help, part 2

So, we are still drowning, in case you wondered.  And to tell the truth, for the last 3+ years, I have become increasingly annoyed at my wife for not helping me more around the house. There is a lot to do, right? There is laundry, and grocery shopping, and cooking, and cleaning, and shouting at people to do the things they were supposed to have done already, and dog walking, and teaching the 16 year old to drive, and bathing the toddler, etc etc you are all familiar with the list. And I feel like I do a disproportionate amount of it, even taking into account that I “only” work 25-30 hours a week on average. Anyway, you know how this goes, I have heard lots of moms complain about our respective partners’ inability to do stuff around the house that is actually not that hard. And in a reasonable time-frame, before toys are so lost in the long grass that they become shredded by the lawnmower and you pick your dry cleaning up only to discover that everything is out of season so that chore was a waste of time anyway.
 
So it kind of blew up this week, and I was challenged to really think about whether this was an accurate reflection of what happens, and if so, to think of ways that I contribute to this dynamic of me doing “everything” and her doing “nothing.” Of course I was like, “this is total bullshit, of course I do everything around here, she doesn’t even know, blah blah” as I was re-folding the laundry my wife folded yesterday because it was sloppy. And that’s when it hit me that perhaps I am, in fact, being a bit extra. Like, maybe I don’t let her do things her own way and on her own time, and if I could lower my standards just a tiny bit then it would be more even.
 
But here’s the thing. I don’t really want to. I like my house to look nice and be tidy and the clothes to be folded the way I like, and my wife tends to not pay bills unless they come in red envelopes and regularly misplaces school forms. But yet at the same time I do want to relax about this, because I can’t handle all that I have heaped on my plate, wanting it all done just so. And let’s be real, most of those school forms are unnecessary BS anyway, and she did actually manage to exist some 40-odd years before I turned up on the scene to run everything in my very particular manner.
So here is the question I had been asking myself up until now:  How do I get my wife to do things the right way so that I can actually let go of some things?
And here is the question now (well, questions, really): How do I relax about the small stuff? How do I even decide what is actually small stuff? Is it true that you don’t have to pay bills in white envelopes? Is it crazy to re-fold the laundry? How do I even sort through this so that I get more help, while also maintaining a certain amount of standards?  
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help

A while ago, someone asked me to write about how we keep balance in our lives, as two lawyers with four kids and three pets and two houses.  The answer is that we don’t.

The big one has just started her senior year. This means ACTs, college applications, a job, 5 AP classes, cheerleading, and a driver’s license. She needs our help with almost all of these things.

Boo has started her freshman year of high school.  She has a set of friends that are all a bit entitled, and a bit fast.  The kind of entitled and the kind of fast where they are allowed to traipse around New York City at 14 years old with no adult, after having each received $100 of spending money from their parents.  She recently burst into my office while I was working, without knocking, and said, “Can you give me some money? I’m in a hurry.”  I did not give her money.  She needs to learn to navigate these friendships without becoming an asshole. She needs our help with this.

Our older youngest boy is in 7th grade now. We don’t think his reading and writing are where they should be, and he is having a hard time making friends. He seems lonely, and he seems sad. He needs help figuring out why the reading and writing still haven’t clicked for him, and he needs to find his place in the social nightmare that is middle school. He needs our help in this hard time, or at least some extra attention and love.

Bumby is 2 and a half. He starts preschool tomorrow.  He alternates between shouting “I don’t like you mama! I can do it ALL BY MYSELF! GO AWAY!” and crying, clinging to my legs, and swearing his love for me, begging me not to leave him with Dada (his babysitter). His language is so developed that it is hard to remember that he has no logic and no impulse control. He is afraid of being dropped off at school; he is afraid of new friends. Sometimes he wakes in the night and calls for us, just to know we are there. He needs our help.

My wife’s job has been all-consuming for about the last year now, as she works in a highly regulated industry that has become incredibly unpredictable under Trump. She has been working late, and when she isn’t, she basically talks about nothing but her job.  She needs mental and emotional support, and doesn’t have much capacity for the day-to-day house chores.

I have been picking up lots of slack, and feeling under-appreciated. We have had two toilets break in the last week (Bumby was very excited to tell the plumber that the toilet was “TOTALLY FREAKING OUT”).  A friend has gifted us a piano that they no longer use, and I have to find someone who can move it to our house but also our credit cards are up to the max and we can’t afford to pay someone $500 to move a free piano right now, and yet I very much want to get Bumby lessons next year so we should take advantage of it (first world problems, I know). I got slammed at work on a deal for a European client, meaning lots of early morning conference calls, and my wife can’t help me cover the childcare because of her own demanding job.

