First trip to the beach? It’s November, right?

Today I am experiencing the beach for the first time. 

I hear a gull and whipped my head around at its loud, demanding squak. I laugh and try to chase it on my hands and knees. And then it takes flight. Mouth hanging open, I gape at the animal dancing in the air above me. 

  
 
  
I do not stare for long. Everything is so fresh and new around me. The fresh, salty breeze wisps across my face. I blink back the wind and look around at the great open world. Rolling blue waves crash in the backdrop. Everywhere I can see is covered in soft, brown earth demanding exploration. 

  
Mother sets me down on the other side of the blanket with regal care and gestures to the sand. “Try it little one. Feel the sand betwix your fingers and toes!”
I thrust my hands into my grainy meal. The texture was so new. A little wet and a little rough. It falls apart as I mushed it between my fingers.   

 

   
 
Saliva drips from my mouth. Can I wait any longer? My mother is watching. Is she waiting to see how I like it? I suppose I should oblige her. We did just travel two and a half hours for this spectacular moment. 

I scoop up a handful of sand and go in for a big bite. 
  
“Aack! I should’ve expected that! No no no! Don’t eat it! No no! I am not responsible for her next diaper change!”

I’m confused. No, I’m distracted. It tastes so weird. Little tiny bits of salty sand. 

I spit out the sand. Then I go back for seconds. Mom blocks my advance. I go for thirds and mom stops me again. I play with it a little. It’s a game! How about fourths? Fifths? 

Then suddenly I am flying like the dancing sea gull. Up and away! Oh the waves! I can hear them crashing. I laugh as dad hoists me into his shoulders and runs to the waves!

 

   

  

  
“Hail Poseidon! God of the sea!” crows my dad as he chases the water. 

I think I hear mom yelling for dad to be careful. She’s taking pictures too. Dad doesn’t seem to hear. 

“Hail Poseidon! You had a brother… Ha ha ha! Until we sacrificed him to the God of the sea!” 

   
  
  
I don’t know what dada is saying. I babble to the waves with him. 

And then he drops me down, holding my hands. Soft, oozing wet sand comes in between my toes just as a cool crest of water skirts the edge of my feet. 

  
  
  
That’s the ocean.

Can anyone tell me what an ocean is?

We go back to our blanket. Dad leans back and drifts off to sleep. Mom and I go back to our eat the sand game. The beach is so relaxing!

  
After a while, the sun sets and the sky turns into ripples of rose and violet. It’s cold, but mama wraps me in our blanket and dad holds me close to his chest. They hold hands and mama kisses me on the forehead. She coos, “I loved this! I love you! Did you enjoy your first trip to the beach?”

  
I tell them stories about my day at the beach, about the crashing waves, and the sea gull that made me laugh. I tell them how I want to stay longer. I complain that they didn’t let me pet any of the doggies on the boardwalk. I babble on and on, but they don’t seem to understand. They just laugh. Mama kisses me again. 

“So silly!” she muses. 

I waggle my tongue to scold her. I guess I’ll tell her all about it when I’m older, when I have the words to tell, like paints on a pallet, to craft the stories of my adventures in a brave new world. 

—–

So, in case you hadn’t guessed, it was not my first time to the beach, not really — I don’t remember my first time, but it almost felt like it. Through Aria’s playful blue eyes. 

You’re also probably thinking, “Hey, is this an old post? Isn’t it almost December?!?”

So I had a lot of work to get done this weekend. DH’s solution for how to get me the time to finish it? Road trip!

To the beach. 

Oh yes. 

Three solid hours of driving both ways. 

To seventy degree of sunshine three days out from December. 

This is yet one more reason I think my husband is awesome. I was imagining staying trapped in our house for the weekend thinking about how my work-life balance is getting a little strained. 

This was so much better.  

  
 

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9 Months in, 9 Months out

Aria officially has more experience with life outside the womb than in the womb. 

40 weeks ago,

2,000+ diapers ago,

4,804 baby wipes ago,

129 days of daycare ago,

146 days and 274 nights at home ago,

4 days and 3 nights at grandma and grampa’s ago,

2 days and 1 night at the hospital ago,

3 overnight trips ago (B&B in Weschester Pennsylvania, camping at Catoctan Mountain, a hotel at Harper’s Ferry),

1,500+ nursings ago,

Hundreds of supermans and squats and push-ups ago,

Hundreds of inches of crawling and scootching ago (beginning with the eight 20 minutes after she was born,

Dozens of books and stories ago,

Aria traveled from the dark to the light, from the warm to the cold, from swimming in liquid and being nourished by blood, to gasping in air and crying for milk. 

From a 2 centimeter peanut 

To a 2 foot, 3 inch little girl that stand and laughs and maybe says “hi” and “mama” and “dada” and “diaper.”

She still needs me as she did in the womb, but now she could easily survive without me, but not without someone. I’m just glad to still be that someone, along with her amazing dad. 

Experienced as she is with this thing we call life, Aria still has a lifetime of learning to go. A thousand milestones ahead and behind. 

So happy first Thanksgiving Sweet, Sweet! I so grateful to have carried you snug in my womb for nine months, and to have carried  and nursed you nearly every day since. 

When you’re to old to carry, I’ll still hold you tight. And I can’t hold you, because I am gone, I’ll be a song and a memory to help you stand strong. 

Come hell or high water, I’ll still be your mom.

Thank you, my little lovely. My Aria. My song. 

