Sunday, June 29, 2008
Another benefit of sitting on a hard metal chair for 8 hours the past two days is it has made me immensely grateful for the iPod self study option. It is SO much better than sitting in that class room (or really warehouse, our classes were canceled last weekend for the Gun Show. Yeah, I'm in Texas now!). It's in a crappy part of town, 45 minutes away, and I'd have to pay for the gas and a lunch each day. I also definitely like being separated from all the crazy people who have all their flash cards made, color coded, and memorized and who have finished a whole book of practice exams. I'm just not in their league right now and given how much fun I had at the pool the other day with Landon, I'm okay with that. Also, I really don't think you gain anything from hearing the lectures live. For one, the instructor is just reading off their notes and isn't using visuals or even many hand motions. This is fine because you're bent down over your handouts frantically filling in the blanks, generally two or three blanks behind, and not looking up until the instructor calls for a 10 minute break. I don't think video, life, or audio would make the slightest bit of difference - everyone is just hunched over their paper. And the ability to pause and rewind a lecture on the iPod is invaluable. I know I won't have the time or inclination to listen to these lectures a second time so when we've gone through a tricky section, I often rewind and replay, just listening and not writing, and I think that's helped me learn a few things without actually studying yet. Plus you don't miss anything- there were so many times today that I wanted to pause or press rewind, it was driving me crazy!
The MBE workshop has been really helpful though. A lot of people skipped today because the instructor was just going over answers that were already explained in detail in the exam book. But this guy went way beyond the answers and gave us summarized tests and approaches, as well as the frequency certain questions have been asked over the years. I left with 19 pages of hand-written notes, my hand felt like it was going to fall off. And I feel like I've already learned enough to do substantially better on another exam. I also think I may have been talked into registering for the Texas Procedure and Evidence workshop (we have a separate Texas civil procedure and evidence short answer exam that is 10% of our overall score - if anyone has thoughts or knowledge of that workshop, let me know- should I do it? I may be too late to sign up, but it seems like barbri deadlines don't really exist even when they pretend they do).
What's freaking me out right now is the essays. Damn, that's going to be a TON of information that needs to be on total recall. It's not like the multiple choice where you can narrow down and guess, this is staring at a blank document. I have a lot of work to do. But I feel ready to do it.
It's now pouring rain outside (rain we desperately needed) and because I did Bar stuff all day I gave myself the night off, guilt free. We already watched the swimming Olympic Trials. Based on the first night alone the U.S. is going to have an unbelievable team this year - 2 world records broken already! The current world record holder in the men's 100 Fly is one of our best friends and my roommate last summer; I think we'll end up knowing about half the Olympic team again, which makes it so much fun to cheer them on. It's on every night through Sun. from 7-8 CT on NBC or USA. Now I'm going to drink too much wine, cuddle on the couch with JP, and maybe even be crazy and watch a movie! I'm savoring my last bits of June.
Friday, June 27, 2008
But I don't want to get scared yet. I'm enjoying my frequent pauses of the recorded lectures to play with Landon and JP. I am reveling in all our fun family giggle time. I am not ready to get serious about studying. The Firm has given me office space and I've promised myself I will start going there during the day in July to study the way I'm supposed to. It's only a few miles from the house and I'm not putting in 15 hour days or anything, but I think that impending "hunker down date" is leading to my loss of focus here at the end of June. I know July is going to suck and I want to squeeze as much fun out of June as possible. Right now the Bar (July 29-31) feels far away and I can pretend that I have plenty of time to learn all 10 million exceptions and caveats to every law in Texas. Today I even afforded myself the luxury of an unplanned 2.5 hour nap. I never take naps. Apparently I was really tired (Landon cried from 1:50-3:50 AM; I hate teeth) as I fell asleep on the couch, in daylight, while listening to a lecture. Even when I had a severe case of mono naps never came that easily, maybe I should have tried listening to constitutional law.
I don't start work until September 2nd, so I'll have the month of August to relax and enjoy my boys. And like I said, I'm not planning to go nuts and study every waking moment for four weeks. I just like where I am right now - nearly caught up, not feeling pressure, and safely before my July 1 deadline for actually learning the material. I don't want to have to face the reality of how much I need to do. But of course I will and I have a feeling staring at that practice exam tomorrow is going to give me a surge of panic-induced motivation. That panic, and a possibly undeserved talent for test taking, has gotten me through every other major exam in my life. Just one more...
Thursday, June 26, 2008
I was very excited about owning a house with its own mailbox out front, but unfortunately our little neighborhood has community mailboxes. I suppose these are more secure and convenient for the mailman, but I have many fond memories of playing on our solid brick mailbox growing up and I'm not to have one. Luckily it's just around the corner and I take Landon with me to check it every afternoon (he's my weight workout for the day). He's usually just wearing a diaper because it's 110 degrees out and gets a big kick out of holding (and chewing on) a magazine on the way back (though not his daddy's Economist or mommy's Newsweek because those are sacred). Someday I might be able to afford what's in Pottery Barn or Frontgate, but for now, it's teething material.
Today was an excellent mail day - we had a package! It was a bottle of wine and very sweet note from Colleen over at Wine, Please in celebration of graduating, the new house, and getting Landon to sleep at night. It says to be used as needed for Bar Exam prep. It was incredibly thoughtful, especially given that I have never actually met her. Our boys are 3 days apart and I love how the internet can create friends from 1,000 miles away. If you have a second, check out her jewelry silent auction for the Midwestern Flood Victims.
