Friday, February 29, 2008

Inspired

I went to a lunch talk today with Maureen Mahoney. She's the head of the Latham & Watkins appellate practice group in Washington, DC and one of the top Supreme Court advocates out there. She's argued 18 cases in front of the Supreme Court and won 16 of them (including the famous Grutter v. Bollinger decision on the University of Michigan Law School's affirmative action program). She talked about a few of her big cases, played sound clips of oral arguments, and gave us lots of inside info about arguing in front of the Court. She was bright, funny, and engaging. I actually teared up when she played the opening line when the Court begins its sessions- what an amazing thing to have in your memory (eighteen times!). I want absolutely nothing to do with litigation, and yet I walked out of the room wanting to be her.

One of the best things about this law school, besides the professors, is the absurdly accomplished pool of alumni that students group can draw from for speakers. I have attended some incredible lunch talks and round tables over my nearly three years here, and I think I'll take away as much from them as my classes. Especially this year as my classes have increasingly become an afterthought...

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Our Story of a Broken System

A reader sent me this article from The Washington Post: "A Case of a Family Services Job Well Done, or Overdone?". The Caplans' experience is so similar to ours that it was hard to read- I could feel myself right back at October 13th, waking up in our apartment with the sick realization that Landon was in a shelter and I didn't know when we could get him home- but I'm glad to see the story is out there.

I think it's important for this side of child protective services to be publicized. Protecting children from abuse is of paramount importance, but so is protecting innocent families from abuse by a frighteningly powerful agency. I am so thankful that Landon was too young to remember any of his time in the shelter (this is sadly not true in many stories), but the aftershocks of our false accusations will reverberate through his life and the life of our future children. We're terrified of the normal bumps and bruises kids get as they progress and play. The "3-month birthday" page of his baby book is blank because he turned three months old in the shelter. I think of all the crazy things I did as a kid that could have landed me in the emergency room and I'm sad that I want to keep Landon from doing any of them.

We never protested against DCFS's initial involvement in our case. But after three different attending pediatricians asserted that Landon's injuries could have been caused by things other than child abuse, after our pediatrician contacted both DCFS and Dr. K (because neither of them contacted her) to assert that Landon had been in her office many times without a single canceled appointment, bruise, or sign of neglect, after JP and I passed polygraph tests, after the assistant state's attorney refused to take the case because there was not credible evidence to believe Landon had been abused, the investigation did not end -- it actually got worse. I will never understand the final twist in our case and how we went from "he can go home with you, JP, and your mom and this will be wrapped up in a week or two" to "he is not safe in your home, even with your mother present, and he is better off in a shelter" in one night. The investigative file has no explanation for the sudden change. I sympathize with the lack of resources, overworked investigators, and the fear of letting a child slip through the cracks, but when children are repeatedly left in obviously abusive situations and my child was put in a shelter in a situation that was far from abusive, the system is broken on both ends. I can't even comfort myself by believing the overzealousness applied to our case is saving children in others - there was an article just last week about yet another child who died from the abusive hands of his parents after DCFS declined to intervene after being called on several occasions.

I was told many times during the dark days that I was "brave" to put my story out on the internet. I really didn't see it as bravery- when I wrote that first post about Landon's doctor appointment and the start of the investigation, I never imagined it was going to turn in to such a nightmare. I just thought I'd write about a scary night in the ER and then focus on Landon's injuries and the bone disease I was certain he must have. Later, when I started reading message boards and blog posts doubting me, my story, and our care of Landon, I understood why some people felt I was being brave. But at that point, too many people were following the story and I was getting too much from the supportive (and often informative) comments to stop.

Now I wonder, should we have done more? At the time I felt so beaten down by the suspicion and fear that the last thing I wanted to do was publicize our story more. I still remember every word of the negative blog posts and message board threads I read about us, and I knew I couldn't handle any more of that. But now I regret not pushing back harder - what happened in our case was wrong. There was an article in the Chicago Tribune in November praising the CPS doctor in our case and how she's pushed to have every child admitted to the ER for a broken bone, burn, or bruise evaluated by her team. This is dangerous unless the opinions of other pediatricians and specialists are allowed to matter (they currently have no weight in child abuse investigations at the University of Chicago Children's Hospital). Interestingly, all the online comments for that article were negative- mostly from parents who had been wrongly caught up in the system (or knew people who had). One of the hardest parts about sharing my story has been reading the emails of other wrongfully accused parents who have found my blog. I do not want to discourage them from reaching out to me, I know how important that is, but it is so, so hard to read their stories. There are many times when I have to stop reading and go back later- it just takes me back to those days of waking up, hoping it was all a nightmare, and re-realizing each morning that it was real. I think their stories would be heart-rending to anyone, but to me they're physically painful. Most are far worse than ours, with their kids caught up in social services for weeks and months before a judge or third-party intervenes. These are stories that aren't being told.

I think I would like to be brave and tell mine outside the blog, but I'm not sure how to begin. Do you just draft an article or letter to the editor and start sending it around? Do you contact a newspaper and see if there's an interest? I have no idea, do you?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Distractions

Rather than bore you with details about my stress level, impossibly long to-do list, and the phone call I just had filled with the mind-numbing logistics of our cross-country move, I offer you this video clip of Landon. I took it on Saturday when he got up into the crawling position for the first time ever. He didn't actually go anywhere, and he succumbed to the weight of gravity pulling on his belly pretty quickly, but it makes me smile every time I see it.