  

I was almost out the door

It seems aria is going through a phase, a mamas girl phase. And the funny thing is I feel like I’m going through the same phase with her. I really, really had a hard time leaving her at day care today. The lady picked her up and are you just started crying and crying. 

I was almost out the door. But I turned back. 

Not sure if that’s bad or good for my daughter, and I wonder if I needed to hold her as much as she wanted to be held. 

I scooped her up and held her for a really long time. Long enough for her to start looking around the room at the toys and obstacles. You could tell she wanted to play, but knew that when she did she would have to leave my arms. One of the older boys came and tugged on her sock. She and I both had mixed feelings. I felt the pull to go to work. Aria felt the pull to go on an adventure. 

Then Miss Julie suggested a wagon ride! I handed Aria away. 

Ah the potent mixed feelings of motherhood! 

I love my job and I love my daughter. 

I started a new job 5 or 6 months ago now. I love it. I’m directing the academic program work for a charter school network down in the city. The kids are there because their parents wanted something more for their children amongst a sea of obstacles all around them. I’ve been in all the schools down in this area and I feel a part of something so important and so complicated. I’ve watched a lot of people walk away from this work down here.  For many who leave it is because they don’t feel like they have the support they need to give these kids what they need. If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s giving educators the support they need.

So today instead of being the one taking my daughter on a wagon ride, I’m narrating a blog post to Siri while pumping in the car on my hour-long commute to the city. 

In the morning I’ll be developing a set of Rigorous math lessons and problems designed to push the thinking and math logic of some of our stronger students. Then I will meet with the team but is hammering through a strategic plan for literacy to amp up the engagement and the level of questioning occurring in our reading classrooms. I’ll meet to prepare a development program for principals to help them become better leaders of their coaching programs and better leaders of literacy. They will be capped off with a step back meeting on our coaching program and how we will make the next steps in growing the effectiveness of our dedicated teaching staff.  

I really love my job. I feel empowered as a person and as a woman to make a difference. I feel like I get to use a sweet set of skills in data, project management, and people leadership.

I hope aria does even more. Way more. I hope she dreams big. Maybe she’ll run for president and I can do the analytics on her campaign data!

And even with all that, I put my head on my steering wheel and cried after I left daycare. Do you think I can go back and take Aria into work with me??? I was thinking about that tomorrow, but apparently they have a big Thanksgiving celebration with lots of art projects planned. Apparently Aria is a big fan of feathers. 

It feels complicated, but it probably really isn’t. It’s a good problem to have, when the hard choices are between going a little later into work at a job you love, to hold a little girl you love even more, just before you release her into the arms of an awesome teacher, to go on a wagon ride and do art projects I would never think to do with a nine month old!

  
 

The Subtleties of Preparing to Walk

At some point in the coming months, Aria will let go of my hand or dad’s hand and will take the first independent steps of her life. I’ve been watching her progress towards this feat for weeks. In the process I’ve realized how many more times I should have repeated my side kick and forms to become a true martial artist. 

Over and over and over. No one tells her what to do, but she seems to just know what to practice next. To prepare to crawl, she must have done ten thousand superman’s. Over and over and over. Stronger and stronger and stronger. Now you can hold her feet up and she’ll stay in plank like a gymnast for longer than I can. 

I wish I’d blogged about it as she went. Something happened in the late summer where my blogging confidence melted away like the last monuments of winter in a spring rainstorm. I didn’t know how to share the little miracles of Aria learning how to be human. I started to realize how normal Aria’s development was and became afraid of sharing the mundane. And went on to share less and fill several posts with fluff.

But I still love the subtleties of watching Aria learn to walk – to learn to be human. 

How did it all start?

Perhaps it’s too late to remember. I guess I’ll do my best. 

It started by looking up and wanting to be higher – to reach and pull and grab what was once out of reach. 

Over and over and over.  Week after week after week. 

  
   

 
She would scootch, reach up, pull with her arms and push with her legs. First onto her knees and then her toes. First at an angle and then straight up like she’d been doing all her seven or eight months of life. 

So many muscles working in harmony. So many muscles learning to follow her command, to take her to the obstacles she was determined to surmount. 

No wonder she would smile as she gazed over the world from the slightly new vantage she had gained.

 

And then the squats began. Dozens, hundreds, more than I ever did in three years of martial arts. 

Up down up down up down. 

No drill sergeant to demand it. 

Up down up down up down. 

I watch in fascination as she tried over and over again to come down to the floor, pick something up, and then stand back up again without having to get on her belly. 

Why? 

She just wanted to. The need was deep inside her. So she kept doing it over and over. She kept coming down on her belly. But each time she got stronger.  

Until she could do it. No wobbles. Just take it and stand. 

I have a feeling that’s the kind of life she’s going to live. She’s been pushing to reach her goals since the first minutes after she was born. 

 

  

I don’t know when Aria is going to learn how to walk. But what I’ve learned is what it takes to become strong. Pure intention, consistency, repetition, and that deep drive to be and do more — that animal-like drive to stand up and be human. 
 

Walking with Aria

Our little bear, braving the cold. Taking walks with her has been perhaps my favorite part of the past nine months. Experiencing the world a little slower and so much better through fresh eyes.  

Fall 

 

Can you believe we’ve now walked through four seasons together? I’ve never so fully soaked in the change from one season to the next before. 

Summer 

 

Spring

  

Winter