on birthdays.

when i was growing up, i had a birthday party every single year. mom always made the day feel incredibly special. i took those experiences with me into my adult life, and have absolutely loved my birthday every single year. it always falls right after school starts, which is either good or bad, depending if i’m at a new school or not. this year, it fell on a saturday, and considering how no one at my new school knows me yet, was just perfect. my sweet husband made it such a special day, starting with two perfect presents: the new langhorne slim album on vinyl and a gorgeous new necklace. later in the day mom, ashley, and brooklyn came down with gifts and the offer to stay with the baby while jon and i went out on a date. we had the most wonderful evening of overpriced food and drinks and adult conversation. just lovely. and all throughout the day, my phone sent me notifications of thoughtful friends near and far wishing me a happy day and a great 34th year. my heart still feels full from so much love.

thank you for thinking of me on august 29, my favorite day of every year.

i fully intend on passing on this tradition of making birthdays a major holiday for baby elizabeth. watch out, december 10!

xoxo.

The Night before the First Day of School

Tomorrow I will experience my 29th first day of school, and my 13th as an educator. This one will look quite different than the others as I begin a new job at an elementary school as an assistant principal. My morning will not be spent holding my breath in a high school hallway, waiting on all students to find their classrooms for first block, thus affirming that I built a good master schedule. It will not be spent with nerves and butterflies as round after round of teenagers come into my classroom, strangers. Rather, it will be spent in the bus port, in the cafeteria, in the front office, and in the hallways helping nervous children and their nervous parents find where to go. I will visit classrooms and make sure teachers have what they need to do their best work. I will probably spend most of the day on my feet, easily tallying 10,000 steps on my Fitbit (which is taking over my life…but that’s another post altogether).  And sometime between 4pm and 5pm, I will drive half an hour to pick up my baby girl, hold her tight, and tear up at the thought of her first day of kindergarten. Becoming a mother has made me a better educator. I think differently as I listen to parents’ concerns about their child’s schedule, or about the mean kid who is picking on their son. Every time I see a parent with his/her child in the hallway, I think, “That’s their baby.” I know they see their second-grader as their baby because I am certain that I will always think of Elizabeth as my baby. So tonight as I go to bed, I will probably sleep through the night, unlike when I was in the classroom and the jitters kept me up all night, but I will wake up tomorrow with the mindfulness that 1050 parents are trusting me and my colleagues with their babies. I promise I will take the best care of them that I can.

Beach Trip 2015

For the first time in several days, I am completely alone. We are home from the beach, Jon is at work, his parents on are their way back to STL, and E is at daycare. I am blissfully alone in the house…with a milelong list of to-dos. But first, a blog post.

Fact: Going to the beach with a six-month-old sounds like more fun than it actually is. In reality, it’s just regular life without going to a job and with a better view. I am completely worn out! E was way off of her schedule, unimpressed with being hot and sandy, and missing her rocker and her bed. (OK, I missed the rocker more than she did, but still.)

5am coffee at the beach
5am coffee at the beach

E and I were at PCB from Saturday to Saturday. For the first half of the week, we were joined by Mom, Memaw, Ashley, and Brooklyn. #HarrisGirlsBeachTrip2015 It was so good to spend that much time with them, but with an almost-three-year-old and an 81-year-old, the trip was way more work than I am used to at the beach. Gone are the days of sunning on the beach as long as I want. I am just as pale now as I was before we left for the beach. On Wednesday, Jon and his parents joined E and me for the rest of the week. Things got a little easier for me with my partner there and no toddler around, but it was still not a relaxing time. Truly, the best part of the trip was the pictures I got of E on the beach. This mermaid picture is just my favorite thing in the world right now! Peggy did a fantastic job knitting it!

My Little Mermaid
My Little Mermaid

I’m just glad to be home. And I’m especially glad to have some time to myself (Thanks, daycare!) to continue the never-ending chores that come with parenthood.

A Reflection on Mother’s Day

Today is my first ever Mother’s Day. Exactly five months ago I became a mommy and my whole life changed forever. Every night when I put Elizabeth to bed, I whisper in her ear that I’m so proud to be her mommy. I often feel like my heart will burst with the love I have for her and the awe I feel when I look at her. We made her. She came from me. I grew that gorgeous baby inside me. What a gift. I am so lucky.