Videographer's note: I hate the way my voice sounds on videos and voicemails. And Landon sounds like a baby velociraptor, but a happy, cuddly velociraptor who doesn't want to eat you.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Quarter-Century Mark

Today was the official birthday. It was pretty anticlimactic since I'd already celebrated it with my friends on Thursday and JP on Saturday. I actually forgot it was today until I checked my email about an hour after Landon woke me up (no, he did not let me sleep in) and saw an inbox full of "Happy Birthday" messages on my Facebook Wall. It took me a second to figure out why so many people would be writing me when I hadn't updated my profile recently.

And I'm glad we celebrated early because today ranks pretty low on the birthday hit list. I started coughing last night and woke up with a swollen throat- I can't even complain much about it, I should have gotten sick weeks ago. Landon also coughed last night, woke up much earlier than we'd hoped, and was so fussy and stuffy this morning that I called the pediatrician and begged to be worked in. We got a 1:20 appointment- smack in the middle of the day, guaranteeing I wouldn't get any work done. I dropped Landon off at Maya's once his stuffiness calmed down (or, more accurately, drained all over his first outfit). I felt bad doing it because he was sick, but I needed thirty minutes to get my fingerprinting done for the Bar Exam. If I didn't get it in the mail today my application would be rejected. After the finger printing (not nearly as stressful as the last time I was in a police station), I scrubbed my already dry and damaged hands for fifteen minutes to get the ink off, ran to Subway, inhaled a sandwich, and rode the bus to pick up Landon. We saw the pediatrician for the millionth time this month and left her office with a diagnosis of a cold virus and some medicine to help with his congestion.

For the next six hours after we got home Landon expressed his general unhappiness with the world, resisted the nap he so desperately needed, and refused to let his mom talk to the nice people calling her on the phone to sing Happy Birthday. I spent the six hours eating a pound of Robin's Egg Easter Whoppers, trying to quietly entertain Landon while on the phone, and sending polite instant messages to JP asking him to COME HOME NOW BECAUSE IT'S MY BIRTHDAY AND I DON'T FEEL GOOD AND LANDON WON'T GO TO SLEEP AND I'M SO TIRED AND YOU MUST DO SOMETHING. He came home, bearing pizza, at 7:30.

It's now 10 and I'm going to bed despite not having done any school work since last Thursday. I'm so behind in my reading that I'm starting to have nightmares about it. School doesn't stress me out much anymore, but I realized today, when I heard my voice sounding shrill during a phone call with JP, that I am stressed. My first final is two weeks from tomorrow. The quarter system sucks.

So I really did have a wonderful 25th birthday, it just wasn't today.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Baby Beluga in the Deep Blue... Aquaruim

If you didn't start singing along with that title then you need more Raffi in your life. I love his silly songs and "Baby Beluga" was always a favorite growing up. Last night JP and I had a delightful dinner at Quartino, an Italian tapas-like restaurant "where the wine is cheaper than water and the pizza is the finest". We love ordering lots of different dishes and drinking lots of cheap wine, so this place was perfect. I wore a very sexy dress loaned from a friend and felt like an almost twenty-five year old woman rather than an almost twenty-five year old mom. We spent 2+ hours eating way too much and drinking just the right amount. It was wonderful.

(Yes, the title does relate to the post, I'm getting there.) Yesterday afternoon JP surprised me by taking me ice skating (so fun!) and promised that my big birthday gift was also something unique to Chicago (well, unique as in we couldn't do it in Austin). When I opened my card at dinner I found out I was going to be a "Trainer for a Day" at the Shedd Aquarium! I am SO excited!! I wanted to be a marine biologist when I was little and have remained fascinated with the ocean and sea life. I'm a licensed scuba diver but haven't been since high school because JP has broken ears (well, there's a more technical name for the problem, but that's what I take away from his explanations) and can't handle the underwater pressure. But on March 8th I will be reunited with a few sea creatures. I'll arrive before the Aquarium opens, don rubber boots and a special "trainer for a day" t-shirt, and follow the real trainers around for four hours. I get to feed the belugas, dolphins, and sea lions and take part in the Oceanarium show (JP and Landon will be in the audience). I think I'm the girl who throws fish to the animals when they do what they're supposed to do- yay!!

Landon and I went to the aquarium this past Friday to check out the fish and hopefully he'll find it more interesting when his mommy is one of trainers.


Actually he had a good time, but dancing with joy in front of the penguin habitat for thirty minutes completely wore him out. Think he'll be generous and let his mommy sleep in past 5 AM on her birthday tomorrow? Based on his runny nose, fussiness, and potential third ear infection this month, I think probably not.


But I get to pet a beluga in two weeks!!!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

End of an Era

My mom called this morning to tell me that my high school 100 breaststroke record was broken yesterday at the State meet prelims. I think she sounded a little more sad than I was. It's been so long since I've thought of myself as a swimmer, and I'm so happy and fulfilled with what I do now, that I was just excited for the girl who broke it (a junior who, according to everyone, is an all-around awesome girl). Swimming was an absolutely fantastic time in my life, and I'm lucky to have memories of traveling to big meets, winning races, standing on awards stands, and sharing it all with my teammates and best friends. Records are meant to be broken and eight years is a pretty long time for one to stand.