For example: During a conference call last week, while I had no childcare and had plopped Bumby in front of PJ Masks on Youtube, the plumber left to go get parts and water started pouring through the ceiling from the broken toilet upstairs.  I put the phone on mute and mopped it up, and put a bowl under the leak. As soon as I sat down again, I got a text from the school that it was on lockdown due to a “suspicious person attempting to gain admittance.”  I frantically tried to reach the kids to make sure they were okay while also actually paying attention to the work call, which was actually kind of important and required me to speak and take notes. (The kids are fine, the person was caught by local police.) Bumby hit a button on the computer that caused his show to minimize, and started shouting for me.  Also the dog had refused to poop that morning and started barking at the door for a walk.  I got an email at the end of the call from my boss that said, “Will you follow up on all open points, please?”

We are drowning.

We had our 5 year wedding anniversary a couple of weeks ago.  Through various complicated logistical arrangements involving 4 different childcare providers, we cobbled together a way to have a night away, sans kids, for the first time since Bumby was born. It was heaven.  We were us again.  We window shopped, and went on a sailboat ride, and drank a whole bottle of wine before dinner even started.  We ate at 10pm in a restaurant that did not have high chairs.  I felt like I looked at my wife at one point and felt like, “Who are you? You look vaguely like the woman who has been living in my house, but you actually look at me, and see me, and smile at me.” I’m sure she felt the same. In a way, this has made it all worse, because the contrast is so stark.

We need to figure this shit out, starting with ourselves.  Long, long ago, before Bumby, before the dog, when we had only one house and thought our life was so fucking complicated, we were lying in bed one weekend morning (HAHAHAHA your life is not complicated if you can lie in bed in the morning!) and we said to each other, with solemn straight faces, that our relationship was the most important part of our life.  The parental relationship, we told each other, is the bedrock of the family. The kids feel okay when the adults feel okay. You can’t take care of them when you’re not taking care of yourself. All of those kinds of things. And for those reasons, we were not going to give up our date nights, even though her ex was telling the kids that the fact that we left them with a babysitter once a month meant we did not love them.

This past weekend was like a record-scratch. We remembered this moment, and this conversation, and the sad, trite truth of it. We worked all day on closing up the beach house for the season while bickering with each other over details and alternatingly disappearing for an hour or so to go manage our jobs, and after Bumby went to bed, we poured ourselves glasses of cheap red wine, and we talked to each other.

We sorted through lots of tangled up crap and hurt feelings, and put our date nights back on the calendar. The entitled middle child is going to babysit for us — at a discounted rate — and that will be the only spending money she gets. Grandma is going to tutor the big brother, giving him adult attention and help with his writing at the same time. The oldest one is going to have to do some of this college stuff on her own, because for god’s sake she’s about to be living by herself in less than a year. Also, we will suggest she drop one of the AP classes so she can actually have some sleep and some fun her senior year. We will put Bumby to bed earlier so he is better able to cope with the changes in his life, and give ourselves some more time together in the evenings.  My wife is going to take Bumby to school on Thursday mornings so I can go into work early, and do a few loads of laundry each week.  We budgeted a way to pay off our credit cards just in time to rack them up again for Christmas.

Then we went to bed ourselves, with dishes stacked in the sink and 37 unread emails.  Things looked a bit better in the morning.

one

In 2009, my wife and I talked about having babies. Specifically, I informed my then-girlfriend, who was already the mother of three, that if she did not want to have more babies, that was it. It was a deal-breaker for me. “BABIES,” I said, “plural. Not BABY.”  I wanted, specifically, two babies.  Also, she had to want the babies, not just be willing to go through it for me. Because babies should be wanted, all of them, each of them. There is a big difference between wanting a baby and agreeing to have a baby because the person that you love wants one. She did not answer right away. She said she would think about it, and come back to me. And she did.  A day or so later, she said she was in. Whole-heartedly in.  Babies I wanted, and babies I would have.

And then, you know, life happened. For one reason or another, it wasn’t time to start trying to conceive until late in 2013. Then it took us nearly a year to get pregnant. So it wasn’t until six years after that original conversation that we had our first baby together.

