Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Day 2: Room For Improvement

Google searches that brought people to my blog in the last 12 hours.

3 searches for "how should i study for the texas bar exam essays the night before" This is soooo not the place to look for this kind of advice. It's 9:45 and I wish someone would tell me what to do. Should I memorize 6 subjects so that I can have a few really good essays? Should I try to brush up on all 12 so that I don't panic when I open a test booklet and realize I HAVE NOTHING IN MY BRAIN TO FILL THE EMPTY SCREEN OF DOOM. I'm really not sure. I know that I nearly fell asleep during the MBE, so getting more than 5.5 hours tonight would be a good thing.

2 for "lowest passing mbe score in texas bar" I don't know, but it's hopefully around a 27 because that's how many questions I was certain I got write in the first set of 100. Yes, 27 - you know, about the number you should get right if you just bubble in "C" for every single answer.

And 1 each for "how many days is the texas bar exam" It's 3 days and it sucks to see all your friends' relieved and happy facebook messages when you still have a day of essays ahead of you.

"how essays are graded on texas bar exam" I don't know, I'm hoping to wow them with one or two fancy legal phrases per essay - I want the person to think, whoah, she used Latin, she must REALLY know her law. Five gold stars for her! If that doesn't work hopefully they'll just close their eyes and pick a bunch to pass - I'd have as good of a shot that way.

and "ran out of time on mbe bar exam" That's unfortunate, but it's probably better than doing what I did, which is to flip to the back of the book to check my answers - twice - only to realize that, oh yeah, THIS IS THE ACTUAL EXAM.

Oh, and just to put a little candle on top of my bar exam experience so far, I got a freaking speeding ticket - my first one - after pulling out of the parking lot by the convention center. I was going 42, a perfectly reasonable speed for a three lane road that is a feeder to a major highway, and honestly thought something was wrong with my car when the cop pulled me over. Turns out the speed limit is 30. 30! The same speed as a residential street with children and dogs and other torts waiting to happen - none of these things were near this wide, open, highway-like road. And I didn't have my registration or insurance card because they're all in a purse in Austin waiting to go the DMV to get my Texas Driver's License, so I got TWO tickets.

So yeah, the day went super well. I think I probably got enough questions right to pass, but it feels like it'll come down to lucky guesses, and that sucks. When the utility and worth of your hard earned (and freaking expensive) law degree hang on the balance of a single test, it shouldn't be written in a way that makes you guess when you know the principle of law they're testing. I studied a lot, less than many, but still a lot and I'm frustrated that I don't feel like it did me much good.

So now time to push through for the final day of essays and waking up at 5:30 AM trying to remember something legal. I spent 10 minutes trying unsuccessfully to memorize the formula for claims of economic contribution in community property and ended up in a day dream where I read the list of people who passed the Bar and my name was one it - I came back to reality with tears of joy in my eyes. If that isn't what happens on November 7th, I think I'm going to go to medical school. I'm barely kidding.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Frigid Days, Frantic Nights

So, Day 1 is over. The experience was awful, though the test was okay. Our room was frigid - not chilly, not cold - absolutely shaking, teeth chattering, toes turning puple frigid. Tomorrow I will be wearing my ski outfit with (fake) fur lined parka- which means they'll probably overadjust the temperature to a balmy 85 degrees. My teeth really were chattering uncontrollably for the last hour and it made it VERY hard to remember all the civil procedure terms I crammed into my head around midnight last night. The laptop software was also having trouble and there was only 1 software rep for about 500 people, and the people with non-faulty laptops were apparently unable to read simple directions, so we got out almost 2 hours later than I'd planned. I hadn't eaten breakfast so I was starving and drove at the speed of light to meet my mom for lunch at Olive Garden. I didn't even turn on my A/C for the 45 minute drive in 100 degree weather - I was that frozen. But I think the MPT went fine and I probably did decent enough on the procedure and evidence portion not to hurt myself going into tomorrow and Thursday. Thank goodness for my ability to go without sleep - at least 6 of the 20 answers I wrote down in the civ pro section were nuggets of knowledge I picked up during my civ pro study session late last night. I can partially thank Landon for this ability to function well on less than 6 hours of sleep.

I spent my afternoon thawing out, taking the dogs on another long walk to the lake, and sitting at the kitchen table with my books, telling my mom all about how I REALLY NEEDED TO GO STUDY but not doing it. I just took a con law practice test from the magical released questions that are supposed to be easier and only got 50% right- and that was after I reviewed, so that's unnerving to say the least. You really shouldn't cram for the Bar at the last minute, so everybody reading this, shake your head at me and promise yourself you will do things differently. I know starting early wouldn't have changed much for me and I can trust in my ability to recall large quantities of information memorized at the last minute, but it's a really crappy way to spend 3 days of your life. Plus I now have some actual fear that I will fail this damn thing, which may make you wonder - why is she writing a blog post right now instead of studying? That is an excellent question and the answer to it is probably right next the one explaining why I didn't start studying in June like every other smart person.

In other news, JP called with news of a new Landon trick - throwing both his hands up in the air with an absolutely delighted smile on his face. He thinks this whole vertical motion of the arms is amazing and hilarious and everyone should pause to admire his ability to get those hands way up there above his 90th percentile head. Apparently he'll even do it in the middle of crawling - crawl, crawl, crawl, stop, sit, hands up in the air - big giggles - back to crawling. Oh, how I miss the little monster. Two more days and I can burn the barbri books (or turn them in to get my deposit back, but that doesn't sound nearly as satisfying), relax with my boys, drink a small bottle of tequila, and waterski at the lake (probably best done before the drinking of the tequila). For now, it's back to evidence and con law and hopefully getting more than half of the questions right.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Night Before

It's 10:20 and I'm starting to read the civil procedure outline for my Procedure and Evidence exam tomorrow. My morning involved another big family walk and a trip to my office to pack up all my books and outlines. I left for Houston at 12:30 with a suitcase, box of books, and a Rosie dog in the back; I decided to bring her along for moral support and to give JP a bit of a break for the four days I'm going to be gone. I got a little teary eyed when I hugged my boys goodbye - this will be the longest we've been separated since we were married or Landon was born. I'm going to miss waking up to Landon's full-bodied excitement at seeing me - alarm clocks just can't compare, and mine will be beeping at me at 5:30 tomorrow morning.

Once I arrived in Houston, I spent a little while chatting with my mom and meeting their new 14-week old black lab puppy, Shadow (adopted from the rescue organization where we got Tex and Rosie). Shadow adores Rosie and she displayed endless patience for his attempts at bravery and assertiveness, all of which involved mounting her sideways or grabbing a toy out of her mouth. We went on a long walk to the lake where Rosie showed off her swimming skills and Shadow romped in the tall grass- puppies are so funny, it's fun to have one around again. I kept forgetting the Bar was tomorrow- I just don't believe it's here.

Which is why it's 10:30 and I'm now starting Civil Procedure. I know you're supposed to take the night off before the Big Day, but I think that's only if you've actually looked at what you're going to be tested on. And besides, I'm not used to getting a lot of sleep and I think a full 8 hours would confuse my brain. I did pack up my giant ziploc bags for tomorrow (even my laptop must fit in one - luckily Hefty makes a 2.5 gallon variety) and write down directions for the hour-long drive to the test site. Tomorrow is a half day with the MPT and Procedure and Evidence. I'm meeting my mom for lunch and then sequestering myself somewhere quiet to review for the MBE on Wednesday.

More than anything - more than fear or nerves or tiredness - I just want this thing over with. Here goes nothing!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Doggie Update

Things are going well with our new furry family members. Thank you for all your advice and comments, I really appreciated them. We've also been in touch with the rescue organization and they reiterated much of what you wrote. There's still been a bit of growling every now and then, especially when they're playing outside, but never at us or Landon and never escalating, so I'd say that's going very well. The dogs love laying around our feet and following us around the house. They're extremely tolerant of Landon (as I type he just crawled over the middle of Rosie while she took a nap, but we are still working on teaching him the difference between petting and grabbing because it's not only the dog's responsibility to get along with the little master of the house). They're doing well with their commands; they've got sit and stay mastered and we practice them often - making sure they know we're the ones in charge. PetSmart told us they'd be perfect for the Intermediate class in August. The introduction of Lilly hasn't gone quite as smoothly but we're working on it. Last night and this morning we had several successful interactions with the dogs remaining in "sit-stay" on the floor while Lilly came down and walked the perimeter of the room eying them suspiciously. We're taking it slow with them, but I think once she learns to relax around them, they'll relax too (they were both fostered in homes with cats and did fine- though I'd imagine those cats were very used to having canine friends around). Luckily the house is big enough for each to have his own space.