So congrats to you, breaker of my last high school record, and kick ass at finals tonight!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Have Whine, Need Cheese

I'm trying to keep this blog from turning into a complete whine-fest, but this has not been a particularly good morning. We got the DCFS investigative file last night and reading through it was horrible. I'll probably have more to say about it later, but reading a blow-by-blow of the events (and my reactions) through someone else's eyes was really hard. The nightmares I hadn't had in a few weeks came back and I slept terribly last night. Then I got a $100 parking ticket this morning when I left my flashers on at the end of a bus zone (half of my car was legal, the other half was illegal) to run Landon up to Maya's. I was gone for 3 minutes and now I have to divert my birthday money to a thoroughly crappy expense. I have no idea where I'll park when I do the pick-ups and drop-offs, I've always used the bus zone. There's no parking at all, so it's either block a bus (I wasn't really blocking a bus, the "zone" is as long as 3 buses) or block a fire hydrant. I guess I'll go for the fire hydrant.

The day is going to get better though. Tonight is my birthday party with girlfriends at a wine bar. I'm very excited to get dressed up and eat and drink with these girls whom I'm getting more and more upset about leaving in June. And the next several days are going to be really good. Tomorrow includes a dental appointment (okay, that won't be good, but I'll be downtown which is always fun), lunch with a possible future UC law student mom, and the aquarium with Landon and a few friends; Saturday brings a birthday surprise from JP (no idea what that could be, he's not usually big on the planning of things) and dinner out while friends babysit; Sunday includes an Oscar party I'm hostessing; and Monday is my actual quarter-century mark. JP is feeling better, I'm not feeling worse, and Landon kind of slept through the night again (woke up at 5 AM, not quite 6:30, but I'll take it). Things could be worse... though I'm still mad about that parking ticket!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Getting Up Early, Coming In Late

Landon woke up at 6:30 this morning*, so I woke up at 6:30 this morning. I have class at 8:30 on Wednesdays, so this should have worked out perfectly- we need to be out the door at 7:30 and one hour is usually plenty of time to make that happen. But then it took a while for Landon to eat his breakfast, and JP is really sick so he was in bed and no help at all, and suddenly it was 7:10 and I hadn't even changed out of my PJ's, and then I was dressed but Landon wasn't, and then we were both dressed but my backpack wasn't packed, and then I had to make up Landon's lunch and bottles, and then I remembered that it was negative fifty degrees outside (or maybe it was 3 degrees, but at that level of coldness, the difference is negligible) so I put on warmer shoes, and then I had to wrangle Landon into his coat, mittens, and hat, and then I started walking out the door wearing my backpack and a Landon but no coat, so I had to take everything off, set down the Landon, and put on my scarf, coat, and gloves... and then it was 8:26 and my class was going to start in 4 minutes. Maybe we'll make it next week.

Mornings like this make me think how different life will be when JP can help out with the daycare drop-off and pick-up. Right now we live near the middle of our two jobs - he drives 30 miles Northwest, I drive 15 miles Southeast. It would be ridiculous for him to drive an extra 30 miles, in terrible traffic (his 30 mile commute usually takes 75-90 minutes, my 15 miles usually takes about 35 minutes in the morning and 45-60 minutes in the evening) just to drop Landon off, no matter how much of a help it would sometimes be. Help with the pick-ups would be even better. I leave school at 4:40 to get the little guy, and while most days that's just fine, there are days when I really need another hour or two to work, or attend a meeting, or take a seminar. The other downside to JP's commute (besides our high gas bills and his occasional crabbiness) is that even when he leaves work at a reasonable hour, he doesn't get home until at least another hour after that. I love Landon, but evenings are a fussy time and by 8:30 I could really use another person to hold and entertain him while I make dinner or dare to sit down for a few minutes.

Most of the time everything works fine, but the commute is really wearing on JP and I'm getting really behind in my reading (and finals are 3 weeks away- gulp). I just keep reminding myself that in a few short months, I'll be the one working (5 miles from the neighborhood we're hoping to buy in), JP will be a student (only 12 miles from our hopeful home, in the same direction I'm going), and Landon will be at a wonderful daycare right in the middle. On the mornings when I have an early call or meeting, it's going to be so nice to say, "JP, can you drop Landon off?" And of course, there won't be the coat, hat, and mittens nonsense to deal with either...

*I'm hesitant to even announce this, but Landon slept from 8:30 PM to 6:30 AM without waking up once. I think he knew his daddy was really sick, his mommy was well on her way, and we really, really needed some sleep. He may be the dictator of our little apartment, but at times, he can be a benevolent one.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Restaurant Research and Reaction Papers

I love birthdays- they're like little holidays sprinkled throughout the year and offer a great excuse to eat cake, be spoiled, and go out with friends and significant others. I turn 25 next Monday. My girl friends are taking me to a wine bar Thursday night and JP and I are going to dinner on Saturday while two friends dote on Landon. I have a reaction paper due at 4 PM on a scholarly paper I still don't understand enough to "react" to, but I've spent the last hour perusing restaurant reviews online for our dinner out on Saturday. I feel so much pressure! I love trying new places, I love researching, and I love reading menus, but there's too much information about too many restaurants! And we're leaving Chicago in a little over three months and there's so many restaurants we haven't tried yet. I'm torn between going to a tried and true favorite and trying one of the million other great restaurants in this city. And I want to go somewhere nice where we can have a long, multiple course meal, with drinks, but I don't want to spend all of my birthday money on one night. We both love Latin American food, but we just went to Carnivale to celebrate JP's admittance to business school (definitely one of the best meals I've ever had), so I'm thinking we should branch out to another type. There's just too many fantastic places to eat in this city!

