stomp stomp stomp

I had never been away from Bumby overnight before, until a few weeks ago.  My grandfather, who is (was – I keep forgetting to say was) extremely old, had fallen particularly ill and was not expected to live more than a day or so. I rushed home to Michigan without a thought. Alone.

While I was there, my grandfather rebounded a bit, and we put him on home hospice care. Three nights, one panic attack and a good deal of ordering around the senior generation of my family later, I flew home.  My wife had a work dinner the following night, so I headed up to put Bumby to bed on my own.

“I want stomp stomp stomp.”

WHAT?  “Is that a book?”

“Yes. Stomp stomp stomp!”

Hm. I wonder what the fuck we’re talking about.  “What book is stomp stomp stomp, sweetie?  Is it a big book or a small book?”

<looks at me like I’m an idiot> “It’s STOMP STOMP STOMP.  It goes STOMP STOMP STOMP.  STOMP STOMP STOMP.”

Oh god, 3 nights away and I don’t even know his favorite book anymore.  “Does it have dinosaurs in it?”

“No.”

“Animals?”

“Mmmm. Not REALLY.  It has STOMP STOMP STOMP.  And hairplane.” (Yes, this is how he pronounces it.)

Okay, now we’re getting somewhere.  It has an airplane.  “Does it have other machines? Is it the big book with all the cars and planes?”

“NO.  IT’S STOMP STOMP STOMP.”

Etc.  I finally learned that Stomp Stomp Stomp is this book:

stomp stomp stomp

Not because I figured it out, but because he found it on his shelf.  Apparently, when my wife reads it, she yells “STAMP STAMP STAMP” at one point when postman number 2 is stamping the letters. Even though this does not appear anywhere in the book. There are some farm animals at the back of the book  (so it’s not really about animals, but it has some in it) and an airplane transports the mail. Sheesh.  It also apparently has a mama and a mommy, even though I tried to tell Bumby that the pictures he thought were the boy’s mama and mommy were actually two other children. Oh well.

So, a child who can speak is a double edged sword. On the one hand, they can explain things to you and (theoretically, at least) follow simple instructions. On the other hand, sometimes they make no sense.  To us, anyway.

who says you can’t go home? (or: listen to your gut)

Back in March of last year, one of the partners I did about half of my work for quit my law firm and went to another firm. I was in the middle of dealing with a move and Bumby having pneumonia. I totally couldn’t deal.  When I emerged from the fog just a bit, I lawyered the problem. I did a pros and cons list for each firm.  I made a five year plan.  When I stepped back and looked at it, I came to the conclusion that I needed to move to the new firm.  There were lots of reasons, which all looked very good on my lists.

The problem, however, was that my gut was screaming “DON’T DO IT” the entire time I was analyzing it.  The partner who was remaining at my old firm was a guy I just like much better than almost anyone I have ever worked with, although he is close to retirement age.  I had friends at my old firm. I was pushing myself to view “no female partners” at the new firm as a good thing because I knew it meant they would love to make a female partner, but it still felt like such a red flag, even though everyone I met was very nice and did not seem particularly sexist (you know, any more than usual guys you work with).  I cried every day from the day I gave notice until I started at my new firm, which was right after Memorial Day.

Anyway, not that surprisingly, I have regretted my decision pretty consistently for the last 8 months.  I could go into the reasons, but the bottom line is just that I was miserable. I work for two reasons (other than the paying-the-mortgage type reasons). One is because I actually really like being a lawyer. The other is because I am a happier person when I talk to people other than my wife and kids.  The work at the new firm was boring, and I had no friends. And I had no idea how to go about getting better work, and no way to make friends, because the associates were super unfriendly. So I went through about a three month process of pining for my old job before I finally took a page out of Bumby’s book.  When he gets into stuff, he comes right up to me and says, “I made a big mess. I need help!”  Well, I had made a big mess, and I needed help, too.  It strikes me over and over again how simply he views the world, and how often that is the best approach. He doesn’t lie. He asks for what he needs. He tries to do it himself but has no shame in admitting he needs help.  When he’s hurt, he cries and reaches for someone to hug. He says “I love you” all the time.  Sometimes, things are not that complicated. My two year old pretty much has it all figured out.