And the other happy item in the mail: our reimbursement from The Firm for our mileage, hotel, and other moving expenses! It couldn't have come at a better time. I just checked our final credit card bill from the last month and holy hell is it a large amount of money. We expected it to be and we've been carefully monitoring it, but wow, seeing the number was a bit shocking. It was crazy to see expenses from our grocery store in Chicago- hard to believe we were still living there during this statement period. It's been a loooong 30 days. Somewhere in there was the drive (and gas bills) for two SUV's from Chicago to Texas, our appliance purchases, the initial buying out of Lowe's and Wal-Mart upon moving in to our house, flying back to Chicago for graduation, JP's business school deposit (I keep forgetting he's doing that soon), 6-months of Texas car insurance, and a lot of other "we just moved" type expenses. Ouch. I also just wrote a check for $350 to switch our car titles and registration over from Illinois. JP considered the amount well worth it for the "honor" of having Texas plates on his car - he was practically giddy on the drive home. When he lived here for college he still had Maryland plates (because that's where he's from, though he gets mad when I tell people that) so this finalized his adoption of the state. He even asked the person at the county tax assessor's office if you had to show proof to get the "Native Texan" specialty plates. Oh yes, there was eye rolling (by me, the clerk was very nice and no, you do not have to show proof).
I'm now halfway through the Federal Income Tax lecture and thinking about breaking into Colleen's wine already. It's from "Miracle Valley Vineyards" and it's going to take a miracle for me to understand anything this women is saying. Perhaps I should have taken some sort of tax or accounting class in law school... I'm hearing words I didn't know existed and I'm pretty sure I'm spelling them wrong.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
I feel like I should be talking more about the Bar, but it's not dominating my days like I thought it would and like I think it's supposed to. I'm still playing catch up in the lectures. I do about 2.5 a day and on Friday will be fully caught up, just in time for the 3-day, ALL day, MBE practice exam and analysis. I am not excited about giving up my Sat, Sun, and Mon to this Bar stuff but maybe it will be a good dose of reality.
The iPod self study option is a good one- especially if you graduate law school three weeks after the Bar classes begin. For those who don't know how it works, you (or really your law firm) pay a bunch of extra money for an iPod to arrive pre-recorded with the previous Bar review session's lectures. You can listen to them on different speeds, pause, fast forward, rewind, replay, etc as you fill in your lecture handouts. They also include a little sheet of any changes that happened between the Feb. '08 exam and the one I'll take in July. The law is slow to change, thank goodness, and my sheet only had two bullet points on it. The program requires discipline which I'm afraid I lost in law school, but I've already found fear to be an excellent motivating factor.
I think what I enjoy most is not knowing how freaked out other people are about the Bar. I really don't want to know that someone has taken 25 practice exams, read the long outlines, is summarizing the notes, and making flash cards. I find that knowledge stressful and I'm currently unstressed. On the other hand, I suppose I should know some of what other people are doing because I'm certain I should be more stressed than I am. It's an enormous amount of information tested over three days (Texas is the only state besides California that gets the joys of a 3-day Bar -- I stand corrected and should do my own research and not just repeat what I've been told, there are several other states with 3-day exams) and it's going to take a lot of work to learn enough to pass. My goal in the beginning was just to catch up in the lectures, and now that I'm almost there I want to stop just so I don't have to face the next steps- like doing practice questions and actually learning the law.
The real problem is this could be such an awesome summer and I'm finding it's frighteningly easy to ignore the Bar for long stretches of time. Landon is a blast right now. After he chased after a bigger boy's ball at the pool the other day JP took him to Wal-Mart and bought him his very own Spiderman bouncy ball. As you can see, he's pretty excited about it:
I sit in the study across from the dining room (which is acting as a play room right now, which you can see in the video) and just watch him play and squawk (we've moved beyond squeaking) and it's all I can do not to pause the iPod yet again and join in. We're looking for a bedroom set and I just want to go to furniture store after furniture store finding the right one. There's a million clothing store sales right now and given that my body really has decided to stay at this smaller size, I need to rebuy my entire work wardrobe and I don't want to wait until Fall when everything is full price again. There's also cook outs to be hosted, movies to be watched, and sitting on the back porch to be done. I also want to soak up the fact that JP is home all day. It's a unique situation we won't have again until retirement and I'm loving all our quality family time.
I don't resent the Bar or the time I need to put into it, I'm just having a hard time making it real right now. When I was really behind I felt all this pressure to catch up and now that I'm there the pressure has lessened and I need to ratchet it back up. Landon and I went to my office last Friday to say hi to everyone. They hadn't seen me since I was 8 months pregnant and had never met the Landon. He flirted mightily with all the lady lawyers and crawled full speed into several partners offices. Luckily the corporate section is used to having babies underfoot and he was a big hit. It was great to be back. I remain just as excited about working there as I was when I finished up my clerkship.
I'm staring at all these big books, which you can see in my blog header, and wondering where to begin. The barbri self paced program frightens me and there's no way I could start it now. For those who know, how did you spend those weeks up to the Exam? Should I bother with the long outlines or just review the handouts and work on practice questions. Back when I was a pre-med major I was really good at memorizing and I'm hoping those skills will come back quickly. There's also something called a Conviser mini review and an MPT workbook. I'm pretty sure it's bad that I don't even know what those are. And flashcards. I could see how they would be really helpful, but also time consuming to make. Maybe I could add them to JP's list of projects...
Oh, and this has nothing to do with the Bar (though it may be instrumental in my beign able to study for it), but Landon has fallen asleep with less than 30 seconds of protest for all his naps and at night. It's like he knows what he's supposed to do in the crib now and he just curls up and follows through. It's magical.
Monday, June 23, 2008
And then silence.