We've settled on Tex and Rosie for the names and have been calling them so since yesterday morning. A lot of people seem concerned about confusing them, but as rescued dogs we have no idea what their original names were and their foster gave them their new names only recently. We wouldn't change Hope if she'd actually been Hope for 6 years, but it's only been a couple weeks. What's important is that these are the names we use and these are the names they'll have forever. They already respond to them, even individually, and are just generally thriving in the Lag Liv household. We go on two long walks a day, both dogs on their leashes, and Landon in his big wagon - we're quite the caravan on the sidewalk :)

I've basically stopped studying. That's not good, there's still topics I need to, you know, START, but I'm tired of leaving my house to go stare at outlines. So I'm "studying" at home, amidst the madness - I'm sure you can imagine how well that's going. I did pack for my drive to Houston tomorrow and packed Landon for his, JP, and the dogs journey to Houston on Thursday. They're going to meet me up at my parent's lake house for two days of relaxing, splashing, and watching Rosie jump in and out of the water. There will be minimal brain usage and lots of fun had by all. I can't freaking wait.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Traveling as a Pack

So it's 2:00 and I haven't started studying (ummm the Bar is how many days away?) but I SWEAR I'm going to soon. We just got back from a big family outing to PetSmart and the dogs did great (Landon did too, but now that his car seat is forward facing he's much more amenable to car rides). Hope/Rosie was perfect as a little girl gave her lots of pets and Jude/Tex was just very excited about the whole thing. There were about a million dogs there and they ignored them completely, other than a few introductory sniffs. At one point JP was holding Landon and I was holding both leashes and I realized the two dogs combined weigh more than I do. Luckily they're pretty good with the leash, but we're going to sign up for doggy training classes too. It was funny to be there as this entourage of five- I would have laughed a few years ago if you'd told me I'd be living in Suburbia, heading to PetSmart with my husband, 1-year-old, and 2 giant dogs.

We bought the dogs personalized tags, as per the rescue organization's requirements. Tex got a Longhorn tag that looks smashing against his black fur and Rosie has a pink heart that matches her polka dotted collar. I think the dogs are wearing them proudly. Then we went to FreeBirds for some delicious burritos (Chipotle tries but it cannot compare). The dogs sat with us at the table outside (it was very classic Austin) and Landon ate a whole cheese quesadilla! He's eating really well in general and is doing great with his cups and whole milk- I packed all the bottles away last week!

I've basically living my post-Bar life without my life actually being post-Bar. I loved being out with my guys today. As we were driving down the highway JP put his hand on my knee and said, "it's good to have you with us" and he really meant it. I've missed these little mundane things too. One of the hardest things about the Bar has been losing my weekends and evenings (basically all down time)- I took more down time than I probably should have, but always with that depressing feeling that I shouldn't be. I can't wait to regain my normal family life.

So yeah, Consumer Law... I need to get on that. (And Texas Real Property and Guardianship and Civil Procedure and the MPT and reviewing those six MBE topics...)

A House of Six

I would like to introduce our two newest family members.



This is Jude.



He's 3, very happy and easy going and just wants to be your friend.




This is Hope.



She's 6, very sweet, LOVES the water, and appears to be the dominant one of the two.





We're not yet settled on their new names. Right now we like Dillon and Dixie/Daisy or Tex and Rosie. Dillon is because we love Colorado and skiing and Dillon is the town where we stay whenever we go. Tex is rather obvious, but also because I had a pound puppy named Tex that I adored as a child and am still devastated that I left him behind in a hotel room in 6th grade (yes, he still traveled with me in 6th grade). Rosie would be for the Yellow Rose of Texas and her pretty reddish coloring. But if you have any ideas after seeing the pictures, let me know!

Landon adores them and gets a huge smile on his face every time they come up to him. Given that they outweigh him by 50 lbs. a piece, I thought he might be a little tentative, but nope, he loves their kisses and being right in the middle of the tail wagging action.




We went on a family walk to a nearby park at 6:50 this morning. At first we couldn't figure out why our neighborhood looked so deserted, but then we remembered it was Saturday and it wasn't even 7 AM and who in their right mind would be up right now if they didn't have to be? The dogs did great on their leashes and Landon kept turning around in his wagon to check on them. He even got a few kisses along the way.






We're a little bit concerned about Hope's aggressiveness when Jude tries to play with her or when they go after the same toy. They slept fine in our room last night and see to get along well in general, but every now and then there will be a growl and a lunge - no biting and no escalation (even without our intervention), but it's a little unnerving. It seems to happen most when Jude starts to play with her- she'll play along and then she'll decide she won't. They were both fostered in homes with young children and other rescued dogs, and they were recommended as the least aggressive, most kid/pet-friendly of the choices. For those of you who have multiple dogs, any thoughts? Is it the new house, new family, new doggie sibling situation all at the same time? Is she just trying to set her boundaries? They're great with Landon - he nearly gouged out Hope's eyeball this morning and she just sat there. We're in touch with the foster families and the organization, and we'll make a change if we feel we have to, I'm just curious as to other people's experiences.

And now, because I only studied TWO hours yesterday, I'm going to go learn a whole bunch of law. It's a little horrifying to realize that there are subjects that are tested on the Bar every year in their own essay that I have yet to look at. But our walk left me feeling quite energized - let's see how long that lasts as I slog through Consumer Law.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Can't Think. Brain Full.

Conversation in bed with JP last night at 11:00.

Me: I'm worried my brain is full.

JP: [in his half-asleep voice because he falls asleep FIVE SECONDS after assuming the prone position] What? I love you too.

Me: No! I'm serious, my brain is full.

JP: [still clinging to his half-asleepedness] You'll be fine... shhhhhh, night time.

Me: You're not listening! I can't learn things - anything! I read and re-read and turn the page and try to remember what I just read and I can't. Can't! No recall. I studied Oil & Gas for 6 hours today - 6! That's a lot for me! I was even focused, no food breaks or chatting with other attorneys, just studying! You know how hard that is for me to do! But all I know is that the East Texas Oil Field was discovered before 1960-something so some statute doesn't apply. I think it's the MIPA one, which I call "mippa" but it might be "mypa". I don't even know what it stands for. Something about M___ I____ Pooling Agreements. Or is it Pooling Act? What does the M stand for?

JP: Minerals?

Me: Oh my god, that wasn't even on my mental list of possibilities. I spent all day reading about Mineral leases and Mineral estates and Mineral interests and Mineral acts and What is a Mineral and I couldn't figure out that the "M" in MIPA probably stands for Mineral? ... I'm screwed.

JP, used to the fact that despite being exhausted I immediately get hyper when I lay down in bed, grabs me and drags me over into a cuddle, kisses the back of my head and says: Shhhh, I love you too.

[End scene as JP immediately enters unconsciousness and I lie awake for the next 2 hours freaking out that by the time I drive to Houston on Monday I will have gotten so little sleep I'm going to drive off the highway.]

The biggest stress in my life right now is how tired I am. Even though I insist that I am not freaked out about the Bar and don't think I'll fail (I really don't), I know it's part of the reason I lie awake at night. It's frustrating to feel relaxed during the day, plugging through my outlines, and then lie in bed realizing I'm wound up tighter than I've been in a long time. And when you don't fall asleep until 1 or 2 AM, it's very painful when your baby wakes up at 6.

