Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Hard

I feel like I should write something, because there hasn't been any real content from me in a while, but my head is something of a disorganized, depressing mess.  JP is interviewing for jobs in various fields and cities and states and it is a difficult process.  It's hard on him  because of the rejections and the mounting frustration of not having a "real" (his word, not mine) job ten months out of business school.  He worked like crazy to start a successful company that now looks like more of a failure on his resume because of its short life thanks to a crazy business partner.  It's a tight job market pretty much everywhere, but especially in Austin because of its size and general desirability; plus, it's a very tech focused city and his BBA in Finance combined with an MBA doesn't get him nearly as far as a BS in any type engineering would.  He loves his coaching, but he wants to contribute more and he wants to be able to grow and succeed in a corporate career.  It's hard on me because I feel like I'm constantly balancing the need to support him, with the occasional need to verbally smack him (e.g. don't you dare tell me you're going to practice today when you told me you couldn't pick up the kids early because you had so much interview prep work to do), with my even more rare desire to scream "where the f was all this drive to get a business job when you were in BUSINESS SCHOOL and had access to all their resources we now have to pay for?!".  Because, even though I gave him my blessing at the time, a tiny part of me is furious with him for taking a risky start-up position when he could have been looking for more solid jobs that actually paid something, and every now and then that part has to come out too.  And then there's an overall ambivalence about him working at all -- part of me desperately want him to find a job to relieve some of the pressure on me, so we can take a deep financial breath, so I won't stop staring at our massive educational loan balances, so I can actually listen to opportunities that pay less than my current salary (as every single non-BigLaw opportunity does).  And yet the other part of me knows that our life is going to get so much harder with two full-time working parents and wonders why JP can't just want to be a stay-at-home dad so we could save $2,000/month on daycare, and I could continue to have a spouse who does nearly all the cooking, all the errands, and all the household chores.  Because, even though I don't want that role either, having only one person working full-time has been pretty awesome. And so I cheer the successes, mourn the failures, and secretly wonder what I really want the outcome of each new opportunity to be.  On JP's end the job searching is hard, the rejections are hard, and my most frequent urge is to just hug him and remind him that he's amazing and will be an asset to the company that's lucky enough to have him.  I'm his only family, his only support.  His parents are painful non-entities, an absence made worse by the fact that they're still around, they've just chosen a misplaced sense of pride and injury over any involvement with their son and his children.  He has no siblings, no aunts or uncles, one living grandparent who is even crazier and meaner than his mother, and his closest friend in Austin is now an ex-business partner who he is mostly definitely not speaking to.  I'm kind of it.  So, it's hard. 

Combined with all that, my current level of job satisfaction is less than it was.  A lot less.  I hate that I'm being turned in to an IP litigator, but in Austin, that's our bread and butter, and there's not enough overflow from the securities and big corporate litigation sections in the other cities to keep us busy right now.  I don't dislike my work, but I don't enjoy it either, and that's a loss.  And then, my very favorite senior associate who has become a very close friend announced she is most likely leaving due to a new opportunity for her husband in another state and I almost started to cry.  The people you work with have such an effect on your (or at least my) job satisfaction, and I can't imagine working without either the people or the subject matter that I like.  Then yesterday I had to fire one of the contract attorneys working under me in this case.  It sucked, as did the frantic phone call and email I received from him immediately after cutting him.  It was a black and white decision for reasons I won't go in to, but I didn't like it. 

Last night I was playing with the kids in the play room after dinner and I just felt sad.  I can't believe Claire is almost 10 months old.  I adore her little baby self so much I almost started crying about that she's getting older so quickly.  I never understood the moms who said that before, I cheered on every single day older that Landon got until he hit about 12-18 months, but with Claire I get it.  Even in her baby state, she's really not any harder than 3.5 year old Landon, and she's so adorable, with the clapping and crawling and excitement.  I have a rather desperate feeling that it hasn't been enough, that it's going by too quickly and I'm missing such big parts of it.  I spent all day Sunday with the kids while JP coached; we went to the grocery store and then I cooked for 4 hours.  It was the best day I've spent in a while - both kids were so good and cute and I was so very happy.  I wasn't sad to go to work on Monday, but it was the first day I felt regret as I pulled out of the daycare parking lot.  I frequently wish I could be in two places at once, or that the weekends were longer, but true regret or sadness at going to work is a new one.

There's happiness, so much of it.  Usually it floats on the surface and I don't even need to try to feel it above anything else, and I know people have it harder and I have little reason to feel this down.  But today, this week, perspective and happiness have been slippery and elusive and I'm having a very hard holding on to either of them for very long.

Monday, March 28, 2011

RRA: Meeting 2

We're way overdue for a meeting. Since our last virtual visit together, I have unintentionally become quite the paranormal romance reader.

I know, I never thought I'd type that sentence either, but I've already admitted I'm not a discerning reader of fiction.  Basically, if you can tell me a good story, a story that has nothing to do with my daily life (no lawyers, nothing that takes place in the last 50 years, definitely no dramatic true stories involving life and death, and no wounded animals, ever), and if you draw me 3-dimensional characters with convincing dialogue, and just generally entertain me for the few hours it will take me to read your book, I'm sold.

Thus, paranormal fiction. It all started with the Nora Roberts Magic Circle triology books that I friend lent me over a year ago, which I read twice during the few weeks I had them, then I asked to borrow them again a few months later because I was craving a re-read (I frequently crave books, do you?), and then I finally just bought them used online so I could read them anytime I wanted. Then my sister lent me all the Sookie Stackhouse True Blood books, which I flew through because they're like a literary combination of candy and crack. I've already written about Twilight here and my general disgust both for it and for myself for reading them all multiple times, but I suppose they fall in this category. Then this list of the top 100 romance books included "Lover Awakened," Book 3 of the Black Dagger Brotherhood series by J.R. Ward. The mini summary sounded good, so I bought the first three books with my Christmas kindle gift card. Ten days later, I'd read all 8. I got very little sleep, but they are so much fun. The street/tough guy language as written by a woman can be annoying, especially when I'm pretty sure she's using certain slang words wrong (not that I'm any tough guy expert), but as I've already stated, my standards are not that high and she drew some really great characters. The ninth book comes out tomorrow and even though the Kindle price is ridiculous, I'll probably end up buying it just because I've now read the original eight 2-3 times each and I've been looking forward to #9 for months.  It'll be a "I worked all weekend" present. My faves in the series are #1 (Dark Lover), #3 (Lover Awakened), and #8 (Lover Mine). They've made me an even bigger fan of the kindle because I can hide the covers/titles of my ridiculous books from the general public (and my non-fiction, autobiography reading husband), but this is a safe space right?