I started to worry he wasn't breathing or something else terrible had happened so I sent JP back in to check and he found Landon was curled up in a little Landon-sized ball, fast asleep with a peaceful expression on his face. This was actually a little bit before his usual bedtime and he had been perky and very much awake throughout the nighttime routine. We were prepared to withstand some crying. Both of his naps today involved less than 30 seconds of protest so we knew we were making progress but were used to nighttime being a much bigger struggle.
I know enough after 11 months not to throw a big "my child goes to sleep" party yet, but I now join the leagues of parents who have told me, "it takes three nights". Today may have also been one of his best days ever temperamentally- he was so happy and giggly and playful. I kept pausing my lectures to go play with him, I just couldn't help it. Maybe he's finally realized that sleep makes life so much better. Tomorrow for the first time in a long time, I won't be dreading bedtime. Yay!
First of all, thank you all for such detailed, informative thoughts and anecdotes. This is exactly why I enjoy blogging so much. I wrote the last post not out of desperation, but out of a need to know other stories. If my friends were all at this same point in their lives, I'd be hearing these things over coffee (or if I was hostessing the play group, diet coke and brownies). Every one of your comments had value to me, so thank you. Here are a few of my thoughts on my own questions and your responses.
First, the crying it out. We've adopted something of a "CIO light." We have a nighttime routine, we know Landon is tired, we know he wants to get to sleep- but because we never let him fall asleep on his own, he now has a really hard time getting over that hurdle. When you're under investigation for child abuse and you have someone "supervising" you at all times, letting your child cry for more than 5 seconds just isn't possible. So we rocked and fed and bounced until he was a dead weight in our arms, right at the time (I believe) we should have been letting him at least try to fall asleep on his own. Our pediatrician told me at our last appointment to just let him cry - the first night would be hell, but (these are her words) just put a towel under the door if you have to so you can sleep and won't go in. He will be fine and things will be better. My own thoughts are that crying it out is fine and good - as long as it's just crying. Sometimes he gets to a point where he sounds hysterical, then we go in, pick him up, calm him down, and then lay him back down. He'll still cry, but it's just normal "you're not doing what I want" crying. If he escalates again, we immediately calm him down. It's not rocking to sleep, it's just keeping him in normal crying mode. This happened twice Saturday night. Last night he just did normal crying and it was only twenty minutes. JP went in twice to give him a little pat and let him know we were still there- both times Landon calmed immediately when he opened the door and then cried harder when he left, but we could tell it was just anger and not fear or hurt. Today he woke up at 6:15 super smiley and had a great morning. We just laid him down for his morning nap and he made two cries of protest and fell asleep. The napping is going really well - for the past three days he's fallen asleep within 3 minutes of being laid down. Nighttime is tougher, but I'm hoping it's on the path to getting easier for him (and us!). He hasn't had night awakenings for a while so I know things could be worse. One of the big motivators for us in finally working on his sleep is that JP was starting to have back problems from swaying and singing to him for so long, and I couldn't do it at all. I just knew we couldn't hold and rock a 2-year-old like that, something had to change!
I was surprised by how many people still co-sleep. Again I think this is something I'd know if more of my friends had kids. I'm glad that Landon seems okay sleeping in his crib (once he's asleep anyway) because I don't think co-sleeping would work for us. (And I say this as someone who tried on many, many 4 AM wake up calls to get him to fall asleep in bed with us, but mom and dad's presence meant it was party time and why would you sleep when you can try to stick your mom's nose in your mouth?) But I'm glad it never took. Our bed is our place- our sanctuary to talk and cuddle and reconnect in a way that we don't (can't) during the day when things are crazy. Our relationship was founded on late night, talking until 4 AM type conversations, and I would really, really miss that. And even though JP sometimes falls asleep while I'm talking, I know he would miss them too. We brought Landon into a happy marriage and if we've done one thing right so far as parents it's keeping that marriage just as happy and loving and affectionate as it was before he arrived. (Btw, I'm not saying a couple couldn't have that and co-sleep, just that we couldn't still have that and co-sleep. Blogs have definitely shown me that different things work for different people.)
As far as the bottle, I'm quite happy to know that most people don't give it up cold turkey at a year. I think as long as the sleeping is going well and we have some calm, we won't press that issue for a little while. Landon loves his sippy cup of water - loves it. So the other day I thought we'd try to put his formula in a cup at lunch time because what's the difference, really, and maybe he'd like it. But wow was he horrified at our little idea - he threw the cup on the ground in disgust, gave his dad the most offended look I've ever seen, and then refused to be held by him for the next five hours. I've never seen him hold a grudge like that. So yeah, we'll just wait on that a bit. I loved how someone quoted their pediatrician as saying no child has ever starved himself. He does eat something at every meal time and has snacks of fruit puffs and cheerios so I'm sure that's enough. I just think that if I was constantly in motion like he is I would need more than that, but then again I outweigh him by over 100 lbs.
I'll close with something my mom wrote in response to my post. I didn't know she still read my blog, but she always has something good to say:
"As far as figuring it all out, that NEVER happens. Parenting is all about second-guessing and feeling inadequate, but once you accept that, it does not seem as overwhelming! I always found that the people that were quickest to give advice were not the parents I admired most . . . any parent who acts superior is either putting up a front, or completely ignorant. That's why programs like MOPS, play groups, etc are so important . . . it's always nice to have the moral support of friends struggling through parenthood along with you and I know your blog helps with that too.
