Wednesday, February 29, 2012


I have 7 days left in my office. When I started at the firm on September 2, 2008 I honestly never thought I'd leave. I knew it was a possibility, floating out there in the ether, but I didn't really think I'd do it. I liked being an associate and I was good at it. Every case was my favorite case, at least until the end when I was on a case in a different section in a different area of law and I finally realized that being a mid-level associate kind of sucks. You get enough authority to be the one at fault if anything goes wrong, but none of the credit if they go well. Still, for years 1-3, I loved my work and was possessive and proud of my cases. I constantly tried to think of more ways to help, ways to make things easier and more organized. I was a chart queen. I could find any document anyone had ever thought they'd seen that was related to the case. I always wanted to do more. I'm not sure if it's just that that type of attitude cannot survive in BigLaw, or if I might still be that way if I'd been able to continue to work on the types of cases I enjoyed, but I look at formerly eager me and kind of shake my head in bemused wonder. It took 3 years, but by the end of last year when I was being volunteered to write all the post-trial briefs for my huge IP case I wanted to unplug my phone, close my door, and hide under my desk. No more, please, no more.

I had my year-end review last week. They weren't going to give me one since I'm leaving and all the partners are mad, but I worked hard last year and those reviews are a pain to fill out, so I wanted to hear what people had to say, particularly since nearly all of that work was in a brand new area of law full of people I had to prove myself to over and over in order to gain substantive assignments. And I got them, and despite all of the misery of that case- working until 4 a.m., winning motions, and then getting screwed out of going to trial- I credit it for 90% of the substantive, learning experiences I've had at the firm. It also provided all of my responses to interview questions at the SEC, and the kick in the ass I needed to apply for that job in the first place. So I'm grateful for the experience and I'm proud of the work I was able to do. One reviewer in that group said "LL is an immensely talented writer" and "has the unique ability to treat each new assignment - no matter what it is - as a new learning experience." Given the ups and downs of that case, and the times I sat in my office wondering how in the hell I was going to be able to write this brief and make the arguments we wanted to make, it was really nice to hear those words. (And to know I won't be working with them again.)

In the past I've felt like a defender of large law firms. And I still think they can be a great place to work. Yeah the hours suck, but you're paid for it and the hours aren't so great at smaller shops either, and the work can be awesome. You can bill entire days to writing legal briefs- wrestling with facts and case holdings and legal theories to your nerdy heart's content. I also had the opportunity to work with some truly brilliant lawyers. I could absolutely see myself coming back to the world of BigLaw again, but as a partner or counsel, not an associate. I will not miss having to pretend like "each new assignment is a unique learning experience," even if it means my acting skills are going to get a little rusty. I'll still be working hard at the SEC, but it will be different. Different work, different environment, different schedule. No clients, no entering time, no pretending I'm thrilled to be drafting a Motion to Compel over something nobody cares about. No time stolen from my family to do a crap assignment on a Saturday afternoon that no one thought of until that moment. No time stolen from my family in general- no checking a blackberry outside of work hours, no checking the cancellation policies when booking a vacation, no being half-present when I'm with them but waiting for an email from a client or partner. They kids are getting older, Landon is going to start having more activities, Claire would already like to play full contact sports- I want to be there for that, and I want to do it while still having a career of my own. And crazy enough, this next position will allow for that while furthering my career farther and faster than the firm every could. Sometimes it all makes me so happy I could cry.

I just got boxes and bubble tape delivered to my office to pack it up. I have more here than I thought- 10 million pictures of Landon and Claire, art, diplomas, two lamps, books, boxes and boxes of tea, vases from floral deliveries... 12 days from today I'll be in a new office, probably a little terrified to actually have to DO the job I managed to convince my seven interviewers I could handle.

But it's going to be fun, and with every day that I get closer to my new job, I realize just how done I was with my current one. Twelve days.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Renovations and Other Decisions

JP and I drove to Fort Worth on Friday to see the house again (since we only saw it for 8 minutes the first time, while chasing after two kids who were finally starting to lose patience with their super fun "let's wake you up, throw you in the car, drive for 3 hours, and then force you in and out of car seats while we look at houses, all before lunch" Saturday) and tour a few schools and daycares. It's pretty crazy to think that we will have spent less than 10 hours in Fort Worth before moving into a house there and enrolling our children in said daycares and schools. It has been a month of very decisive decision making.

First up was the tour of our future home. I am still head over heels in love, but now that the initial passion has faded (and/or the beer goggles are off- whichever analogy you prefer), and I wasn't trying to keep Claire from jumping in the pool, I could see... flaws. Little lines and wrinkles that need some fixing up. So we had a contractor spend an hour with us, pouring every room, including two I never even walked in on our first viewing. By the end, we had a rather extensive list of projects:

Project 1: updating the horrifyingly hideous yellow and brown floor-to-ceiling tiled guest bathroom.

(it's lurking through that open doorway)

Not only is it yellow and brown tile, it is four shades of non-matching yellow and brown tile because they ran out halfway through, and rather than scrap the god awful color combo, they persevered with different yellow and brown tiles to complete the job. The shower is also a dark cave-like structure with a shower head 4 feet off the ground. We're starting over from scratch with this one, so that one day soon it will be a lovely en suite bathroom for our beloved guests (and one of the kids, if we let them go back to separate rooms one day).

Project 2: updating the pink and blue floor-to-ceiling tiled kid/hall bathroom with peeling bathtub, 4 ft. shower head, and moldy grout. And by "updating," we mean changing out everything to be light, bright, and something you'd willingly bathe in.