My only regret so far with the studying is that I'm not going to be able to review any of the subjects. So my 1 day ("day" being loosely defined as 4-6 hours) of review per topic is just going to have to be enough. I'd like to squeeze in a quick review of the MBE topics I studied first, but I'm not sure when that'll happen given that I never learned any Civil/Criminal Procedure and Evidence so I'll be spending Monday on that. I probably should have started earlier than July 7th, but I know myself, and if I had, I'd be even more sick of it than I am now, and would probably take off the next few days entirely. I just can't get worked up about anything for very long, and given how little I studied for the other big tests in my life (maybe 30 minutes for the SAT and 2 weeks for the LSAT), my brain feels more than a little put out and is threatening a strike (last night's inability to remember the Mineral Interest Pooling Act being a warning shot).

So to give that overworked little cerebrum of my a break, and hold off the strike until after the Bar, I'm taking the afternoon and evening off to go adopt a dog or two. These are the three we're meeting at 6pm in New Braunfels with their foster parents and I can't wait! JP and Landon went to Petsmart yesterday and broke all our budget rules to bring home $100 worth of dog toys and treats. I know adopting a dog RIGHT NOW seems crazy, and it probably is, but I really think having 130 lbs. of furry love in our house will help me study. Or help my brain relax so I can get some sleep. Either way, it'll be good.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Another Day, Another Topic I Don't Quite Know

I'm sitting on my couch flipping between SYTYCD and Project Runway wondering why I'm not more concerned about the Bar (and also why that Suede guy keeps talking about himself in the 3rd person - stop that!). I don't know if it's because I don't really believe it's 6 days away or because I didn't attend the barbri class and don't interact with anyone taking the exam, but I just can't get worked up about it.

I started today with the best of intentions- I was up and dressed in my work clothes (oh yes, the khaki colored linen pants, but jazzed up with very cute red heels) by 8:30. But then I played with Landon until his morning nap, and then I thought I could work at home for a little bit, but just ended up procrastinating via the internet. Then I realized JP was taking a nap so I set out to bother him. Finally at 11:30, after Landon woke up from his nap, I headed to the office. I turned to commercial paper with a fresh notepad and new purple pen (a trip to the supply closet was my reward for getting a 92% on the contracts question set I did yesterday- those official released questions are SO MUCH easier than the crazy barbri created ones), but quickly realized there was no way I could learn it in one day. I tried to read the barbri outline, then tried CMR, but just couldn't get my head around who has presentment warranties and who has transfer warranties and who exactly is a holder in due course and why are there like 15 requirements for negotiability and why does it not matter that a drawer's name is forged but it does when the payee's name is forged?? So I did some mental calculations and realized Commercial Paper will only be 3% of my grade. I think this may be the topic I just throw - although I haven't gotten to Oil and Gas yet and from what I hear that cannot be mastered in one day and this whole "it's only 3% of my grade" rationalization only works if I use it sparingly. I'm doing Oil and Gas tomorrow, so if it's as bad as I hear, I may throw it and go back to Commercial Paper.

So right now I'm mainly concerned with why the above sentences aren't freaking me out. Can one day per topic possibly be enough? I'm not going to have time to go back over the MBE stuff I studied first, but I did a contracts set yesterday without looking at it since early July and only missed 3 of 36. But that could have been a fluke. I'm afraid to do other topics in case they shatter my potentially misplaced confidence. Also, I wish Texas posted actual student essay answers- the Examiners' comments are helpful, but they just talk about what people missed, not what is "enough" to be a decent answer (surely they know we're all shooting for mediocrity here). The barbri model answers are pretty detailed, but I'm hitting about 75% of the issues they mention, is that enough? Although, that's when I practice them right after reviewing the topic all day, I'm not sure how I'll do if I try a topic from a few days prior (I really should, I know, but I'm thinking confidence may be one of the few things I have going for me right now and I don't want to hurt it). I just tried to recall the equation for claims for economic contribution in community property and drew a blank - not a good sign.

I spoke with our attorney employment head while stealing a few more of their M&M's and she said that while no one in the Austin office has ever failed the Bar, it's happened in other offices and it's no big deal, you just take it again February. So it's good to know that even if I'm totally embarrassed and depressed, I will at least be able to continue paying our mortgage.

So I'll continue on my little path to Tuesday. There's other distracting things going on, but I think they have to wait to be blogged about. Landon's molars continue to be big bullies - it took him over an hour to fall asleep last night and whenever I went in to check on him he was laying flat on his mattress in a puddle of tears, both hands stuffed in his mouth- breaks your heart and makes the priority rules in Secured Transactions seem terribly unimportant. And bless anyone who is still reading this- it seems like all I talk about anymore is this stupid exam and Landon's teeth (which are also stupid). After last Fall I will never fail to appreciate the beauty of boring, but it doesn't exactly make for riveting reading!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Fatigue

Yesterday was an off day for me and the Bar Exam. I didn't get to the office until nearly 11 and then I left at 2:30. I just didn't feel like studying. I read and re-read the same CMR Estate Administration pages, not absorbing anything, until I called JP to tell him I was coming home. He took the opportunity to go swim (unlike me, who hasn't done a real practice since I quit 7 years ago, JP still swims almost every day) while I sat at our kitchen table, staring at my outlines once again. I felt tired. I realized that since about February I have been in constant study mode. Spring quarter kicked off with four classes, two substantial papers, three finals, and a baby who screamed all night with persistent ear infections. When the ear tube surgery fixed one of those problems on April 1st, I had to throw myself into the researching and writing of those papers, and then the second those were turned in I was so behind in my classes I was panicked about exams coming up in 10 days. Then JP got really sick, we packed up our Chicago apartment, drove across the country, moved into a new house, went back to Chicago for graduation, and returned home with me behind in my Bar studying. I haven't sat on the couch without knowing I should be doing something else in so many months. I think I'm good about enjoying my life in spite of a looming deadline- about pressing pause and soaking up my time with my family and friends, but yesterday it felt like too much for too long; I couldn't see the great moments of last spring and this summer through the veil of constant pressure. I know I've made all these choices that have made my life difficult, and I'd make them again, but yesterday afternoon I needed to wallow in self pity while Landon took his nap. I made chocolate mousse, ate it out of the bowl topped with mini chocolate chips (the mini ones always seem so cheerful), and filled in my new planner. Ah, the joys of crisp new pages waiting to be filled in with a pretty pen.

I want this Exam to be over so badly, and yet, if I took it today I would probably fail. I haven't yet studied Secured Transactions, Commercial Paper, Consumer Law, Trusts, Oil and Gas, or Texas Property - all topics which have their own essay every year. The Bar is a rite of passage every lawyer has to take and I get that, I just wish there had been a little bit of time between the start of it and the end of law school. Graduating June 13th hurt when bar review classes began the third week of May- I'm just tired. Landon's molars are not helping. He woke up less than an hour into his nap, screaming the screams of an outraged, tired toddler who doesn't understand why his mouth hurts and no one is making it better. He was absolutely unresponsive to all my usual soothing techniques, Hyland's teething tablets, and Tylenol. I decided throwing him in the pool with daddy had the best chance of calming him down, so I placed my screaming, kicking, arching baby on the carpeted floor of my closet, put on my suit, threw all his stuff in a bag, wrestled him into the car seat, and took off for the local pool. He didn't stop screaming until he saw his dad splashing in the water. I stripped him down on the pool deck, put on his snazzy swim diaper and suit, and handed him off to JP while I found a spot for our stuff that was now strewn on the deck. We spent a very fun 45 minutes splashing, swimming, and watching Landon crawl back and forth across the baby pool. I've always found water soothing and apparently Landon does too. I took the rest of yesterday off, even snuggling on the couch with JP to watch a movie and eat more chocolate mousse.

Today I'm back at it and ready to push through to the end. One week from now I will be sitting in a room taking the Procedure and Evidence exam. I have exactly enough time to spend one day on each essay topic I haven't studied yet, and then half a day Monday to go back over the MBE topics before I drive to Houston that night. Hopefully that will be enough- I think it will be. And then I'll have the month of August to relax and enjoy my boys, our soon-to-be adopted dog(s), and our new house. Just seven more days...

