Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Saying Goodbye to 2013: Not with a fizzle, but with a bang.

Well, it's the end of another year. That means everyone is looking ahead, making plans and goals, waiting for better things to come. I'm doing that too, but I've also been thinking a lot about the stuff that has happened this year. 2013 certainly brought a lot of change.

Let's look at some of the highlights, shall we?

1) It snowed in Starkville.
Out of all of the fun times I've had-- nights out at the bars with friends, hilarious game nights, road trips, dates-- this day was the most fun. Everyone was happy and carefree that day. Our biggest concerns were winning snowball fights and keeping our cold toes from falling off.

2) A few of my best friends and I ran away to the middle of nowhere for a weekend.
Dedeaux, Mississippi, to be specific. But that's basically the middle of nowhere. We were supposed to be responsible, helpful adults at a high school retreat, which we totally were.. for approximately one hour each day. It was like going to the retreat when I was in high school, except it was better because I was an adult helper and could do whatever I wanted. Grown up life is so fun sometimes.

3) I pretended that I could actually be a sorority girl.
In case you're wondering: I cannot. I'm a sorority girl dropout. BUT I did have some really good times, and I met a few girls who make the greatest, most loyal friends. It was an, um, eye-opening experience, but I should've known it wasn't going to be my cup of tea since I've basically been more of a boy my whole life. (Not in the I-want-a-sex-change way, just in the I'd-rather-play-baseball-and-video-games-and-hate-shopping-and-most-girly-things way.) But hey, at least I've experienced it just in case I somehow end up having a daughter that is exactly like my sister, whose cup of tea contains the color pink, a lot of glitter, and the sorority life. Shudder. However, having to constantly hear my family tease me by quoting the SNL skit "DELTA DELTA DELTA, CAN I HELP YA HELP YA HELP YA?" makes me wonder if it was actually worth it. ;)

4) I was constantly reminded that I'm surrounded by the best family.
I celebrated another year of living surrounded by all of these people that I love, and--this is the part I never get over--love me back. A call from an aunt or cousin doesn't make me think something is wrong, because it's not unusual to hear from them. When we all get together, my younger cousins run and greet me with hugs and squeals, just like I used to greet my older cousins. It never gets old, and it's always a blessing.

5) MSU (my college) and UVA (JT's college) played each other in the NCAA Super Regional.
As most of you know by now, JT and I are very competitive. Pretty much everything we do is a competition. So when we found out our college baseball teams were playing against each other, a lot of (friendly) shit-talking took place. Zoe has never taken an interest in our need to turn everything into a competition, which makes her face in this picture even better. On top of taking a hilarious picture, MSU won. BOOM.

6) I gained another beautiful, sweet, wonderful baby girl cousin.
AND SHE IS JUST PERFECT. I pretty much gain at least one new cousin every year. What can I say, Italians are good at reproducing. This year, it was Lucy. My heart turns into a puddle every time I hold her.

7) I've started making grown-up plans.
JT went with me to check out a grad school in Maryland and I've started to read every single word and solve every single problem in my GRE study book. Scary. As. Hell. But I know it's all getting me one step close to my dream job. And yes, call me crazy, but teaching is, in fact, my dream job. This time next year, I'll (hopefully) be student teaching in the Maryland/DC/Virginia area while applying for grad school and a real teaching position. Scary. Exciting.

8) I had wrist surgery.
After 5-6 years of wrist pain, I discovered there was a cyst in my wrist. (Does anyone else enjoy the fact that it rhymes as much as I do?) So I had it taken out. It was just as obnoxiously annoying and painful as it sounds, and now I have another scar to add to my collection. My surgeon and physical therapist deserve a medal. So does my mom, because she was my post-surgery nurse, and I'm sure you can imagine how cheerful Independent Alexa was when she could only use one arm and could hardly do anything for herself. But it ended happily, because now my wrist is pain free, and I love being able to pick up and play with my kids without worrying about them hurting it.