So I scheduled lunch with the guy I liked so much from my old firm, and asked for my job back. He said he would need a few days to talk to other partners at the firm and see if they thought they could keep me busy and what the reception was in general. Less than 24 hours later, he called me and said they’d be delighted to have me. Less than two weeks after that, I had cleared conflicts and had an offer letter in hand. When I gave notice, my boss at my new firm said that he actually thought going back was going to be a good move for me, after hearing my complaints about the new firm.

I start on Tuesday at my new/old job. I am looking forward to female mentors, friends in the office, and work that I find interesting again. My gut is feeling much better about this job move than the last one.

we interrupt our regularly scheduled programming…

Which is of course about Trump, right? It’s all we read about, think about, talk about. What will the madman do next?  How will we get through it?  Nevertheless, I am here to interrupt this newsfeed with something else entirely.

Bumby is TWO.  On his birthday, we went to the American Museum of Natural History. I don’t know why I never remember that Bumby does not actually like outings that last more than 2 hours, but I don’t. Anyway, my parents were in town, and my sister came, and Mala came (that is what he calls my mother-in-law) and all of our millions of children. We had two cars full. Which means of course we left at 10:30 instead of 9 am.  I wanted to leave at 9, so that we could maximize our time there before nap. Wellllll yeah no. Not with that many people.

The dinosaur bones were boring, but Bumby liked running up and down the small inclines between the rooms, and he liked all the taxidermy animals, which I weirdly did too until I realized that in order to have a stuffed baby gorilla you had to have killed a baby gorilla.  Then they all made me feel a little sick. Anyway, Bumby doesn’t know about killing of baby gorillas, so he loved them of course. He ran up to each one and said, “Hey, monkey! Come on out! No jumpin on the bed!” and then searched around in vain for a handle or a door or some way to open the glass case and free the monkeys (which were, of course, not actually monkeys, but gorillas and lemurs and other such things).  Here is a blurry photo as an example:


After doing this for a while, we moved on to the Native American exhibits, where he pointed out “This one’s a mama, and this one’s a mommy.”  Haha to my wife, all the “mommy” ones were actually men.  She is not masculine, by the way, at all.  Then he spotted a fellow toddler and raced over, screaming “NEW FRIEND.” He aggressively hugged him until I pulled him off, because the parents looked vaguely horrified and the kid was about to cry.

He then gave himself a time out. When he was a little younger we noticed he would get over-stimulated and bite his siblings, so we started taking him aside for a time out when this would happen. Now he gives himself a time out when the stimulation is too much.  After about 5 time outs, we decided he needed to just go.  Everyone except my sister and I left to get a table at the pizza place, and my sister and I went to get the coats. We went through the ocean exhibit, where he was fascinated by the “big baby beluga” which was actually a blue whale. We waited in line for coats, and he blew his nose on my face (my grossest parenting moment yet, actually).

After going home and taking a nap, some friends came over and we drank wine and ate cake and everyone gave him presents except for us, because ours were ordered from Amazon Prime and were late (of course). He still does not have them, because we’re trying to space the new toys out a little. And that was that – a day off from the chaos that is swirling around us on a daily basis. A little reprieve, courtesy of the boy who taught me to slow down and take a break in the first place.

 

what democracy looks like

This weekend, my wife and I joined in the New York march with Bumby and Boo. I don’t need to tell you that it was empowering and overwhelming and yes, at times even a little boring as we stood still for hours on the streets of midtown that were for once gridlocked with humans, instead of cars. 

At one point, Boo and her friends joined a chant of “build a fence around Mike Pence.” After it died down, I heard the man behind her say, “That was clever! Let’s give these girls credit for starting it even if they didn’t. Who doesn’t love cute little girls?” The “cute little girls” ranged in age from 13-18 and yes, were cute, but were also extremely pissed off. Which they told him. It’s like some people are trying to miss the point, right?