Project 3: updating the master bath. The master wing of the house was added in the mid-90's, but we think they must have run out of money about halfway through. The design and basic structure are great- both our inspector and contractor complimented the architecture and core building. But the superficial stuff is cheap, ugly, and/or just odd. They used a salvaged 1960's bathtub, old fixtures, super ugly 1" beige tiles with thick grout, non-matching dark brown 1" shower tiles, and again, 4 ft. shower head height. (We met the owners, they are average height- I do not understand their showering techniques.) There is also carpet in the sink area (yuck), and despite installing a surprisingly beautiful taupe, white, and green marble counter top, they painted the walls a completely non-matching (though admittedly fetching) blue. So we're replacing the tile with new, larger tiles and thinner grout and extending it through the sink area, getting a new bathtub (I take a bath every night, the tub is a priority), painting the walls, and re-tiling the shower with lighter tiles, higher fixtures, a higher ceiling, and a glass door instead of droopy sad curtain.

Project 4: master bedroom aesthetics, including re-securing the recessed lights (they're all falling out) and removing the cheap-looking built-ins beside and behind the master bed. We have nice bedroom furniture (thank you Costco) and I want to use it. I'd also love to rip out that carpet, but that project will probably have to wait.

Project 5: removing the dated wet bar and replacing it with a nice shelved game closet.

Project 6: replacing the faux kitchen tiles with real kitchen tile and relocating the oddly placed microwave.

(can you imagine the things Clairebear would try to nuke at this height?)

The microwave is moving to a spot above the stove (there will be a vent in the bottom of the microwave- very nifty) and we're replacing the pin-point lights with wider recessed lights. The current lights are nicely placed, but they're so pin-prick concentrated that they literally blind you when you look up.

All-in-all, given that the house is about 70 years old and we poured over it for an hour with a contractor, it's in great shape. This is all cosmetic- the inspector said the foundation, systems, and core structure were all in amazing shape, so that's good. I don't know if we can afford all these projects, but we're getting an estimate for everything and will then prioritize from there. The bathrooms are definitely happening- I seriously don't see how we can shower in there, and those changes will add the greatest value to the house. It's a little intimidating to think of all the decisions to make for tile, cabinets, faucets, etc., but it's exciting too. Our current house was only 3 years old when we bought it, so even though some of the fixtures and colors weren't my favorite, it was all so new, I had no excuse to spend money changing them. Now we get to personalize everything- which means if I don't like something, it's 100% my own fault. Hmmm.

In other big decisions- we're trying to pick a daycare, neither of which are as awesome as our current one, and decide whether Landon will start Kindergarten in the fall or wait a year since he's a summer birthday. We've always assumed he'd start on time- he's super social, well-behaved, and very acclimated to the school setting, but he's a boy and he'd be one of the very youngest kids in his class and everyone seems to kind of freak out when we say we aren't holding him back. I've been quoted a lot of lines from Outliers. The daycare we're leaning towards is a Montessori school with a beautiful classroom that continues through Kindergarten. We could start him there and if he is doing great, transition him to public school for 1st grade in 2013, or start him in Kindergarten again in the public school as one of the older kids in the class. So he'd do Kindergarten twice, but in different schools with very different settings and methods of teaching, so it wouldn't feel like a repeat. I don't know. It's another $13,000 to keep him in daycare/private Kinder, but over his lifetime (and compared to the $60,000 we will have already spent on daycare), that is more of a temporary irritation than a factor in the decision (or so I keep reminding myself). I know that an extra year of aging would probably be good, no matter where he is on the academic/social scale- any older kid is likely to do better, but does that mean we should do it? even if by all standards, he's ready now? But if it helps- now or later- why wouldn't we give him the benefit of being the oldest rather than the youngest? Why not have him at home for one more year?

I actually wish you weren't allowed to start your kid late, so it was just a black and white cut-off. I don't like these kinds of parenting decisions- they affect things too far in the future. How can I know now if Landon would benefit from an extra year before heading off to high school, college, etc? So I'm pushing off that particular decision and looking at faucets and refrigerators online instead. And wading through 100 pages of federal benefits information and their 57 different health plan choices. And deciding what to buy at the store for dinner. Hmmm, and I wonder why my insomnia is back in full deadly force?

Back to faucets.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Funfetti Good Times

I turned 29 yesterday.

This seems to be a trigger birthday for a lot of people- to the point that almost everyone who knows my new age has asked, "oooh, how do you feel about it?"

But here's the thing- and I generally just answer with a smile instead of my real answer, which is that it feels pretty freaking awesome.

At 29, I've been married for six years to the love of my life- a man who will go back to HEB for the second time in a night, after working for 11 hours, to get me the right kind of Funfetti frosting for the birthday cake he then mixed and baked (and frosted) near midnight that night. I have two beautiful children who make me laugh every day, a fabulous education, great health, size 2 jeans, and a challenging career that's about to get even better. Despite including the darkest months I've faced, overall, my 20's have been pretty darn happy, and my general attitude toward's turning 30 next year is "bring it." We'll make that a great decade too.

the fam

We celebrated the big day with a table for 13 at the Gristmill historic river restaurant in Gruene, Texas. We were joined by my parents, four grandparents, brother, sister, and sister's boyfriend Billy. I love family gatherings and it was wonderful to get together one last time before we move 3 extra hours away from everyone.

oldest and shortest

After dinner my parents, sister, and Billy came back to our house in Austin for the now infamous Funfetti cake and champagne. JP received many compliments on the frosting. My siblings both gave me red wine and my sister's boyfriend gave me homemade red wine-- it was something of a theme. JP's gift, besides picking up and moving with no questions asked in support of my career, is going to be a piece of art for our new house. I just need to move into the house and find the piece of art I want first.

