Wednesday, August 27, 2014

In the Summer Time . . . A Season In Pictures

We had a bit of a whirlwind of a summer.  Sammie's private preschool went pretty late in the year (until mid June) and her public elementary school started early, so we only had two months.  Her preschool had a sweet graduation ceremony, Sammie picked out a new dress (which was an event all in itself; every dress we looked at at the mall, she said, "I like it, but NOT for graduation."  I honestly wasn't sure what she had in mind, and finally said "pick one Sammie or I pick."  She settled on something simple, and looked adorable.)

I loved that her teachers spent so much time talking to the class about graduation, and about how they would all be going on to kindergarten, and to new and different schools.  All summer, anytime her new school would be mentioned, Sammie would remind us that was not until August.  

Her first three weeks of her "break" were spent in another intensive physical therapy program, like the one we did last year.   She did AMAZING (so amazing that it deserves its own post!).  But then, after those three weeks were up, still not much time for "summer".   Our regular nanny took a few weeks off, so we hired someone for just a few weeks and Sam loved her and they went on tons of fun adventures to the science center, aquarium, etc., and we even had the temporary nanny hang on a few extra days after our regular "banana" came back, so that she could do the same sorts of adventures with Mia, who is usually in day care and doesn't always get to do those things during the week.  But overall, we had a pretty tame summer.  No big trips (more on that in a moment), just lots of hanging out and being a family.  And a lot of work.  Meh.  

For those lawyer-moms still following this blog, I had the busiest summer at work that I've ever had.  I had two different big cases that both blew up at once, one of which I only jumped on last minute to help with the chaos because the team lost a few members, one to maternity leave and one to another job.  I took more depositions this summer than I'd taken in the 6 years prior.  I was traveling for depositions, preparing all night, taking them all day, then going back to my hotel to work all night to finish briefs for other cases, catching red-eyes cross-country so as to not miss a moment with my girls, and just running on empty.  That was the part of the summer I did not like.  We even skipped our plans to drive up to Tahoe for a week because of the craziness of it all, and I totally regret it.  [Lesson learned and advice for other lawyers: No loosey-goosey vacation plans like "we'll just drive up to Tahoe for a week sometime this summer," because it is far too easy to abandon those plans or postpone them and then suddenly school is starting and you never went.  BOOK vacations, with actual reservations, block them out on your calendar, and communicate to your teams "I'll be out such and such week" and gooooo.]  Anyway, we are making this up to ourselves with a mini-getaway to Palm Springs for Labor Day weekend.  We've booked a house with a hot tub and a pool, and plan to just relax, swim, and "be."  Sammie's favorite friend from last year's preschool class is also coming with her family and they've rented a house super close.  We are so excited, and it is a much needed break.  I also have a massive brief to finish between now and then, so I am earning that vacation, no question. 

A friend recently asked me if work had gotten better/easier since I made partner.   Here's my answer: NOPE.  A whopping, resounding I thought that after making partner, the work/life balance thing would get easier, but honestly, it hasn't.  It's different, but harder in many ways.  Now, it's not always another partner emailing me needing something right away, it's client calls I'm needed on, and questions from associates that need my answers (lest things get slowed down or bottle-necked).  I also feel far greater responsibility for my cases -- I'm answering to the clients now.  It isn't the same as just taking on some discreet part of the case as my project and sending work product off to someone else on the team.  They are my cases, I'm supposed to be aware of all the moving pieces, and thinking about overall strategies.  Strategies that keep me up at night.  Or cause me panic in the shower or driving down the road.  A lot of responsibility.  Rewarding in many ways, yes, and there are moments that I feel so stinking proud that I made it here, and clients call me for legal advice about bet-the-company questions, but it has by far been the most stressful year of my career.  The pressure to respond to emails right away is even more intense now than it was as a first-year associate; the emails are just from different people.  Rewarding in a ton of ways, but also the work/life balance part has been hard.  Really hard.  Like cry in my office hard.  I had a few slower months in the spring, and consistently left early enough to pick Sammie up at gymnastics, be home for dinner every night, etc., and well, the girls got used to that.  We all did.  And that made the busier times even harder.  But somehow we made it through what (I hope) was the worst of it unscathed, and I know I've grown as a lawyer this year.  Times many.  But still, there were days/weeks where it didn't feel sustainable and I have a lot of mixed feelings about it all.  On the one hand, the flexibility of my work is something that can't be beat.  I can ALWAYS work from home on a day Sammie has an appointment, and I do work from home or take off the vast majority of Wednesdays to take her to appointments. . . that's the (supposedly) reduced part of my schedule.  BUT that often means I'm actually just working until 3 am on Tuesday night so that I can have that Wednesday off.  Tough.  Anyway, I'm not entirely sure what to say except that it was a hard summer, challenging in many ways that I loved, and many ways that made me cry in my office.  I love the substance of what I do tremendously, but sometimes, it feels a little (or a lot) unsustainable.  I'm hoping that with a full-time school kiddo now, that swings back the other way a little.