Monday, July 21, 2008

1 Year Check-Up

I never wrote about Landon's first year check-up last week. It was on his birthday, bright and early at 8:30 AM, and he was full of his usual doctor's office charm. We really like our new pediatrician. I'd sent an email out to the corporate section asking for recommendations (every attorney except one has young kids and most live in our area) and several recommended her. She's raised 3 kids of her own, has a very impressive resume, and is a great mix of practical, knowledgeable, and nice. Landon gave her lots of smiles and sideways glances and kept rubbing his belly for her (you know, in case she missed it). His new stats are:


Height: 30 inches (55%)
Weight: 24 lb. 6 oz (85%)
Head: 48 cm (90%)


So once again we have a medium sized, chubby baby, with a big head. We talked about the bottle and transitioning to a cup (goal by 15 months, but he's already done it except for his last feeding), his daycare (she said its a great one and her patients' parents really like it), his teething (molars can take a long time and if his earlier teeth were bad, these will be worse - awesome), and his talking (no worries that he still only babbles, he does it enthusiastically and with eye contact and some meaning).

He got 7 shots, which displeased him, but the nurse was quick and the second she was done I handed him his little dog and he gave it a big smile. Now he only needs 1 more for the whole next year! I know some people like to space them out, and I understand that approach, but I don't want every time he goes to the doctor to involve shots and I want to make our visits to the doctor as infrequent as possible this year.

So now that's recorded for posterity (and for me to write in his baby book whenever I get the chance - if it wasn't for this blog, I wouldn't remember when he did anything- the whole first year is a blur) I am REALLY going to go study now.


New Week, Same Pants

The hardest part of my day, besides wrapping my head around the Pretermitted Child statute, is figuring out what to wear to work. No one officially told me I had to wear business clothes, but my study office is right in the midst of regular offices in my future section and I'd feel inappropriate showing up in jeans and a t-shirt. Besides it's about 65 degrees in there and work clothes tend to be warm. I enjoy wearing nice, dressed up clothes and heels, so wearing a suit and pumps every day while I study would not normally be a problem. The problem is that I have no clothes that fit.

I feel like a jerk whining about the fact that all my clothes are too big- I mean, don't most people wish they had that problem? I certainly spent many years wishing for it and would be rolling my eyes in a big way if I were reading this. And if we weren't on a "we haven't had a paycheck in 3.5 months and just bought a new house and our savings account is dwindling faster than it was supposed to" budget, I would just go buy a few new basics and be done with it. But we are on the aforesaid budget and when you look at my closet you do not come away with the impression that I am in desperate need of clothes. I did go to New York & Company during their big sale a few weeks ago (you know, the one they have every other week) and pick up a pair of size 2 khaki colored linen like pants for $15. I wear them 4 times a week- the other day I either wear a pair of pants that bags at my butt or a skirt that makes my legs turn purple while I freeze to death.

So I have a dilemma. I have some really nice work clothes that I carefully and slowly accumulated from Ann Taylor sales over the past few years- do I get them altered? Altering is expensive too, though less than what the clothes would cost to replace. Plus I don't really trust this new weight. It's been steady for the past 5 months or so and I'm not putting any great effort to maintain it, but I've just never been this size and I don't trust it enough to invest in it (even if I had the money to do so). So, every morning, I stand in my closet for at least 30 minutes while Landon crawls around exploring my shoes, trying on different combinations of old clothes until I give up, rescue a heel that's about to be shoved in Landon's mouth, and put back on my khaki colored linen like pants for yet another day.

And in other news, one week from today I will be driving to Houston to take the Bar. I'm not sure it's a good thing that I'm more concerned about my pants than the fact that this Exam is 8 days away. Denial, perhaps? An admirable and steadfast refusal to give in to the panic? An unhealthy love of the sartorial? Probably a mix of all three. OK, back to Wills and pretermitted children... if you know of anywhere giving away free pants, let me know.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

this, that, and the other

I have a lot of posts running around in my head right now - thoughts on working in the Fall and what that means for me and my little family, thoughts about where this blog is going now that I'm done with school, thoughts on parenting, thoughts on politics and the election, thoughts on Austin and the choices and paths we take in life. I get lost in these thoughts while staring out my office window, with its beautiful view of my new city, and I have an almost irresistible need to write them down- to get them out. But I can't because (by design) there's no computer in my barbri study space. So I turn back to my Community Property or Agency and Partnership Outlines and press on- trying with only marginal success to clear my head of everything but Black Letter Law.

One of the many benefits of studying at The Firm this month has been reconnecting with the attorneys I met last summer. My first week was somewhat awkward- I looked quite a bit different than the last time I wandered those halls, 8 months pregnant and 12 days away from giving birth, and since the new associates don't start until September I wasn't on anyone's mind as someone who should be in the office. I'd pass people in the hall and smile hello, they'd say hi back, and we'd both walk past wondering if we were supposed to know each other. Of course there were lots who remembered me, but in a 100+ person office you can't get to know everyone during a 5 week internship. I've gotten better about reintroducing myself and it's been fun chatting with the corporate group on my study breaks. It's very reassuring to note that when I leave at 9:00 I am the only person in the office. I spent several hours there today and was alone the entire time. This is good. So the firm's people and its policies are just as friendly as they appeared when I was being wooed as a summer associate- it's what I expected, but it's nice to have it reaffirmed.

My progress through the essay topics has been going better than expected. In the past two days I've learned corporations, agency and partnership, family law, and community property. I've found that if I just read the barbri outline and then the CMR outline, slowly and carefully and think about what the law is saying, I can spit back most of the legal issues almost verbatim in my answers. That's why outlines and flash cards don't work for me- I memorize in paragraph form. Tomorrow I start Wills, which reminds me, JP and I need to make ours.

And because this post has almost no theme or coherence, I'll just throw in the fact that I spent what might have been my most delightful 20 minutes as a parent today with Landon. We have a new game where he crawls away really fast and you're supposed to chase him on your hands and knees. Every few yards he stops and turns around and when he sees you, he cracks up, and then continues on, only to stop and turn around again. If you chase him into a corner he falls over he's laughing so hard, and sometimes when he's crawling while laughing he stumbles onto his little shoulders because his hands weren't moving as fast as his legs. He finds this hilarious as well. Today he laughed so much he got the hiccups. It was pretty fantastic. He's also successfully transitioned to whole milk, so our grocery bills will go down by half now that we don't have to buy that hypoallergenic formula (I'm only slightly exaggerating). He's also using sippy cups for all his milk except the nighttime bottle. If he hadn't woken up in a state of hysteria this morning at 5:15 and refused to go back to sleep, I'd say he's pretty much the perfect child. (By the way, do you know how hard it is to memorize all the division of asset rules when you have already been awake for 14 hours at 7 pm and you only got 6 hours of sleep? Very Hard.)

So wow, deep thoughts, the Firm, the Bar, and a happy baby story - can you tell I'm tired and brain dead? I promise that better writing will come after July 31 when this horrible rite of passage is over.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

In Good Company

Google searches that have brought people to my blog over the past 7 days:

failing barbri practice tests
bar exam unprepared
i did not study enough in june for the bar exam
i did horrible on the mbe practice exam
bar exam sucks
how many questions do i need to get right on the mbe
best way to memorize bar essay subjects
still only getting 50% on mbe 2 weeks before bar
bar exam last two weeks
bar exam ambien
last minute texas bar exam prep 2 weeks
bar review memorize outlines like crazy last two weeks
bombed the practice bar exam
bar exam 2008 worried about mbe

Everyone take one big deep breath and let it out slowly. Now, go watch some mindless TV or bake cookies - or both, preferably baking the cookies first so you can eat them while watching TV. Even better, find a giggly one year old you can borrow for an hour. You and your baby friend can fret over the Runaway Bunny and then bang plastic blocks on the tile floor and laugh at the loud sound it makes. Then go home, fill a glass with crushed ice and diet coke (or hard liquor, your call) and continue on with your studies. You will be fine. We will all be fine.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Texas Bar Exam Primer

There are a lot of non-law people around me who don't know much about this exam that has taken over my life (or should be taking over my life, but as I sit here watching So You Think You Can Dance with plans to watch the premiere of Project Runway Season 5, it's um, not). I actually graduated law school without knowing what was on the Bar, and I was several lectures into my review course (that's what barbri is - the big monopoly of a review course for the Bar, like Kaplan and Princeton for the MCAT or LSAT) before I knew the MBE was multiple choice. So for those of you living in blissful ignorance of what this horrible exam entails, here's a little Texas Bar primer* for you:

The Bar is given twice a year in every state (July and February) and lasts from 2-3 days. This summer's Texas Bar is 2 1/2 days on July 29-31. In general you must take the state's bar in which you want to practice. Some states have reciprocity with others (they accept other state's bar exam scores) but most only allow that if you've practiced for a certain number of years in the state which you originally sat for the exam. Washington, D.C. has the most liberal reciprocity rules and will accept any other state's bar exam immediately after you take it (assuming you pass of course). All this is why we are not leaving Texas for at least 5 years and even then we're only going somewhere with reciprocity. I refuse to take this exam again. Unless we can move to Colorado. I suppose I'd retake it if I could live near ski slopes, but it would be a close call. After all, that's what vacation homes are for.