The first birthday I celebrated with JP was my 19th. Ten years later, it's the same cake and different almost everything else. Makes me wonder where and how and with whom I'll celebrate my 39th.

Not that I'm in a rush to find out- I'm not sure I'll be quite as sanguine about turning 40. But 29?

Bring it!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Transition Matters

The past few days have been a disorienting mix of crazy busy and crazy boring. I have no work to do- out of courtesy and retaliation (depending on the partner), all of my cases have been removed from my desk. This is excellent, because I have a million papers to PDF and send to our lender and also furniture to look up, drool over, and then sternly talk myself out of purchasing, so there really is no time for actual legal work. But while there is a lot to do on the buying a home/selling a home front, it comes in fits and spurts, and then there's a space of nothing. Just, nothing. I spend all day in my office crossing items off on my to-do list and wasting time on the internet and then when I'm home after the kids go to bed I stare at my laptop, feeling like I have explored the entirety of the internet and yet not actually responded to about 50 emails in my inbox and then the guilt overtakes me so I slam my laptop closed and return it to its super secret location where it won't mess with the "aesthetic" of the living room. Then I go look at the books in my study and on my kindle, but I've read every single one at least 5 times and suddenly I don't feel like reading them again. I tried TV, but apparently there is NOTHING on Monday or Tuesday nights. Glee last night as probably the worst hour of television ever (I agree with every word of this review) and prompted me to officially stop recording future episodes on my DVR (a hollow protest, given that we will move before the next episode airs, but it made me feel good and JP feel relieved because he hates that show with the fury of a thousand suns). I've already pre-packed a ton of stuff and am hiring movers to do the rest, so I don't want to spend my time doing that (also, I'm out of boxes, otherwise, I probably would just start packing out of an inability to do nothing for more than a few minutes at a time). I took Tex for a run this morning, went on a hike with a friend and came across a prehistoric dinosaur turtle (highlight!), did a bunch of paper work, planned our dinner menu for next week, and then dealt with a mini crisis involving our buyer who suddenly wants certain closing costs or our large appliances. We gave him the appliances, so now I've researched the shit out of some new ones (so pretty!) and am again staring at a computer screen and a too-full inbox and feel like I need to draft a response to a request for a production or SOMETHING just so my existence today is justified.


And that was several hours ago. Now I'm watching Top Chef (not the best season of the show (why does everyone have Beverly? Why are the female finalists so mean and unlikable?), but it's the only show on right now that I look forward to; JP made me watch The Walking Dead last week and I wanted to gouge out my eyes while screaming at these survivors of a zombie apocalypse for acting like complete idiots. Seriously, who goes out driving, alone, with no idea where they're going, when they're pregnant and know there are flesh eating zombie people roaming about nearby? I was sorely disappointed when said person did not die- a complete failure of survival of the fittest). Speaking of JP, I just sent him back to the grocery store to get the right kind of funfetti frosting for my birthday cake on Friday. He's been making this cake for me for 11 years and it's the only thing I'm getting for my birthday (to be fair, it's at my insistence that it's the only thing I'm getting- I want the ability to buy any pieces of art I want for the house after we move in)- how could he buy the wrong one? I have STRONG feelings about my funfetti cake and it must be frosted with the jarred frosting with little balls of mystery colored balls. Not the faux funfetti frosting that is just plain vanilla frosting with a separate bag of sprinkles. NO. IMPOSTER.


JP and I went together to pick the kids up from school today (I love it when we can do that- L&C get SO excited) and we ended up in the hallway holding Claire and talking with four teachers- none of whom actually teach my children- and the director, all telling us how much they'll miss our family and how "Clairebear" is the school mascot and everyone adores her and we better make that clear to our next school because no one can love her like they do. Then one of Landon's teachers said goodbye to us because he's having surgery on Monday and will be out until we leave and I got all teary and sad because we're going to miss this daycare, school, and community SO MUCH. JP and I are headed to Fort Worth on Friday to tour our daycare options there and I just hope we find something even close to as wonderful as our current one. It has been such a great place for us and such a big part of our family and oh crap I'm getting all teary now. For two working parents, there is no blessing like a daycare filled with people who genuinely love your children (well, that and having two children who never ever get sick).

Oy, I need to get back to researching pretty refrigerators, they don't make me cry. I'm kind of glad I leave five days before JP and the kids because I'm going to be a mess as we say goodbye to everyone in our lives here, it'll be good to rip off the band-aid a little faster. At some point, all the teariness is going to upset the children. Luckily, all it takes is a look at pictures of my future house or a reminder of my future schedule and the excitement eases the pain.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Bear, 20 months

So, about the Bear- it's been a while- she's 20.5 months old and she is AWESOME. She is crazy and fierce and feisty and fabulous.

She is both our honey badger and little snuggle bug.

She gives delicious hugs and loves to sit in our laps and watch movies.

She steals my iPhone from even the best hiding spots and then walks around the house, pressing buttons and holding it up to her ear. She takes Landon's iXL game and plays with it until we make her stop.

She doesn't like to be told no, but she follows directions beautifully.

She loves music, loves to dance, loves to stomp around outside, and loves books most of all.

Actually, she loves being with us most of all. For all her independence, she would (and does) follow Landon anywhere, she adores her daddy, and she squeals and runs into my arms when I pick her up at daycare.