By the time Bumby was born, the other kids were kind of… old. The next-youngest was 9, and the oldest was 14. Having another child when your next-youngest is 9 is very different from having another child when your next-youngest is 3.  To further complicate matters, the Big One was decidedly moody about the topic of adding a fourth child to our nest, and made those moods known throughout the entire experience of talking about a baby, getting pregnant with a baby, being pregnant with a baby, and having a baby. It was, frankly, rather miserable for my wife and me. Although Bumby and the Big One are fast friends now, it is far from clear that she in particular, or any of the older kids more generally, would welcome another addition with open arms.

Then there is my wife. She agreed to babies, this is true. She knows she agreed to babies. But she has reneged. She is happy with our family of six. She is not getting any younger, and although she loves our children fiercely, she also looks forward to our empty nest years (as do I!). She would like to have those empty nest years when she is still young enough to do fun empty nest things and does not have to take too many prescription medications. Before I ever got pregnant with Bumby, she made it clear. She wanted this one more child very much, but only this one more child.

So that leaves me.  I wanted babies. I have been quite clear on this, always. I did not want just one pregnancy, just one baby. But I agreed to stop after one, because I still feel just as I did in 2009, that each child should be wanted by its family. Knowing how the rest of the family felt, I almost hoped that being pregnant would not live up to my expectations. Maybe I would feel about it the way so many women do — it is acceptable as a means to an end, but not altogether a great experience in and of itself. I may even be miserable, or have complications. It is weird to almost hope for these things, but I wanted it to cure me so that I would not yearn to go through it again. So that I would be content with just one baby.  No such luck. I had an easy, uncomplicated pregnancy.  I was at home in my body for the first time since puberty. I felt beautiful. I marveled at the changes and adored having Bumby close to me and with me, always. I wasn’t even really uncomfortable until around 37 weeks, and slept well. Something about the pregnancy hormones agreed with me, and I was just happy the entire time. I can count on one hand the number of times I was angry or sad for the entire pregnancy. Then, I had an uncomplicated vaginal birth just one day past my due date.

After which, I met Bumby. I fell in love with him, hard and fast. Postpartum came with all the rawness and separation and plummeting hormones that it always does. Sometime in those early weeks, I became furious with my wife.  How could she, knowing how amazing it is to have a child, knowing how fast and fierce and primal the love is, how could she say I can’t do it again? When I agreed that maybe just one baby would be enough, I didn’t know what I was giving up. But she has been through this before. She knew what she was asking of me, and she asked it anyway.  How could she? She didn’t answer.

I cooled off, and my hormones balanced out.  I still wanted another child, but I stopped being mad at my wife for being done.  She could not make herself want another child any more than I could make myself not want another child.

My confidence as a parent grew, and I found I can actually manage four kids on my own, while my wife works or has a late dinner. I make decisions about the older kids that I previously would have deferred to my wife. I love them more, and have more patience with them.  Bumby started sleeping, and I started getting my life back. I went back to work part-time, and found a work/life balance that works for me.  Bumby started walking, and talking, and making jokes. I went from staring at him adoringly, to interacting with him. The love grew. I got my hair cut, without Bumby in my lap. I left Bumby with the sitter so I could go to the 5th grade science fair with his big brother. I started planning our spring garden, now that I have a fun toddler to plant it with, instead of a baby who won’t be set down long enough for me to plant even one tomato plant. I became me again. But now, me with Bumby.

And you know what?  I can’t imagine having another baby. I sometimes would like to have an afternoon of baby Bumby back, where we just nurse and nap and I eat strawberries in the sunshine while he stares at his own hand. My pregnancy and our first year as a family of six were the hardest and most wonderful months of my life, and I will remember them forever. But I don’t want to do them again, and I don’t want to do them with another baby.  I am done, with one.  I am sure that I will still have my moments of longing, but in the main I am, shockingly, at peace with this.

Before Bumby was born, we were a blended family. A family, yes, but there always seemed to be shifting alliances — me on the one side and my wife and the kids on the other, or the adults on one side, and the kids on the other.  Various divisions. Bumby has brought us all together. We have gone from a collection of people, to a whole family. One family. We are all brought together by loving this little guy more than we thought we ever could. We don’t need another baby, because we are complete now. I don’t need another baby, because I had the baby I was meant to have. Thanks, Bumbs.

part time

Since returning to work, I have been part time. Most days I wish I could stay home full time, some days I really appreciate going to work.  Always I am grateful that I have the opportunity to work less than full time so that I can have some extra time with Bumby. Often, though, that extra time gets eaten up with chores, and running around, and I wonder whether it’s worth it to spend extra time with him when that time is spent at the grocery store.

