I guess that title is a little overdramatic. I should say something like the post I thought I’d write in four more years. I’ve been wanting to sit down and string some thoughts together about this for weeks, but I couldn’t.
I’m going back to work.
Like regular paying job, outside the home, kind of work. Not that I’ve been eating bon-bons for the past three years, so it feels weird to phrase it that way.
I’m going to back up about seven months and explain all of this. Last November, I received an email from an old contact I had who told me about a job opening at my alma mater. There were so many things about it that seemed perfect for me. It was, at that time, going to be a part-time position as Writing Center Director at a small institution. Part-time work seemed like a perfect transition back to the working world and it was a position I’d love to hold and one that matched my experience well.
The week before this email arrived, Scott and I had been talking about the possibility of moving. There are things we love about this house, but a lot of really impractical things as well (namely that it is older and there are a million improvements left to be made and we don’t have the finances or the time for that anymore now that we have kids). We chatted about the different possible scenarios…. purchasing a newer house in our same area, moving a little south and closer to the city, or maybe moving about 25 minutes northeast of here to a suburb we lived in when we first married. It’s an area that has changed so much in a few years, and it’s really become a hub of sorts for young families. It’s also about 40 minutes from my alma mater and makes this job an actual possibility (versus an hour plus commute which I am not going to do with young kids). So when the wheels started turning on this job business, it seemed like a sign, and we decided to jump in with both feet and sell our home. We love the area anyhow and would be happy there regardless, but the job possibility also gave us a valid reason to sell in a lackluster market. Our house was listed on March 15th.
In February, by the way, I am obsessively checking the job postings because the job was supposed to post and it hadn’t yet. In March, I inquired what was going on and I found out that the position had been restructured so that it was now full-time. It’s combined with an Instructor of English position teaching two composition courses. At first my feelings were really mixed on all of this. I hadn’t planned to go back at all until Norah was around 4 or 5, and certainly not full-time. But the whole possibility was too perfect to pass up. I’ve always wanted to pursue something beyond the high school arena, but I had no idea how that would happen (a PhD first or a small community college or what). To begin this career journey with my alma mater seemed like such a perfect fit.
So I applied even though it is full-time, and I completed the interview process in May. The job was posted on both the Journal of Higher Education and the university job board, and I knew there were a number of others applying. My big interview was the day after Norah’s party and four days after selling our house, and I interviewed with a panel of Deans feeling certain I sounded stupid and wishing I’d prepared a little better amidst the madness. A couple weeks went by and I was thinking maybe the job went to someone else, but I finally got the call two weeks ago, and I begin in August! (She congratulated me on an impressive interview, by the way, so I guess sometimes our self-doubt clouds our perception a bit.) I didn’t realize how rewarding and perfect it would feel until all the pieces fell together and it became official. I’m so grateful for all of it.
The university has a Child Development Center in cooperation with their Education department, so my kids can be there with me while I work. This was really the icing on the cake and the piece of the puzzle that made me feel like it was meant-to-be. I know there will be challenges and adjustments, and I’m not ecstatic about commuting 40 minutes to work every day with two kids, but I’m learning that with motherhood – whether you work outside the home or not – there are sacrifices and challenges and nothing is absolute perfection because this is real life. But overall, I cannot think of anything better for our family right now.
I’ve heard about the “sacrifices” and “hard choices” of motherhood my entire life, but I’ve been a little spoiled on having to make those choices so far. I had a baby. I wanted to leave my job. I left my job with no regrets. There were financial adjustments moving to one income, but overall that was the easiest choice I’ve ever made. Then this new opportunity came along and threw me for a loop. It feels strange to me to pursue my own career and my own path when my kids are so young, and much of my last few years (all of it?) has been caring for them and putting them first. I realize that sounds embarrassingly 1950′s for me to say that, but it’s just been my norm since I became a mother. Norah will be fifteen months when I begin working though, and Jude will be just shy of four. I’m realizing that some time in a structured environment without mom for something like 8 months of the year is probably good for them and good for me. [Side note, I'm also realizing how much time professors get versus teaching high school and it blows my mind! Three actual full months off for summer, one full month for Christmas, a spring break and a fall break... real office hours with nobody barging in so I can plan and grade!? It's such a welcome change and a testament to how insanely hard high school teachers work.]
So that’s the story. Big changes are headed our way, and I am equally excited and scared and all of those other feelings that come along with big moments. Any advice from seasoned working moms is greatly appreciated.
We are home and glad to be here. Yesterday afternoon, about an hour outside of Atlanta, Jude decided to take his shoes off on the airplane. Piles of sand fell out, and his sandles were still wet from our morning walk on the beach. It’s much of the same at home as I’m unpacking bags. Sand making its way all over our floors here, too. Grainy little reminders of some really beautiful memories we made last week.
We did a lot of nothing, in the best Caribbean way. Lounging on the beach while the kids played a little, playing with them in the pool, then coming inside so Norah could nap. Jude seems to be past that when even hours of playing in the water couldn’t convince him to sleep in the afternoons. So we’d set him up with a movie while she slept, and then we traded off parenting duties so one stayed in the room with them while the other got some time and vice versa. It’s a set-up that worked well for us in Costa Rica, and it allows for a little parental relaxation, too.