Sigh... I suppose I should return to working on my Law & Politics paper that's due in less than 3 hours. I've read all 53 pages of the paper being presented, twice, and I still don't understand it. The authors are proving a theorem that seems completely intuitive to me and they never explain why this theorem matters or needed to be empirically proven at all. So far I have two pages rambling about my belief that all papers should have a point and this one does not. You should be able to answer the questions, "what is this paper about?" and "who is going to (want to) read it?" after reading the introduction (or at the very least, the entire paper) and I still can't answer either one. I'm not sure my professors are going to like it, and I'm not sure how I can possibly expand on that any further to reach the length requirement, but I'm armed with a diet coke and chocolate chip cookie, so I'm going to try. I wonder how many times I can get away with using the word "understand" in a single paragraph...

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Maybe Moving Down South Isn't So Bad...

Today our temperature spiked up to a toasty 42 degrees, causing flash floods as the ice melted all around the city. My car was standing in about 8 inches of water when I went out to run errands this morning (thank goodness I have an SUV)- I had to jump in the passenger door and crawl over to the driver's seat. When I came back and tried to parallel park in front of my building, my car slid along a huge sheet of ice into an illegal spot by the stop sign. I couldn't leave it there overnight, but my two front wheels were in a deep puddle and the two rear wheels were stuck on ice. I called for JP and he pushed with all his strength (and he's really strong!) and the car wouldn't budge. We tried to put mats behind the two rear wheels for traction, but the car still wouldn't move. We called our landlord who lives down the street to help push, but he was out in the suburbs. Then I thought of boiling water to melt the ice (it was the kind of super compacted, super frozen ice that you can't break with a shovel). So we filled our big pot and tea kettle with water and took trips running outside to pour it on the ice blocks. After three rounds of walking down the sidewalk in oven mitts holding a giant pot of boiling water, ten minutes of JP hacking at the ice with a hammer, and five minutes of JP pushing the car with all his might while I hit the gas- I was free!

This has been a ridiculous winter.
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Full Fat Delicious

Yesterday JP had some work to do at his office way out in Schaumburg, so Landon and I decided to come along and run a few errands in the suburbs. (Side note: I'm scared of moving to the suburbs. There's so much more STUFF out there. Stores, lots of stores, full of stuff we don't need but start thinking we do- and there's parking lots for your cars so you can pile the stuff inside. When I shop in the city I have to carry everything home and this greatly limits my purchase power.) Landon got to try out his Evenflo Titan in JP's car while we were stuck in traffic for an hour and he seemed more comfortable than in his Britax. I'm thinking about making JP switch with me.

Anyway, while we were at the office "helping" JP bind some books for a meeting, I opened his desk drawer to discover original Lays Barbecue chips. I haven't had a full fat chip in years- it's baked only for me. I switched forever ago and had myself totally convinced that I didn't like the regular kind. But I was hungry, so I tried one, and oh my goodness, it was delicious. So light, so crispy, so full of barbecue flavor! I immediately ate 50 more. I tried my Barbecue Baked Lays when I got home and they were SO not the same. Then I ate a giant slice of triple chocolate mousse cake leftover from our sushi and champagne Valentine's dinner. If you add that to the creamy corn chowder soup I had at California Pizza Kitchen, and the Mike and Ikes I ate with breakfast, it was a full fat delicious kind of day.
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Friday, February 15, 2008

King Of His Castle

Because I can't let the weekend begin with that depressing post at the top of the page, I offer a picture trio of Landon sitting on his throne (or, the car seat that still hasn't been installed in JP's car). Every time I see his picture on my laptop desktop in class I get the biggest smile on my face. The feeling of joy that fills me when I see him is why I still want more children despite this rather difficult first seven months of motherhood.




Hell, I kind of want one now. When I expressed that to JP last night he looked at me like I was completely insane. And given the fact that I'm moving across the country, taking a bar exam, and starting a new job in the next few months, my husband is entering grad school, and my first baby still doesn't sleep, ever, I suppose I am. The maternal urge knows no reason.

Fear of Doctors

Today Landon will be making his third trip to the pediatrician in 7 days. That's a new record for us. He went back on Wednesday because he'd been up crying/screaming all night on Monday and Tuesday (the lack of sleep, and what it's doing to me, is hard to put into words). Somehow, despite the daily antibiotics since Friday, the ear infection had spread to his other ear. He got a shot of a different antibiotic and his amoxycillin dosage was increased slightly. He slept through the night that night (hooray! that's only the FIFTH time since he was BORN) and then was up crying from 2 to 4 AM this morning. (It really kills the cozy, romantic Valentine's buzz you had going when your baby wakes up screaming an hour and a half after you both went to sleep...) I talked to the pediatrician this morning and she said it really can't be his ears- those antibiotics would have killed any infection, and since everything else looked good when she examined him two days ago, it was likely just tempermental. He's gotten used to being up with us at night again (was he ever not used to it?) and wants the party to continue. She did throw out reflux as another possible, though unlikely, reason for his nighttime crying, so she suggested we give him the Prevacid again for a couple days just to see if that changes anything. I accepted that as it did seem like the crying was only at night, but I wished it was something she could fix for us.

Then Maya called an hour ago and said Landon was crying all morning and seemed very uncomfortable, so I called the pediatrician's office again and now we have an appointment for 1pm. I talked to JP and he was glad to hear we were getting in before the weekend, but admitted it made him nervous. What if they find something wrong with Landon and blame it on us (him) again? It's scary to take him to the doctor now and I hate that. I've always loved and trusted doctors and now I'm afraid of accusations and tests revealing broken bones or other things that could seem like abuse -- of course, if something is wrong with him we want to find out what it is, and I really don't think anything is broken, but still, it's scary each time he's examined. Once again we'd have no explanation and a social services history to go along with it.