Then, because the world is conspiring to get me to read more of these books, the Pixel of Ink emails told me this book by Kathryne Kennedy was $1.  It's called "Enchanting the Lady" and I loved it.  It's takes place in Victoria England "where the magic has never stopped" and involves the nobility, who get their titles based on magical ability (Dukes can change matter, Earls have a special gift, etc.), and shape-shifting relic hunters which track down the remaining, dangerously powerful Relics of Merlin.  And while that is probably one of the silliest sentences I've ever typed, I loved the book and it's two successors: Enchanting the Beast and Double Enchantment.  Then I found the first book in a new series Kennedy has started called "The Fire Lord's Lover" and loved it too.  She writes a great stories with strong characters and I hope she continues both lines of books.

Lastly, I started the Demonica series by Larissa Ione on our plane ride to Denver on Spring Break.  Also very good, and very addictive, I finished all five within the week.  It starts with Pleasure Unbound and the first book of a spin-off series comes out tomorrow.

Some other books I've read since December (all regency romance):
  • The last two in the Julia Quinn Bridgerton series (It's In His Kiss and On the Way to the Wedding); not quite as good as the first few, I basically read them for the glimpses you get of the older siblings, but still fun.
  • The Raven Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt.  I'd enjoyed her Four Soldiers series and thought this one was pretty good.  I have to admit, after reading so many books involving magic, it was a hard comedown to the regular world with its regular human characters.
  • Lord of Scoundrels.  Number 1 on the top 100 romance books list I linked to above and a great rad.  I'm not sure about #1, but then again, I have an impossible time ranking books because I enjoy just about all of them. 
My first love will always be historical fiction, and see the last two RRA posts for some great recommendations there, but I tend to read in themes and apparently magic is the kick I'm on now.  And lucky for me, two of my new series have books coming out this week! 

So what about you, reading anything I should know about?  Has anyone else read any of the series I mentioned?  I have no one to talk to about these things!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

That Kid

Yesterday started out as a day of work. I sat in the study and billed 7 hours by 4:00 pm. Claire worked very hard at taking a nap and slept for 3.5 hours so mommy could be super productive. I appreciated her effort, but have to admit that around the 2.5 hour mark I started checking on her because she was freaking me out with all the silence and the sleeping. (Can I just note that I never once worried about that with Landon, my child who actually DID stop breathing multiple times in the NICU. But with Claire, my big healthy baby, I've made at least 200 unnecessary checks on her, most of them between 2 and 4 a.m. when I woke up with my heart pounding because she was just sleeping too well. Landon prepared us for many things, but he did not prepare us for a baby who slept.)

Anyway, while the girls worked hard in the house, the boys worked hard outside of the house:



They were working so hard, they didn't even hear me come out and get the picture. I love JP's tiny chair and the way their body positions exactly mirror each other.



Our day of work was going to be capped off with a birthday dance party for one of Landon's friends at 4:00. The birthday girl's parents had hired one of the kids' daycare teachers who dj's weddings on the weekends to come spin some Justin Bieber for the kids. He brings his DJ equipment to school every Friday for outdoor, all-class dance parties- even the babies get to come sit outside on their blanket to partake in the fun, so we were all very excited about this party. I made the colossal mistake of telling Landon about it before his nap, so he kept coming downstairs every 20 minutes to tell me "I tried" to sleep and "can we go to the party now?" I sent him back upstairs each time, and thanked god he doesn't do that at night. For whatever reason, Landon has never left his bed after we've said goodnight and closed the door. And after pausing my work every 20 minutes yesterday, I'm even more grateful for that than I thought I was.

He finally fell asleep around 3:30. And because we have learned nothing about being parents of a young child, we woke him up at 3:50 to head to the party.

It did not go well.

Landon is so easy going, he's really never been the kid who's crying or screaming or doesn't want to join the group. (Oh, he's had tantrums at home, but his general mellowness and the promise of cake have always prevented them from happening in public). But yesterday was our turn -- our son was totally that kid. He was a mess. It was almost painful to watch him try to pull himself together, only to fall apart five seconds later for no reason. First he couldn't decide if he wanted to be at the party, then when we said okay, we're leaving, he decided his very life depended on being at the party, but then he wouldn't play with his friends, he would only sit in the kitchen and eat watermelon, and then he wanted to dance, but not to that music, only to the OTHER music, then he wanted to bounce, but only by himself, he didn't want to hit the pinata, but his whole world fell apart when he didn't get any candy, etc, etc.



disaster in an orange shirt

JP and I just stared at him in awe. Who on earth was this child? Luckily it was a loud party with all the music and other craziness, so he didn't disrupt anything, and his outbursts were all crying on the sidelines- he's not a kicker, screamer, hitter, etc. But dude, it was exhausting. After an hour of trying to make it work, an hour we only attempted because as I said, he wasn't really bothering anyone but himself (and us!) and JP, Claire, and I were having fun, we finally decided it was time to go put him to bed.

Claire, on the other hand, had a fabulous time. She was wearing her party dress and her party bow and she rocked out to the music. With all the attention and smiles she got, I'm pretty sure left under the impression that the party had been for her.



Not directly relevant, but I love this picture because "Coach JP" is always surrounded by his adoring female fans. It cracks me up. A bunch of these girls had older siblings who swam for JP last summer on the local summer league team; the others were drawn in by the cute baby, whom they all referred to as "Biscuit." Does everyone know her ridiculous nickname?



not pictured: Landon crying 5 feet away because the sun was shining, or something equally disastrous

When we left at 5:30, Claire was worn out from all the smiles and Landon was worn out from all the crying.



