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.   

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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.

love and marriage

Today is my fourth wedding anniversary with my wife.  We have been together nine years.

That sounds so long to me, and it feels so short. This last year in our life and marriage have been hard.  No sleep, four kids, a new job, a new house. Stress and demands from every angle. A sick, sick baby that we can’t stop worrying about.

Sometimes, we were not that kind to each other. Sometimes, we used each other as a receptacle for all of the BS we could not hold inside anymore.  Sometimes, we fell asleep, exhausted, without a kiss or even a goodnight. Sometimes, we yelled.  I think sometimes that I will look back and this will be one of the hard years of our marriage.

Last night, at 1:48 am, I was trying to fall asleep. I could not, because I was honestly just waiting for the part of the night when Bumby shrieks for me and I go sleep on his floor. And my wife was snoring, just a little, and I was looking at her, and I thought:

This would be hard no matter what. At least we are in it together. At least there is someone to yell at who loves me anyway, and someone I can be a sounding board for when it’s all too much, someone I still love desperately, nine years later.  At least we have each other.

And that, I think, is what the hard years of marriage are all about.

eighteen months

So Bumby is 18 months, nearly 19 months by the time I am writing this.  I kind of can’t believe it.

He still does not sleep through the night (sorry, new mamas). Well, he doesn’t anymore. He did, fairly consistently, for a while, but now he has super-sized separation anxiety and also words. Which means he begs me “Mama, don’t go away” and “STAY. STAY.” each night at bedtime. It is heart-wrenching. We have a lot of travel over the next couple of weeks, but once school starts (HALLELUJAH) we are going to have to make a concerted effort to get him to fall asleep on his own in there, because right now I am falling asleep on his floor all the time. I agree to stay, then I lie on the floor to show my commitment to staying. An hour later, my wife wakes me up and I come back downstairs, groggy and grumpy. I spend some time with her or the rest of the family, then can’t fall asleep at bedtime, having taken the edge off. Sometime between 3 and 5 am, he will cry, and I will go up. He begs me to stay, I fall asleep on the floor again until morning. It’s miserable, but not as miserable as listening to him cry and scream, and nowhere near as miserable as having him in our bed, sleeping on my face and kicking my wife in the stomach all night long.  So we are riding this out for now, and secretly I hope that when the schedule normalizes a bit, he goes back to his old sleeping habits.

He nurses now about 3 times a day. He says “mahk” for milk, which is adorable. He also reaches his hands inside my shirt and rummages around for the goodies, which is slightly less adorable. He likes mahk at bedtime, and also on a boat. Don’t ask me why, but every single time we are on a boat or a ferry, the kid wants his mahk.  I do not want to wean him, ever.  He still uses a pacifier too, and I am unsure whether it’s better to wean him first, and use the pacifier as a transition, or to get rid of the pacifier first, then wean.  Either way, I am not weaning until after age 2 unless he drops it on his own, which seems entirely unlikely at this point.

He has been talking a blue streak lately, getting new words every day. To the big kids’ delight, he learns tricks like a dog. He can whip, and nay-nay. He shouts “NUTS” if you say “dese” (thanks to the brother for that one). He high fives, and fist bumps. He says “wet” or “stinky” if he needs his diaper changed. He loves to kiss people.  He pats your face and says “gentle” if you are crying.  He also bites when he’s mad, then points at the spot and says “Bite. No.” and gives a kiss or a gentle pat to show how sorry he is.

I thought I would be so sad to have a toddler instead of a baby, but I love it. I love the way he says “Mama” when I come home from work, and I love that going to lunch with him no longer feels like going to lunch alone.  I love how sweet and affectionate he is. My big boy.

parenting hack

Now that back-to-school days are upon us, my FB feed has been full of promoted articles about “life-hacks” or “parenting hacks” aimed at making our lives as parents easier. These inevitably involve things like how to more quickly cut your kid’s cheese into the shape of a flower, or how to pack apple slices without them turning brown.

Here’s an idea. Cut the cheese into a fucking square. Put the whole apple into the lunch bag without cutting it up.

You’re welcome.