Hope tonight goes well . . . Grandpa always said the best thing about parenting babies is they don't know how it's supposed to be done, so you really can't do it wrong. :) Of course, the opposite is true with teenagers. :)"
This blog is my parenting forum and support group and these last 11 months would have been significantly harder without it. Thanks for that and I'll keep you posted as to our particular baby's response to our particular plan. Oh and there will be house pictures soon. Until then, here is a video of my little man at the pool yesterday when I took an irresponsibly wonderful study break:
Sunday, June 22, 2008
But then I put him down for his afternoon nap with little fuss- no rocking or singing, just put him down and closed the door. He cried for maybe 10 minutes and then fell asleep, just like he's supposed to. Last night we had some friends over for a cookout. We were sitting outside on the patio when we put him down and purposefully didn't bring out the monitor. I knew we needed to let him cry for a little bit and even though I believe in the theory I've been very surprised to find I just can't do it in practice. So we sat outside and ate delicious grilled peaches for dessert and talked and laughed with our friends. About every 10 minutes one of us would go up to reassure Landon he hadn't been abandoned but didn't pick him up and pretty much just let him cry. 90 minutes later he fell asleep and woke up happy at 6:51 (that's sleeping in). I could not have handled that hour and a half in the apartment or even downstairs in our house, but outside on a beautiful night I could ignore him. I feel terrible writing that, but I also know he needs to learn to fall asleep on his own. With the investigation, ear infections, surgeries, teething, moving, and everything else we've just never been able to teach him to do that. I can't send him to daycare or have people babysit when his bedtime relaxation routine is still so long and involved. I know this, but thinking about him sobbing up in his room makes my insides twist up. I hope tonight goes better, but given his age and general stubbornness I don't really think one night is going to do the trick. And I keep worrying that his teeth are hurting him (I think he's getting his 1 year molars) and can we just let him cry when he's actually hurting? We're trying not to give him any pain medicine because we realized we'd been doing that almost nightly forever (teething was really awful for him) and that doesn't seem good.
So I have questions for all you moms out there. How do your babies/toddlers go to sleep at night? Is there really hope that one day we can do bath time, read a book, and just lay him down? When did your toddler switch to 1 nap a day? Part of me wonders if he's getting too much sleep during the day and just isn't as tired at night. And what does your 11 or 12 month old eat? We give him pieces of food at our meal time (he won't eat the baby food or cereal anymore and only wants pieces he can pick up himself) but even if he really likes something he seems to have an internal 3 bite limit. I think he's eating less now than he did 2 months ago and he's so much more active. He still loves his bottle and I'm worried when we switch off of it he won't get enough calories.
In general things are good and I know there's no such thing as a textbook baby. He doesn't get up in the middle of the night anymore and he likes to pick up pieces of food and eat them, it just seems like they're more of a little bonus than anything resembling a meal. He's so close to walking and is crawling like a little speed demon- how can he not be hungry and tired? I get tired just watching him. Most of me believes that if he was really hungry, he'd eat and we're all just figuring this out together. But I also believe that parental nudges are important and I want to know if we should be nudging more with the sleep and the food. I mean the kid would crawl head first off the deck and stick his tongue in electrical sockets if we'd let him, so I'm not sure he should be completely in charge of anything regarding his care.
I'm going to start the first of four lectures I'm supposed to listen to today (our party yesterday got me more behind, but it was worth it). I'm really looking forward to hearing your thoughts and experiences!
Thursday, June 19, 2008
JP and Landon have been working very hard to complete our home projects. JP has assembled patio furniture, a charcoal grill, and a snazzy cooler he bought with his Father's Day money (he goes outside just to open his beer bottles with it- he's like a little boy on Christmas morning). He has installed pretty new towel rods because I disapproved of the standard ones put in place by the builder. He has switched out all the toilet seats because the originals were plastic and dented in when I sat on the lid during Landon's bath. There will soon be a new ceiling fan in the living room because the current one clashes with all the other light fixtures downstairs (the old one goes perfectly in the fan-less upstairs guest room, so that justifies the purchase). And I really want to change out the white wood posts in our stairs with wrought iron ones because it would look so beautiful, but after price checking everything at Home Depot I accept that it will have to wait. Landon is the supervisor and takes his job very seriously. Here he is keeping JP on task while he put together our patio furniture:
I should note that JP is in heaven with all these projects. He got a power drill when we got married and spent three years walking around our Chicago apartments just dying to drill into something. His patience finally paid off and tonight he completed a very drill-heavy task: adding 29 knobs and 11 drawer pulls to our kitchen cabinets. Here is the kitchen when we bought it:
Here is the kitchen now:
I think the camera flash alters some of the color, but the handles I painstakingly picked out among hundreds in the Home Depot aisle match the granite perfectly and bring out some of the bronze that was hiding in it. You can also see the tray of thick fudgey brownies sitting on the stove. Two are missing, both recently eaten by me while listening to criminal procedure. They greatly enhanced my absorption of the material.
And since I've already detoured this post about home improvement into one about brownies, I'll add this gratuitous picture of Landon thoroughly enjoying his swing.
He'd be even happier if he knew the power drill was going to stick around while his daddy adds different knobs to all the bathroom cabinets as well!
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
But I just sat outside on our new patio furniture, on our beautiful deck, and ate a relaxing meal with JP. He grilled some chicken, I made a simple field green and pear salad, and we ate a whole loaf of "from scratch" bread from our nearby Central Market. There was an almost cool breeze and the sound of crickets chirping. The backdrop was a full moon with big fluffy clouds barely visible against the darkening sky. We sat in companionable silence and just enjoyed each other's presence. I actually felt my heart rate slow.