Texas Day 1 consists of two 90-minute morning sessions. The MPT is the Multistate Performance Test. According to the TBE website it is "designed to test your ability to use fundamental lawyering skills in a realistic situation" (yeah, super realistic, you usually only have 90 minutes to start and finish a memo and you always get exactly the cases and statutes you need from the assigning partner). Anyway, you get an exam booklet with a File consisting of an "assignment" for an attorney, client, or judge and a Library with cases, statutes, memos, and anything else you may need to research and write the assignment. There will be stuff you don't need, of course, and it's up to you to figure out how to structure and phrase your work product, keeping in mind the particular audience you are given. It's pretty much like the first thing you had to do in your law school writing class and I'm ignoring it until maybe the day before. The MPT is 10% of your overall score.

The second part of day one is the Texas Procedure and Evidence Exam, which consists of two, 20-question short-answer booklets- one for Texas Criminal Procedure and Evidence and one for Texas Civil Procedure and Evidence. They are a combined 10% of your grade. Both will have a fact pattern that will take you through the initial filing of a criminal and civil case and ask you questions along the way - what motion should be filed (and where, when, etc), should this evidence be admitted, is jurisdiction proper, what should the judge say, what's the appeals process, etc. Even though you have like 90 seconds per 5-line fill-in the blank question, they all say "explain fully" so that should be fun. Despite my fear of facing questions I have NO idea how to answer, I'm also ignoring this part of the Bar. It's the only area where Civil Procedure is tested and that is such a complex subject that it's not worth the effort for only 5% of my grade. I did spend some time on Texas Crim Pro and Evidence rules so I'm hoping I'll remember enough Civ Pro from 1L year to not leave anything blank.

Day Two consists of 6 fun-filled hours of multiple choice questions. It's the MBE or Multistate Bar Examination and it makes up 40% of your grade. It covers the federal and common law of Contracts and Sales (including UCC Article 2 for the sale of goods), Real Property, Torts, Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure (Modern Penal Code and common law crimes), Constitutional Law, and Evidence. This is all I've studied so far. I've dedicated 1 day to each topic and just got a 67 on my first real practice test since the workshop. That's what I need to pass (kind off, all your scores are given their appropriate weight and added together, if you're above a certain number you pass, so there is no "minimum" score on any section), so it's time to force myself to move on. The hardest thing about the MBE is the questions are absolutely ridiculous. You are never tested on the law- you are tested on the exception to the exception to the exclusion and often are told to pick the "best" answer, which means all of them suck and you get to choose the one that sucks the least- and all the while you want to yell, "I know the freaking rule, and all the exceptions, can't I just write them down for you?!!". But you do get to bring in your own special #2 pencil and I already have mine carefully selected from the firm's supply closet. Sometimes it's the little things that keep you going.

Day 3 is the Texas Essay Examination- 12 of them over 6 hours for another 40% of your grade. You can type or hand write this section, and I of course will have my computer. I wrote Landon's birthday thank you notes the other day and my hand crumpled into itself and went on strike by the end - there were only 7 and I wasn't exactly writing novels. The topics to be tested include: Bankruptcy, Business Associations (agency, corporations, partnerships, limited liability companies, professional associations), Consumer Law, Family Law, Community Property, Real Property, Oil & Gas, Trusts & Guardianships, Secured Transactions, Commercial Paper, Wills & Estate Administration, and Tax (income, gift). You have 30 minutes per essay and many of the topics will be tested together (like bankruptcy and tax mixed into family law or business associations). I fear this section the most because almost all of these topics are completely new to me and I'm terrified of reading a question and having nothing to write down. At least with the MBE you can pick a letter and be done with it. You'd think this fear would have me working hard, but no, I haven't done anything for these topics. I'm starting tomorrow bright and early on agency and partnerships. Hopefully my tired little brain has room for all the information I'm going to try to cram into it over the next 12 days (note to self: more topics than days left before the Bar, holy crap, why am I watching Bravo?)

So that's it. We get our scores sometime in November so I'll start work not knowing if I passed (there's of course certain lawyerish things you can't do until you find out you've passed). I think I'm still in denial over the whole thing. I spent a lovely few hours this evening playing with Landon and pushing him around in his new cozy coupe. We're also knee-deep in dog research and are traveling to San Antonio on Saturday to possibly adopt this dog. I know, I know, this is so NOT the time to do that, but how can you look at that face and not want to bring her home immediately? Once you start looking at doggie profiles online it's very hard to stop- in three days I've lost hours of study time, but I'm rescuing an animal here. It's a higher calling. Although if I don't pass this exam, I won't be able to keep our newly rescued pup in the lifestyle in which he or she will become accustomed.

If my dad is reading this and freaking out about my lack of preparation, don't worry. I really am dedicating many hours a day to this thing. My brain needs breaks, especially breaks filled with a certain giggling 1-year old, and I'm sure our new dog will help me study. I'll get it done. I think. I hope. If I have to do this again I will cry, a lot, and no one wants that to happen- especially not me.

*do you pronounce that "primmer" or "prymer"? My Sexual Orientation and the Law professor said "primmer" and as much as I loved him and the fact that one day he left his cell phone on during class because he was waiting for an important call from the vet about his cat, and it rang proudly with a Cyndi Lauper song (could a sentence have more gayness in it?), I'm still not sure he was saying it correctly.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Happy Birthday Landon!

Dear Landon,

Today you've been with us for one year. From the moment you were born (4 weeks early) you showed us that planning and predictability were a thing of the past. You've taught us so much already- how to laugh through stress, exhaustion, and fear, how to love each other through anything, and how to soak up the little moments in life. I'm never going to pretend like our first year with you was easy, but there was a lot of happiness in there too: the night you started getting better in the NICU, the day we took you home from the hospital, your first smiles, your first noises, how nuts you'd get when we turned on your mobile, your newborn snuggles, your special smiles for clocks, your obvious pride when you finally rolled over, the first time you figured out you could chase Lilly, splashing in the tub, and so many other memories that make me smile.

Now at 12 months you love your Lilly cat, walker wagon, books (well chewing on them anyway), chewy bath toys, and anything that makes a crinkly sound. You love to carry something in your hand while you crawl and especially like to bring your blocks over to the hard tile to make loud noises while you bang them on the floor. You've discovered stairs and crawl up them so fast and then wait patiently at the top for us to find you. You and your dad have growling contests and it's one of the funniest things I've ever heard- it's apparently a manly bonding ritual. You like to help your dad with all power tool activities and you love to play with my hair products from the cabinet under the sink. You're turning into a pretty good eater and prefer mac and cheese, spaghettios, yogurt, watermelon and apple pieces. You recently discovered the fun noise pasta makes when you squish it in your fists, so now at dinner you place a noodle in each hand and squish them while I shovel noodles into your mouth with a spoon. It's working pretty well and you seem pleased with all the squishing that goes on. You have such a personality and funny expressive faces, you keep your daddy and me laughing even when you're also making us very, very tired. The best part of my day is when you two come wake me up- your daddy launches you onto the bed and you crawl over the mounds of blankets with a giant smile trying to find me, and then we all snuggle.