9) My heart was stolen by humans who aren't even old enough to tie their own shoes.
My biggest fear has always been that I would start working with kids and not love them the way I thought I would. And then it just happened. I hold them when they are sick, and don't get upset when they accidentally throw up on me, even though I know I'll end up sick in a few days. I read someone their favorite book over and over and over again, even though I'm SO TIRED OF IT. I tie 12 pairs of shoes and unbutton/button pants 300 times a day because I guess velcro shoes and pants with elastic aren't a thing anymore. I stay up extra late to plan lessons and activities even though I know I could just slack off and just let them play in centers the whole time. But I love it. I love them. I think of them when I'm on vacation, I pray for them before I go to bed, and I cry at their daycare graduation. Every day, I get to teach and take care of people who are someone else's whole world. I get to learn about their favorite things and their little quirks. I get to love them and be loved back. How lucky am I?

10) I gained the most beautiful guardian angel.
I could have lived without this one happening. But it happened. Most days, I am so jealous of my aunt, my Nanas, my friends, and my other loved ones in Heaven who are getting to experience Dane's sweet smile and personality. I can only imagine it's even better now that he's an angel. They got to spend Christmas--his favorite time of year--with him, while I spent it here, feeling my heart break a little more every time I look at a Christmas decoration. But on some days, when somehow it's feels a little easier to breathe and carry on, I'm thankful to have such a wonderful person watching over me.

Life is weird sometimes. Last night, right after I typed that paragraph about having a guardian angel, I went to Walmart for my mom. She just needed a few things to make a certain dip for our New Years Eve party and even though I despise Walmart, I offered to go. I got in and out pretty quickly (because I hate Walmart) and I was waiting at the light to turn left onto highway 90. My light turned green, I waited a few seconds like you're supposed to, and then I pulled out. I blinked, and then a truck plowed into me right by the driver's side mirror, and sent me spinning at least 300 feet down the highway, after my head hit my window and shattered it. My mom has always said I have a hard head.

They say your life flashes before your eyes when something like that happens, but it doesn't. Or it didn't for me. When I was spinning and screaming all I thought was Dane, please help me. Help. Please help. And then the car stopped spinning. I screamed for help until a nice guy finally stopped and called the police and my parents. The rest was cloudy. Ambulance ride, CT scans, x-rays, an annoying thing wrapped around my neck, the stabbing pain of an IV, and a lot of really good drugs. My head isn't as cloudy today, but parts of these last few paragraphs may not make as much sense as they should.

I'm a little bitter, I must say. I can't move very well, there are huge bruises and little cuts on me, and we were still finding glass on me at 1am. But then again I'm thankful, because the police kept telling me I should have more than just bruises and a huge bump on my head. The woman in the truck ran a red light going at least 50 or 60. She didn't even put on her brakes until after she had already hit me.

Do I have the best guardian angels or what?

Overall, I'm kind of glad 2013 is over. I'm not one to wish the days away, but these last few months have been extra exhausting.

Please, please, please drink and drive responsibly tonight. And every night. Put your phone away, don't fight in the car, don't get distracted. Pay attention. PLEASE.

I hope you all have a fun night, and I hope the new year brings you a lot of happiness. As for me, I'll spend tonight surrounded by family and friends, along with some really good drugs and a lot of ice packs.

But hey, at least I'm here. I ended 2013 not with a fizzle, but with a bang.


Saturday, December 14, 2013

And May All Your Final Grades Be A's

My 5th semester of college has come to an end. Meaning I have two more semesters in Mississippi before moving to Maryland/DC/Virginia/somewhere in that area for student teaching and then hopefully grad school and a big girl job.


Every now and then the semester feels lke it's going by painfully slow, but it's usually just speeding by.

So, here we go. What I learned this semester: the fall 2013 edition.

1) TV shows make it look cool when your favorite coffee shop knows your name and your "usual", but it's actually just quite sad. And when they know your name, your 2 favorite coffee drinks, your favorite snack, AND the project you are currently working on, you probably live there and have hit a low point in life. Thanks for always having my back, 929.

2) Staying up extremely late to drink wine and watch lots of New Girl with your friends sounds like a good idea until the next morning, when you are surrounded by 3-year-olds who don't care that you only got 3 hours of sleep because MS. AWEXA HE TAKED MY TWUCK FWOM ME HEY MS. AWEXA MS. AWEXA HE TAKED IT. Yeah. Whoever said you can sleep when you're dead probably didn't work with children.