Then, there are days like today.

The weather was finally nice, so I took my guy to the playground.  He did lots of very important baby things. He carried a rock around like a pet.  He ate dirt (not too much).  He climbed up the steps to the slide and went down. He put a short fat stick in his mouth like a cigar with his fat man belly sticking out.  He drove a fake car and turned some gears. He ran up some steps and over a bridge and then back and then down the big double slide, side-by-side with his Mama. He followed a big kid over to the swings and he went on them too. He scared a little old lady’s dog with his enthusiasm.  Then when he was seeming a little tired, I took him to the car and gave him his water as I buckled him in. He said “MMMMmmmmmmm” while he drank it and was no trouble at all to get in the car seat.

Even if 9 days home out of 10 involve chores, the 1 in 10 that is like today makes me so glad I have the opportunity to spend two mornings a week and one whole day at home.

Bumby at the park

letting go

If we believe that our children are our teachers, the lesson that my children are teaching me is one about letting go.

We are moving.  There is a house about three streets away from our current house, that has always been our “house.” You know what I mean. We walk by it and say, look at that house. It’s so great!  Wouldn’t it be fun to live there?  And then… it came on the market. It turns out it had actually been on the market for a year, then they re-listed it this January at a reduced price, which turned out to be one we could actually afford. It’s MUCH bigger than our current house, gets better light, has an office for me (a room of my own, so to speak) and a huge, amazing kitchen.  It happens to be near a parkway, which, if you’re not from around here, is kind of like a freeway but quieter because there are no trucks allowed, which keeps the price down into our range.  It also has a postage-stamp sized yard, which is actually totally fine with me. I love being outside, but not really so much lounging around my yard. More like hiking, and skiing, and going to the beach. I don’t do these things in my back yard anyway.

The new house is great.  But it’s not the house I brought my baby home to. It’s not the house I was pregnant in. It’s not the house where the kids have spent the last seven Christmases.  It’s not the house I moved into when I was finally ready to let go of the apartment that had sat vacant on 10th Avenue for months before I finally admitted that I really lived with my now-wife in the suburbs.  It’s not the house where our dog was a puppy or our big kids were preschoolers.  It’s not the house that has seen two kids off to their first day of kindergarten and two kids off to their last day of fifth grade.  It doesn’t have the nursery that we lovingly prepared for our whirlwind of a baby.

Leaving our house feels like leaving Bumby’s babyhood behind. He walks now, and points to things he wants, and says, “Mama” at me. He laughs when he farts. He does busy baby work, putting the dishtowel in the dumptruck and his shoe in the dog’s water bowl.  He’s already not that squalling lump of blobby babyness, all breastmilk poops and kittenlike cries.  In fact, I like him so much more now. He’s fun. He’s smart.  He enchants every stranger he meets.  He enchants me, on a daily basis.  But I’m sad that he’s no longer my Blobby, spending long afternoons with me skin-to-skin.

Moving feels like leaving the big kids’ childhood behind. We cleaned the house up last night to get it ready for its listing photos, and every room was a box of memories. Remember when the kids’ friends hit the wall we had just painted with a ping-pong paddle, and the kids made them scrub off the mark because they had worked so hard painting?  Remember when we forgot to open the flue when we were watching Jaws, and the fire department burst in to respond to the smoke alarm?  Remember when one of the kids fell while climbing the front window and had to get stitches?  Remember when I threw a whole gourd into the compost bin, and we went away for a week in the summer, and when we came home a gourd-plant was taking over our entire deck?

Now they are big, all of them. Even little Bumby feels big.  I know that the new house will be its own box of memories, but it’s so hard to let go. And yet, holding onto the house won’t keep Bumby a baby, and it won’t keep the kids small.  The big one will leave for college in 2 years, whether we move or not. The little guy will start middle school next year, whether we move or not.  Bumby will stop nursing and start nursery school, whether we move or not.  So we decided to move – forward.

a year

Bumby is almost a year. It is only nine days away. I can’t believe it. My timehop app keeps showing me pictures of me in all my enormous glory a year ago. Instead of seeming fluid, the last year seems to have passed in fits and starts, snapshots of moments that I spent with my little boy.