We love you so much, happy birthday big man!

Love,
mommy

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Bar-Free Celebration

We enjoyed a nice visit from my parents this weekend. They arrived Saturday morning, eyes swollen, having driven straight from putting Molly to sleep at the vet. My brother and his girlfriend rode with them, my sister drove over from San Marcos, and everyone arrived at the Lag Liv house around 2. We had a group cry and hug over our beloved dog but felt surprisingly at peace with what happened. Even to the end she made things easy for us, it was so obvious it was time for her to go.

The boys unloaded our furniture from the U-Haul. We're now the proud owners of my parent's beautiful old kitchen table and chairs, a solid oak hutch and side board (now we can finally unpack the 12 place settings of china that have waited patiently in their boxes since the wedding!), and two twin beds for an empty guest room (that will someday be Landon's room). We decorated the back deck with my $10 of carefully selected party supplies from Target and enjoyed a cookout with hot dogs, pasta salad, coleslaw, baked beans, and fresh watermelon. Landon enjoyed all the attention and spent much of his time crawling back and forth across the wood deck. We made him a little high chair birthday boy throne and as you can see, he approved:



After dinner Landon got his own wee "baby cake" (HEB throws one in free if you order a 1/4 sheet cake), and while it was probably the cutest thing I've ever seen he was completely unimpressed with the sugary goodness. He did however LOVE the fresh watermelon so he went to town chewing on that while my dad rubbed icing on his face for the proper "first birthday" effect.



He was such a mess that we stripped him down, put him in the grass, and hosed him off. He adores water and considered this to be a special part of teh birthday celebration. Unfortunately the icing had a lot of dye so despite all our efforts to clean him off, he had a blue nose until this morning.



After cake we opened presents. Landon made out very well with a big Radio Flyer red wagon from my parents, a Little Tikes cozy coupe from his godparents, a lawn mower from his dad so he can help with the yard work, a Mr. Chatter telephone from his chatty mama, clothes, books, a little tikes piano, and bath toys from his other assorted admirers. He already loves being pushed around in the big wagon and cozy coupe, and I'm so glad he got such classic, sturdy, non-battery operated toys.



It ended up being a very nice day and I'm glad we had an official party. His real birthday is tomorrow and we head to our new pediatrician's office at 8:30 AM for his 12 month check-up. We haven't been to our spoken with a doctor in over 3 months!! That's a personal best for the Landon and it has been very nice for all of us. I got up with him this morning and we were very productive with all the piano playing, cozy coupe cruising, baby book updating, and thank you note writing.

Now it's time to get back to studying, a topic on which I have much to say (whine) about, no time to write (lucky for you all). I woke up at 2 AM completely panicked yesterday morning- the kind of sit up in bed, heart pounding, OH MY GOD WHY I AM SLEEPING THERE IS NO TIME, type of panic. But in the daylight hours I'm pretty composed and plugging through outlines and practice tests. Two weeks, one day, and about a dozen subjects left to go. But oh this face, this face makes me smile even in the midst of reading a 126 page Texas Criminal Procedure outline.



I can't believe my little man is turning 1!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

In Requiem Molly

I woke up this morning to a text from my mom saying, "we're taking molly to the vet now". I knew what that meant, that Molly, our family's beloved yellow lab of 13 years, had taken a turn for the worse in the night and couldn't make today's car trip to Austin so we could see her one last time. I knew my mom wouldn't make that decision unless it was necessary- unless Molly was truly suffering and it was only selfishness on our part to make her wait until Monday just so we could say goodbye. I cried as JP and Landon came in to cuddle with me, JP thinking of the day his childhood black lab died, and Landon smiling and wriggling between us.

To describe Molly as a family dog isn't accurate - she never thought of herself as one and only barely endured interactions with the other dogs who said hello during our walks on the greenbelt. She'd look up at us with big eyes and implore, "why do they always sniff me? how long do I have to stand here?" Little dogs one-tenth her size would chase her- she had absolutely no idea how big she was, it was almost embarrassing when a little pouffy dog smaller than her head would have her running away at full speed, tail tucked between her legs. She vastly preferred people and was sure she was one. Her loves were her family, water and swimming, long family bike rides, family car trips (she'd sit on the back seat with my brother and get up and walk through the van to check on everyone with a little nose push every 30 minutes or so), camping trips, the lake house, scrambled eggs, and baked beans. We were spoiled with how well behaved she was. We never needed a leash- she always stuck close by and had no interest in other people or dogs. She was beloved by our friends, extended family, and neighbors and was just a solidly "good" dog. Her fur has been matted with tears from all three of us over the years- break ups, disappointments, the perceived meanness of our parents, and the fact that growing up just makes life harder and more complicated all sent us to Molly's solid, furry body and she'd sit up and endure all the hugging and sobbing like the best friend she was.

Up until the investigation the absolute worst day of my life occurred during spring break in 8th grade when I was out walking Molly, sans leash of course, and she took off after a squirrel across the street right as a car came racing around the corner. The car ran directly over her, as I watched in horror. Our wonderful vet took her in with little optimism, she had a shattered hip and possibly other injuries, but thanks to God and his skill she made a full recovery. He wouldn't even charge us for all the work and always called her his "miracle dog". He's the one who told my mom on Wednesday that her refusal to eat and drink was her way of telling us she was done, that the pain was too much and it was time to let go, and because he's the one who said it, we accepted it with little resistance.

My parents are still driving over with our furniture for Landon's little birthday celebration tonight. It feels subdued, but it will be nice to be together. We've been blessed in having almost no experience with death - all four of our grandparents are alive and healthy and the only other pet we've lost was a cat my mom got in college who lived to be over 20. It's going to devastate my little brother - Molly was his very special friend. But she lived a long time for her breed and her injuries and no dog could have had a happier, more love-filled life. She had summers of car trips and camping, weekends of running around the lake house lot, chasing off birds that dared land on her property, and nights being petted and coddled by all five of us. We're going to bury her ashes under her favorite pine tree at the lake. She will be missed acutely and remembered fondly.

Rest in peace, Molly.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Bar Exam Is Dumb

I have been studying, REALLY studying for 2.5 days now, and after reading a few outlines and doing a handful of MBE problem sets I have concluded this exam is stupid. Not just stupid because I have too much to learn and too little time to learn it or because it's keeping me in the office for 14 hours a day instead of chasing Landon around the downstairs- it's stupid because it's a TERRIBLE way to license lawyers. I now know contracts and torts- really know those areas of law. I could write you a small treatise and give you the exceptions and yet I still can't get more than 75% of those practice questions right. I come to questions where I recognize the issue immediately, I know the exception they're trying to test you on, and I read the answers and find either zero or three that appear correct. And even if you ignore how horribly written the MBE is (I know nothing about the MPT, Texas essays, or Procedure & Evidence exams because I haven't looked at any yet, but I'm sure they're badly written too), I still can't get over the fact that this has basically nothing to do with practicing law. I will not be a physician in the ER who needs to have facts and medical terms just sitting on the tip of my tongue. No corporate client will call me yelling "get me the answer to this corporations question STAT". There will always be time to double check, ask a colleague, or run a quick Westlaw search before calling them back. And most lawyers specialize - I will never need most of what is being crammed into my head (I'm looking at you, civil procedure and evidence).

But, despite the fact this exam is stupid, I'm plugging along fairly well in the studying for it. The office at the firm has been a godsend. It has floor to ceiling windows with a beautiful, calming view of Austin, no computer, and a door I can keep closed. I raid the diet cokes and hot tea from the kitchen, get lunch from the cafe downstairs, and grab hand fulls of chocolate from the employment office. When I'm taking a mini trip to get more food or caffeine, I am studying - reading outlines, reading the CMR (a very helpful little book!), doing practice sets, yelling at the answers in the practice sets... But I think I'm learning things - or at least memorizing things. In four hours I went from getting 8/18 in evidence to 15/18- and I still don't really understanding what hearsay is (I just know the rules that govern it).