Speaking of social services, our in-tact family services caseworker came by this morning. Our file was supposed to be closed in December, but it's taking them forever and apparently as long as the file is open, they have to visit at least once a month. He assured me it would be closed by the first week of March. Why on earth it takes 12 weeks to close a file is beyond me, but supposedly it will happen someday. JP got a letter from DCFS notifying him that his appeal pre-hearing is set for February 27th. I'm not sure what a pre-hearing involves, but he's talking to our lawyer to find out. I hate, hate, hate that they are still involved in our lives and I still use the freaking "nightmare" label.

Most of the time we forget it even happened. Most of the time Landon is a normal, cheerful, smiling baby and we are a normal, busy, happy family. Most of the time.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Bumps and Bruises in Mothering

Yesterday, when exiting my illegally parked car to pick Landon up from Maya'a apartment, I admired the softly falling snow and noticed that it was starting to hide the sheet of ice covering the sidewalk. I made a mental note to be extra careful while walking with Landon because that path was going to be very slippery when I came back out

I went upstairs and was greeted with big smiles from Landon, wrangled him into his puffy coat, carried him out the revolving door, and immediately slipped on the ice. I caught my balance twice before falling hard to the ground. Seven months ago I would have thrown out my arms to soften my fall. Yesterday, I held Landon to my chest the whole way down. My throbbing right hip and elbow were probably not so pleased with my change from self-interested individual to self-sacrificing mom. Landon was fine, though startled and pissed about the snow on his pants; I am fine, though pretty badly bruised along my right side.

A little while ago Someone Being Me wrote about a mother's love for her baby even before he is born. You can read my less than eloquent comment there, but suffice it to say, I didn't have the feelings she describes. Landon's pregnancy was planned and his birth was eagerly anticipated, but contrary to what I'd heard from others, I felt almost no connection to him as a baby until after he arrived. And even once he was here, it took a while for me to really feel like I was a mom- like I was his mom- and that he was my son. Of course I knew he was my son in the biological sense, but the words "son" and "daughter" mean so much more and that extra meaning took a little longer to develop. I remember crying at lunch with JP while Landon was in the NICU because he was so full of love for his son and I felt like I was outside the loop- I knew him so well when he was inside of me, but I didn't know that baby in the isolette at all. I felt like a defective mother. I loved him, but not like I was sure I was supposed to.

But then slowly, over the days spent sitting by Landon's side in the NICU willing him to breathe normally, during the countless hours trying to feed him through the acid reflux pain, over the miles I walked in circles around our apartment calming his cries from colic, and through the delight I felt at his every movement, sound, and blink of his eyes, he became my son in every way that word is supposed to mean. I'm not sure when the transformation was complete (and I'm not sure it ever is, this morning when he gave me a giant smile while spitting out his pears I felt absolutely certain I could not possibly love him more- until I did, five minutes later when he pumped his arms in excitement as I made quacking noises), but I remember very clearly a morning in September when I realized that he felt like mine- and that I wasn't sure when it had happened.

And yesterday, when I was lying on the ice, holding a crying Landon with snow on his pants, but no bruises, one of my first thoughts was "I acted like a mom" and that made me feel really good, throbbing elbow, hip and all.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Feeling Grateful

(or "How I Learned to Stop Bitching (so much) About Law School")

A friend just emailed me this story from the New York Times about "Education City" in Qatar. Five American universities have brought their programs and professors to the Middle East, and apparently more are on the way. So far Education City consists of Cornell’s medical school, Virginia Commonwealth University's art and design program, Carnegie Mellon's computer and business programs, Texas A&M's engineering program (petroleum engineer being the largest),; and Georgetown's foreign service school. Northwestern University's journalism program will be added soon. The programs at Education City are not just "affiliated with" with their American universities, they are an actual branch of the school in the Middle East. Professors have moved down to Qatar and the classes are mostly the same. It's become the Ivy League of the region with students enrolling in whichever school they get into, even though different programs will necessitate a complete change in career plans.

It's a great article, and you should go read all of it, but what struck me the most was a section on the second page titled "Opportunities for Women." To quote some of the article: "Education City represents broad opportunities for women, in a nation where many families do not allow their daughters to travel overseas for higher education or to mix casually with men. Cornell stresses, proudly, that it was Qatar’s first coeducational institution of higher learning. The female students are very much aware of their new opportunities... 'I don’t want my father’s money or my husband’s money,' said Maryam al-Ibrahim, a 21-year-old second-year student at Virginia Commonwealth. 'I want to work for a private company and be myself, and I would like to become someone important here.' Mais Taha, a Texas A&M petroleum-engineering student, glows as she talks about her classes, including Reservoir Fluids — hydrocarbons, she explains sweetly — and Drilling."

I may not ever "glow" while talking about constitutional law, but I am grateful for the opportunity to attend law school - and much more than that, I'm grateful that it doesn't often occur to me to be grateful. I may worry about pursuing partnership track as a lawyer with children, but growing up it never occurred to me that I couldn't have the same educational aspirations as the boys in my elementary school class. Lawyer, doctor, and scientist were all realistic answers for the "what do you want to be when you grow up?" question. I'm lucky that when I decided, halfway through my junior year in college, that I felt like going to law school, the only thing standing in my way was the LSAT. I'm going to try to keep that in mind as I slog my way through the 100+ pages I'm behind in con law.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Frumpy Friday

Assuming drinking beer is cool (and college is a near enough memory for me to go with that assumption), does the coolness of drinking a beer in the law library offset the nerdiness of being here at 6:15 on a Friday? Because I'm thinking it falls short.