Getting twelve 3yos ready for their Christmas program: melts your heart and makes you want a drink all at the same time.
3) When you and your little sister, who looks exactly like you, attend the same college, life gets very confusing for you AND your friends. In August, I was at a party with my friends and I got asked, "Wait. Weren't you just wearing a different outfit a few minutes ago?" at LEAST 15 times. I had no idea what was going on until I turned around a while later and realized my sister was there too. It's only gotten worse since then. Tip: if you think it's me, but the girl has on a lot of pink/sparkly things on and has a bow in her hair.. it's DEFINITELY Zoe.

Us? Twins? Nahhhh. :)
4) In case you're wondering, group projects DO, in fact, still make me want to beat my head against a wall. Unless I'm in a group with my friends that I made in Early Block this semester. Otherwise, I'd rather stick my head in a blender.

5) Sometimes people don't care as much as you do. Care anyway. Don't let anyone make you feel stupid for being passionate about something. Never apologize for being smart and working hard.

6) Basically, I didn't know how awesome of a thing physical therapy is until I watched myself go from not being able to do more than move my fingers right after my wrist surgery to having my range of motion and strength back after 3 months. PS: wrists are really important in every day life. PPS: Drayer PT in Starkville is basically the best place ever. They didn't even pay me to say that. :)

7) People are worth so much more than the craziness of life or being on time for work. Walking into work 2 minutes late is nothing compared to the way you feel when you run into a friend and cut the visit short because you're rushing to work, only to wake up to a phone call two days later and find out that friend is gone forever. Slow down. Take the time.

One of my favorite pictures/memories. Missing you more every single day.

8) You don't fully appreciate a warm apartment until you pay your own bills. College Alexa, you are dumb. I know having your thermostat switched to "off" has made your electric bill SO CHEAP, but turn on the freakin' heat and stop freezing every night.

It's been a pretty good semester, even though it FLEW by. I can't believe Christmas is almost here. It's weird, because I used to dread growing up because I thought Christmas would stop being fun. But really, it's just different. I'm the one that moves our snowman that is "Santa's helper" around my daycare classroom every evening after my kids leave, and watch their eyes bulge out of their heads when they find Chilly (that's his name.. because he's a snowman.. get it?) the next morning. I'm the one making little treats arrive from the North Pole when the kids are extra sweet.

It's weird though, because I love being the one creating the happiness and doing the giving so much more than making a Christmas list and receiving gifts. I looove watching my kids' faces light up. And I guess my wants just aren't really things you can buy, ya know? I want my friend here, celebrating the holidays with his friends and family. And I want all of those sweet Starkville kids to have warm jackets and 3 meals a day during their Christmas break, because I'm 20 and I hate being cold and hungry so HOW do those babies do it? And I want my brother to be home on Christmas Eve for ornament riddles and gingerbread houses, because those special things only happen once a year.

I would give up my gifts for the rest of my life for those things, because if there's one thing I really learned this semester, it's that material things and all of those stupid things we obsess over just DO NOT MATTER. And let me tell ya, that lesson felt like a punch in the stomach. And the face. And the heart. Basically it's kinda like being run over by an 18-wheeler, which I'm assuming is something none of us have actually experienced. Are ya catching what I'm throwing, people?

Do lots of giving. Make time for the good stuff. Love your people. Be home for the holiday traditions.

The end of 2013 has been rough, but I'm still counting my blessings.

Blessing #1: I made it out of this insanely busy semester alive. Hallelujah.

Happy Holidays, sweet friends. May you catch up on sleep and have happy days, and may all your final grades be A's. :) See ya in 2014!

Saturday, November 23, 2013



The cold weather (okay, fine, COOLER weather.. this is Mississippi, after all), the holidays, the decorations, the movies, the happiness, the love. Oh, and the food. Let's put food at the beginning of that list.

Anyway, I always like to do a thankful post, so here we go!

1) I'm thankful for these lovely people.
Because, duh. I talk about them enough for you to already know why.

2) I'm thankful for honest toddlers.
Because they are just so damn funny.

At work, after staying up until 4am to finish school work I had to miss for the wedding.
3yo: Ms. Awexa, everyone needs beauty sleep.
Me: Oh yeah?
3yo: Yeah. (pause) You didn't get yours last night, huh?