JP and I spend much of our evenings watching her race around the house, alternatively loving on and purposefully needling Landon, in between bouts of independent book reading, and the occasional drive-by hug around the legs for one of us. And every time we tear our eyes away from her and make eye contact with each other, we laugh. We laugh and we marvel at this crazy, awesome, wonderful little creature we've made. In twenty months she's gone from being a Biscuit to a Bear, she's now laughs maniacally instead of smiling reflexively and sometimes we're pretty sure she's plotting the hostile takeover of our whole family unit, but then I go up to her crib and night and tuck her back under the covers that are thrown about her bed and I see my little baby girl with her chubby wrists and cheeks and I just can't believe there was a time that she wasn't part of our family. We are so blessed.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

8 Days

We listed our house last Thursday afternoon, spent six hours in Fort Worth on Saturday, bought a house in Fort Worth on Monday, got two offers on our house on Wednesday, and went under (a seriously great) contract on Thursday. Both houses were inspected yesterday and we're moving forward on all fronts. It has been a crazy few days. And now I've been wasting many many minutes looking up furniture for the new house. I know I need to be reasonable and decorate slowly and use all of our existing furniture for at least a while (and I will), but it's such a different house and I just want to change EVERYTHING. At the least it's fun to look and plan and it distracts me from the thought of actually moving all our stuff.

My last day of work is three weeks from yesterday. I start at the new job three weeks from Monday. It's all getting so close! Amidst all the madness, we're trying to hit up our favorite Austin haunts and restaurants. Last Sunday, when it was 38 degrees and we were kicked out of the house for five hours for showings and the open house, we went to our beloved Bull Creek Park and then for a hike in a new spot- up a cliff that borders Lake Austin and the 360 bridge.

rocks and sticks- what could be better?

rock-skipping lesson

taking this picture made mommy nervous

I'm really going to miss this city. (But oh I'm so excited about the next one!)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Q&A, Part 3

And here's the third and final chapter of the Q&A. Thank you for all the questions! I had fun writing the answers- and I'm glad I promised a forced time/space limit, because most deserved their own post and I would have skipped them based on plans to do that and then probably never written them, because there are HOUSES to talk about and at some point I need to write something about my children because I use this blog to make their memory photo books at the end of each year and I have no pictures or stories this month.

So, without further ado, part 3:

Is one of the reasons you are going to the SEC because you burned out at the firm and/or just didn't want to put in the hours anymore?

I think I talked about this a little in a previous question, but yes, that is one of the reasons. Not THE reason, but it’s one I’m appreciating more and more as I start thinking about this new life and schedule that I’ll have. The impetus really was the work and experience- if I had been getting good, substantive work at the firm and felt like I was learning and growing as an attorney, I wouldn’t have looked to leave. But I wasn’t, and now that I am leaving, I’m seeing the advantages of this new path more and more and realizing the extent of the disadvantages of my current one.

I would also love to hear more about the break up in college. Did you always know JP was the "One"? How did you work it out then and how do you maintain such a wonderful relationship now? Any secrets? :)

I did the break-up story in Part 2. As for "the One," I did think JP was it within a few weeks of our first date. We met at the end of August and I decided I was marrying him by Thanksgiving and we openly talked about it from then on. As for maintaining our relationship now, I don’t know, really. I think we’re naturally very well suited and we are also completely dedicated to our relationship and our future together, so we always address issues or annoyances as they come up and do everything with the implicit assumption that we’re in it together. Add in romance, the fact that we each feel genuinely lucky to have the other, and my firm belief the primary relationship in a family needs to be the one between the parents (i.e., we do better by our children by nurturing that relationship between the two of us) and it all works out pretty easily. I know the saying is that marriage is hard, and maybe it will be later (we’re only 6.5 years in), but I haven’t found it to be hard yet.

Do you think you'll do more fashion blogging?

Maybe if I get a better full-length mirror, better self-photography skills, and better at not judging pictures of myself quite so harshly. I do love clothes and love coming up with outfits for work, but I’m not really all that fashionable so I’m not sure how qualified I am to blog about it (though I suppose a lack of qualifications hasn’t stopped me from blogging about anything else!).

I know a lot of people have asked about your in laws and I'm with them, don't share if its too personal, but I have issues with my FIL and I was wondering specifically how you deal with them in regards to JP. My hubby gets so down about their relationship and the relationship between me and my FIL. Anything in particular that soothes JP's hurt feelings or helps take his mind off of it? Just wondering if there was anything in particular that you do to comfort him.

I wish I could help here, but JP is truly completely emotionally cut off from his mother. I think he wishes his dad would step up and fight for a relationship with him, because he does like his dad and I think it hurts him that FIL allows MIL to dictate the terms of their relationship, but he doesn’t get down about it. Not talking to his mother for the past 15 months has been something of a dream come true, though he would never say so because he doesn’t want people to judge the fact that he really doesn’t want a relationship with her (like I used to, before I experienced 9 years of her).

I would love to know how you find the time to meal plan and keep things cleaned up around your place, you seem so organized.

I don’t spend very long on either of those things, but they are absolutely integral for our relatively smooth work weeks. For the cleaning, we just never let it get out of hand. The kids put their toys away before bed, I put away clothes as soon as I’ve folded them, we do dishes immediately after every dinner, and we do a general sweep through the house before bed to put away a few random items that have been left out (I’m fidgety, so I do it naturally as I bounce from room to room at night, while JP calmly sits on the couch and plays guitar). Since we’re gone all day Mon-Fri, it’s rare that there’s much to have to put back. We also have a weekly cleaning lady who does the windows, floors, etc. I keep things neat, organized, and put away, and she does the real cleaning (though I clean the counters every night in the kitchen- that’s a must with dark granite). For meal planning, I sit down on Saturday or Sunday with my laptop and few favorite cook books and pick out meals for the week. I usually start with something I’m craving and then go from there, using up ingredients I’ll have to purchase so that we don’t waste anything. I always include a “pantry pasta” night (Thursday- when we’re out of fresh proteins), a more involved meal (for Sunday, when we’re home all afternoon), something made ahead of time and frozen (for Monday, when Natalie gets the kids and can put something in the oven as early as 4:00), and a a fresh fish (Tuesday, still safely fresh and only takes minutes to cook). Now that I’ve written that out, it’s kind of formulaic, but the planning is important because even taking 2 minutes to think “what should I make for dinner” is too long on the average weekday night when we’ve just arrived home from work/daycare and everyone is hungry.