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Every Mother’s Day I spend time with my sweet, selfless, loving mother and try to show her how much I appreciate her and admire her. She always has time for me. She always answers the phone with joy in her voice, sounding so happy to hear from me. (I’ll try to call more often, Monya.) And the way she talks about Ashley and me…you would think we were wonder-daughters. But to watch her as Grandma to Brooklyn and Elizabeth is the sweetest role I have ever seen my mother play. Brooklyn is obsessed with Grandma. If given the option to spend time with anyone, Brooklyn chooses Grandma. It’s so wonderful to see your mother become a grandmother. I can’t imagine how that must feel to see your own daughters become mothers.

As happy as I am today, I can’t help but think of my friends who have lost their mothers and the void they must feel today. And my friends who desperately want to become mothers and are betrayed by their bodies. Today is so very hard for them. I am thinking of you and sending sweet, warm, comforting thoughts your way, friends.

Things I Want to Remember at 5 Months

She rolls over to her tummy and then gets mad that she’s on her tummy. She hasn’t yet figured out what to do with her arms to roll back over.

When she takes a bottle, she waves her hands all around the whole time she is eating.

She kicks her legs when she’s really amused or happy. She also does this in the bath, making water go everywhere.

She loves to be held cheek-to-cheek.

Holding blankets and soft books are the only toys she’s shown interest in so far.

When she wakes up in the morning, she wants a bottle immediately. Even before changing her diaper.

IMG_0297The television is fascinating to her, so we have to be careful how much we leave it on when she’s in the room.

She rolls to her side as soon as you lay her down in the crib.

No matter where I lay her down, she ends up laying sideways with her head and feet at the bars of the crib.

She loves to be outside, lay on a blanket on the grass, and feel the wind and look at the sky.

She has started parroting some sounds.

To get her to calm down and fall asleep, I sing Amazing Grace while rocking her and it works every time.

She has only laughed twice. Once when Daddy held her up over the door while Mommy was in the shower and once when my hair fell in her face when I was playing with her on the changing table.

WM Five Weeks Later

I have been back at work for five weeks now, but one of those weeks was Spring Break when I happily slipped right back into maternity leave ways with my little one. Today I am at home sick with a sinus infection, a sore throat, a cough, and pink eye in both eyes. Yesterday when I went to to doctor and told him I have a baby in daycare, he responded, “Oh yeah. You’re going to be sicker than you’ve ever been in your life over the next year.” Elizabeth got a cold and cough in her second week at daycare and it lasted two weeks. She also had pink eye in both eyes. And now two weeks later, here’s Mommy with the same thing. It makes me sad that she is exposed to germs that she wouldn’t be if I was at home with her. But the reality is that I must work for now…we are working on a plan for me to stay home later, but that time is not now. We all have to accept it.

When I was at home with her on Spring Break after being back at work for two weeks, I looked at Jon and said, “Fact. Keeping her all day by myself is way way way more exhausting than doing my job all day and coming home to her.” And I have a pretty demanding job. Being a SAHM is so much harder than I thought it was before I had my baby. I have made it abundantly clear that i want to do it, but I feel the need to go on record about how much harder it is than working every day and paying someone to keep your child.

Now let’s talk about my baby. She’s four-and-a-half months old now and last weekend, she laughed for the first time ever! Hands down, it was the greatest moment of parenthood thus far for me and Jon. It was a true giggle, and she did it twice, but she hasn’t done it since then. (I guess we need to work on being funnier.) Everything the gets in her hands goes straight to her mouth. She loves sucking on her fingers and refuses to take a pacifier, much to my chagrin. She sleeps through the night and wakes up pleasantly in the morning, often rolling around and cooing until I come get her. She’s also rolling over from her tummy to her back, and no longer really cares about the witching hour (Thank goodness!). I view the evenings and weekends very differently now as they are the only time I get to spend with her. I miss her so much throughout the day, but I am working on transferring that sad feeling to being thankful and happy for the time I do get with her.