3yo: You don't sound like Ms. Awexa.
Me: Ms. Alexa is sick right now. I lost my voice, that's why I sound funny. I can't talk very well, so I really need your listening ears turned all the way up so you can hear me, okay?
3yo: My mommy's voice went gone one time. Daddy said it was the best week ever.

Apparently toddlers give themselves pep talks when they are pooping. Kids from my last class used to do it too. HILARIOUS.
3yo: I am great! I can do it! (insert a few words from our Days of the Week song) I am awesome! (singing) My pooo pooo is taking fooorreevverrr. I am such a big boy! (insert lyrics from Katy Perry's "Roar" aka his favorite song)
Fist pumps and ALL, people. I was laughing so hard, tears were streaming down my face.

3yo: Your hair is messy, Ms. Awexa. You look like Buddy.
Me: Who's Buddy?
3yo: A doggy.

Me: Well.. is the doggy cute?
3yo: No.

Kids are the bomb. But the best part of their honesty is when they squeeze your face between their germy hands and make you look into their eyes, and then say in their sweet little voice, "Ms. Awexa, I wove you soooooo much. I weally do." Because you know they really mean it. 

And then they kiss all over your face and you don't know if you should smile or gag, because just 5 minutes ago you were telling them to stop rubbing their mouth all over the floor.

At any point during the last year and a half, have I mentioned that I just love my job SO DARN MUCH? 

My 12 little indians. So, SO blessed & thankful to be their teacher. My hearts.

3) I'm thankful for 3rd grade. 
When I first got assigned to 3rd grade for my practicum this semester, I thought I was going to die. Preschool, Kindergarten, and 1st are my grades of choice. THIRD GRADE? Old kids again after having to tutor 5th grade?! No. NO. 

And my mom was all, "Oh, Alexa, give it a chance!! You don't have to teach 3rd grade when you get a job, but I know you will end up loving it during this semester." She acts like she knows me or something.

So here's what I learned in 3rd grade.

How do you make 3rd graders like you? You don't. It's like the Hunger Games in there. You just show up every week, and at first they stare at you a lot and you stare at them a lot because all that happens in 3rd grade these days is "state testing! we must practice for state testing!" and "common core appropriate, it has to be common core appropriate!!" But then one day you're helping a group of kids with their math facts, or you're helping them with phonics, and you are joking and laughing, and you realize that these yucky 8 and 9-year-olds aren't so yucky after all. They're just some sweet kids who go through some really shitty things that you never even had to think about at that age. Then it's suddenly your last day and they are wrapping themselves around your legs when you are saying bye. And you get sad. And even WORSE, you think you actually really like them.

I know. It's tragic.

I thought I would dread going to the Starkville schools. There are a lot of kids who don't have parents like Joe and Rose Cacibauda, who don't get 3 meals a day on the weekends, who are 8 years old but have the reading level of a 5 year old, who don't even have books at their house. I always swore that even though I want to make a difference and be the world's greatest teacher, I could never work in a low-income area.

There's a reason they say never say never. Starkville is changing my heart more and more every semester, and for that I am so thankful.

4) I'm thankful for those things you forget to be thankful for.
Like coffee from 929, fuzzy socks, and a mom that keeps bugging you for your Christmas list.

Some people just want their mom to acknowledge their existence, and I have one that keeps nagging me for a list of stuff so she can spend her hard-earned money on me. I mean, WHAT? Just thinking about it makes me feel like a terrible person. (I'm working on the list, Mom.. except now I'm just going to feel terribly guilty while making it.)

Things like fall trees and people who give really good hugs. Having the ability to complain about eating too much, because it means I'm not going hungry.

Having to balance school, 2 jobs, and a packed babysitting schedule, because even though it isn't ideal, I love every second of it. And it allows me to have food in my fridge and gas in my car AT THE SAME TIME. Hallelujah.

Friends who know when they should show up with coffee and a hug, and when they should show up with wine.

Things like the winter edition oreos with the red cream in the middle, because who ISN'T thankful for oreos?