So it was Boo’s first march, and Bumby’s first march, and it was also my wife’s first march. She never really felt called to participate in political action before. She didn’t even vote in some past presidential elections (in fairness, she was in the hospital after giving birth 4 weeks early, but still….). It was a big day for the family.  It was the start of our resistance to what the Republican agenda and the Trump administration are trying to do to our country. 

 I don’t have much to say in this moment except solidarity, sisters. They may take us down but they will take us down fighting.   

gentle

Yesterday, my wife and I woke up grouchy. We were trying to pack away a million Christmas decorations and do approximately 950 loads of laundry and had to shovel the walks and it was cold out. Also, I wanted coffee and Bumby insisted on helping me make it which of course meant half the water was dumped in the coffee part and half the coffee grounds were on the floor. When my wife came in from walking the dog, she snarked about the likely-gross Bumby coffee. I snarked back about something, I don’t know what. And this continued for a bit until I got a little mean and made my wife cry. She went upstairs. I thought I would give her some space, but really it is more likely I didn’t want to admit I had been an asshole. 

But Bumby. Nothing gets by him.”Mommy crying.” 

“Yes. Mommy’s crying.”

“Nap?” 

“Well, no. I mean, she might want a nap. But she’s crying because I hurt her feelings.”

He hopped down off the couch and grabbed my hand. He started dragging me toward the stairs. “Mama. I’m sorry, Mommy. Gentle gentle. I’m sorry.”

This is what we tell him when he hits or scratches or otherwise attempts to injure us or his siblings when he is frustrated. You say you’re sorry, and show the person you know how to be gentle in your touching. So, right. Also with feelings. 

We walk upstairs and find Mommy at the computer reading about Trump. (Hard to see how this would make her feel better, but to each her own, right?)

“Sorry, Mommy,” says Bumby. 

“No no. You didn’t do it. I hurt Mommy, not you. You are fine.” He looks at me expectantly. So I say to her, “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings.” She looks at me a bit skeptically but gives me a hug. 

“Gentle,” prompts Bumby. 

“Yes, gentle. I will be gentle with them.” The hug becomes real, and we go downstairs. 

The coffee was not ruined after all. We ate toast and cleaned house and played outside and watched the Steelers pommel the Dolphins. It was a really good, tiring day.   Sometimes when you hurt someone, it’s best to apologize like a toddler, to just say you’re sorry and promise to do better, without explaining your side or making a lot of excuses or discussing who started it. 

sleeping like a baby

Life has been particularly hard these days. My mom, who has MS, slipped in the shower on Monday and knocked herself unconscious.  There is some debate over whether she in fact slipped, or whether she actually had some kind of neurological event (like a mini-stroke) which caused her to be unconscious in the shower.  My mom is a fantastic denier and tried to tell me later that day that she was “fine now” because her speech was only a little slurred (the S’s were  fine, just the W’s were still giving her trouble) and she could use her right arm again, just not her right leg. Uh huh.  The same day, I found out my 91 year old grandfather was having surgery and had been in the hospital all weekend. Also, Christmas with 4 kids, and working, and having new windows installed this week. Also, my mother in law broke her wrist ice skating with our big kids on Thanksgiving weekend, and lived with us for a week until she acclimated to life in a cast. Then, last week, she had skin cancer removed from her leg and stayed with us for another few days since she could not walk her dog.  Etc., etc.  Ii have been stretched as taut as a wire, ready to snap at the slightest additional force. 
Bumby has been feeling it, I think, and his naps have been all over the map lately. Some days he does not nap at all. Some days, he does not nap until after 4pm. Some days, he naps at 9:30 am and then again at 1pm. Once, he was awake from 1-3 am.  I begged my nanny today to tell me that he pleasepleaseplease was not going to be one of those kids who drops his nap all together at like  2 1/2. She promised he would not.
You may recall that when Bumby was born, he wouldn’t sleep anywhere except on me. I held him about 23.5 hours a day and was totally fine with that, for a while. By about 6 months, I desperately wanted him to sleep on his own. I felt trapped under him every time he would nap, and was itching to get up and do other things all the time. Plus, his sleep was in very short little bursts, because he would often be awakened by his reflux.  I wanted to roll over at night instead of spending 8 hours in the exact same position because there was a little nugget (and by little, I mean like 20 lbs) who was sleeping on my chest.  I wanted him to sleep more than 90 minutes in a row. Anything, to have a little break.
Now, he’s almost two, and sleeps in his own bed. Normally I nurse him and rock him in the rocking chair until he is sleepy, then he goes in his crib with his moose and kitty cat and that’s that. Today, I heard him on the monitor at nap time saying “Mama help you with nap.” You know, to himself, so that I would come up and help him. So I did. I came up and nursed him again, and rocked him in the chair. He fell asleep on top of me for the first time in months. I tell you what, if I had any confidence that he would have stayed asleep in the awkward position he was in, I would have spent however long he would sleep trapped under that kid. I so miss being trapped under a baby, with nothing to do for 90 minutes at a time other than smell his head and stare at his face with those squishy sleeping baby lips.