I'm plugging through the MBE topics until Tuesday, and then I guess I'll tackle Texas Procedure and Evidence, and then the essays. The essays still scare me. I'm good at writing and making stuff up, but I feel like on the Bar the questions are so short and focused at one particular issue that it's hard to BS. You have to know things and know them quickly.

Tonight my sister came to babysit Landon for a few hours so JP and I could go on a date (Chuy's - very delicious). I had to limit myself to one margarita so I could keep studying afterward, but as always it was nice to sit and enjoy each other's company. My schedule is up with Landon at 6:30, soak him up until 9 when I go to the office, come home around 4:30 to play with him while JP goes to swim, go back to the office by 6:30 and stay until 10:30. I'm so happy that in stressful times like now I can completely rely on the strength of my relationship- I may worry about failing the Bar, but I don't worry about us one bit. Now I'm headed back to the office to finish Evidence. I hate ending each day knowing I won't get back to the topic until maybe the day before the Exam, especially because I don't feel any mastery of them, but there isn't time to give any topic more than one day of review.

So I'm pressing on. Not feeling great about it, but not feeling terrified either. At least not yet.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The End

One of the recurring flashbacks/nightmares I have about the DCFS investigation involves me sitting in the little windowless room in the hospital with the police detective, frantically trying to figure out how I could convince him that neither I nor JP hurt Landon. How do you convince someone that you love your child and despite his crying, his reflux, his colic, you still couldn't imagine actually harming him? How can you make a total stranger understand how completely insane this is, how loving we are, how well we know each other? After a few seconds of just sitting in silence, panicking that my silence was somehow an admission of guilt, I looked him directly in the eyes and said in a steady voice, "I know, with absolute certainty, that there is no way my husband or I hurt Landon. How can I convince you of that?" That's when he suggested the polygraph test, which we took the next day and of course passed (not that it wasn't a terrifying experience anyway). JP passed it so conclusively that the detective administering his told him as soon as he was done that he had nothing to worry about. It was a nice gesture in a time when people weren't making many of those in our direction.

Today, more than three weeks after the deadline, we finally heard back from the administrative law judge who heard our appeal in May. JP's indication for child neglect has been overturned and his record has been expunged. She found no credible evidence pointing to him as the perpetrator and recommended DCFS reverse the finding; that opinion was sent to the Springfield office for their review, and they agreed to expunge his record. Nine months and four days after that horrible trip to the doctor, the nightmare is over - or at least the administrative evidence of it.

When I called my mom to tell her the news she started crying, she was so happy and relieved for us. I had almost no emotional reaction. Neither did JP. Maybe it's because we're so removed from it now, maybe it's because we'd already let ourselves believe we'd get good news, or maybe it's because we have no emotions left to give- I'm not sure. I think for me the lack of relief is due to the fact that I now know the permanent effects of our experience and this finding, well deserved and just as it might be, doesn't remove those scars. The fact that it happened at all remains, the shelter's presence in my memory remains - will always remain, the nightmares remain. I was thinking the other day that the thing I resent most about the whole experience is that it's a part of me now and though it will fade, it will never be erased.

I'm happy, of course. I don't want to take away from the good news- that JP's record is clear, that we finally won something with that God forsaken agency- it means a lot. I hope that just as it took a while for the negative aftershocks to reveal themselves, it will take a while for this good news to sink in too. I think that in another year it's going to matter an awful lot that we appealed and we won.

This should be the end of the "The Nightmare" label. I still think about it more than I wish, but less than I feared. I remain overwhelmingly thankful for the love and help we received from our family and friends, both in real life and virtual. I am grateful that if anything our marriage is stronger from the experience. I thank God that Landon remembers nothing. I wonder if and when we'll tell him the story. Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart, for following along and lending your support, prayers, and outrage. I'm glad we can finally say "The End."

Monday, July 7, 2008

My Little Boy

Today JP, Landon, and I traveled to The Picture People in coordinating outfits for Landon's 1 year portraits. And despite Landon's preference for crawling around the room at high speed, and his indignant fury at the suggestion that he remain still, I think we came away with some good ones.

As we went through the photos I almost got misty eyed at how little baby is left in him. I love how fun and full of personality he is now, and I'm not a big baby person in general, but seeing him on the screen looking so "boy" made me a bit nostalgic for the snuggly little baby that he used to be. It feels like so long ago- I wish I had been able to enjoy it more. [End this line of discussions because damnit I'm tearing up again.] I'll just say that as always, he reminds me to savor the present, even when the present includes a Bar exam that caused a nervous breakdown complete with hyperventilation about an hour ago when I opened up all those other big books and realized how much is in there and OHMYGOD how am I going to learn all those things in 3 weeks?!

OK, back to my little guy. I will have more to say about him in the Official Birthday Post, but suffice it to say that I am finally understanding the depth of love and joy and outright wonder that lies in the relationship between a parent and child. There are a variety of reasons that Landon and my relationship evolved more slowly than most: the NICU, the investigation, the fact that what kept me sane and functioning during the worst of times- almost pretending that I was reporting on someone else's life, sticking to the facts and blow by blow accounts- also kept the emotions, both bad and good, from coming in. Of course I loved him from the beginning, but in an almost superficial, automatic way. I didn't know him yet, and then when I was supposed to be getting to know him all these other events kept him physically and emotionally at arms-length. Just the other day I was rolling with him on the floor and he was giggling his big full bodied giggles and I nearly started crying at the perfection of it all. At how perfect and wonderful and real he is, at how much I love him, at how much that terrifies and exhilarates me. The depth of these emotions are what I thought I was supposed to feel from the moment they handed him to me (for the 1/2 a second before he was rushed to the NICU because he was turning blue), but at least for me, they've grown slowly over the past 12 months into something deeper than I can put into words (at least without the risk of sounding like an overly sentimental Hallmark card). The Official Birthday Post will be happier and less rambly, but I needed to write these things down too.

And now, here are the pictures we had printed up today. A few are wallets so the scan came out rather blurry, but I think the adorableness still comes through. We also got a framed and matted "Quartet" for the On Sale! price of $99. We had no intentions of spending $100 on a single item, but they prepare these framed mock-ups for you and wow, they know what they're doing with those. This particular arrangement was comprised of four close-up pictures of him with all different classic Landon facial expressions. It was irresistible and it is now sitting on the counter looking for a home on one of our walls. They so perfectly capture him at the point in time that I think it'll be one we keep up even as he gets older and we have more kids. At least that's what I'm telling myself and our credit card bill right now. We didn't get any other prints of the faces, so you won't see them below, but maybe I'll take a picture of the frame sometime and post it. Here are the ones that will be sitting on my desk when I start work in September (the 3rd one is a family picture that is actually good of all three of us, such a rarity):









And so ends my last day of fun (besides his birthday study break on Saturday) until July 31st. Expect several bar exam freak out posts coming your way soon.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Happy 5th!

It's been a wonderful and relaxing holiday weekend for the Lag Liv family. On Thursday I became Master of the Universe when we finally broke down and ordered DVR for the TV. Now that we have it I can't BELIEVE that we went without for all this time. The purchase became necessary when neither of us would leave the couch to put Landon to bed during the swimming Olympic Trials. They air from 7-8 PM, Landon goes to sleep at 7:30 PM, and this was causing great marital strife. I knew that once the real Olympics began (and most of our friends made the team!) it was going to be an all out war. I called Time Warner, canceled our $10 movie channels and added the $10 DVR box, and now we can RECORD TV, TV which we can then fast forward, rewind, and pause. Obviously, I'm still drunk with the power.

After gaining control of the digital media world, the rest of our 4th of July weekend seemed pretty mundane. We spent yesterday hanging out with friends, grilling hot dogs, and watching a mini illegal fire works show in our cul-de-sac. We met a few more neighbors and thoroughly enjoyed our little piece of suburbia (I didn't think I'd say that without sarcasm for months, look how well I've adapted!).