5) Finally, I'm thankful for Dane Knight.
Sometimes you meet someone and you just know they make the world a little brighter, you know? That's how I felt when I first met my friend Dane at a SEARCH retreat back in high school, and he gave me the biggest, warmest hug, even though my team and I were being obnoxious and he had known me for approximately 68 seconds. My best friend, Jen, was his SEARCH "mom", so our groups did a lot together. If you've been to a SEARCH retreat, you know how close everyone gets, and that was just the beginning of an awesome friendship God would bless me with for years after that weekend.

Awkward side hug phase of the friendship. Glad that only lasted for the 2 seconds it took to take this picture.

Dane left behind all of us here on Earth last weekend.

I've experienced acquaintances and classmates passing away before. I've watched stuff on the news and read articles that are always circulating on the internet. But you never really feel like losing one of your really good friends is something that could happen. I mean, we're so young, right? We are supposed to live until we are 80 or 90. I'm not supposed to be going to funerals for people who are younger than me when I'm only 20.

They tell you life is short. Cherish every moment. Appreciate those around you. But somehow we forget those cliches when our busy lives suck us in, don't we? The day before Dane left us, I was speed walking to my car on campus when I heard, "ALEXA!" And when I turned, there was my sweet friend with his big, contagious smile and his arms outstretched, ready for a hug. We talked for a quick second and made plans to get ice cream over the weekend when I had more time, but I was so focused on getting to work. When I left, I told him to take care of himself and that I loved him. Dane said, "I'll try. I love you and your next hug is on the way!" Our little inside joke that was always so comforting to hear. I laughed and ran off to work, fully unaware that I was seeing my sweet friend for the last time. So cliche, you know? Being in a hurry. Too consumed by your busy life right before someone leaves you forever.

Dane was just one of those really great friends that you don't come across very often. We lived 45 minutes apart on the coast, but he would make the drive and meet me in D'Iberville just to get some ice cream at that random little place in The Promenade that we loved to go to.

I'm still really sorry for accidentally posting this awkward picture of you on facebook, and then you had to inform everyone that you were just eating ice cream. :)

Last semester, we both had a class in Carpenter, and every day we would meet by the steps and talk about our day so far and what we were going to eat for lunch. And even though we did it Monday-Thursday, he still greeted me with a big smile and a hug. Every single day.

But my all time favorite example of Dane's kind heart is in these three pictures from our snow day last year that Jen just happened to capture.

He threw a snowball at me and hit me on my back. I turned around laughing, and he already had his arm outstretched for a hug to make up for it. He made me turn around so he could brush the snow off my back, and then pulled me in to take a picture. I remember laughing at him and telling him that most people don't hit someone with a snowball and then insist on brushing the snow off of them.

But that's just the way Dane was. And you just don't come across friends like that very often.

We love our Dane-o.
Bulldog Bash 2011

Jen found a video from when you and Clint came to Starkville to visit during our freshman year. It was from that night we had WAY too much fun and Baughman lost his keys. And for a reason I cannot remember whatsoever, you and Baughman were rolling down the hill next to Critz. We were all laughing so hard and so much, and it was the best sound.

After said hill-rolling. That smile could make anyone's day.

Everyone misses you so much already. We talk about you and think of you often. I actually didn't plan on putting this in my blog post, but writing it out almost kind of helps, you know? 

I kept looking for you on campus this week, and I even walked past Carpenter hoping I'd run into you so I could tell you about my awful lunch that consisted of a poptart and gatorade. Missing you hurts so, so much. So much that sometimes I don't really know what our friends and your family and everyone is going to do. But I know that when our friends get together and we are able to laugh and be silly, like the way Amber, Mary Beth, Matt, and I were on our long drive back from your funeral, you are looking out for us and giving us some peace. But even so, every time our friends are together, a piece of us is missing. We love you.

I expect our next hug to be as obnoxious as our first "your hug is on the way" hug, when you got a running start and ambushed me in the middle of the main room at Dedeaux. Until that day, I'll be missing you.

I am and always have been so thankful for you.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Virginia is for Lovers (and weddings).

So. My brother got married two weeks ago.

Sorry, what? That can't be right. Wasn't it just 1995?

Life catches up with you really fast. Don't worry, folks, that's only the first of many cliches that will be included in this post. I'll be here all night. 