  • We are leaving the hospital. Although my wife has had three children before, we are both equally terrified. We have put Bumby into a three-month size set of pajamas, because we are afraid of breaking his arms by trying to fit them in the newborn size pajamas.  We have to roll up the sleeves in order for his tiny fingers to show.  He is jaundiced, and has red, raw cheeks that are shedding the top layer of skin.  He is nine pounds, and 20 inches. He is the most beautiful and frightening thing I have ever seen. I stare at him the whole way home, and make my wife drive 10 miles an hour under the speed limit.  I want to cry all of the time because my heart is breaking with love.
  • It is late, and I am exhausted. I am nursing my two week old baby for the hundredth time that day, and it hurts so bad it brings tears to my eyes. We will never get this, I am sure. I wake up my wife, because WHAT IS SHE DOING SLEEPING WHEN SOME OF US ARE TRYING TO BREASTFEED OVER HERE?
  • He is four months old, and we went for a walk in the woods with the dog.  We came home and I ate a bowl of strawberries while I nursed him (painlessly, effortlessly). We both fall asleep and take a long afternoon nap together with the sun streaming in through the windows.
  • He wakes, again, covered in vomit and screaming. I hold him and rock him and nurse him. An hour later it happens again. I look down at my poor little baby, and think that I would gladly take this reflux from him so he could sleep without pain.  Instead I call a doctor, and then another one, and then another one.
  • I pull him onto my lap, with his blanket and his pacifier. Here are Paul and Judy. They can do lots of things. You can do lots of things, too. Judy can pat the bunny. Can you pat the bunny?  It turns out he can! He dutifully pats the bunny, and looks in the mirror, and smells the flowers, and sticks his finger through mama’s ring. We skip the page with daddy’s scratchy face. That page is weird anyway.
  • I have washed the sheets on the big bed in his room. I am trying to make it, and he keeps crawling all over the sheet.  I sit on the floor with him, and we hide under the sheet. He laughs and laughs, Mama and Bumby in a tent.
  • I wake up in the night, engorged. It has been eight hours, and my baby is still sleeping. I tiptoe into the kitchen and pump, just enough to take the edge off, while peering at him on the video monitor. He snuffles, then moves, then snuffles again, and sighs himself back to sleep.
  • He flies down the stairs, on his back, headfirst, tucked into a ball so his head doesn’t bang. I scoop him up when he gets to the bottom, terrified of what has happened. He does not cry. I do, enough for both of us.  He sticks his finger up my nose and laughs.  He is fine. One day later I pay obscene amounts of money to have sturdy gates professionally installed all over our house. I hate that it is impossible to protect him.
  • I throw him on the bed on his back, and his mouth opens wide in a laugh. I call my wife in.  I give him a good tickle, and he opens his mouth wide again, laughing. She and I stare in shock at the fifth and sixth tooth in his mouth, which he cut without a single complaint. We didn’t even know he was teething this time.
  • I pull him onto my lap, with his blanket and his pacifier. Here are Paul and Judy. He looks up at me, closes the book, lays his head near my breast, and takes out his pacifier. Too tired for a book tonight, Mama. Let’s just get to the good part.
  • I am unloading the dishwasher, and realize the house is quiet. Too quiet. I look around, and find Bumby under the dining room table, feeding the dog triscuits out of a box he has snagged from the snack cupboard.
  • I come home from work, and he looks up from playing when he hears my voice. He pulls up on the coffee table, and walks over to me as fast as he can, falling all over the place, saying “mama mama mama mama.” He flings himself at my legs, “Up up up.”  I pick him up.

My little baby. My only baby.  I can’t believe how fast the year has gone, and I can’t believe that Bumby has not always been a part of our lives.

eavesdropping

Last week, for the second time, someone unplugged the refrigerator in our garage, and the freezer completely thawed.  This is where I store my frozen breastmilk, so… yeah. I was not that happy.  It needed to be cleaned out anyway, since there was white wine in there leftover from our wedding THREE YEARS AGO, but still. Not how I would have spent my Sunday afternoon.

Boo was watching the Bumby for us while I cleaned the fridge and my wife cooked dinner.  “Want me to take him upstairs to play with his piano?” she asked.  Sure, sure. Whatever, Boo, thanks.