the morning after

This morning, I got out of bed because Bumby needed me to. He needed a diaper change and he wanted to play cars.

When I was watching Hillary Clinton’s concession speech, which was moving and eloquent and a message of unity and hope, just like her campaign has been, I burst into tears (again). I could not handle that this perfectly qualified, brave, strong, powerful woman was not going to be our President, and I could not stand the fact that (almost) half of the country hated what was different more than it loved what brought us together. Bumby looked up from his cars and ran over.

“Mama,” he said, and threw his fat little arms around my neck.  “Kiss.” He gave me an open-mouth kiss with too many teeth, and squeezed me hard. “All done!” he said, wiping my tears.

Okay, Bumbs, all done for now. But for the first time in weeks, he wanted me to hold him in my arms and rock him until he fell asleep for nap. That was fine with me.

names

People have asked us what Bumby calls each of my wife and me, how he distinguishes us. We tend to refer to my wife as Mommy and me as Mama, but I always figured he would sort it out on his own. For example, Boo’s friends used to call us “Nice Hair Mom” and “Crazy Hair Mom.” I was fine with this, since I was Nice Hair Mom. 

Sure enough, Bumby has come up with his own names for us. Monday I worked from home. It was Halloween, and I didn’t want to get stuck at the office for Bumby’s first trick-or-treat. I came down for lunch, and he climbed onto my lap. He wrapped his fat little arms around my neck and buried his face in my hair. “Miss you. Miss you,” he whispered in my ear. 

“Oh Bumbs. I miss you too,” I answered. 

He looked into my eyes. “Miss you, Stinky Mama.”

the lonelies

At the end of May, I started a new job. I did not want to. I liked my old one just fine, thank you. But on the day I learned Bumby had pneumonia, after a morning of urine and blood tests and chest x-rays, while talking to the inspector at my soon-to-be new house, my office called to tell me my boss had quit. And just like that, I was offered a job at the new firm and off I went. 

There must be something about blogging that appeals to people with social anxiety, because approximately 100% of the bloggers I read have it. Also, the person who writes this blog has it. The new job and the new house and the sick baby, well, it was quite a lot, really. So I hunkered down and did my best, and then picked my head up with a start to realize one day that it had been nearly six months since I had socially interacted with anyone outside my family during the daytime hours. 

At my old job, I had friends. I had people I knew by virtue of billing 110 hours a week with them while 8 months pregnant, and people I knew because I was a woman and hadn’t quit yet and they wanted to know how I managed that. I had people I knew because I was sassy and they thought it was funny, and people I knew because I was sassy and they thought that meant I was smart. 