I think being married and a parent makes aspects of being a law student, lawyer, or future bar exam taker more difficult. I can't just shut myself away and do all of the studying I should do because there are two other people in this house who love and need me. Sometimes, like now, when I'm really behind and stressed, I wish for the ability to go away somewhere alone and just immerse myself in my work so I can get caught up and feel in control again. I envy those with complete ownership of their time. But then I have a night like tonight and I'm so thankful that I have a husband and son to remind me to get outside my own head and relax (NOT that JP is allowed to say that word). The Bar is still 6 weeks away and even though those big books (and the fact I haven't opened them) scare the hell out of me, I'm going to be okay. Our house looks fantastic and no one but me cares that the my spices aren't in alphabetical order (ok, actually they are, but there is a stack of stuff in the game room that isn't put away yet). Tonight, while I sipped my Shiner Bock and held JP's hand and watched the clouds move, I thought about how my little family may increase my stress, but they also take it away. Or at least they put it in perspective. And then I thought about how I'm so much happier here than I ever thought I would be. The house feels much more "right" than I thought it would. We've already had several friends over for dinner and we're having more over Saturday. The community I dreaded leaving in Chicago has started anew here in Austin.
I'm frantically stressed and utterly, blissfully happy at the same time. It's an odd state of being, but I think, a very good one. I don't think I have any chance of eliminating the former until after the Bar is over on July 31, but I do hope to keep a bit of the latter with me to the end too. And as long as I keep taking time to enjoy an idyllic evening, or Landon's cuddly post-nap self (JP always brings him in to me when he wakes up), or any other happy "the Bar isn't everything" moments my family presents me with, I think I'll be okay.
Monday, June 16, 2008
Yesterday was JP's first father's day and we made it a good one. He got to sleep in until 9 AM because his loving wife took his noisy son on an early morning trip to Wal-Mart. Later there was a family trip to Lowe's where Landon picked out a nice charcoal grill, which his daddy used to cook his special Father's Day N.Y. Strip steaks that night. JP also got to share a father-son power tool bonding moment with Landon while he installed the beautiful knobs I picked out for the kitchen (we have 29 cabinet doors, lucky guy).
We spent a lazy afternoon on our back porch, with JP cursing his new grill for arriving in 1000 pieces, and Landon escaping from his froggy pool and crawling bare-bummed all over the deck.
I don't think he could have asked for any better gift than being back in Texas (or "The Holy Land" as he recently dubbed it), living in his own house (and not a small apartment in a "people weren't meant to live this way" crowded city), and working "with his hands" out in his yard. And he deserves all the things that make him so happy (even if they make me roll my eyes). His first year as a father has been a rough one. In addition to all of Landon's general medical difficulties and refusal to sleep, JP's fathering was scrutinized and criticized by strangers and loved ones. I can't imagine how hard it was to be fingered as the intentional cause of your son's trauma, but very much to his credit, he has never let that interfere with the hands-on relationship he has with Landon.
I saw him transition from loving husband to father the night they placed a tiny Landon on his chest in the NICU and we watched in awe as our son's breathing dropped under 100 breaths a minute for the first time since birth. He looked up at me, and in words that remind me both of how young and excited we were, he said, "this is so cool." I love watching him now as he spends his days playing and taking care of Landon while I study for the Bar. Right now I can hear hear the words to "He's Got the Whole World" floating down the stairs, I know he's holding Landon to his chest, swaying and walking him to sleep. I have so many images of him as a father that will never leave my mind. I'm glad we were able to give him the Father's Day he deserves.
Saturday, June 14, 2008
Thank you all- JP, Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, Uncle C, my father-in-law, mother-in-law, grandmother-in-law, and even Landon, for being here today. It’s hard to believe this is it – that we’re all here, celebrating my law school graduation and the beginning of my new career as a lawyer. I’m surprised at how sad and nostalgic I am, especially given that I spent much of 1L year gazing longingly at Rockefeller Chapel out the library window, counting down the seconds until I this day. It’s been quite a journey. JP and I got married three weeks before law school began; we drove up to Chicago two days after the wedding in a car filled with china place settings and crystal glasses. I spent 1L as a newlywed, 2L pregnant, and 3L as a new mom. Somewhere in there I relearned how to think and how to write. Sure there were a bunch of legal terms and case names and constitutional principles throw in there too, but what I’ll carry with me forever from the University of Chicago is the power to think critically, to always inquire further, and to assume nothing. I will never read a news article or blog post the same way, and while that is at times frustrating- I don’t always want to question every sentence on the page- my personal ideology is richer for it. Being a law student at Chicago has been hard, at times very hard, but it’s not a road I have not traveled alone, and I want to thank each of you for being here to celebrate the end of it.
This degree belongs almost as much to JP as it does to me. He didn’t panic when the upbeat and confident woman he married turned into a needy, weepy, insecure mess at her first round of 1L finals. He brought me food so we could have romantic picnic dinners in the Green Lounge and reassured me over and over that I was smart and belonged in the classes I suddenly found so intimidating. He is the reason I inexplicably remember 1L as one of the best years of my life. I loved living in our cute downtown loft, I loved having him to come home to, I loved our nighttime walks around our new city, I loved how much he made me laugh, and I am forever grateful for how much he believed in me. The addition of Landon into our lives only proved again how lucky I am in my husband. He is truly a co-parent and I’ll admit that any time our parenting wasn’t split down the middle, it was because he was doing more of the work. I’ve watched the relationships of a few of my classmates crumble during these three years, but I’ve felt ours grow infinitely stronger. I wouldn’t have made it through law school without him and I hope I can support him half as well in his journey through business school.
I also want to thank my parents who believed in and supported me always. Thank you to mom who I called nearly every day 1L year and who told me near the end of it that it was okay not to make it. It’s funny, but that conversation was what made me realize that I was doing this for me; that it was no longer about pleasing my parents or gathering as many credentials as possible just in case I needed them, I wanted this, and I could do it. Thank you mom and dad for being liberal in your praise, support, and pride – I still have every letter you’ve written to me before the big moments in my life. I read them often, cry every time, and vow to do the same for Landon. Thank you to my in-laws who were always interested in my classes and supported my goals. To my grandparents who could always lift my spirits with their doggedly optimistic view of the world. My grandma always says, “It’ll all work out”, and it always does. And thanks to my uncle and godfather who arranged his flights to come visit us and gave me something to look forward to midweek.