The monitor was downstairs though, so we could hear the Big One join her, followed by our other son. We could hear the piano toy, and giggles, and chatter. Soon, we couldn’t hear anything other than shrieks of laughter.  Every now and then, one voice would rise above the rest.  Bumby screaming and cracking up at something.  Boo shouting, “NO! He doesn’t need that lotion right now; what are you doing?!”  The big brother signing “Na na na na na na, nanananana BAT MAN!” And then laughter, laughter.  It went on and on.

I scrubbed out the freezer to the sound of my kids’ laughing. I have really never heard anything like it.  Finally my wife went up to see what was what.  Apparently, Bumby had pooped.  The big brother was entertaining him, while the girls changed him. They had a little trouble with the cloth diaper.

Boo came down a couple minutes later and handed him to me.  “You might wanna check that diaper,” she informed me matter-of-factly.  The diaper change took almost as long as cleaning the fridge, and it only seemed to be covering his left cheek.  “It’s okay, Boo.  I am pretty sure he only pees on the left side anyway.”  She smirked, and nodded, and then bounced off to do whatever twelve year old girls do in their rooms.

I have the most loved baby, and the nicest kids.

milestones

On Saturday, the big brother turned 10.  He’s in fifth grade, which is the last grade of elementary school in our school district. Since I moved in with the kids, one thing that has always been my responsibility (and one of my favorite things) is making their birthday cakes. Some years, they try to out-smart me by asking for super-elaborate designs, but I always come through.  This is one of the ways I show these kids how much I love them.  They can have whatever birthday cake they want, no matter what they come up with. This year he asked for two kinds of frosting, strawberry and vanilla. Not too complicated.

On Thursday, I made cupcakes for him to bring into school on Friday morning to celebrate his birthday. I try to make the cupcakes the same as the birthday cake.  Of course, we did not have the strawberry and vanilla frosting, so I had to run to the grocery story Friday morning after drop-off, and finish the cupcakes to get them to school before snack time at 10.  This is nothing compared to what I have done in previous years.  Once, I got stuck working late and had to bake the cupcakes at 2 am.  Once, I accidentally turned all of them a frightening shade of hot pink (it turns out you can’t really make things red with food coloring — they just get more and more pink).

Thursday night, Bumby’s new reflux medicine finally kicked in. For the first time in his life, he slept five and a half hours straight.  If you’re obsessed with baby sleep, you realize this is the clinical definition of sleeping through the night.  We did nothing differently — no different bedtime, or routine, or soothing method, or periods of crying.  He just wasn’t hurting anymore, so he slept.  I woke up Friday morning giddy with sleep. My little baby was finally sleeping the way a 7 1/2 month old baby should be sleeping.  He was so happy, and comfortable. Even when he did wake to eat, he didn’t scream and writhe around the way he used to. He just fussed, nursed, and went back to sleep.

My happy, well-rested little guy crawled around the kitchen and poured the dog’s water on the floor as I frosted the cupcakes. This is when it hit me. These were my last cupcakes. Big Brother was in fifth grade, and wouldn’t be allowed to bring cupcakes to school the next year. The guy who used to be the baby wasn’t a baby any more. Bumby won’t be at the elementary school for five years, so for five years, I don’t get to make the cupcakes.  Five years from now they probably won’t even be allowed cupcakes — they’ll have to bring in birthday carrot sticks or pretzels.  Making them at 2 am, turning the whole batch hot pink, and every other cupcake mishap was now water under the bridge.

Big Brother finished out his cupcake years on the same day that Bumby slept through the night.  Sometimes, the milestones feel good. Sometimes, they feel sad. Either way, they just keep coming.

have baby, will travel

In the past six weeks, Bumby has been on six planes, in four states and three countries.

It all started while I was pregnant, with a trip to Michigan to visit an aunt that I was particularly close with in college. The rest of my extended family lives there as well, so it made sense to take Bumby for a week while I was on maternity leave so everyone could meet him. We planned this for June. The big kids were still in school, so my wife stayed home with them and I planned a visit to my aunt’s farm.

Then we got the opportunity to take our family to France at a huge cost savings (we worked it out with the big kids’ dad — we brought them over with us and spent 10 days in France, and then he had some time in Europe and flew them home, saving both of us three international airfares.  He’s from England so he wanted the opportunity to take them to see his family). So we planned five days in Paris and four in Antibes a few weeks after I was to return from Michigan.  Bumby will be nearly six months, we figured. He’ll probably be sleeping great by then! (haha)

Then we got the invite for a friend’s wedding on the Cape, only a few days after we returned from France.  Okay, we thought. We will make it a little weekend getaway of it.  No problem.