Because I want to be clear about one thing: traveling with two little kids is not all roses. They are young and don’t always behave the way we’d prefer, but the way I look at it, that’s what happens at home too, so we might as well hit the road every now and then despite any challenges. They might not remember moments of this trip, but we do. And there were some great ones.
Like everything else in life, it seems you just need to remember the best and shake off any obstacles you encountered along the way. I do love seeing new places with this bunch.
Norah was undountedly more difficult to travel with than Jude is. I think that’s a combination of both age and personality. She wasn’t crazy about the sand, so we had to keep her little blanket spread out on the beach. She’s not crazy about sitting in high chairs either, so there was a lot of lap bouncing to make it through dinners. But it’s hard to complain when she’s so tiny. I know one day she will walk next to me and exploring new places will be easier. Until then, I can do it this way though. Her little grin is a sweet reward for those frequent trying moments.
And then there’s my Jude. I’ve seen four countries and two west coast trips with this one, and he is probably my favorite travel companion. He’s so good at rolling with new plans and experiences.
It wasn’t as scenic and adventurous as our last beach trip was – partly because of the nature of the destination and partly because with two little ones we just stayed around the resort everyday rather than taking day trips of any kind. That said though, I think it was exactly what we needed at this time. The insanity of the past couple months with home renovations and buying and selling and some other stressors was balanced by such a lazy week. It was perfect.
Suitcases of dirty laundry and a mountain of tasks are calling my name, and I already wish I could bottle up a few moments of last week. But I guess that’s why vacations retain their splendor. We can’t quite hold that feeling for too long and need another reset button soon enough. For right now though, I am feeling full and grateful and looking forward to what is to come.
We have been in sunny Aruba all week, and we fly home tomorrow. As I write, Norah has finally given in to a morning nap for the first time all week and Scott and Jude have left already for the pool.
It’s been a vacation in the truest sense. I was questioning our decision to still go on this trip in the midst of packing and moving and embarking on some major changes in our lives, but I’ve found myself completely forgetting the everyday stress we’ve been encountering lately. I’ll suddenly remember – after not thinking of it at all for hours or days – that we are in fact moving to a new house and looking at a mile-long to do list at home. But here? It doesn’t seem so important. I love how travel does that. It makes you feel small in light of such a big world and all that matters is the here and now. Something I forget in everyday life.
More pictures coming soon when I’m at a real computer with the real camera. Goodbye for now. I have a breezy balcony and a sleeping baby to tend to.
I used to always write party posts with all kinds of details, but I’ve slipped up in the past year or so. I hosted a Mickey Mouse birthday party for Jude last fall, and I’m pretty sure I never shared photos at all. I also hosted a black-and-white wedding shower for my cousin, and I love the way the tablescape turned out, but again, I am not even sure I took a photo at all! My party posts are by far my most viewed and most frequently pinned entries, but I don’t make it a priority much these days.
I couldn’t let this one go by without sharing a few though. It was so much fun to put together!
A little background on all of this…. I used to dance and spent something like four nights a week in a ballet studio until I graduated high school. I have dabbled a bit in college dance classes and even adult ballet classes in recent years. I LOVE ballet, and while I hope that Norah will share that feeling, who really knows if she will. I figured I’d throw a ballet party before she was old enough to object. Ha! I also had her pictures taken a few months ago with my old tutu as a prop for the same reason.
So there was really no question for me when I began thinking of a theme for her first birthday. The weather was atrocious on Sunday afternoon, and I was so grateful for our guests making the trip in spite of buckets of rain all night and day. The details turned out beautifully!
I served fruit salad in disposable champagne flutes I found at Hobby Lobby.
And we served caprese bites on party picks. I ran across some fluffy ones while browsing at Target one day and decided they were perfect. I just used marinated fresh mozzarella and small tomatoes. I used this handy free printable I found on Pinterest to label all the food, and I bought a few yards of nylon netting (super cheap!) and gave each dish a tutu.
I thought chocolate-covered strawberries were a perfect choice since strawberries are in season now. In addition to that, we had finger sandwiches you can see a bit in the background – sunbutter and jelly for the kids, chicken salad, and cucumber. I forgot to take photos of the drink station, but along with the sodas and water, I made some of this pretty pink punch, and it was a hit.
I glued a bit of pink ribbon around my cupcake tower, and we were good to go. Norah loved it!
On the table in our foyer, I placed treat bags filled with cookies from a yummy local bakery and tags that said “Thanks for twirling with me” with a photo of Norah. I also bought Tallulah’s Tutu for guests to sign. I love that this book is all about how ballet is hard work and not just pretty costumes and stage time. The illustrations are adorable, too. It made for a nice sentimental souvenir for little Norah to cherish one day, and we got some sweet messages from our guests.