The craziness at work also led me into a spiral of eating like crap all the time, not taking care of myself, and I'm really, really working hard to reverse that now. I want to be a good model of health for my girls, and I want to live a long, healthy life with and for them.  So, some new leaves being turned over (again) by me.

But wait!  This isn't just a pity party because here's the thing . . . despite all of this, we had some great times this summer.  My parents visited twice, and while they came (purposely so, to help us) during my two busiest weeks at work and hardly saw me, they got to spend TONS of great time with my girls.  It made my heart lighter to know that while I was at work, missing my girls, they were getting so, so much extra love (and B and I even got a day-date with friends to wineries in during one of my parents' visits, and an overnight trip to the beach when his parents visited . . . so really, all was NOT lost this summer, despite the workload).  

After a week of billing 88 hours in less than 5 days (yes, gross), I took two days off and spent one with my Sammie B at Disneyland, and the other with just Mia at Disneyland.  It was amazing, and just what we all needed.  We each needed some one:one special time, and we each needed a day that felt like a vacation.  It was glorious.

Sammie's Disney Day with Me:

Her mother is a sucker, so she got a new dress. 

Her dream come true. (Also, she refused to touch Elsa's hand.  Wise girl). 

I hope I always make her laugh this hard.
 Mia's Disney Day with Me:

She had SO much to tell Minnie. 

Her mom is also a sucker ;) her dress pick. 

The time alone with each of them, just having fun, was just what I needed after things settled down at work.  I felt re-charged.  When things are crappy, these two have the power to lift me up, every single time.

We also had a couple of beach days, which were awesome, particularly after we got Sammie B's new  beach wheelchair from this amazing organization  She was an absolute celeb at the beach the day we took it.

That was me, trying to get a selfie with Mia.  

Okay, okay, after seeing the beach pictures, I feel a little bad whining about no vacation.  But we needed a week away.  Just our little family and we should have done it.  We didn't, and in spite of that, we managed a lot of "daycations" that were also awesome and fun.

Our Saturdays were spent at ballet with Mia (just a low-key class at our YMCA), swimming and then lunch out.  We've hit the same little diner every single Saturday for years.  I love our Saturdays (though the girls have given up naps. I miss Saturday post-swim family naps.  Really, really miss them).  
MiaMia Ballerina on the right with B

One of THE most exciting developments this summer has been Sammie's new bike from Freedom Concepts.  I will be honest.  It cost a pretty penny.  A LOT of pretty pennies, and the decision to buy it was a tough one.  We took a leap and it has been worth EVERY CENT.  She rides it, completely independently, up and down our street, shreeking with glee . . . "Look at me!"  "Look how fast I'm going!  I'm going so fast!  I'm so proud of me!"  (My heart hath exploded, ya'll!).  She and Mia race up the street, having the times of their lives.  One night, Sammie said "Mia this is so fun!" and Mia turned to yell back to Sammie "Yeah! I know!"  Seriously, the best.  I've run up and down the street chasing them, taking pictures, and generally just bursting with joy.   We've spent so many evenings just going up and down the street with the girls on their bikes. This bike has changed our world.  Changed HER world.  If you could just HEAR those squeals of glee.  Worth every pretty penny. 

AND another new set of wheels . . . after a year-long process of back and forth with insurance the vendor and God only knows who else, Sammie FINALLY got the power wheelchair she was approved for a year ago.  So we've also been taking spins up the street on these wheels.  This thing weights 300 lbs, so it's intimidating to say the least (I was not expecting it to be so intimidating to me; I can't even imagine how she feels).  If you've never taught a 5 year old how to drive a 300-lb piece of machinery, you haven't lived.  We have a lot of practicing to do, and aren't sure this will ever be her "primary chair" (she's so comfortable in the manual chair, she propels it well for short distances, and it's easy to pop in and out of any car, so practically speaking, it actually would be easier for her if the manual chair were her primary one) but we want her to have this option for longer distances. So, we're working at it!  We've made some, um, mistakes along the way (as evidenced by the hole in our drywall in our foyer from a little crash) but those things can all be fixed.  [When it happened, her eyes got so wide, she got so sad, and she said, "I'm so sorry."  I made sure she knew I wasn't mad, we are all learning together, but this is something that we have to be very, very careful in.]   We are indeed all learning together -- I also took out a plant in the front yard when I was trying to drive it, and Sammie yelled, "you are a terrible driver!"