And then, finally, a couple of weeks before the Michigan trip, my wife’s aunt’s sister passed away in California.  Of course we had to go to the funeral.

And so it went — a flight to California and a long weekend in the Bay Area, and a flight home.  One night of “sleep” at home, and a flight to Michigan.  A week in Michigan, and a flight home.  A week and a half at home in New York, and a flight to France (with a day trip to Monaco!). Ten days later, a flight back to the US.  Two days after that, a road trip up to Cape Cod.

I am happy to report that we are home, at last, for good.  Bumby was a trooper through the whole thing. He really is a happy, easygoing baby.  He has seen more of the world in the first 24 weeks of his life than I saw in the first 24 years of mine.  There were a few times when the tour de France got to be a bit much for him, but we had rented an apartment and a house through Airbnb for our trip, so at those times I just stayed home with him and let him play and relax a little.  In the midst of all this travel, he got his first two teeth, at the same time, on the fourth of July.

We had a lot of adventures on our trip to France.  La poussette (the stroller) got nicked from the Eiffel Tower, so we had no stroller for the second half of our trip. We almost missed our overnight train to Antibes, and when we were about to board, we discovered we were out of diapers. The train station drugstore didn’t sell them, so Bumby spent the night with maxi pads stuck inside his diaper cover.  Bumby had an explosive poop in the middle of dinner at a nice restaurant, which squirted out the leg of his diaper and onto my shirt, so I just held him in front of the stain for the rest of the night. He also threw a cup of coffee on the floor of the cafe at Versailles, and was quite pleased with the commotion he caused. All in all though, I am proud of our family for all we were able to do with a baby in tow, and I am proud of Bumby for his adaptability and good nature through it all.

I have, however, promised Bumby that he does not have to go in his car seat for four days.

This stone bench in Provence seems like a perfect place for a baby to nap.

This stone bench in Provence seems like a perfect place for a baby to nap.

work and babymoons

Holy cow. I normally don’t like blog posts that start out really apologetic for not posting more often, but seriously, it has been a long time.  Since my latest appearance, I have been doing two things (and only two things).  Working, and going on vacations. Specifically, babymoons.

First, working.

The type of work that I do (I am a lawyer) is basically a glorified hourly position. Sure, I am salaried, but there is a “minimum expectation” (code for “we can fire you if you don’t do this”) that I will bill (not work, bill) 2,000 hours a year. This means that if I am not actively doing client work, it doesn’t count.  So those hours that I spend sitting at my desk waiting for someone to give me something to do? Those don’t count.  Same with required client development, administrative tasks, and anything else that my boss tells a client we will do for them as a freebie in order to bring in more work.  Also, lunch, or those 10 minutes you talk to your mom in the middle of the day, or your co-worker’s birthday cupcake party, or a bathroom break. None of that counts.  If you are pretty efficient, you can bill 8 hours and work 9 or 10.  But some days, I come to work, don’t have much to do, and although I am here from 9:30 to 6:30, I walk out having billed only 5 or 6 hours.

So, what, you ask, is 2,000 hours on an annual basis (okay, you didn’t ask this, but I am telling you anyway, because I love the billable-hours rant)?  It’s 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, every day other than 10 federal holidays.  Gosh, I wonder why new moms struggle with this job. Anyway, that means that if I want to take a vacation, or am sick, or if i have one of those 5 or 6 hour days, I have to make up the time later.  I know, wah, wah, cry me a river, I make boatloads of money to work that much. But it’s a lot of pressure at the end of the year, when the end date for those 2,000 hours is approaching.  At my particular firm, that end date is October 31 (so that they have time to tally up the hours and pay bonuses out by the end of the calendar year).  Coming into September, I was about 125 hours behind, from aforementioned vacation days and slow periods.  I had basically given up on making it. It seemed kind of insurmountable, working an extra 60-70 hours each month on top of full time, but then I got staffed on a crazy-busy project and started working 17 or 18 hour days (plus an hour commute each way), and the 2,000 hours bogey was suddenly within sight.  Anyway, 8 weeks and some exhaustion-related braxton hicks contractions later, I hit my target hours.  The bottom line for me, hitting those 2,000 hours, is a pretty big bonus, that would make it so that I could, if I so chose, stay home with the baby for an additional 6 months without pay. So that was part of the driving force.  And also, I didn’t exactly have a choice about the 18 hour days, so it at least gave me a reason to do that.  At the end of the day on October 31, I had a grand total of 2,002 billable hours.  Hopefully, I didn’t mis-count my hours, because that is sort of uncomfortably close.  But I made it!  And then I took a nap.