We had both kids asleep in their beds by 6:30. I woke up at 6:45 this morning, listening to them play in Claire's room. When I got up there about 30 minutes later to start our day, Landon asked so cheerfully, "Can we go to Sydney's party again today mommy?"

If only, but today is going to be a better day, I can feel it.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Now with 3x more cowboy boots!

I have half a post written that involves actual thoughts about something that matters, another RRA post started, and a post planned about my sweet baby girl who suddenly lives for danger and is probably going to force me to buy our first baby gate -- but, it's 10:50 pm and I'm tired and I'm working and I'm tired. I got a call at 4:00 asking if I had time to work on something due by the end of the day tomorrow. My first thought was, are you confused? tomorrow is Saturday, you know, the day we don't work. But no, he wasn't confused, and there went my plans to read and run errands and re-organize my closet. I was excited about those plans. I am not excited about this little project, not at all.

It's okay, this is what I get paid for, but it means that I'm grumpy and unable to dig up the energy or emotion to finish the substantive post I started the other day. So instead, it's Rodeo pictures!



You get to see Landon in cowboy boots, eating every last morsel of his fried corn dog! (ewwww)



The Biscuit looking bored and wishing we'd remembered to bring the sun shade for her stoller!



Me, also in boots! and posing next to a tractor because that's what happens when you let a 3.5 year old boy pick the photo spot.



Awkward.


There were rides. And two nice carnival menfolk who let Landon drive his boat/motorcycle for an extra long time until JP and I finally begged them in muted whispers to please make the slow, endless loop stop. Landon loved it.




JP, also in boots, but sadly, without his hat. He looks quite good in a cowboy hat. It really is crazy that I was born in Texas when he wasn't.



Both of us expressed dismay that we ever begged our parents for those cheap, itchy looking stuffed animals hanging above the games. When Landon started looking at them with stars in his eyes, we decided it was time to go. This was my first trip to the Austin Rodeo, and while it has nothing on the huge one in Houston, it was still a fun way to spend a Saturday morning and a great excuse to wear jean shorts and cowboy boots.

And now, it's back to work.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Gone Fishing

A snapshot of approximately 12 minutes of our Sunday morning:


Wheee, we're playing together in the play room!



Claire: I must be vertical at all times.

Landon: Ooh, some cards I've never cared about but suddenly must have.



Claire: I have never seen these cards either, but "Ehhh!" I too must have them!



Oh, it appears there are many cards, maybe we can share.



Go Fish.



I'm not really sure how we play this game. Let's all get more cards.



Emergency taste test!



Actually, I think we're supposed to sit across from each other.


----
Claire: can't read my, can't read my, no he can't read my poker face



Claire: A pair! I win. Now let's crawl away really fast so I can put myself in harm's way before mom's even put down her camera.


End scene.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Toes and Mondays

Mondays are never the best. I was going to say that Mondays are the worst, but that isn't really true- I never mind going to work and for whatever reason Wednesdays and Thursdays often end up being the roughest days for me. But still, Mondays are perhaps not my favorite. And the Monday after a week long, totally unplugged vacation is really not my favorite. It took me nearly five hours to get through my emails and get back on top of a doc review I'm supposed to be managing (10 contract attorneys produces a lot of email traffic) and to shake my head clear from all the time off. It really felt like I was coming back from a mini maternity leave again.

So work was a little crazy, but I had prepared by dressing in a cheerful spring ensemble of white tailored pants, a bright peachy sleeveless shirt (the same one I'm wearing here), gold open toe sandals, and turquoise and gold dangley earrings. I was flagrantly violating dress code with the sleevelessness and the summer sandals, but it made me happy.

It was also necessary. Or at least the offending shoes were, I have no excuse for the shirt other than I like it and didn't feel like wearing a jacket. You see I seriously messed up my toes skiing. I didn't mention it because I was already sick of my whining by the time I wrote the last post about our trip, but damn, my toes REALLY hurt-- enough to keep me from falling asleep at night. It started on Tuesday night with a dull ache. Then on Wednesday my toes were killing me but it was our last day of skiing and nothing was standing in my way, even though that night they felt like they were pulsing with their own little heartbeats and I was limping when I walked. Thursday, our travel day, my toes hurt so badly that I actually sat down while waiting for our luggage because I couldn't handle the pressure of being on my feet. I felt like a wimp. I was determined to suck it up and get over it because seriously, who is sidelined by toe pain? But it just kept getting worse. On Saturday the pressure was so great that after whining to JP for the millionth time that "my tooooeeesss huuurrrtttt" he finally looked at them and said, "hmmm, looks like there's a bruise at the bottom of the nail down there." For whatever reason, that had escaped my notice, so I very quickly and very gently took off my toe nail polish only to find an entirely black, bruised-all-to-hell big toe nail on both feet. Oh. So that's why they were throbbing in pain and I couldn't walk by the end of the day and I visibly flinched any time one of my children came within 2 feet of my feet.

Yesterday I was still pretty sure that ibuprofen and time would fix it, but after yet another night of lying in bed feeling my pulse under each big toe nail, I decided a doctor might be needed. So, even though today was crazy and I was tired, I dragged myself to the urgent care clinic near our house at 6:30, after a brief stop at home to hug the Biscuit and change out of my white pants in fear that treatment might get messy. I wrote "toe pain" on the intake sheet because how else do you describe a toe with its own heartbeat of pain? In triage, when the nurse asked for a few more details, I just pointed to them, figuring they were self explanatory. He stared at my toes, looked back up at me, then looked back at my toes that I was still pointing to, and finally said, "oh, you mean that isn't nail polish?!".

The doctor came in a few minutes later and pronounced my subungual hematoma a "most unusual presentation." He then quite cheerfully informed me that he'd drill into my toenail so I could drain out some of the blood to relieve the pressure, but I'd probably still lose both nails and they take about 10 months to a year to grow back. Awesome, just in time for spring/summer open toed shoe season.