How I was expecting to feel when the time for this stuff would finally arrive? Excited, thrilled, overjoyed. All of those good things, ya feel me?

And then I was packing for the trip, and I freaked the freak out. Except I HAD NO IDEA WHY. My brain really likes to spaz out over everything, and the Cacibaudas aren't big fans of change. (Should I remind everyone that my brother found out he was going to be a big brother, and then later threw a chair at preschool? It's okay, because he likes me a lot more now. I think.)
Layla was the cutest wedding guest.
Three of the best cousins in the world.

And then the actual wedding happened, the world didn't end, and absolutely nothing changed, other than the fact that my brother now has a ring on his left hand. Who knew.

I would jump in front of a bus for these two. So much love in my heart for them.

(Side note: The photographer was awesome. I LOVE the picture she took of me, JT, and Zoe. You can see the rest of the wedding pictures she took here!)

Plus, the reception was SO MUCH FUN. My parents are great at giving parties, and apparently they are really good at giving a wedding too. And because duh, Italian weddings are always fun. We had a blast!

Mother/Son dance
Father/Daughter dance

I think it's just extra weird when you're a younger sibling. It's not really something the oldest child can ever understand. I'm sure it's not as weird when you have already gotten married or started to form your own family, but when you're 20 and absolutely no where near that phase of life (thank God), it's just a weird feeling. You almost feel like you're losing something, even though you're really not. It's like everything familiar is changing when you need it more than ever to stay the same.

Mom and her baby!
Dad & his two sons-- JT and Drew

And maybe it's not a big deal if you aren't slightly obsessed with your siblings. I've adored my brother since I was born, even during the years I was a terribly annoying little sister and he probably hated my existence. I mean, my first word was "JT." I thought my mom was kidding when I had to ask her for a paper I was writing. When I read a book on sibling relationships for a class last year, it said that middle children tend to be more attached to their siblings and family. So really, we can just chalk it up to Middle Child Syndrome like everything else. ;)

I don't really know what year this was, but can I just say that I LOVED that Tinkerbell bathing suit?

I don't know why I put such importance on siblings. Maybe it's because the world always says that sibling relationships outlast everything else--parents, marriages, friends. Or because I've watched my mom and her siblings, and how they're still there for each other in their 50s and 60s. Or because my Nana was constantly reminding me that siblings and cousins are life-long friends, and she was a pretty wise lady. Or maybe it's really because my parents practically beat it into my head that siblings are your best friends, and they're the only ones who stick around forever.

"You'll miss this," they said. "You NEED each other, ya hear me? You'll grow up and when you need something or someone, they'll be the first person you call."

And here I am. Grown up. Missing it. But only a little, because now my little sister, who used to follow me everywhere, is in college doing her own thing. And my big brother, who spent much of my middle school years threatening to throw me over our upstairs balcony, turned out to be a really great friend who never stops helping me go after what I want.

And since what I currently want involves going to the University of Maryland for grad school, JT went with me to Maryland to check it out last week. I met with the lady who is the head of the Reading Education program and we walked around campus. It's very open and spread out like State, and I just absolutely love it.

Good coffee, great campus, & an even greater brother.

After we were done at UMD, one of JT's friends told us we needed to eat at this place called Looneys that's right by campus. And GUYS, my life is forever changed because of what I ate. It's called a crab pretzel, and it's a soft pretzel with crab dip and cheese melted on top of it. It was THE MOST AMAZING THING IN THE WORLD. So, umm, thanks Brian!

I know. I'm obsessing over a pretzel. Ridiculous, you say, but that's just because you've never had the crab pretzel before.

All together, it was a really good trip. Partying it up at the wedding was fun, and I really enjoyed staying a little longer to spend some extra time with JT in DC during the week after the wedding. We took some really good walks around the city, discovered an awesome coffee place, and just had the chance to talk about lots of different things. That kind of stuff is good for a little sister's heart.

I was dreading my return to Mississippi, but I knew I'd be happy once I was back with my kids.

Happy Halloween from Ms. Alexa's babies!

"Ms. Awexa, I want to grow up weally fast and be big wike you," one of them said on my first day back.

"Don't worry, baby, you will grow up faster than you think," I said.

I know I did.

I'm only slightly obsessed with them. I'm so lucky.