Now, the babymoons.

In October, smack in the middle of billable-hour hell, we had planned to take a cruise with the kids.  My wife was adamantly anti-cruise for a very long time because she thought only old people went on them.  I lobbied for years, and finally, we had a long weekend with the kids, couldn’t think of what to do with them, and got a great deal.  And so, in honor of Christopher Columbus enslaving/exterminating native populations in the Bahamas, we took the long weekend and visited the Bahamas ourselves (although we did not enslave anyone or bring disease).  As I have sort of vaguely mentioned a few times, the kids are not that kicked up about the fact that we are having a baby (yes, still).  So we thought it would be fun to do something all together, one last hurrah for the family of five before we are a family of 6 and there is a long list of things we can’t do because of nap schedules and age restrictions and the like.  Of course, we did not phrase it like this to the kids, we just said, “Yay! We’re going on a cruise!”  The kids had a great time. The wife is a total convert.  I am, weirdly, a little freaked out by the whole experience.  Here are the pros and cons of the cruise, for me:

Pros:

1.  No cell phones or wi-fi.  This means I can’t work. At all.  It also means that the then-13 now-14 year old had a forced break from all social media. She was super-pissed about this at first, but for the 4 days we were gone, she was seriously so much happier than I have seen her in a long while.  Apparently that horrible feeling you aren’t cool enough in high school but get to leave at the door when you go home, you don’t so much get to leave at the door when you are literally getting numerical popularity rank updates on an ongoing basis in the form of Instagram likes.

2. No planning of what to do.  We just kind of showed up and had a vacation. We didn’t have to decide where to go to dinner, or what the schedule was, or anything. We just turned up, put on some sunscreen and had a vacation. After years of planning trips with kids, this was such a relief.

3. It was really fun. It was cheesy, yes, but fun. We were all just sort of relaxed and happy, bopping around doing fun activities and playing a LOT of shuffle-board, while totally unreachable by the outside world.  Did I mention no cell phones or wi-fi?

Cons:

1. The food buffets.  They are truly frightening.  I can’t say more because I don’t like to think about it.

2. The drinking.  I am a big drinker (seriously, I love to drink) and even I was a little horrified by the sight of the pool deck bar at 4 pm on the day we left Florida and headed out to sea.  On the other hand, all 3 kids can now do the Cupid Shuffle in the midst of a herd of wasted and uncoordinated adults, so I guess that’s something.

All in all, a great trip for everyone.  And 4 much-needed days of relaxation for me in the middle of billable hour hell.

The second babymoon, which was just for myself and the wife, was this past weekend.  The kids were with their dad for Veterans Day, so we took Friday through Monday and snuck off to the Turks and Caicos.  This is the view from our little balcony (and also the only picture on my phone — the rest are still on the real camera, so in 3 years when I get around to uploading them, someone can see them).

T&C

We did a lot of sleeping (both in bed and on the beach), a little exploring, and a lot of eating. And, ahem, “re-connecting,” shall we say.  It was so nice to actually spend time alone with my wife for the first time in weeks.  Also, let’s be honest, this will be the last time in a long time. We are entering the crazy-busy holiday season, and then we will have a new baby. It was nice to be reminded why I like her so much.  She’s so funny. And thoughtful.  And buys me ice cream whenever I want it.  If you are pregnant or your partner is pregnant, and you’re thinking you don’t need to take a babymoon, I respectfully urge you to change your mind.  Maybe you don’t need to in the strictest sense, but if you can swing it, it’s wonderful.  You don’t need to go someplace fancy.  I am honestly only about 90% certain our hotel did not have bed bugs, for example. But spending time with the person you have chosen to make this baby with, away from the to-do lists and chores and jobs and friends and kids, even if it’s just the Holiday Inn 2 towns away from where you live, is so nice.  And you can just pay off the credit card later, whatever.

And now, to keep you hooked on the saga that is my life, later this week I will tell you all about how and why I changed obstetricians at 29 weeks pregnant. And also, at some point, the nursery.  I know, the suspense is killing you.