Yes, the first thing I thought about was all the shoes I wouldn't be able to wear, the drilling into my toe nail came second. I laid back on the exam table, hoping some sort of numbing was going to be involved, but it wasn't a big deal. I could smell burning toe nail (not a good smell) and then feel a small prick and then it was over. For the next 45 minutes I got to squeeze blood out of my toe bed to relieve pressure. That was exactly as gross as it sounds. When I got home an hour later, I poured a very large glass of wine and sat on my couch with gauze pads stuck up on my big toes, typing and giggling at my computer (facebook chat with my sister; I'd share it, but I don't think it's nearly as funny to anyone else as we found it to be; it involved knitted hats for my toes and the irony of her toe nail polish being named "decay"). JP was tutoring one of his swimmers in Algebra II at our kitchen table and I'm pretty sure she thinks I'm crazy. I wanted to reassure her that I was a gainfully employed attorney by day, but then I wasn't sure that would make it better. Instead, I opened a large bag of dark chocolate m&m's and munched away.

So that was my Monday. My toes still ache, but they don't pulse with quite the same intensity as they did yesterday. Progress, I suppose. They do look like they were shot with a very tiny gun with even tinier bullets. I have to wear flat, open toed shoes to work for the next week, so at least my co-workers will get the benefit of seeing some super cute illegal sandals that they've never seen before. Of course they'll also have to see two dark purple toe nails with holes in the middle. I wonder if my cutely fashionable reputation can withstand that? I suppose not, but my red wine and dark chocolate m&m intake has reached a level where I have ceased to care. Bring it on Tuesday and Toes!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Snapshots of Spring Break

We're back!

Actually, we've been back since Thursday, but I spent Friday doing laundry, running errands, and snuggling my children, and we went to the Rodeo on Saturday, and then there was this new series of books I started when we flew to Denver last Sunday and thanks to the instant gratification of a Kindle I was able to finish the fifth and final one this morning after church (yes, the irony of returning from church and immediately putting your children to bed so you can dive back into a book about demons... also ironic? singing Rihanna's "S&M" under your breath as you walk into the sanctuary only to stop abruptly when you realize what you're saying "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but chains and whips excite me..." - actually, that's more inappropriate than ironic). Anyway, so what I'm saying is I'm sorry it's been so long since I've posted, but I've been half busy and half hiding from the world (and my blackberry) until both are forced back on me tomorrow. This week has been awesome- almost in the same league of awesome as maternity leave. I've been able to really unplug, forget I'm a full-time attorney, and just ski, read addictive books, and sleep. Possibly one of my best Spring Breaks ever- at least under my new, post-college definition of awesome spring breaks.

The rest of the adult family ski trip was fabulous. My only fall was the one on the South Bowl that first day, reinforcing my decision to stay on groomed runs (and avoid moguls- I hate moguls, they make me think too hard when I just want to ski).



the original three, in birth order


My ski boots beat the crap out of my shins the first day- it was so bad that the first run on the second day actually made me cry halfway down and I do not have a low threshold for pain. I sucked it up, but let myself quit a little early that afternoon, curling up in a chair in the empty condo to finish off the 2nd of my demon books. I'd never thought I'd be okay with leaving the slopes early, but I still see that afternoon as its own kind of success.



at Starfire, a very fast, favorite run


By the third day, my shins were better, and I skied with the group until the end when I splintered off with JP to watch him do a jump at the terrain park. A jump he swears he had mastered that morning, but which he fell on, hard, as I watched from about 5 yards away. I was close enough to see his face twist in pain as he landed on his neck and then skidded several yards down the slope. I was frozen until he stopped sliding, sat up, and punched the snow- I think he was mad that he messed up the jumpy thing while I was watching, but I was so relived he wasn't paralyzed that I skied over and nearly punched him for scaring me like that. We skied down the rest of the mountain together and called it a day.



Danger.


On that final night, my dad surprised everyone with a trip to the top of the second mountain for dinner at the "highest AAA four diamond restaurant in North America" - the Alpenglow Stube. A surprise I had helped coordinate before we left (I'm the details person in my family, not sure who I got it from). It was a fancy, fabulous meal and a great way to cap off the trip. Dinners like that are a very special treat in my family and I was so happy it was every bit as good as we'd been promised.



full group, one more gondola ride to go before dinner


We got home at 4:30 on Thursday, in plenty of time to pick up the kids from daycare-- a pick-up that I think we were more excited about than them. Oh, they were excited, Landon raced over for a hug as soon as he saw us. But then he turned around and raced back to the playground to finish whatever superhero game he was playing with his friend. Claire was also super excited, before squirming out of my arms to continue crawling fast and furious around her room. We forced a few more bear hugs on them and headed home for dinner and unpacking.

After all that was done and the kids were in bed, I turned on my big camera to find a few pictures my aunt and uncle had taken while we were gone:



My uncle, engineer, Air Force Academy grad, and pilot, making sure he understands all
the intricacies of Candy Land before playing



After crazy hair day at daycare



My grandparents (my mom's/uncle's parents) came to visit



I think this is my aunt trying on The Shoes; thank goodness my feet are way bigger than hers
because their allure is strong and she might have had to take them back to Atlanta with her.


The kids had a great time with their great aunt and uncle (or "my parents" as Landon keeps calling them; I've tried to explain that JP and I are his parents, but he quickly corrects me with, "no, you're my mommy and daddy" and then shakes his head and moves on). And seeing as how we came home to happy kids, a clean house, and freshly laundered linens, I'd say his "parents" did a pretty fantastic job taking care of their temporary children. They insist the kids were "so easy" and they had a lot of fun spending 5 days with them in Austin, and I hope they're telling the truth, because that means I don't have to feel guilty for having such a great time!

Monday, March 14, 2011

One of My Favorite Places on Earth

We made it. We're here, we're skiing, and it is awesome.



We flew in yesterday, met my parents and siblings at the airport in Denver, and drove to Keystone. We picked up our ski rentals, loaded a cart full of groceries to make all of our meals, and unpacked in my dad's co-worker's beautiful condo (ski-in/ski-out, something we've never been privileged to experience before; it's spoiling me). JP and I took my family out for pizza as a thank you for providing the lift tickets, and then we went to bed early with plans to hit the slopes as soon as the mountains opened.



(JP, me, and my baby siblings)


And we did. My family skis hard and skis fast, and I was a little concerned that I'd lost my touch after 6 years off the slopes, 2 babies, and a 4 years out of the gym. But I need not have worried. I can still hack it, and while I won't go through the trees anymore (it makes my heart pound to think of some of the stuff we used to do), I can handle black diamonds just fine.