About two days before the party, Scott got an idea to put together a cd as a favor. We heard so many nice things when we did this a few years ago for Jude’s train party, and dance songs are everywhere. So he took this on as his project, and there are so many fun songs on there – from the Beatles to Whitney Houston to the Rolling Stones.
I fell in love with this idea on Pinterest, but when I attached my matted monthly photos, they were too heavy. Of course this was ten minutes before the party, and I was frustrated, so Scott took over and gave our guests this little way to look at photos. I wanted to display the monthly quilt pictures I’ve taken, and this worked out well.
Lastly, we strung some paper doilies and added a ton of pink and white roses (Thank you, Costco!) and it was complete.
The Birthday Girl had fun, and unlike her photo shoot a few weeks ago, she actually ate the cake!
Her birthday outfit – which she also wore in her one-year photos – was created by this Etsy shop, and I love it so much. I intend for her to wear it out this summer.
All in all, it was a fun party with a ton of pink and a lot of family and friends with us to celebrate!
I haven’t been able to update much this week other than my birthday letter, but I have so many exciting things to be talking about soon.
Jude had his last day of school for the year on last Thursday. Check out the side-by-side of the pictures I snapped on the first day and last day of the year. So many changes for my boy. **Sniff.
Oh, and WE SOLD OUR HOUSE!! The contract was signed two days ago. We are so relieved and excited. And also? We are building a new one!
More details to follow soon, I hope. On another note, Norah had a Ballerina Birthday Bash today. I will do a complete post soon with all the party details, but for now here are a few photos of her shining moment.
If there is one thing I have come to know about motherhood, it’s that characteristic bittersweet feeling. That moment when my heart can sing and ache at the same time. It reminds me so much of the hour of birth and all the intense physical pain that accompanies that divine moment when you finally meet a sweet face for the first time.
It’s that two-sided pleasure and pain principle that shows up again and again. And now, as I write this and you are at the end of your first year, I feel it all over again. So much joy and excitement for the person you are becoming, but oh, the ache and nostalgia for your tiny newborn body! It stings my heart to remember your curled up fists and squinty eyes and the newness of getting to know you in those first weeks and to know that special time has passed.
I know this is only the beginning of your story, but it already astounds me to see how much you’ve changed. Last summer you just seemed like an extension of me, but now you hold your own space in the room. Trying to walk, moving from place to place. Pointing and laughing and communicating. I love watching you grow into your own person.
I worry sometimes about the usual second-child mess-ups that happen around here. I can’t count the number of times you have eaten Cheerios off the floor or crawled your way to the dog bowls as I’m cooking dinner. Three years ago, I chased your brother around with a dslr camera that weighed more than him, but now it’s all I can do to pull my phone from my back pocket and catch a quick moment in between chasing the two of you. But we can see a stubbornness in you already, at least ten times stronger than your brother’s. And although most parents will think I’m crazy for saying this, I love it. I know you are going to hold your own one day, and there are bright things ahead. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how the world is different for women and the lessons that are uniquely ours to learn. Keep owning your own space and following your own lead, Norah. There is a big world of possibilities out there, and these choices are yours to make.
It’s so strange for me to try to remember our little family without you, and I ask your brother often if he remembers when you were in my belly. He always casually assures me he doesn’t, so it seems the two of you will never have memories that are not intertwined with the other person, and I love it that way. He’s taught you a million terrible habits already, as big brothers are expected to do…. how to blow spit out your tiny mouth, or squeal in a way that horrifies my eardrums, or splash far too much water out of the tub … But he’s also taught you to hug like you mean it, and the two of you will throw your arms around each other and squeeze like it’s your job. He can make you laugh like nobody else, and to see the joy you guys bring each other is such a gift to me. I have moments of such overwhelming gratitude for these two little souls entrusted to me.
Fifty-two weeks have passed in a blink, but I can remember the night of your birth so well, Norah. Always the planner, I’d packed battery-operated votives in my hospital bag, thinking I’d use them as I labored through the night. Your swift arrival had other plans though, and we were settled in our postpartum room by 10pm. Dinner eaten, nurses and family gone, your dad snoozing away on a cot in the corner. We lined the votives up along the windowsill, and I held you all night long. It was so quiet in that room and the candles flickered a bit and an entire city was hushed outside the window.
I remember the stillness of that night and the feeling that we were the only people in the world, you and I. Mother and daughter. Even then, at something like six hours old, you’d already taught me so much about myself and what I’m capable of, the wonder of my own body and spirit. I know it won’t always be this easy; mothers and daughters are complicated. And those adolescent years ahead when we will fight and roll our eyes and have the usual growing pains? I’ll fall asleep remembering the quiet peace of your first night, what a gift it is to have a daughter, and all the joy and companionship that lies ahead.
So here you are, my girl. Your own little mind and soon enough your own big dreams and your own future in front of you. Magnificent things will happen to you – and scary ones too. But life is sweet, and one day you will find your way to exactly where you should be. As Rumi says, “What you seek is seeking you.” I can’t wait to watch you find it one day.
Happy birthday, Norah. My daughter, my heart. I love you!