Today has not been a good day. Landon screamed and cried from 2 to 5 AM for the fourth night in a row. I almost cried with him- I'm exhausted on a level that far exceeds that word. At about 4:45, when putting Landon back in his crib after doing everything we could think of to make him go to sleep, JP turned to me and said, in a sad and serious voice, "We can't have any more children." This, from a man who up to a week ago still wanted four. And at the time I agreed- if I let myself think about it (and I don't), Landon's babyhood has not exactly been easy.

I called the pediatrician on the way out the door at 9:45 and they fit me in for an 11:00 appointment. Just early enough to not make it worth taking Landon to daycare beforehand, so we waited at the office for a long time, much to Landon's annoyance. JP met me there (he had a doctor appointment to have a biopsy done on his leg so he was already missing work) and I ran to Walgreens to buy diapers and wipes because I didn't have the diaper bag with me. When we were finally seen, she found a bad infection in his left ear. I felt terrible for him, but it was nice to know he wasn't possessed by some Stewie-like demon (Family Guy reference, for those who don't watch). He now has amoxycillin and is home with daddy, probably resting up for another night of terror.

His surgery to remove the dermoid cyst was supposed to be this past Wednesday, but it was moved to next week because the surgeon is now contracted with Northwestern Children's Memorial rather that University of Chicago. We were happy with the change because it meant we didn't have to spend another night in a hospital filled with terrible memories. But when I called today to get his schedule the doctor asked to push it back 4 more weeks- his words, "do you think we could push something so minor and non-urgent back a few more weeks?" Well, of course, but there's still no firm date and that lands me right in the middle of finals and I just want it over with. I know there's no rush, but it keeps growing bigger and I'm tired of having the surgery on my mind. And his receptionist was rude to me. And our pediatrician is leaving us to start a new office within the practice. So I'm just generally unhappy with the medical establishment right now.

I got to campus hours later than I needed to, spent time on the phone calling various doctors and crossing other items off my to-do list. I found out I have to take 2 more finals than I thought. I'm weeks behind in those classes because I was planning to write a paper, so now I'm trying to catch up. I'm the only person in the library- and I'm a 3L!!

ARGH. But I have my beer and a blog to throw myself a little pity party. Back to work.

My Post Meme

I've been doubly tagged for this one thanks to Butterflyfish and Someone Being Me. I feel so loved.

THE RULES:
** Post about the meme and link back to the person that tagged you.
** Go back to your archives and link to your five favorite posts.

Link One: must be about family
Link Two: must be about friends
Link Three: must be about yourself
Link Four: must be about something you love
Link Five: can be anything you choose

** Tag five other people (at least two must be new acquaintances so that you can get to know them better).

(1) Family: I think I'll go with the post about my dad, the working mother, from the time he was staying with us and attempted to be on conference calls while caring for a 4-month old. And because I just realized that "family" now includes my own little family, I'm also going to link to the letter I wrote to Landon when he turned 6 months old.

(2) Friends: Definitely my "Of Friends and Family" post - I have been blessed with incredible friends, who continue to overwhelm me with their love and support (and free babysitting!).

(3) Me: Once again I have two (I had a rough night, I can break the rules). "Why Can't I Want Both" sums up much of my personality and what I want and need in my life. "I'm 24" doesn't tell you that much about me, but it includes two baby Lag Liv pictures, and who doesn't love baby pictures?

(4) Love: I wrote this post when Landon's reflux and colic were at their worst and JP and I were about to crack. It's not your typical "love" post, but it shows our love and the strength of our relationship more than any sappy thing I could try to write.

(5) My Choice: I think I've already used up my freebie, but I haven't mentioned law school yet and that is supposedly a big part of my life. After a quick look through my archives, I realized I only talk about school when I'm complaining about how behind I am in my reading or when finals are days away and I'm complaining about how behind I am in my outlining. So I offer you this post about a little incident that took place during Religion and the Law last year. I promise it has nothing to do with reading or exams.

I tag:
- ohchicken at We Are Fambly because she's pregnant and I'd like to know more about her
- Colleen at Wine Please because I love her tagline and she's a fabulous commenter
- Denora at The Denora because in a few weeks she's donating one of her kidneys to a friend and I think she's amazing
- el-e-e at hello, self to momentarily distract her from the fact she's been "about to have her baby any minute" for days now (although I secretly hope she's having the baby and unable to fulfill her meme duties)
- Marilyn over at slackermama because I love her "You Need To Read" posts and she's also pregnant (wow, there are a lot of pregnant bloggers out there!)

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Pop-Up TV Not Included

This morning Landon took his first ride in the big boy car seat.


He seemed to approve of his plush new accomodations.


We went with the Britax Marathon- it's safe, easy to install, and lasts up to 65 lbs. We couldn't afford two Britaxes, so we bought an Evenflo Titan for JP's car- he doesn't drive Landon around neraly as much as I do, but I knew there'd be at least one occasion where he'd need to the ability to pick the little guy up. It was only $100 (with excellent safety ratings), so I'm interested to see how the two compare.


When I mentioned the new seat in an email to my dad, he replied: "$260! The first car your mom and I bought cost $1,000. We later sold it for $500 or the equivalent of two of Landon’s seats. I assume his came with CD, 6 disc changer, seat warmer, and pop up TV screen." Hmmm, throw in an automatic bottle dispenser and he might not mind the traffic so much... We have to stop and buy him a jacket on the drive home today. We've been so spoiled with the BundleMe in his infant seat- that thing was the biggest reason I kept him in that seat until my arm nearly fell off trying to carry it. He stayed toasty warm without having to deal with shoes, mittens, or a coat. The only coat he owns is the horsey one he's wearing in this picture and he's days away from growing out of the outfit. Isn't it adorable though?!