I’m Not Ready

Tomorrow I have to return to work after 14 weeks at home with my baby girl, and I don’t want to go. It’s not that I hate my job, although there are so many things about it that are incredibly hard. Rather, it’s that I want to be with her. I am not ready to leave her in someone else’s care for ten hours every day. I am not ready to think about things other than her care and our home. I am not ready to pour energy into other people’s children while some sweet girl at daycare pours her energy into my child. I’m not ready. I need more time.

In January, when I was home with my one-month-old, there were a couple of news stories about how the US has one of the worst maternity leave policies in the world. In many other countries, mothers are supported to stay at home for the first five or six months. In some countries, it’s up to a year! At my job, I had to cash in sick leave that I had saved up since I started working in 2003. BUT…I could only cash in eight weeks of leave (it would have only been six weeks if I hadn’t had a C-section!), and the rest of my leave I had to take unpaid, even though I had more days saved up that I could have used. For the last six weeks I’ve been at home, I have not received a paycheck. When I return tomorrow, my checks will be prorated for the duration of my contract, which ends in July. If I had been new to the profession or new to working for the state of Georgia, I would not have had hardly any sick days saved up and therefore would not have had any paid leave. I know several women in that position right now. When Elizabeth was born, my husband Jon was able to take two weeks paid paternity leave and then another two weeks of PTO, so he was home with us for a month and was paid for the entire time. I think that is a great perk that The Weather Channel offers. Of course it could be better, but plenty of companies have no provisions for paternity leave.

I’ve been reading Bringing Up Bebe, a book about French parenting styles compared to American parenting. In France, daycare is subsidized by the government, making it much more affordable for families. Almost every French mother works outside the home and leaves her child in fabulous, state-run childcare facilities that do not create a significant financial burden for the family. French mothers also stay home for five or six months before going back to work.

I think I would feel so much better if I didn’t have to return to work yet. I’m just not ready. She is still so tiny. And she just started smiling and cooing and squealing in the last few weeks. She locks in eye contact and gives these huge smiles that make her eyes squint, just like her mommy. She’s discovering toys and blankets that she can grasp and bring to her mouth. She is spending much more time just being pleasantly awake, compared to the 18-20 hours/day she slept in the first month or so. In the mornings, after I feed her around 6:45, we lay on the bed or on the rocker and she just kicks around and raises her arms in the air, smiling at everything she sees. She takes great naps in the morning after her first two bottles, and then most of the afternoon is spent awake, either cuddling, playing, or going for walks. She takes a shorter nap in the middle of the afternoon, usually when she’s in the stroller on a walk. The weather has been absolutely beautiful lately, so we have been spending much of the afternoon and evening outside. Her senses are on high alert outside, taking in the new sounds, smells, and sensations. Somewhere between 7:15 and 7:30, Jon and I give her a bath, a bottle, and put her to bed. After 8:15ish, we are on our own for the rest of the evening, which has been a dear and sweet time for us. Now that I have to return to work, my time with her won’t start until 5 or 5:30, which only leaves a couple of hours in the evening to spend time with her. And I can hardly speak about the evening demands of my high school assistant principal job, which come about at least once per week during the spring sports season. On those days, I will be at work until 9pm or 10pm watching other people’s kids play sports or sing in a chorus concert and only see my own daughter for a few minutes before I leave for work in the morning. I can hardly bear the thought. Tears spring from my eyes every time I think about it.

Tomorrow is going to be such a difficult day. I hope there is a fresh box of tissues in my office. I’ve already bought waterproof mascara so that I don’t look like a raccoon after crying throughout the day.  I really need to focus on some positive things, like seeing friends and coworkers I’ve missed in the last 14 weeks, and interacting with the teenagers that I love. I know I’ll enjoy visiting classrooms and seeing the incredible teachers at my job inspire their students. Perhaps it will feel good to be in real clothes, although I haven’t worn pants with a waistband since July when I started wearing maternity clothes! And once that school day is over, I know that I will have joy in my heart as I drive toward my baby girl who I’ve missed the whole day long.