(me and my sis after hiking up the Outback)


We hiked up to the Outback and skied down the South Bowl. It's steep and ungroomed and I had a huge wipe-out which resulted in a nearly runaway ski. It was captured and I got it back on, even with the steep incline, but I skied pretty slowly until we got back onto normal terrain. JP did the bowl again, but I decided groomed runs are a better place for me now.



I've been asked a few times if it was so hard to leave the kids, and while it probably makes me sound bad (please see pretty much every post since 2008 to see how much I love them), the answer is, "No." It was not hard at all. They're totally healthy (thank goodness), they're being doted upon by a loving great-aunt and uncle, and everyone is fine. Is anyone as good at caring for them as JP and I are? Probably not. Are they being cared for with all the love my aunt and uncle have for them? Yep, and they are doing great. I think it's nothing but good that they can be so comfortable in another's care, and it's nothing but good that JP and I can spend a whole day racing each other down a mountain, flirting on a ski lift, and having a blast pointing out every single thing we know Landon will just love as soon as we can take him skiing.

I miss them. I can't wait to bring them here. I know I'm going to want the plane to fly extra fast once we're on our way home to them. But I'm having a really wonderful time hanging out with JP, my parents, and my now grown-up siblings (siblings I can actually hang out with because I don't need to get up early with my kids). My body is so exhausted it feels almost numb, my shins are beaten and bruised from my ski boots, and I'm having the time of my life. This is my first "original family" vacation since I was 20 and I'm so, so glad JP and I can be here with them.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

On Our Way

In just a few hours.

After a crazy week -- more work than could possibly be done, a sick 3 year old who couldn't shake his stomach bug, a teething baby who got sent home from daycare twice with fevers, forcing her to be near her much sicker brother, and trying to prepare the house for our 5-day vacation -- everything is ready and we leave in the morning. I worked until 1 and 2 a.m. three nights this week, and was back at work by 8 a.m. on all of those days. By Friday I was exhausted, the kind of exhausted I don't think I'd been since Landon was a baby. Luckily, JP proved for the millionth time what an amazing partner and father he is because he let me sleep in today, even after he did 100% of the work taking care of two sick kids at home for a full week (and doing 17 loads of laundry and all the other clean up that comes with a child who can't keep any food or water in his stomach; it was bad). Landon seems to be better. I saw "seems to" because we thought that once before only to be surprised with more puking the next day. The poor guy- he hasn't been sick for more than 24 hours since he was a baby and he's only thrown up a handful of times in his life. Even on Thursday, when he was well on the road to recovery, he was just so weak that he only wanted to lay on the couch and watch movies (something he never asks to do) and when we went to read a book before bed he only wanted one- and then asked that it be short. The Biscuit is teething and angry about it; her allergies have also come roaring back so she's all runny and red.

My uncle is here to watch the kids (he and my aunt are staggering their time here; they're flying over from Georgia to watch the kids, because they are awesome and generous and responded immediately to a desperate email I sent out after JP's parents told us they weren't coming. My family is amazing) and Clairebear was so fussy the first few hours he was here he accused me of photoshopping all my blog pictures. Luckily Claire rallied and put her smileyness and cuteness of full display (plus, I don't even have photoshop). Hopefully both kids will be their usual healthy, easy selves for my aunt and uncle.

I haven't really thought about the fact that we're leaving them for 5 days. I know they'll be fine with aunt and uncle, I just wish I could get two vacations -- one with JP and then another one with them, especially after this week of working so much. But it's going to be a great vacation- I've probably never worked so hard to make a trip happen! Work has been so insane- I'm blessed with very supportive co-workers because no one even suggested that I cancel it. I have my kindle loaded up with three new books, my old ski clothes are packed in their UT swimming duffel bag, and my clocks and alarm have all been sprung ahead for daylight savings time.

Twelve hours from now, we'll be on our way to Denver!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

9 months

My dearest ClaireBiscuit,

You turned 9 months old last week. I can't tell you had makes me feel - you have been such an incredible little baby, so happy and smiley - you've had us all wrapped around your chubby little fingers from day 1 - and I'm actually a little sad to watch you leave your infancy behind.



That said, you're a pretty incredible pre-toddler as well! As your Gigi says, "every stage is the best stage" with your kids, and I know that will be true with you too. I also know that I thought your brother was fun at 9 months, but that pales in comparison to how fun he's been at 18 months and 2 years and how fun he is now at 3 1/2. So every phase may well be the best phase, but oh Claire, I will miss your snuggly newborn self.



Now, there are no time for snuggles (though you do give the most delicious hugs with your lobster claws clamped around your daddy or my arms and shoulder and your head buried into our neck, but they are growing brief- you are far too busy). You crawl and you crawl fast. You are fiercely determined to get from point A to point B just as quick as anyone else.



If you aren't moving, you must be vertical. You pull up on everything, including flat walls, and you've figured out how to set yourself back down on the floor with a bit more finesse than those first few days of crashing down with a cry. You cruise along furniture and continually impress (and frequently frighten) me with how fast you move from the place I set you down to the place you think you need to be. And it still surprises me every morning to head to your room and find you standing up and staring at me with a giant smile.



Most of the pictures I take of you now involve you moving way too close to the camera or crawling quickly away from it. You shower affection on your cat and dogs, and though they probably aren't quite as thrilled with your mobility as you are, they've tolerated it well. Rosie the yellow lab is your special friend and I swear she's smiling at you even as you poke her nose and try to crawl over her tummy.



You enjoy your daycare class more and more each day. Your teachers are a special group of three women who cheer and celebrate your every development along with your daddy and me. You love your baby friends and chatter away at them as soon as I set you down on the floor. You are enjoying your mobility there too, and according to your teachers, you are very proud of your lofty new position at the big baby table where eat your cheerios and puffs.