Here he is saying, "Okay mom, enough pictures. Take me to my lady babies!"


But first we were stuck for THIRTY-FIVE minutes in the snowbank that swallowed my tires. The bottom layer of snow had turned to solid ice I couldn't shovel through, so I would drive back and forth and back and forth, get out, shovel what I could, go back and forth and back and forth, get out, shovel again, repeat 3 more times, and then two men wandering around on our street (which is the border between the very sketchy and almost sketchy zones of our neighborhood) started pushing from the rear of my car while I pressed the gas- and finally made it over the ice blocks. I yelled a heartfelt "thanks so much" out my window as I sped away, now quite late for class. Aren't random acts of kindness wonderful? A nice reminder that there are more good people than bad in the world.


And I think it speaks volumes to the comfort of the Britax that Landon didn't complain once during the sixty minutes he ended up spending in his car seat this morning. And he didn't even have a pop-up TV.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Another Snow Day

Last night's party was a big success- lots of fun, food, and chocolate cake was had by all. JP even got to play poker with a few of the guests, so he didn't mind beign surrounded by Obamamania quite so much. People left around midnight, so I knew making it to my 8:30 Con Law class was probably not going to happen this morning. And it didn't. But Landon and I did battle the sleet and wind to make it down to Hyde Park by 10. However, right after I got to school I saw that the weather was supposed to turn much worst around noon, bringing many inches of snow and high winds, and continue through the evening. Then I read that the city ran out of salt for the salt trucks and realized I'd left my laptop power cord at home, so I walked back to my car, picked up Landon, and headed home 30 minutes after arriving.

We've had a lovely little snow day- full of jumperoo bouncing and Lilly watching (by Landon) and CNN watching and photo album filling (by me). I just took this picture outside our front window.




I think winter is so beautiful. Despite enduring some big storms this year, I still love the snow and will miss it greatly once we're down South. I'll miss my big coats and scarves, drinking tea all day, and the feeling of coziness that comes when you're indoors watching the snow swirl outside your window. I guess we'll have to start saving for that ski home in Colorado...

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Political Party Hats

Super Tuesday has finally arrived! I don't talk about politics in my blog nearly as much as I do in my everyday life, but I am a political junkie. I didn't know Sunday was the Super Bowl until two days prior, but Super Tuesday has been on my calendar for months. I love this stuff. Being married to someone whose views clash with mine has only fueled my love. JP and I debate politics more than we discuss finances, future plans, or exchange general "How was your day?" type talk. It is not unusual for JP to walk in the door saying, "did you read X article today on CNN?!" He reads voraciously about politics and foreign affairs, I read as many internet articles as I can during class (I mean between classes), and I think we've made each other smarter, better informed, and more certain of what we believe in.

So in celebration of all things political, I'm throwing a Super Tuesday party tonight. The menu is classic American: big pots of chili (with special ranch style beans I had to order from Texas), trays of cornbread, a sheet cake courtesy of Citations, domestic beer, and Diet Coke. I dressed Landon in blue this morning and he is looking forward to showing everyone his toes and explaining the difference between regular and super-delegates (he reads Newsweek with his daddy at night). I have no idea how all my guests will fit in our living room- the response was more enthusiastic than I expected for a mid-week, last minute bash, but we'll find room. I wish I'd thought of my Super Tuesday Spectacular sooner- there are so many ideas I don't have time to implement. There could have been buttons, scarlet letter "R's", party hats, elephant noses, Pin the Tail on the Donkey, and so much more! The best I could do at the store last night was blue bowls, red plates, and white cups.

The grocery store shelves were still overloaded with Super Bowl decor and it made me think, wouldn't it be great if Americans got as excited about voting and elections as they do about football? Can you imagine a US where people throw election parties that are just as eagerly anticipated as Super Bowl parties? Where advertising spots on CNN tonight sold for as much as they did on FOX on Sunday? Politics is no more divisive than sports rivalries and can be just as approachable and fun, and though some die-hard fans may disagree, they're SO MUCH MORE important. I know many people who can recite ridiculously obscure football stats but have no clue about the basic positions of the presidential candidates. This is a sad thing. Presidents and legislators make enormously important decisions that affect your life whether you vote or not, don't you want a say in who is making them?

I think it is every citizen's duty to cast an informed vote, and one of the most exciting things about this election (besides the lack of a Bush on the ticket) has been seeing the huge increase in voting numbers- especially among women and the 18-29 age group. It's an exciting time in politics and I can't wait to start planning my November election party. Hopefully nine months will give me enough time to find donkey and elephant party hats...

Monday, February 4, 2008

Case of the Mondays

Landon woke up at 3 AM this morning and cried off and on until around 5- efforts to comfort, feed, cuddle, or pacify him in any way were unsuccessful. This "sleeping through the night" thing is one leap forward, three steps back, 2 hops forward, 1 flip backward... he's always keeping us guessing as to what the wee hours of the morning will hold.