[Related question] Any suggestions on how to stay on top of things? I've been a long time reader (pretty much since the very beginning), and have always been impressed by your energy and ability to succeed while juggling so many things at ones.

Lists! I’m a big fan of hand-written lists of things I can cross off with great relish and satisfaction (I love technology, but a digital to-do list is just not the same). I don’t watch a lot of TV (we have about 5 shows we try to catch during the week, many nights we never turn the TV on), so during the week, I really USE the time between 7:30 when my kids go to bed and when JP and I go to bed around 11. I’m also pretty decisive and efficient, so that helps I think. I remember watching my MIL wander around their house for over an hour talking about how she was going to take a shower, and then talking about what we were going to do later, and then talking about how she had to run to the store, and just talking talking talking about stuff, but never actually DOING anything. It drove me mad, and that was just a 2 day visit. I’m a doer. I hate clutter, I love bins and containers and boxes, and filing papers makes me unreasonably happy. Also, at this stage of our lives it’s pretty easy to stay on top of everything- our kids don’t have homework, they don’t have activities, and JP and I have 3+ hours every night to ourselves. I expect this to get harder, but I’m hoping we’ve laid some solid groundwork for keeping things neat and me sane as our schedules start multiplying and clashing.

You talked before about how you want to move and live in many more places. Do you still feel this way, or is moving to Fort Worth for your dream job a permanent move?

I think we still have 1-2 moves ahead of us. My guess is that we’ll be in Ft. Worth for 5-6 years, unless a promotion within the SEC would require a move to another office (like Denver!), and then it will be JP’s turn to move somewhere for his career (and I’ll have the specialty experience to do pretty much whatever I want- in-house, law firm, etc.). But who knows, we may fall in love with Fort Worth and never leave (though I think it would make me sad to never leave Texas to live in a new part of the country). I like that we honestly don’t know where we’ll be in 10 years.

What will you miss most about working at a big law firm (besides the pay)? And what will you miss the least?

Miss Most: the fridge of diet coke (and other drinks, but I only make use of the diet cokes), the special spigot of hot filtered water for my tea, recruiting and all events related to it, my beautiful office, the enormous budget for lunches, travel (oh Four Seasons, I will miss you), entertainment, etc., the absolute nerdiness of researching and writing a legal brief and debating the legal arguments with super smart people

Miss Least: entering time, worrying about hours and getting work, not being able to say no, pretending to be excited about terrible assignments

What will you do for childcare when Landon is in Kindergarten? I imagine drop off and pick up would be during business hours, so will you have a babysitter help or can JP do that since he'll be working from home?

Drop off is pretty early, so JP or I can do that before work, and then we’ll likely do an after-school program. All the elementary schools have one in-house, or many of the local activities (gymnastics, tae kwan do, etc.) have their own buses to go to their after-school programs. Once Claire is in public school we’ll probably hire an after-school nanny to pick up the kids so they can come home earlier and be transported to activities.

How did your parents shape and direct you as you were growing up -- and is your parenting style similar? How is it different? To what extent do you credit your upbringing with your success?

I’ve talked about this in the past, here, and it’s way too big of a topic to attempt in one paragraph, but I was thinking about this the other night when I couldn’t sleep – I think the biggest thing that shaped me is love. Their romance and the love they have for each other, and the absolute, frequently voiced, never questioned love they had for each of us. I think their number 1 priority was each other, and their number 1.5 priority was each of us- and no friends, hobbies, or jobs every got in the way of those two things. It's things like the sweet text my dad sent my Tuesday to say, “Happy Valentine’s Day my [LL], You are such a special girl. I am so proud of you and love you always. Your dad.” A little thing and lovely to receive, but not even all that noteworthy because he’s always voiced how much he loves us and I get to take that for granted. And I think it gave each of us a confidence in ourselves, a unwavering feeling of security, and an understanding of how a relationship is supposed to be, that we’ve each demanded that same kind respect and love from the other people in our lives.

As for parenting styles, I think we’re similar. It’s hard to say- my kids are still younger than my earliest memory, so it will be interesting to see how JP and I approach issues that I actually remember my parents dealing with each of us. I would aspire to be similar, though there will be certain differences based on our different personalities and family structure (my mom stayed home with us, JP and I don't and thus divide various family labors more evenly, etc.). But they were strict about behavior and manners and we definitely follow that. And finally (each of these questions deserves so much more than a sentence or two!), to the extent I credit my upbringing for where I am now, I don’t know-- a lot, I would think, but at the same time, I know much of what I did—my grades in school, my focus and dedication to swimming, my studious nature—these things came from inside of me. Absolutely supported by my parents, but truly initiated by me. And my siblings are each very different from me (not in the success, just in what we want, how we are getting there, etc.). But we each share a world view that includes a lot of empathy, a natural understanding of right and wrong, and an understanding that success takes work and you have to earn money before you can enjoy it. And that foundation in general is probably responsible for a lot of the specifics in my life now.

I have a random question - I hope its not too late! What cleaner do you use to clean your granite countertops? In your pics you just posted of your house - they look so shiny! I have searching for the perfect cleaner for forever.