Eventually, we'll get a converted van ourselves so we can take these wheels out and about, but for now, while we are just practicing, we are signed up for our city's public transportation for disabled people.  To qualify, Sammie B and I had to go downtown to the bus station, the appointment took HOURS, and she had to take a little driving test with the power wheels (ha!).  She did fabulous, and we were approved.  Now, we can take the power chair out to practice in malls, etc., not just up and down our street.  (By the way, when the van came to pick us up for the appointment, she was enthralled.  She immediately said "we need a van like this mama! it has a ramp for me!"  my heart my heart. . . now we just need to "find" forty thousand dollars or so!).   In the meantime, we are lucky to have the public transportation option available.

We've managed to get in a few hikes, which is something new for our little family.  B loves to hike and hiked a lot before I came along, then drug me with him on many in our youth (ha!) (including one where he proposed) but since having kids, we haven't really hiked.  Initially, B could wear Sammie on his back for a hike but then Mia came along, and I wasn't sure I was strong enough to wear her on the hikes B chooses, and pushing Sammie up was REALLY tough, so we sort of just let this fall onto the "too tough for us to do" list.  But this summer, I discovered a park near us with tons of hiking trials and great views, and some trails that aren't even that steep.  I took Sammie out there one day after a particularly crappy few days at work, in search of some perspective (I found it . . . there's nothing like an incredible view to help me feel small in the world again . . . ).  Sammie and I loved it so much that we had to take B and Mia back.  We managed to hike up a pretty steep incline to get to the top, each with a girl on our back.  A feat for our family in so many ways.  I feel like between finding a way to make hiking ours again, signing up for this public transportation that allows us to go places with the power chair, the beach wheelchair and the new bike, we've taken a whole lot of things on the "too hard for our family" list and knocked them out.  Shown Sammie that we will find ways to make sure her life is unlimited.  Find ways that work for us, for her, to do whatever we can.  And that feels darn good.
Helping Mama find perspective, without even knowing it

This picture symbolizes so much to me.  Knocking down barriers.  Him being her legs. Also, I hiked up a steep incline with Mia on my back and I lived.  She did tell me I was walking too slow, but I've forgiven her. 
Finally, we did one of the color runs where they throw dye at you.  Not totally our character to even do organized races, but I'd been running some (pre-being slammed at work) and signed up.  Sammie LOVED it, Mia did not appreciate the people throwing colors at her, but nonetheless, a fun experience.

The Before Shot

Mia's face tells her story here.  She was not having it.  

So even without a vacation, even with a summer of more work than I would have chosen, it was still a summer full of adventure, love and silliness.  And I couldn't ask for more.


Everyone always says the secret to "balance" as a mom and lawyer (particularly in a big firm, and a litigator who is often a slave to court-set deadlines) is to learn to suck it up during the crazy times knowing that during the slow times, it will all right itself.  I know that to be true -- and certainly, once I'm not busy, I can just choose not work for a week or two or three and soak up everything with my girls.  And I have done that this past spring and summer, as the workload ebbed and flowed, but the guilt and sadness (not to mention stress) that comes with the insane times are sometimes hard to bear.  I'm working hard to help the girls understand that I'd pick to be with them everyday, every time, but we all have to work hard, and this is part of me working hard.  I hope someday, they remember all of these amazing family things.  That they remember how they literally LIT UP MY WORLD every time I walked into see them.  I hope I always light up their worlds in the same way.   For they would always, always be my first choice to spend time with.

It was an incredible summer.   Despite vacations that didn't happen, there was so much fun, and so much joy, but at the same time, I'd be being dishonest if I didn't "own" the fact that it was also personally a very, very trying summer.  But 15 years from now, I won't remember the sad (humongous) plates of delivery food I devoured alone in my office at 9 pm. I may not even remember working until 3 or 4 am only to come home, shower, nap for an hour, and then get the girls up and ready for the day before heading back downtown to do it all over again.  I'll remember the days at the beach, the bike rides up the street, the days at Disney, their dress-up costumes, the hikes, and all the other moments in between with these girls and B.   I hope those are the moments that remain forever etched in their memories too. 


Cristina said...

What an amazing, inspiring family! :) I need to get one of those beach chairs for B!

Sammie on her bike makes me tear-up. :')

This summer disappeared in the blink of an eye.

In the same spirit as making partner Matt just got tenure. He's been crushed by the increased commitments and expectations. Work life balance is clearly some kind of myth.

I need a t-shirt that says "I dream of boring."

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