Speaking of eating- you're doing doing it all by yourself! A little over a month ago, I dumped a few cheerios on your highchair tray to keep you busy while I made dinner. It was way too early for you to have the fine motor pincer grasp or the aim to get any cheerios in your mouth, but I thought it might entertain to push them around. But when I looked back a few minutes later, about half the cheerios were gone and you were chewing! I watched in awe as you carefully selected one with your thumb and forefinger and then popped it in your mouth. I promise I won't compare you two too much, but Claire, it took your brother about 3 months to figure out how to do that, and I have several charming pictures of him with cheerios stuck everyone on his face except in his mouth. I missed out on those with you. You also drink water from a sippy cup and even drank your formula from one the other day when I didn't feel like cleaning a bottle. Your brother threw his sippy cup at me the first time I tried putting his formula in there.



In other new developments, you are clapping! You clap for yourself and others and always look delighted as you do it. You play peekaboo with your own hands over your face, and sometimes look honestly surprsied when you pull them away and find us back in front of you after disappearing. You play with your brother for hours, either following him around or trying to take his toys or letting him push you around in various transportation vehicles.



You went to your 9 month check-up yesterday. Here are your stats:

29 inches (90%)
20 lbs. 8 oz. (75%)
47 cm (99%)

Basically, you have an off-the-charts head, a long body, and a perfectly chubby middle. You showed the doctor all your tricks and she rewarded you with a finger prick that made you SCREAM. You don't get any shots at the 9-month appointment, but as it turns out, you're like your mom and don't bleed, and you had to get pricked 3 times just to get enough droplets to fill a tiny vial. You did not stop crying until we got about a mile away from the office, and even then, as soon as you saw your daddy back at the house you launched into a crying/babbling tirade that I'm sure told him all about the injustice you were forced to endure.



Claire, there are so many things I want to make sure you know about yourself, about us, about how much we love you and always will. There aren't words, so I can only hope that you grow up feeling its truth. I feel like the love and pride your Papa and Gigi showered on me while growing up is simply part of the fabric of my being; it's immutable and it's with me in all I do. Our lives are a little crazy at times, and while I think it's important that you have two parents who pursue their careers and passions while sharing all the work and joys of home, I hope you always know this to be true:

But oh my baby, little one,
the sweetest thing I do
is sweep you up and hold you tight
and come back home to you.

And I hope you one day understand how your mommy could both love her job and still get choked up every single time she read the last page of that book.



I love you my Clairebear- these past 9 months have been some of the happiest I've ever had and I look forward to all the rest.

Love, mommy

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Trip That Caused The End

So, in the midst of caring for a very sick little boy, completing three difficult and time-consuming projects at work, and now, caring for a feverish little girl who had to be picked up from daycare three hours early today, I'm trying to pack for a 5-day ski trip and prepare the house for my Georgia relatives to fly over and take care of the kids while we're gone. I started typing a handy little info sheet for them last week and it turned in to an 8 page novel. Apparently, our life is rather complicated- at least from the outside, and I'm sure there's a million things about our house, pets, and children that I'm not writing down. Luckily my aunt and uncle successfully raised two children who are now in their late teens, so I'm sure they'll fill in any blanks, but it's still a lot of work to prepare your life to be handed off to two people who don't normally live it. Throw in the 60+ hours I'm probably going to bill this week, the two sick kids (who are GOING to be healthy before we leave, I can't think of anything else), the locating of the bin of ski stuff we haven't used in 6 years and which I hope is up in one of upstair's closets, my insomnia and the four hours of sleep I got last night, and things are just a little stressful. I've been excited about this trip for three months and I know it is going to be wonderful once we get there, it just seems to be surrounded by an undue amount of drama.

You see, this trip is what finally pushed our relationship with my in-laws over the edge. Or really, flung it off a sharp, steep cliff.

It all started with a text from my mom in December saying that my dad's coworker offered my family the use of his 2-bedroom condo at Keystone and wouldn't it be nice if JP and I could join them and my siblings on a trip over Spring Break, and hey, maybe the Smiths (my in-laws; not their real name) could babysit the kids? Up until that moment, I had accepted that even though skiing was our very favorite vacation in the whole world, we just weren't going to be able to go until JP got a job and we made some more headway on our student loans, and that was fine. But now it seemed possible again - a free place to stay, lift tickets from my parents for Christmas, and free babysitting from the Smiths -- we just needed to provide airfare and maybe we could do this! And, I so naively thought, wouldn't it be a great way for the Smiths to get to see Landon for the first time in nearly a year and finally meet Claire! They love Austin, they love Landon (and surely they would love Claire once they met her), they canceled their trips out here for Claire's baptism and Thanksgiving for no good reason- now they could spend time with their grandchildren without the tension of having JP and me around. It would be perfect. JP called, they agreed, we bought our plane tickets on Christmas Day.

Three days later (still in December), MIL left a message on our home phone saying "we just can't do it. Your grandmother has a doctor appointment tomorrow and your dad has one next week so sorry, we just can't come out in March."

What? JP immediately said she's making a power play, she's realized she gave in to easy and wants us to beg because now our trip, which we were so excited about, is hanging in the balance. I said no, she might do something like that with us, but surely she would never gamble with an opportunity to see her grandchildren. I volunteered to call her back, thinking things would go so much better if it was me rather than a pissed off JP on the phone. But oh, I was so wrong.

Things went bad quickly. When I said hello and politely inquired as to what had changed since they said they could come three days earlier, and did they know that we had already purchased our plane tickets and we were so excited about the trip, she lost it. She started yelling and crying and telling me I didn't love JP, or even like him, and I didn't respect him and she just couldn't stand for it any more. She said she remembered a comment I made about my mother 9 years ago (which I didn't make) that showed that I didn't love my mom or respect her either and my own children weren't going to respect me because I didn't deserve it. I was accused of using people, of doing anything I could to get ahead, of feeling superior because I went to the University of Chicago... it was insane. I was quite literally speechless and then I kept having the urge to laugh. If she'd said anything even remotely grounded in fact, I might have been hurt, but this was just so crazy that I couldn't even feel like it was personal. After a few failed attempts to interject and JP looking like he was about to hit something, I said something to the effect of, "I had no idea you felt that way about me and none of it is true or makes any sense, obviously we were wrong to think you would want to come spend a few days with your grandchildren, as long as you continue to behave in this irrational way, we have no choice but to protect ourselves and them from you." And I hung up. JP called them back (I suppose he felt he had a few things to say himself) and his dad, always the apologist and enabler, started saying things like "well, I don't think your mom said that" and "well, [LL] shouldn't have hung up." JP told his dad that we weren't kidding, that they had gone way too far with the emotional, irrational bullshit and the kids were now old enough to be affected. If his mom ever felt moved to apologize for what she said to me and actually admit fault (something she has never, ever done) and work on her reactions, things could change, but for now, he considers them entirely cut out of his life.