Method glass and surface cleaner (I get it at Target). Also, their all-purpose cleaners and daily granite sprays are great. I just found the glass and surface cleaner is as good on the granite as the special granite spray, so now I don’t buy both. The bottle lives on my counter and I spray it down all the time- plus it smells so good!

New burning question--what were some of the weirdest things people said to you at work while you were pregnant? A partner in another section at my BigLaw firm asked me today, "Have you gotten cranky yet?" So weird.

Ha! I never had anything weird. My section was over 75% female and all but one had been pregnant before, so everyone was so used to it, I almost wished I could get some weird reactions and/or comments about it.

I know you have a kindle as well, but I was wondering what you are reading now? I have been in an historical romance mood, so all the Catherine Coulter, Mary Balough, Julia Quinn, Stephanie Laurens, and Amanda Quick that I can get from the library or on the kindle. I have started checking out books from the library on my kindle, it is fast and quite easy.

Have you read Sara Donati? She has a great series that begins with “Into the Wilderness.” Kathleen Woodiwiss has some good ones. Loretta Chase’s “Lord of Scoundrels” is fabulous, I re-read it all the time, and Kresley Cole’s English/Scottish historical romance trilogy, starting with “If You Dare” is also great. If you’re reading Julia Quinn, you’ve probably read the Bridgerton series, but if not, it starts with “The Duke and I”- go read them! (And I had no idea you could check out kindle books from a library- we don't have a public library near us, but we will in Ft Worth and I am definitely checking that out! No pun intended.)

What's your methodology for the task of organizing things like your closets or storage areas? How do you avoid being a pack rat like us?! Is it about not getting too sentimental about stuff or perhaps just having better/more efficient ways of organizing it? Clueless people over here!

The bulk of this answer is above, but to the pack rat point, I think I just have an innate dislike for large quantities of Stuff. No amount of sentimentality can overcome that dislike, so I get rid of stuff constantly. We keep a plastic “to Goodwill” bin in the garage, just to the left of the door into the house and throw stuff in it all the time. We drop it off when it’s full, which can take as little as 5 days or as much as 2 months, but it's a frequently revolving door. Landon outgrows a pair of pants? I toss it in the bin. I get a new shirt to replace an older one- to the bin. For paperwork, I keep files in the study and each kid has a small personal file box with a folder for each of their first 5 years. I add special daycare art (especially hand prints, footprints, funny quotes or “interviews”), extra copies of our Christmas cards and their birthday invites, and special birthday cards, to the file and recycle the rest (after an evening spent admiring it, of course). But mostly I just hate clutter and I’ve never donated something and regretted it or felt the loss. My goal is to never have full closets and never, ever own a separate storage unit.

What the heck is a cookie cake?

Only the most delicious dessert ever invented! Picture a giant cookie, big enough to fill a cake pan, approximately 1/2 - 3/4" thick, with white buttercream and chocolate buttercream icing around the edges. It is glorious. See here for examples- Great American Cookie Company makes a good one, but we think the ones from the HEB bakery are even better (and way cheaper- for $8.99 you get more deliciousness than any two people should eat in 2 days (ahem, like we did)).


El fin!

(also, things are happening on the home front. I slept like a baby and am back to saying things like "squee!! over and over again (inside my head)).

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

My Two Houses

I couldn't sleep last night. At 1 a.m. I gave up and popped one of my varied of "sleep aids" and finally fell into the kind of unconscious slumber that I don't find restorative but at least gives my brain a break. You guys, why don't I have an offer on my house? I know it's only been six days, my rational brain understands this and is not really concerned about it (yet), but I've never sold a house and my irrational sleepy time brain wonders how we've had TWENTY-NINE individual showings, and THIRTY-ONE groups at the open house, and not one offer. Do people normally take longer to make decisions than JP and me? We saw our current house once for 10-12 minutes and made an offer that evening. We saw our future house once for 8-10 minutes while chasing two kids and made an offer the next day. My irrational brain seizes on this as normal behavior and concludes that obviously, with all these people not making a major decision within hours of seeing our house, it will NEVER EVER sell.

Then I wake up and shake it off and remember that we're only on Day 6 here, and we have three more showings lined up for today and tomorrow. It's going to be okay. We can float two mortgages for a while if necessary, we can lease the house if we want to (apparently our rental market is even hotter than our sale market), and again, it's only been six days. Calm the fck down. And I do.

Because even in my irrational 1 a.m. state, I don't regret putting an offer on this house. I've had alerts on the neighborhoods around downtown since I first thought about this job in October. I know this house is unique, I know it's extremely well priced and even better located. I know there is no other house on the market we'd consider buying. I know we would have searched for this exact house in every other house we looked at over the next several months and never found it. JP, who pretty much leaves this stuff to me because I'm way pickier than him and my small sliver of "acceptable" homes lives inside his far broader swath of "sure, it looks fine," immediately wanted to contact the agent when I showed him the online tour three weeks ago. And when he walked inside on Saturday he turned to our agent and said, "this is it, how do we make an offer?". And since he'll be working from home and living inside these walls way more than the rest of us, I love that he loves it as much as I do. I just- I see us living here and I love what I see.

the giant tree in the front that started the love affair

kitchen (at the back of the room is the current casual dining/future Landon/Claire play area)

living room/front door


family room with the square window that clinched the love affair

master (off casual family room)


master bath/sky lights!

Landon and Claire's room with attached bath

[the bigger, prettier guest room is oddly not pictured, but it will be the guest room and JP's office and has a corner bank of windows that looks at the front yard and giant tree]

sun room (another potential future play space, art table?)

back deck and windows


Fort Worth is a marvelously inexpensive town. We could never afford this house in Austin (or anywhere else), particularly one only 4-5 miles from downtown. So I don't regret the frantic offer, but the bags under my eyes would really appreciate it if someone would make an offer on our Austin house. It's lovely, but it's not the second home I'm looking for (that would be located far in the future and in a ski town).