Today I decided to postpone my Bar Exam studying for just one more day (July 6th is really the same thing as July 1st and don't tell me otherwise) and ran to Target to pick up a few things for Landon's 1st Birthday. Despite this stupid exam, I'm determined to give him a proper celebration. My parents are coming July 12 to deliver some furniture, so my sister, brother, and his girlfriend are also going to come over for a cookout and cake. I spent nearly 30 minutes in the party aisle agonizing over my paper plate and napkin selection. Landon has such discerning taste. I also ran over to the mall to buy him something patriotic to wear to our party tonight- I mean, it's not really a holiday unless you've dressed up your baby in something festive. While there I made the appointment for his 1 year portraits on Monday. I get the feeling I'm purposefully sabotaging my Bar preparation...

Tonight was our big neighborhood party at the country club. We met a lot of new people, all with young kids, and enjoyed the beautiful setting and unusually cool breeze. Landon fell in love with a 19 month old girl (and her mother- he actually leaned out from my arms into hers, he doesn't even do that to JP!). Here he is showing her his juiciest tongue flap and looking very handsome in his new shirt:



Seeing his new lady friend all independently vertical and walking seemed to motivate Landon to stand up on his own for the first time! He was up for over a minute- until his chubby little legs started to shake and JP helped him sit back down. He looked a little perplexed by his new trick and couldn't figure out why everyone was clapping and cheering around him.



Later he mistook her big Radio Flyer wagon for his little one and walked it all around the fairway.



He looked very pleased with himself and she even looked a little impressed. Later, she handed him part of her tortilla chip. This could be a serious relationship - luckily we've already met her parents and like them very much. There was a big fireworks show at 9:30, but we had to take the little man home (and watch those Trials we had recorded). We're now sitting on our back porch watching the bursts through the trees. JP is strumming his guitar and I'm taking advantage of the wireless router I finally installed. I have to admit, I'm absurdly happy here.

Happy Fourth (and Fifth) of July to you all!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Decidedly Not Suzy Homemaker

I woke up hungry this morning and decided to make something for breakfast. I don't do this often because I'm generally not hungry before noon and no matter what all the nutrition articles say, eating breakfast does not boost my metabolism or make me feel energized throughout the day. In fact, it usually just gives me a stomach ache. Apparently my intestines like to wake up slowly.

Anyway, this morning at 9 AM I decided I was starving and turned to our new Community Cookbook that the realtor gave us in our welcome basket. I've found these to be the best kind of cookbooks because everyone contributes their simplest, tastiest, most fool proof recipe for all the world to enjoy. It's been fun to flip through and drool over the Southern cooking buttery goodness- there's a recipe for "Riane's Mashed Potatoes (Rich and Full of Fat)". Now doesn't that sound delicious? But not for breakfast. In the "Kid Friendly" section I picked one called "Big Puffy Pancake." I love pancakes (despite not usually eating in the morning, I adore breakfast foods and make them for dinner all the time) and a big puffy oven-baked pancake sounded divine. I rounded up all five necessary ingredients only to find we had no eggs - you know you don't bake or make breakfast often when you don't routinely keep eggs in your fridge. JP and Landon volunteered to get some for me and I listened to a Bankruptcy Law lecture while impatiently waiting for them to return. Once things were started up again I followed all three lines of instructions, set the timer for 25 minutes, and listened to more Bankruptcy while my pancake became "puffy and golden brown." When the timer went off, I went and pulled this out of the oven:



Well... it was certainly puffy. It actually had a higher peak in the center but I was laughing so hard when I pulled it out of the oven that I hit it on the rack above. It looked like a pie-sized popover gone wrong and it most definitely did not look like a pancake.

Landon and JP had gone down for their morning naps (JP had to get up at 5:15 this morning because Landon decided sleeping in until 6 is for suckers), so I decided not to judge on looks alone- surely something with flour, milk, butter, and eggs couldn't taste that bad. I pulled out the sections that were fluffy, put them in a shallow bowl, and added powdered sugar, syrup, fresh strawberries, and whipped cream. It now looked like this:



I think it could now be classified as a dessert, but is there any better two meals to combine? Breakfast and dessert? Mmmmmm. And it was delicious! I took the picture above at 10:01 AM. I took the picture below at 10:05 AM.



It was very good, even if not very pretty. I kind of hope I screw it up again next time.

Update: Apparently others want to partake in the big puffy popover pancake goodness:


Big Puffy Pancake


Ingredients: 3 T butter, 1/2 c. flour, 1/2 c. milk, 4 eggs, 1/8 tsp. salt.

Instructions: Heat oven to 425. Place butter in pie pan and melt. In a mixing bowl, combine remaining ingredients. Beat until smooth. Mix in melted butter. Pour mixture into pie pan. Bake for 25 minutes or until pancake is puffy and golden brown. (Or until mountainous peaks are formed. Either way, top with delicious dessert-like toppings and enjoy!)

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

It's Really Happening

I received my admission ticket for the Bar Exam in the mail today. Apparently, four weeks from today, I will be two days down, with one to go. I think I should start getting scared, but four weeks sounds like an awfully long time- I only graduated law school 2.5 weeks ago and we were in Chicago 5 weeks ago. So I continue to plug along with the lectures and little else. My goal is to finish the lectures tomorrow, which is about 6 days ahead of the Austin barbri schedule. Then I'll make my "July Study Schedule" (oh yes, all caps, it's serious stuff now) and start going to the office.

At home, this is my study space:



That is one of our new couches. It is the perfect level of softness and support and I know it is the reason I was able to take that nap last week. It is also not anywhere near my laptop, which means I've been terrible about returning emails, but really good about staying up with my lecture catch up schedule. This is how I spend every minute Landon is napping, every evening after he goes to bed, and any time JP takes the little guy out of the house for errands or to splash in the pool: I place one large pillow behind me for back support, sit cross-legged in the corner, place another large pillow on my lap, put the snazzy clip board on top of that, put the iPod on the coffee table (amongst the baby carrots, blue cheese vinaigrette dressing, cup of water, diet coke, house phone, cell phone, and stack of MBE workshop notes I still plan to type up), pick up my blue pen with comfort grip (my snazzy pen had no comfort grip and has been banished after leaving a bruise on my finger from all the frantic note taking at the workshop), press play and enter the magical world of Texas civil procedure. Sometimes I like to throw in a big stack of chocolate chip cookies or a box of Nilla Wafers. Ah, preparing for the Bar, it is so glamorous.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

On The Move

Landon's first birthday is two weeks away, a fact that pretty much blows my mind. We have modest plans, thanks to the Bar Exam (luckily he's too young to know that his birthday is already being impacted by mommy's career), but we are going to have a mini party with my parents when they bring over some of our furniture on July 12. JP's grandmother wanted to get Landon a present and asked us to pick out something for about $75. I knew exactly what I wanted to order: The Radio Flyer Classic Walker Wagon. Landon has been power cruising for weeks now, even using blank walls for that little bit of support he still needs to be vertical. I knew he'd love the chance to "walk" across the middle of the room. When it arrived last week, we put it together and gave it to him right away. I figure he has no idea when his birthday is, so why make him wait- and we were so excited to see him get excited! And as you can see, it was a big hit:


Holy geeze I can move!

Great for chasing my cat!

Perfect for making loud noises when I plow into the cabinets!

I can ride in it too!



We've been really impressed with how solid, heavy, and well made it is, and it doesn't let him push too fast because the wheels have a bit of resistance to them. Landon adores it and I know that even after he can walk on his own he'll use it to push his treasures around the house and yard.

Here's a video of him on the move yesterday. The outfit is his father's doing, and even though I have an adverse physical reaction to things that don't match, I find it impossibly adorable.



On the Bar front, I feel really good after the MBE workshop that ended yesterday. It was infinitely more helpful than I expected and I'm very glad I went. I've decided to forgo the Procedure and Evidence workshop- thanks for your advice. I think I just need to trust in my exam taking talent and my determination to study enough on my own. I'm on track to finish the lectures before the people taking the class will and then I'll take off a day or two for the holiday and commence official studying after the 4th (or maybe after the 5th, we have a neighborhood party that day). Now if you'll excuse me, it's my turn to go protect our walls and cabinets from Landon's repeated crashing into them until someone turns him around.