Monday. We wont be arriving at our destination until after 1 in the morning. This means it will be after 4 in the morning, Pittsburgh time, and I will have not slept a wink because Alex will have been in my arms the whole time. (Stupid me not splurging on buying Alex his very own seat!)

I’m really excited, though. My Uncle Mike and Aunt Jill, who I will be staying with (along with my Mother who has been house sitting for them on and off all summer while they vacationed and visited their daughter in the Peace Corps), are some of the most amazing people I have ever known. They are funny, intelligent, and completely nonjudgemental. Mike is sweet, a great story teller, and always has beer on demand. Jill is genuinely caring, beautiful, and possibly the best cook I have ever encountered. She prepares exquisite meals every. single. night. Seriously, how could I not love being with them?

The last time I was there was at Thanksgiving, when Alex was just turning 3 months old. He was smiling, occasionally giggling, and learning how to grab and shake things. His sleep habits were awful, but he was still very charming.

When we first arrived, I managed to take this “classic Uncle Mike” shot:

Alex Crying With Mike

Alex Crying With Mike

It’s classic because for some reason babies always cry the first time he holds them. There are numerous photos of Mike holding me as a baby while I wail in his arms. Alex ended up loving him (as did I!), but it took a few hours.

Jill is one of those women who has “the touch” with children. She could make Alex fall asleep in less than a minute, make him smile any time she felt like it, and entertain him for hours. Alex adored her, and I know he will love her even more now that he’s older!

Alex on Thanksgiving Day, 2007

Alex on Thanksgiving Day, 2007

It will have been over eight months since Mike and Jill last saw Alex. He has grown tremendously, crossed so many developmental milestones, and has become such a wonderful little person.

I can’t wait for them to meet him again! And, of course, I can’t wait to see them, either!

SO Happy!