My last mention goes to Landon. Not a thanks, because he really wasn’t much of a help – you could even say I graduated in spite of his efforts, but he was my greatest accomplishment in law school. He is the honors asterisk that isn’t by my name in the program. He was a highlight of my day – picking him up from daycare and seeing his huge smile, playing with him in the evening, cuddling with him at night – he never let me forget that life is so much bigger than law school. I hope that someday he gets a kick out of the fact that he was the University of Chicago JD Class of 2008’s little mascot and that I carried him down the aisle of Rockefeller Chapel in the recessional at graduation. I don’t delude myself thinking he won’t sacrifice for my career goals, but I hope any sacrifice is small, and I pray that he understands how important this is to me, and he always knows how much more important he is. I hope he’s proud of what his mom did.
This isn’t an ending, it’s a beginning. I’ll be relying on all of you as a lawyer as much or more than I did as a law student. Thank you for the past three years. Thank you for all the love and support I know I’ll get in the future. Cheers!
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
I've been in a quandary about the dress I will wear on Friday and have settled on a beautiful black and red one from my mother's closet. It finally hit home how thin I've gotten when I secretly tried on her dress, expecting it to get stuck halfway up, and was amazed to find that it fit perfectly. We also went shopping while I was home and found a very fitted and fun red dress that I think I'm going to change into for dinner. The ruffly pink dress is now too loose so I'm saving it for a fancy summer outing when I gain some weight back. We're only going to be gone for 48 hours and we're not checking any luggage, but I will have three pairs of shoes with me on the plane. And they're all black. But the style and shade of blackness must be coordinated with each outfit. I'm sure you all understand, though my husband is shaking his head at me and the tiny suitcase we're "sharing". He may have to wear his graduation suit on the plane.
I haven't decided if I'm taking my laptop. I'd like to because I really have a hard time being separated from it for more than 24 hours and there are some pictures of Landon I know my in-laws would love to see (they are not techno savvy and do not go on our pictures website or have any idea this blog exists), but I'm not sure there will be room in our carry ons. I always imagined I'd have a grand post for the day I graduated. I started writing it in my head halfway through 1L, before I even had a blog. I've always composed journal-like entries in my head, I just never wrote them down until I discovered blogger. I actually used to get teary eyed thinking about it because I was so miserable and depressed that year. I still get teary eyed, but for different reasons.
I have many thoughts on graduation, only a few of which are fully formed in my mind, and the special entry I'd planned will probably appear after the bar exam when I have time to think instead of memorize. I'm excited, sad, relieved, hopeful, nervous, and so many more things about the end of my career as a student and the start of my career as a lawyer. Right now I'm mostly proud. To say it's been a difficult year would be a vast understatement, but it's over and we more than survived. Our marriage is happy and stronger than ever. My nearly 11-month-old son is a bundle of giggles and merriment and is very much his own little person. After patiently waiting his turn at grad school, JP will be pursuing his dreams in the Fall. And there's me, somewhat overwhelmed and very excited about what's ahead. I'm twenty-five years old, a wife, mom, home owner, former honors student and national merit scholar, former nationally ranked swimmer, new law school graduate without any honors or asterisks by my name at all, and hopeful member of the Texas Bar. I also own a lot of shoes and love school supplies.
So like I said, I have thoughts on all this, very few of which are coherent. But right I'm overflowing with feelings of pride and relief which are combining into a watery substance leaking from my eyes. Man, if I'm tearing up now I'm going to be a mess on Friday.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
The past few days have been pretty crazy and I've been nearly without internet which has been more painful than I should admit. I apologize for my lack of email replies or blog comments, but I promise that I have read everything while mooching wireless off a neighbor, I just haven't had the time or signal strength to respond. We've had some big accomplishments during the past few days, number one being the fact that we have unpacked all 92 boxes and found a home for everything in them- even the ones that were still packed from two moves ago.
This picture is less than half of them and they're stacked two deep. It's very nice to have that done and very nice of the moving company to come back and remove them all from our garage. Our house now looks like a home (albeit a home with very little furniture) and I absolutely could not be happier with it. I love every room, every detail, every closet - and even though I am very picky, there's only two or three projects on my "I'd like to change this someday" list. Our washer and dryer arrived yesterday, the internet and cable were installed today, the phone comes tomorrow, and the fridge comes next Tuesday. Here is Landon helping me with the laundry:
Thank you for all your appliance suggestions. I ended up selecting an LG front loading washer and dryer. They have fantastic reviews and were perfectly placed at the lowest price point of the upper end appliances. They have their own little brains inside that figure out exactly what needs to be done with our clothes and I love them. Our fridge is a fairly standard black GE model with the absolutely necessary water/ice dispenser (which is higher than most and has a child lock).
Yesterday my mom drove up to deliver a mini fridge from my brother's dorm room (The Landon prefers his bottles served chilled) and check out our new digs. She loved the house and neighborhood, and because we trust her taste more than our own, we drove her over to the furniture store to approve the stuff we'd picked out the day before. Tomorrow our beautiful living room set will arrive (leather couch, love seat, very pretty stone side tables, and a giant leather ottomon/coffee table that Landon won't be able to bump his head on and get stitches like I did, twice, when I was 1). The store has excellent financing and JP has promised he will have a job next summer. We also bought a kitchen table that I might love even more than my washer and dryer. It's polished pine with slate in the center (the stone matches the side tables in the living room) and has a leaf that will extend it to 90". We're hosting Thanksgiving this year and our dining room is going to stay a furniture-less playroom for at least the next two years.