At my new place, I know 2 people and one lives in Chicago. They are both men, and both my bosses. They are both very nice, but we talk mostly by email and not often about our personal lives (like almost never). I do not have friends, or even acquaintances. I don’t even like my secretary. No one even knows I am sassy. At my old place, a couple of peer-level women took me to lunch when I was new, and stopped by to walk me to the associates committee meeting with them. No one does that at my new place. So I go alone, and sit alone, or I don’t go at all because it’s too hard. 

A lot of women I know like to work because they get their fix of “adult time” while they are at work. Today I said about 25 words out loud, for real. The whole day. It’s the loneliest place I have ever worked and I don’t know how to fix it. I don’t think it’s like this for everyone. Other people who have been there longer or work full time seem to have “integrated,” but I just can’t. I don’t know why. 

There is a work social event on Thursday  night. It’s a women’s poker party. I should go and meet people. I like poker and wine. But I am terrified to walk in alone. Where will I sit? Who will I talk to? Whose fake money will I take? 

At the same time as all of this, I met a lesbian mom at Bumby’s music class. She asked me out on a play date to the playground. She drives a Subaru and her wife is also a lawyer. I love her for being the first non-family adult I spoke to during the day since I can remember. I love her for taking the bold step of asking me to hang out. It makes me want to be a SAHM just to avoid the horribleness that is my male-dominated, antisocial workplace. 

So all of these things make it so hard to get up, put on my heels, and go to the office. But I do, because I do. I want Bumby to know that Mama works and is good at her job. I want other women to know that you can love your son desperately and also be kickass at being a lawyer. I want myself to know that I can do this and be ok. I want my girls to know that you can cobble together a life that makes you happy, as a professional and as a mom. But fucking hell if it isn’t hard sometimes. 

killing it

I work part time. Mostly, I feel like this is a nice balance. But the word “balance” is a little misleading. It’s more like a seesaw than a tightrope. Over the summer, I was slow at work. I had lots of time to get stuff done around the house, and lots of time with the kids (including Bumby). I was able to take time off when he was sick, deal with the sleep deprivation caused by his weird clingy phase, and meet him at the pool when I could get out early.  I forced the older kids off the couch and into engaging activities (like looking at their phone by the pool, rather than on the couch.)  I was killing it on the mom front. But work was suffering. I wasn’t busy enough to feel like I was involved, I had just switched to a new job and didn’t know anyone, and my boss was irritated with me a few times.

The last month, things have gotten much better at work. I got a bunch of great feedback from a new partner I had not worked with before. My hours were high, and I was really engaged on a couple of interesting projects. I was killing it. But I was totally disengaged as a parent. I often had to plop Bumby on the floor with a toy and hope he would stay quiet while I tried to revise an email, and I worked frantically every time he went down for his nap. Sometimes, I would hear him wake up and be so frustrated, because if he had just slept a little longer, I could get a document out.  I was late getting home, so on my in-office days I would sometimes spend only 15 minutes with him before he went to bed.  Once, he fell off a rock because I was trying to take a conference call while also helping him climb the rock (because if he couldn’t climb the rock, he would scream, and I would be busted). Also, I left my 11 year old at football practice for a half hour (at 8pm, at the field by the freeway) because I was stretched too thin and messed up the carpool schedule.  My non-work hours were getting totally swallowed up by work, and Bumby  and the other kids were suffering for it.

So I dug in. I refused to work over the weekend, other than when Bumby was napping. I watched the debates and edited a document at the same time so didn’t have to miss them (and the chance to provide color-commentary to the older kids while we watched).  I declined invites for two calls this morning, and took Bumby to music class and on a bike ride to the park instead. We had a great morning, and I did not yell and he did not cry, not even once.  He did not fall off of anything high or play with any sharp objects.  I cleaned the kitchen and scheduled some home maintenance work during his nap instead of working.  And then, when the babysitter got here and my scheduled work hours started, I sat down at my desk to discover I had made an embarrassing mistake in the document I worked on last night, and the partner who gave me the good feedback before said he thought the work I did over the weekend was sort of… not as good as some other stuff I had done in the past.  Sort of like I rushed it a bit, I guess.

So that’s it. I kill it here, and it kills me there. Up and down, down and up.