We haven't heard a word from them since.

I was surprised we didn't get a package for the kids on Valentine's Day. My MIL usually uses gift giving holidays as a way to erase anything she's said in the months prior to the holiday (her mother does the same thing; the things JP's grandmother said to him as a kid make me want to punch her, and I'm a very non-violent grandmother-loving kind of person), and if the gifts were only for the kids, it would have been a bit harder for JP and I to turn them away. But she didn't. My birthday was also ignored, though that was less surprising.

What does surprise me, even after all the other shit she's pulled in the nearly 10 years I've known her, is that she gambled with a chance to see the kids. Her grandchildren. Her granddaughter whom she's never even met (though really, they've never exhibited any interest in Claire, not even when I was pregnant, and sometime very soon that was going to become its own problem). As I said to JP that night, she has no idea the bridge she has burned. I have always been the one pushing for that relationship to exist, and I did it because whatever JP's many issues with his mom, they were good grandparents to Landon. When she pulled her little stunts (which were never anything of this magnitude), they only involved JP or me and we just ignored her until she got over whatever she was upset about and acted like nothing happened. But now? They've canceled two trips to see the kids because she felt offended over some invisible thing (and we held them to those cancellations, trying to teach her that she can't make threats just to add some drama to an ordinary phone call; it's like dealing with a terrorist 3-year-old), and this whole meltdown was just invented out of thin air. And this time, in an attempt to shift the power back to her hand (or whatever the hell she was doing), she was willing to risk the opportunity to see Landon for the first time in 10 months. In the words of JP: Fuck. That. We're done. It's a sad situation, and it makes me sad to think of it objectively, but I'm certain we're right. And for the first time ever after one of her episodes JP and I haven't really even talked about it. There's no analyzing what his parents are doing, wondering when they'll call, guessing how they'll try to start the conversation... it's just nothing. We're done. There's nothing we could have done to prevent her actions and there's nothing we could have done to fix them once she started. For once, I know we're blameless.

But it is sad. Our kids have two sets of living grandparents and they only know one. Landon was two the last time he saw the Smiths, at some point he's going to stop remembering them. I don't understand them; I don't understand her and I understand FIL even less. JP is an only child; his mother is an only child; his dad isn't close to his family -- we're all they've got. They're not on facebook or the internet, so they don't get any pictures or information about the kids without us sending it to them. I've never understood them, or how JP managed to be turn into the person he is when his mother was his example of loving behavior, but MIL has been increasingly irrational and erratic in her responses to things and I suppose it's actually better that things came to a head this early.

But they've never met our little Clairebear- don't even know that we call her Clairebear (or Biscuit!)- and don't know how amazing she is. Because of a separate blow-up that happened in July and resulted in no contact from them until December, they don't even know that Landon loves Claire like he does, or that he started preschool and loves it, or that Claire is a great sleeper and smiler and now crawls with fierce determination and increasing speed. They don't know that JP's original post-MBA employer ran aground so he's been looking for work since December. They don't know anything about us and I don't know how they justify or explain that.

But I know that we're happy and whole and we're doing the right thing. I know I'm comfortable with our actions and responses. And I guess we'll just see where it goes from here.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Hepatopters

My Monday has not improved. I am beyond exhausted and still working on this assignment that I absolutely have to email out tonight so I can get comments, do the additional research I know will be needed, and turn to my five other projects before we fly to Denver on Sunday. Sitting in my 8-hour mandatory training was painful; all I could think about were all the things I needed to be doing two floors up in my office. Landon has fared even worse. He still can't keep down even the smallest sip of water and is currently curled up on the couch in a dehydrated, feverish, weak little ball while we wait another hour to try again. The poor little guy has gone through four sets of clothes, two sets of sheets, and four towels that were draped across his lap on the sofa. All day, as I got my text updates from JP, I just wanted to come home and cuddle with him, but I knew JP was doing a great job playing nurse.

So because today has pretty much sucked, my tomorrow is not going to be any better (though I really, really hope it is for Landon), I thought it was time to share these pictures from The Day A Helicopter Landed at Daycare. You see one of the little student's dad flies the Austin Police Department chopper, and for the past two years, he's landed it in the daycare parking lot for the kids to come explore. Landon was SO excited and JP surprised me by showing up at daycare with my camera and capturing the event on film. He's getting good at this part-time stay-at-home-dad thing.

Most of the pictures have other people's kids in them, so I can only share a few, but I just love them (particularly the second one).



The big day is here!



It's a bird, it's a plane-



It's a hepatopter*!!



Landon and friends got to sit inside and touch a few of the buttons. He told me over and over how "a helicopter is really small in the sky but when it lands on the ground it gets HUGE!" Claire's class also came out in their 6-baby buggy to see the helicopter, but I don't think the Biscuit was quite as impressed as her brother. Next year, perhaps, she will understand the awesomeness of the incredible shrinking (and expanding) hepatopter.

*He now calls them by their proper name, but "hepatopter" was my favorite of his toddlerisms and I continue to use it on occasion.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Mission Impossible, updated with more impossibility

I enjoy most of the work I do-- even the mundane things that junior associates frequently get just because they're the lowest cost billers, I manage to enjoy by virtue of my love for chronological and alphabetical order (and rainbow order, but I rarely get to use that outside of my closet). But sometimes, I will develop a strong dislike for a project- usually because it won't go away, no matter how many times I revise and edit and look for new case law and revise again. And even more rarely I will occasionally hate a project.

I hate this project.