Also, re: the comments on the pool. It was something we originally had on our "no" list for all the reasons people mentioned- young kids, maintenance, etc. But we're losing our beautiful, oft-frequented neighborhood pool, and we decided with our 110 degree summers and my aversion to gyms, we might really enjoy having one in our own backyard. And, honestly, we just flat out fell in love with the house- the pool barely factored in the decision. We're researching gates and other safety systems, so if you have any suggestions, let me know!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Love and Cookie Cake

You all are so lucky I didn't post yesterday. I was a nervous WRECK. A neurotic, hand-wringing, floor-pacing, mass of nerves. I couldn't focus, couldn't work- couldn't even read my celebrity gossip/fashion blogs. The house we fell in love with got an offer Sunday night. In a frantic flurry of phone calls and emails and little calculations on post-its, we found we were able to make a non-contingent counter-offer (the only kind that would be entertained) by Monday afternoon if I moved up my start date to March 12, closed on March 15, and accepted a generous offer of temporary loan from a family member (should our house not sell in time for closing). In between these phone calls with various agents and lenders (and JP, who was in meetings all morning), the SEC called to request more firmly that I move up my start date. I deflected, saying I just couldn't get my family out there before the end of March, and then had to call 10 minutes later and say, "never mind! I now need to start March 12th, see you then!" And then I waited, a tense ball of nerves, until this morning when we found out that WE WON.

The residential love of my life will be mine (ours) in a month. It is in a fabulous neighborhood, half a mile from the school, five miles from my office. It was built in the 1940's, but has been completely re-done on the inside (including knocking down a few walls to make it more open and adding a master suite, while maintaining the original charm). It has a pool. It's on a third of an acre. It is my single-dwelling soul mate.

Sneak Preview

Now we just need to sell our house in Austin. Lovely as it is, I do not want a vacation house in the Austin suburbs. Our agent expects an offer by the end of the day, so we'll see. I'm hoping we have multiple reasons to pop open the champagne tonight.

Because there will be champagne. I know most people like to harsh on Valentine's Day, but sex, lingerie, and champagne are three of my favorite things, so I'm a fan. Plus, we now share a heart-shaped Mangia's Chicago-style pizza and a heart-shaped cookie cake with the kids, and you know how I feel about pizza and cookies, so really, it's one of my favorite days of the year. Yes it's over-commercialized and it's stupid to make people feel they need to drop a few thousand dollars on diamonds over a Hallmark holiday, but JP left a post-it note with "I love you so much" on my purse this morning when he left the house at 5 a.m. to swim, and a lovely bouquet of flowers just showed up on my desk with an even lovelier note (that I won't embarrass him by sharing), and it's perfect. We say we love each other every day, but I don't mind a day that reminds me to put it in writing and drop it in his swim bag the night before. And taking the kids to pick out their $1.99 store-bought Valentine's, and then spending last night carefully selecting the perfect color power ranger card to give to each kid in Landon's class was surprisingly sweet. I think I'm the only mom that didn't add something homemade, but again, we keep it simple. And Landon thought very hard about which color should be matched to each name. I can't say Claire cared which "Tangled" Valentine went to her friends, but she did enjoy their PJ party this morning.

So it's a good day. I've giving myself exactly a week before I FREAK OUT about not yet selling our Austin house, but for today, I'm just feel loved and overwhelmingly excited about our beautiful future home. And wearing my ruby red shoes (and black dress; an outfit planned last week especially for the holiday because I'm cheesy like that) and looking at JP's post-it note stuck to my computer monitor is just icing on the Valentine's Day cookie cake.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Q&A, Part 2

Our 12-hour round-trip journey to Fort Worth is complete. I have a house I am in LOVE (and lust) with and we've had fifteen showings of our house since Thursday late afternoon. I'm crossing every digit I have in hopes that we get a contract soon, so we can put in an offer for the most amazing house ever 5 minutes after that. Then we have to pack and move and a few other pesky to-do's I'm trying not to think about.

Because I don't want to jinx and/or put too much pressure on my budding love affair with a large, inanimate object (LOVE!), we're turning back to Q&A until I have a contract and can post some sort of "squee!" post with pictures of my new home.


Burning question: why did you and jp break up in college? I've always wanted to know, because your relationship serves as a great example for marriage, and the fact that you went through a difficult patch but managed to stay together and have such a great marriage is a true testament!

A good question- I just posed it to JP and he had absolutely no idea. My memory is that the paths we thought we were on (JP to investment banking in NYC, me to medical school in Texas) didn’t seem to include the other. I always assumed JP would switch his path and when he started interviewing with investment banks his senior year in the business school I kind of flipped out – I mean, what do you mean you’re thinking about moving to a city you know I’m not going to be living?? It never occurred to me to change my plan to better fit with his (like go to med school in any of the great schools in NY) and he didn’t think to change his to fit mine (like apply to one of the many banks in Houston or Dallas). This is what happens when two very driven people meet when they are 18 and 19 years old. So after a night of me demanding JP to not do investment banking (a ridiculous stance) and JP refusing and going home (an admittedly reasonable reaction), I decided he’d broken up with me, something he did not realize had happened until the next morning when he saw my AOL Instant Messenger away message (do you remember those? Facebook statuses didn’t even exist yet). It was a dramatic, traumatic, and tumultuous few months. I cried for about 14 days, failed 3 tests, and then got my shit together, got back to straight A’s, and dated someone else. JP developed the social life I had always had to force him to have, only to lose his shit when he found out I went on a date with someone else. Much angst, many weeks, and a kitten later, JP had an epiphany at an investment banking callback interview. Listening to the fellow i-bankers describe their schedules made him realize he’d never see me if he worked there, and he loved me and he wanted to see me as much as possible, so he wrote me a heartfelt letter (which he would no doubt be horrified to know I still have in a file in our desk, it's about 4-pages long) while on the plane ride back to Austin and then parked himself outside my apartment door every single morning for about 10 days before I finally let him in. We decided a future together was more important than any of the particulars of our individual plans.