So when I woke up late at 8 AM, my eyes were so swollen from not sleeping that my contacts looked like little torture devices- it was going to be a glasses and sweats kind of day. My eyesight isn't terrible. I can get around the apartment and read close-up without correction, and I was so tired that I didn't notice that everything was a little blurry as I walked out the door with Landon and all our stuff. Then the weather was gray and very foggy, so I still didn't think anything of the fact that my neighborhood looked out of focus. After driving about six blocks and trying in vain to clean my windshield, I finally realized that I wasn't wearing my glasses! Landon and I turned around and carefully headed back home. I parked in the snowdrift I had just shoveled myself out of, lugged Landon out of the car and up the stairs, grabbed my glasses (and the checkbook I needed to pay for our auction items, and a toy for Landon to play with in the car- I forgot a lot of stuff this morning), and got back in the car. Twenty minutes after we first pulled away, Landon and I were back on the road and he was pretty sure we should be at Maya's already...

Now I'm trying to catch up the 75 pages I'm behind in con law, but I'm still a bit dazed. I need another family snow day or some kind of caffeine IV.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

The Sweet Smell of Chlorine

Today I found myself back in the pool after nearly a year away to give a friend a swim lesson. Every time I get back in I'm reminded of how much I loved it- I am more comfortable and more graceful in the water than I will ever be on land.

Getting back in also reminded me of how out of shape I am. I used to swim two to three times a day, 8-10,000 yards a day (for the non-swimmers, 25 yards = 1 lap). I used to be good- seriously good, and now my arms start to shake after a few laps. Although this time was much better than the last time I jumped in after about a year off- carrying Landon around has kept me pretty toned despite not working out for months.

I think I'm finally ready to start swimming again- although like every other promise I've made recently to work out, it probably won't happen (excuses: lack of time, crossing the Midway to get to the gym is the coldest walk on Earth, etc.). But it was nice to have my signature chlorine perfume back for a day.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Mexican with the Texans

Tonight we're going out with another transplanted Texas couple (she's a 2L at Northwestern) who greatly miss the glories of Tex-Mex. Arturo's Tacos is in our neighborhood and one of the better Mexican places we've found up North. It has the added bonus of a liquor license (unlike many of the tasty places in Pilsen) so we can order margaritas to go with the $1.80 tacos. After dinner we're coming back to our place for tres leches cake. Mmmmmmm.

I haven't made this cake since the dinner party back in November 2006 when my cat turned psychotic (and has never fully recovered). The recipe is almost embarassingly simple, but absolutely delicious. I will share the secret with you all, but feel free to pretend you slaved for hours in the kitchen while making it.

Tres Leches Cake

1 box yellow cake mix (with "pudding in the mix")

Topping mixture:
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 can evaporated milk
1 pint heavy whipping cream
1/2 c. rum (or to taste)

Finishing touches:
whipped topping (I use the "extra creamy" version)
caramel, strawberries, sweetened coconut, etc. to garnish

1. Bake cake as directed (err on the side of it being "well done")
2. Poke holes with fork all over warm cake
3. Pour topping mixture over entire cake
4. Let soak in the fridge
5. Top with whipped topping and whatever else you like.

I've made it with and without the rum- both versions are tasty. It'll look like the cake is going to be drowning in liquid, but it won't as long as you've poked enough holes all the way through. The first time I only used half the topping because it seemed like so much, but have faith in the sponginess.

I made a beautiful design out of the strawberries on the top of the cake so that I wouldn't be tempted to sneak bites of it all day. And it's a good thing- I've opened the fridge at least 10 times trying to figure out how I can take a bite that no one will notice. I have no self control.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Snowed In

Chicago has received 12 inches of snow in the last 12 hours. Outside our window is a beautiful, white and fluffy, winter wonderland- and the snow is still coming down pretty hard. There's reports of white-outs and major accidents on the highways, so we're having a family snow day. JP is vacuuming (have I mentioned how much I adore the fact that he just randomly takes out the vacuum and starts cleaning whenever he has some down time?), Landon is bouncing in the Jumperoo, and I'm curled upon the couch with my flannel pj's, cup of tea, and a laptop. It's quite lovely.

The auction was a blast and a huge success for CLF. The live auction alone raised $23,000 more than the entire event last year. The bidding was crazy! To answer some of the questions from the previous comments- only students bid in the live auction. This year alums were allowed to bid on certain items, but they didn't win any. I don't know if we have some 1Ls and 2Ls with big trust funds or they just haven't realized their loans have to be repaid, but they were the big spenders of the night. The trip for 4 to Italy went for $14,000, the spa day I wanted went for over $2500, the Bulls game and dinner at Gibsons went for $2700, the NBA draft tickets went for about $4000, the "trip of a lifetime" (your choice of Mediterranean cruise, Asian exploration, or South American tour for two) went for $7,000-- with lots more big money makers. JP got very into the event and was bidding on all kinds of things in the Silent Auction- he ended up winning an iPod nano, guitar lessons, and brunch for 4 (that one's for me), so even though I didn't win my spa day, I'm glad we were able to donate to the cause. Landon had a big time being fawned over by the ladies, meeting other law school babies, and eating deli turkey for the first time.

I have many items on my to-do list. Important things like reading the 100 pages I'm behind in con law, or the two weeks I'm behind in sex law; working on one of the four papers I have due in marriage law, or the reaction paper I have due on Tuesday for my workshop. I could organize and file the stack of papers that's about to tip over on my desk. I'm having people over Saturday and next Tuesday (Super Tuesday party!), so I could prepare for that. But JP just dusted and cleaned the kitchen counter tops, so with that item marked off my list, I think I'll just sit here with my tea a little longer. Perhaps later I'll rouse myself to read Landon "Duck in the Truck" and play Monopoly with JP. I love snow days.