Landon has been enjoying his greatly expanded crawling space as well as his yard and froggy swimming pool that JP and I couldn't resist buying at WalMart (I have missed that store- it's almost impossible to spend more than $14.98 on anything).
He and JP just walked to the grocery store to pick out something for dinner (oh yes, we're still within walking distance of stores, which makes me so very happy). I was about to listen to my fourth barbri lecture (I'm very behind, I don't want to talk about it) when I realized one of my loan payments was due on Saturday. That was not acceptable so I resigned myself to finally figuring out all my loan details. This ended up taking nearly 3 hours, involved many phone calls, and culminated in a complex excel spreadsheet. I have now deferred or forbeared all my loans until January 2009 which will allow us to fund our acquisition of half of Lowe's inventory yesterday.
In other catch-up news for all my family and friends who wouldn't even know I was still alive without this blog: JP has been feeling great since we entered Texas. I got all my grades and in an absurd final chapter of law school had my second-best quarter ever with an average two points above the median. I am on the list to graduate this Friday. JP successfully fought his "non-resident" status for business school and found out yesterday we only have to pay instate tuition (this spurred the living room furniture purchase - after all, we'd just "made" $20,000!). Landon is crawling at 55 mph, pulls up on anything taller than 2 inches, and can walk along the flat wall like a baby Spider Man. He already has some new baby friends at the pool and JP takes him every day while I hook myself up to the iPod to learn about things like future interests and limited liability partnerships. Yes, I bitter about this, although I will admit the nerdy part of me loves having worksheets to fill in with my pretty new pen. Barbri is relatively mindless and it's nice to actually learn The Law without discerning the holding of a case with a long-winded judge. I also have beautiful striped binders to hold my handouts and school supplies are right up there with a new pair of heels in their power to make me happy.
I promise to resume my emailing and blog commenting soon - there have been so many good posts lately it's killing me to not have time to say anything. For now, it's back to Real Property II and my bowl of Blue Bell ice cream.
Monday, June 9, 2008
Having a baby has made me better about living in the moment. I used to be all about countdowns and I spent a lot of my time looking towards something else. With Landon I'm constantly reminded that every day he gets a little older, a little less snuggly, a little more independent. I'm excited about watching him grow up and I share in his excitement over his new skills, so his progression from baby to little boy doesn't so much make me sad as it keeps me focused on savoring the present.
Saturday, June 7, 2008
Well, it's been a crazy past 2 days. After being told over and over that our stuff wouldn't be arriving until Wednesday the 11th, we got a call Thursday afternoon with news that the moving van would be in front of our house at 8 AM the next day. Ahh! This was very good - it meant we could get the bulk of the unpacking down before we fly back to Chicago for graduation, which was the whole point of moving down here right after finals, but we were still in Houston at my parent's house and not expecting to drive over to Austin until this morning. Our stuff was everywhere and we had plans to cancel, but we managed to throw everything in our two cars and head towards the capital. We pulled into our driveway (we have a driveway!! and a garage!!!) around 11:30 PM to unload some of the stuff and drop off Lilly the cat. Walking around I was amazed at how beautiful the house was - so much better, and more perfect, than I even remembered. Usually I build things up in my head and am disappointed when I see them again, but that definitely didn't happen this time. After mourning Chicago for the past week, I was overcome with excitement for our house and our new city. Austin always surprises me with its beauty when I've been away for a while - especially the southwest area where we are. It's the start of the Texas Hillcountry and it's gorgeous.
The firm provides three nights in a hotel so we headed over to the Intercontinental where we were upgraded to a King Master Suite that was ridiculous- three rooms and such luxury. We got about 5.5 hours of sleep before we had to be back at the house for the movers. That went pretty well - the hardest part was figuring out where to put things. We're coming from a two bedroom apartment that had a kitchen/living room/study all in one. Now we have four bedrooms, a big study, dining room, casual eating area, and a huge game room upstairs. A few of those rooms are going to be completely empty for a while. Landon likes that, though. He also got to try out the playscape in the backyard - he loved the swing.
When the movers left and Landon went down for his nap, JP and I collapsed on our unmade bed for a nap ourselves. We finally went to lunch (now dinner) at 5, stopped at a few furniture stores only to discover we can't afford what we want and don't want what we can afford, and then drove back to the hotel to put Landon down, watch TV, and order room service desserts. It was a good day. The unpacking is somewhat overwhelming, but it's much easier when you have a lot of space to hide boxes until after the Bar.
Speaking of the Bar, that is getting stressful for me. I haven't listened to a single lecture in the past three days because things ended up getting so busy. I'm now eight behind - that's a solid 24 hours of iPod time. Ahhh! And with the trip to Chicago next weekend for graduation it's going to be difficult to catch up any time soon. I know that I will, I just already resent the fact that every time I have thirty minutes to sit or read or go through the pictures I've taken over the past several days, I have to use it to learn about property or contracts. I hate that feeling of having a constant weight on your shoulders; graduation won't really mean anything until that exam is over with. I'm giving myself today off to get as much done in the house as possible and then it's going to be two lectures a day for a while.