It's for an IP case I'm not really staffed on, I just get pulled in whenever there's an impossible research assignment and they want someone to do a survey of all of patent law just to make sure they didn't miss anything. I'm not an IP lawyer and have no interest in being one, but I am becoming a westlaw expert on impossible IP research assignments. I suppose it's a compliment that they keep roping me in a few weeks after I've finally believed I'm free, but a much better reward for my finding of the last impossible citation would be for everyone on the case to forget my email address. You see because I'm not officially "on" the case (and I'm doing all I can to avoid being on it, the trial schedule is going to be crazy and I like to sleep and see my children), I don't know anything about the facts, the procedural posture, the evidence, or our strategy. I know a few obscure arguments and I've drafted a motion to compel based on a single deposition on a discreet side issue, but I'm not sure what else is going on. And yet, I now find myself drafting a response to a motion in limine for the trial that is in a month.

For the non-lawyers out there, a motion in limine is a motion filed by a party to preclude the other party from introducing certain evidence at trial. It is filed before trial because the moving party feels it would be unfairly prejudicial for the jury to hear it (so they don't want to follow the normal procedure of objecting after it's introduced in front of the jury). Responding to one of these often requires the person writing the brief to have some idea of the arguments in the case and an understanding as to why we might want to use the evidence the other side is trying to preclude. It would be good if I knew those things.

I was asked to draft this response because it involves the legal issue I spent a lot of time researching for the motion to compel I wrote earlier, so I'm assuming they just want law and understand that I can't add facts. Accordingly, the following are phrases I've included in this first draft:

... (case citation). Clearly, (case) applies because [insert facts about why the case applies; if there aren't any, remove this paragraph.]

... [insert facts to support prong 1 here; we have some right? we need them]...

... [is there an argument the patent is invalid? if so, we can't use this paragraph or the previous two cases I cited]

... can make a showing of objective recklessness. [Attach exhibits? describe one or two here.]

It's kind of like a Choose Your Own Adventure Book. If we have facts for x, insert paragraph y; if not, use alternate paragraph z. Good times.

Thank goodness I have leftover Caramelita Bars from the bbq lunch I hosted today for a friend/co-worker and her family, and lots of smiley memories of what my house was like with four kids under the age of 4 (that sounds crazy, but it was so fun and I got to cook lots of recipes I never make anymore). It was a great morning. Thanks to this impossible little project, my afternoon has been somewhat less pleasant, but I did at least get to work from home with Clairebear crawling laps around my desk, and I was productive enough that I'll be in bed by midnight. I've just got to draft a few more choose your own legal argument plot points. Next is alternate argument 2: "if we don't have evidence for any of the facts I've suggested, use this paragraph and delete all the others."

Bleary Monday Morning update: Went to bed at 11 p.m., planning to get up at 6 a.m. to be at work by 6:45 to finish assignment before all-day mandatory training began at 8:45. Finally beat back insomnia to fall asleep at 2 a.m. Alarm went off at 6, dragged myself out of bed and got dressed, Landon came down covered in throw-up at 6:30. Bathed him, cuddled him, sent him off to JP's master's swim class with toast, a new book originally intended for the Easter basket, and a personal DVD player with Nemo. Finally got to work at 7:45 with no chance of handing off project to people who actually know things about the case before training begins. Now about to lose my Monday to learning about expert opinions while under caffeinated and seriously over tired.

Did I mention I'm leaving for vacation for 5 days on Sunday and both my cases have suddenly exploded and I have more work than I can possibly get done before I leave even if I simply stop sleeping?

And then I got an email from a partner in a case I worked on nearly a year ago asking for some random, follow-up research by Wednesday. I wrote back what basically amounts to a "No. Full stop." and almost cried. I don't do well on 4 hours of sleep. When I get to the ski slopes on Sunday I'm going to throw my blackberry off the ski lift and then probably fall asleep and fall off the chair myself.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Born to Friends

I was talking to a co-worker this morning about what it's like to have two kids. I remember so well all the fears I had about the extra time, extra demands, extra money, extra TIME, extra everything a second child would need. I wondered if I had enough extra to give, if we could be as good a parents to two as we try to be to Landon, and if I would ever secretly long for my days when I was mom to only one and I could give that one everything I had.



To put it mildly, I need not have worried. Claire has been a dream of a baby (though the poor thing still has terrible allergies and still can't tolerate milk or soy proteins at all), and Landon, mellow, loving kid that he is, adapted immediately to having a little sister around. And it turns out, that once you've changed your life to go from "single" to "couple" to "family with a baby," going to "family with two kids" isn't much of a change at all. The biggest adjustments- the seismic shift that happens when you realize you can no longer do whatever you want whenever you want to do it, and that you are totally responsible for the care of a small, initially helpless, and sometimes unreasonable human being - those adjustments are made. We are a family with young children now and our life looks very different than it did pre-kids, and we've discovered we like it that way. And sure it's now a little more work to get out the door in the morning, and JP and I can't tag team the way we used to, but overall, throwing Claire in the mix hasn't had nearly the draining effects I imagined.



And it's had one effect I didn't anticipate at all. Watching Landon and Claire together is just the most wonderful, gratifying thing. They play together- really play, and each is made happier by the presence of the other. There's simply nothing like watching the two children you made, whom you love with all you have, love each other.



Certain things are easier on a practical level too. Landon is Claire's source of non-stop entertainment. When Landon was a baby, I remember constantly feeling pressured to entertain him, because really, when left to their own devices, adults are pretty boring. A 3 1/2 year old is never boring- at least not to a baby who is pretty sure her big brother might be some kind of super hero.

I drove the kids to Houston this past weekend (JP drove over later and then took them back Sunday night while I stayed over to work out of our Houston office on Monday). Claire woke up from her nap about halfway through, quite irritated about being in her car seat and not on the floor crawling or in my lap drinking a bottle. Landon, without any prompting from me, jumped into action, playing peekaboo with her from around the wings of his car seat, and reading her books and singing songs. It was awesome, and I had the biggest smile on my face while listening to them and driving east on I-10.



Sunday morning: Claire spies her big brother


He makes a hat adjustment


Claire rejects his fashion advice


They engage in their trademark head bump move; giggles ensue.


These pictures made me think of a quote I read once and just re-found:

I, who have no sisters or brothers, look with some degree of innocent envy on those who may be said to be born to friends. ~James Boswell

There may well be a period in their lives where they forget they were born to friends, but their lives will always be a special part of the other's. And it is a joy I never anticipated to watch.