But, oh my house. It is so very pretty :)
Thursday, June 5, 2008
I've always been a practical person. JP and I were walking Landon over to the duck ponds yesterday and we passed one of those open sewer grates by the sidewalk. JP remarked that he used to be afraid of those as a kid. I said, "Really? But you can't really fall down it accidentally. You'd have to fall just at the right angle and then turn your body into it - and even then your hands or leg or something would keep you out." He said, "Well, true, but you don't think about that when you're five." But I did. I always reasoned through my fears and found that very few were worth worrying about. I was never afraid of the snakes we constantly found in our yard because I knew that copperheads were skittish and as long as I made noise they'd stay out of my way. I never worried about robbers because I figured they'd break into an empty home and not one filled with people and lights and a dog. I never worried about a lot of the things my friends did- I just rationalized them away. I still do that with almost everything; despite the nearly frantic feel of some of my blog posts, I don't get visibly worked up about much in real life.
As a mom I'm relaxed. I believe in routines but am against strict schedules. I think Landon benefits from the small deviations in his day as much as I do. I love that he has so many people in his life and he's comfortable with all of them. I pray that I never get fixated on one set plan for him or for us as a family. I think about all the bad things that could happen to us in a thousand different ways, but I don't spend much time on it- and I hope I can always look past them. JP's mom is a huge worrier and I think that is the main reason their relationship is as bad as it is today. He grew up hating how controlling she was, how she always talked about all the terrible things that could happen, and how she'd get all worked up over little things. He learned to just stop telling her anything and greatly resents how restrictive his childhood was. I remember playing for hours in the greenbelts behind our house as a kid. Now I realize how many bad things could have happened without my mom knowing - and without a cell phone to call her. But the thing is, nothing ever did, and I had a wonderful, adventurous childhood I hope to pass on to Landon.
I want to raise him to embrace challenge and change. I want home, both our physical house and our arms, to be a place where he always feels safe and secure, and from there he can venture out to try and experience new things. My parents gave me this. I was raised to be independent and adventurous, and I could be because I had such a firm foundation from which to venture out from (and inevitably come back to). I learned to do things for myself fairly young and while I love having my parents be a part of my decisions, I make them on my own and follow through on my own. And that's exactly what I hope to enable Landon to do.
So for now we keep our home life pretty consistent, but we break the routine when appropriate for family events or other big happenings. I read up on things, but don't obsess over the exact week he's supposed to hit a milestone. I ignore all the fear mongering articles and focus on the ones filled with actual facts from actual studies that include more than 10 people. I've unsubscribed from all the weekly updates because while I loved learning about what was happening while I was pregnant, now that I have the baby in front of me I don't really need them. My grandma's motto on life is that "It'll all work out" and I think that's pretty accurate. Landon is doing fantastic right now - sleeping well (although he has two more teeth about to pop through), crawling with alarming speed, pulling up on everything, walking along furniture, making all kinds of noises, and just generally charming us all.
I know there will be a lot to worry about over my lifetime as a mother and I hope I can always keep it in perspective. Landon spent his first 10 months giving us more worries than most new parents have to deal with, but it's all working out. I picked up a parenting book in the store a while ago and just before realizing I only wanted a reference-type book instead of a parenting style book, I read one sentence that has stuck with me, "Children need two things: unconditional love and clear boundaries." I think that will be my parenting philosophy. That and something about not sweating the small stuff.
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
Landon has recently started the separation anxiety phase, but I think because there have always been so many people in his life, it really hasn't been too bad. The only time he cries is if there's a hand off from me directly to someone else's arms. If I put him on the floor with someone else and then leave, he's fine. When JP and I left him this morning he was on the floor with Godmama petting the carpet and telling her all about it. I wish I had my camera with me - it was an adorable moment. He kept looking up at her with little smiles and she looked like she was about to cry . Of course she has her own absurdly cute grandson who is her #1 baby, but Landon is doing pretty well in his #2 spot. How lucky is he to have so many people in his life who love him so much? (And how lucky are JP and I?!)
JP used his day off to eat more Tex-Mex and get a haircut- I believe he is now napping. I am finished "Contracts and Sales II" and will be moving on to "Agency and Partnership" shortly. Oh the exciting lives we lead!
Monday, June 2, 2008
We are safe and nearly sound here in Houston. We're staying at my parent's house until our stuff arrives in Austin. We arrived at their lake house in Livingston around 5 PM on Saturday and Landon got to take his first swim in something bigger than a bathtub. It was a big hit:
We enjoyed a delicious meal of fajitas and margaritas, and Landon was reunited with the tasty homemade tortilla he enjoyed so much during our Spring Break trip. Doesn't he look worried that someone might steal it? He hung on very tight.
We then headed to their house in the suburbs with a Landon who did NOT think he needed to spend one more second in his car seat. Luckily it was after his bedtime and he fell asleep after about 30 seconds of vigorous protest. Since then we've been re-organizing our stuff, resting, catching up with friends, and trying to go back through all the to-do list items that have been ignored for two weeks. I'm also listening to my iPod barbri lectures, but have yet to complete the one I started on Friday in the car. I hate that stress is already starting to build for that exam. JP seems to have made a complete recovery from whatever viral syndrome tried to keep him in Illinois and Landon has adjusted much better than expected to all the changes in sleep schedule and location.
It's still completely surreal to be here and realize that it's not just another quick trip before we fly back to Chicago (well, it kind of is, since we're flying back in 10 days for graduation, but only for two days). And even though I lived in Texas for 22 years, and was only gone for 3, I have completely lost my ability to withstand high temperatures. Yesterday we went to church at 11:00 and were standing in the parking lot talking to some old friends. It was 95 degrees and I was melting. I kept looking around at these people all smiley and seemingly comfortable and thinking: you all aren't hot? you're just standing here like this is okay? I am sweating out of every pore of my body, but you're good? really? I can't believe I used to think this was an acceptable temperature- I think my body used to be better at cooling itself down. Until I adjust, we're spending a lot of time indoors and at the community pool.