The irony of course is that we ended up leaving Texas because of me, I didn’t go to law school after all, and JP ended up in investment banking after we got married. The break up is actually what made me question my set-in-stone med school plan and led me to law school, and we’ve had an unwavering commitment to each other- a commitment that trumps any individual plan we think we have for ourselves- ever since.

I also want to know about your gay best friend, r u still friends? Is he in a relationship?

Most definitely, though he lives in New York City now so I don't see him very often any more. And last time I checked, he's single. Rarely alone, but single.

And also, if you have any tips on getting baseboards clean! We are not moving but the baseboards in my house are my nemesis.

None! I even googled it. I vacuumed with a brush to get all the dust up and then got on my hands and knees with a magic eraser. My knees and legs are covered in bruises from kneeling on the tile- it has not been a fun project. I never noticed my baseboards before, but after obsessing over them for two days I can spot a smudge from across the room and it haunts me until I go erase it.

I know you might not have a time for a full RRA post (was that the acronym?) but if you had a top 3 either series or individual books as must-reads, what would they be? I have gone back and looked but I am always overwhelmed by how many books are listed. I am only recently discovering the genre, I used to read a lot of non-fiction but of course now I read contracts all day so I need ESCAPE.

For historical romance: Sharon Kay Penman’s Welsh tilogy (starting with Here Be Dragons- very heavily researched and fact based; a great start to the genre) and Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. For paranormal romance Larissa Ione’s Daemonica series is fabulous, as is Kresley Cole’s Immortals After Dark. I’ve read all of those books at least four times each. Other fun reads are Nora Roberts’ Circle trilogy and Sisters of the Heart trilogy. Harry Potter is the best series I’ve ever read, ever, and the Sookie Stackhouse series is fun literary candy.

What is your system (or lack thereof) for budgeting/managing household finances? You seem to be so on top of meal planning and household organization that I'm thinking your finances are equally in order.

Constant vigilance. I have tried various programs and attempted to use spreadsheets, but our finances are pretty easy to keep track of- massive debits from the 1st to the 5th (daycare, loans, mortgage, cars) and then we charge all our other expenses on a credit card that we pay off in full at the end of each month. I check the card balance daily (an obsessive morning habit) and if it’s getting high, we just stop spending money for a few days (except for groceries and gas) until it’s a new month. Every month has its surprise expense (car repair, AC broken, etc.) so I find planning never works out all that well. We have a certain amount we expect to pay on the card for all expenses combined and we try stay under that. We also max out our 401k’s through a direct debit from our paychecks (i.e., we never see that money, which is for the best) and transfer a set amount to savings every month, which then gets transferred to the highest interest school loan. It’s not fancy, but it works.

I'm also generally curious about your school debt repayment progress, but I understand if that is too private.

Ugh, my law school loans are my greatest nemesis. Basically I graduated with about $140,000 in loans. We made some big payments while I was in school (through my summer internships, at least until I got pregnant with Landon and we saved all that money to support our family of three during 3L) and then when I graduated I put all of them on 10-year repayment plans. I could have dragged it out over 30 years because the principal was so high, but I was determined to get them GONE. My payments are nearly $2,000/month but after 3.5 years of paying we're finally making some progress on the principal. The original plan was to pay extra every month, and we have done some of that, but something has always gotten in the way of it being a regular thing- JP being in school (without paid summer internships) and then JP looking for a job for a year made for a different set of finances than we thought we'd have by the summer of 2010. But I'm glad for the short repayment plan because it's forced us to pay a high monthly amount when we might otherwise have balked and found excuses to pay less. We were nearly done paying the largest one down in the months after JP started his new job, but we've paused in order to save for a down payment for a house in Fort Worth. As I said- something always gets in the way, but someday they'll be gone, and that "raise" is going to feel so good!

Tell me more about your siblings. Then . . .now . . . whatever.

Well, I have two. My sister is 3 years younger and my brother is 5.5 years younger. My sister works in Austin and has been a great local babysitter and aunt – we’re going to miss her a lot when we move. We did not get along when we were younger (I mean seriously did NOT- growing up a girl with a prettier popular younger sister is an immensely painful process) but are good friends now. Val is outgoing, funny, and has a new boyfriend we all like a lot. Eric is in his last year of college and will graduate in May, hopefully with a job in Austin or Houston. He’s my dad’s best friend and #1 helper in all projects involving engines (boat and car), remodeling, building, lawn care, and golf. He’s an amazing athlete, was the smiliest most adorable baby, and somehow always got along equally with my sister and me.

Would love to know a little more about how you approached partners when you were looking to publish an article to help fill in your resume. I would like to take this sort of initiative, but as a brand new second year, I'm not sure whether I'm seasoned enough to initiate this without getting laughed at/dismissed out of hand. Did you come up with the article topic and present it to partners? Or did you just offer a hand in research and writing?

You definitely won’t get laughed at or dismissed. I get the headline email every day (if you don’t get this, sign up for it) and when there was a decision on something important or something else securities-related, I’d go to our securities partner and ask if we should write an article about it. I’ve never been turned down. I would also just approach a partner who works on stuff you like or have experience in and ask if he’s interested in writing an article- for a publication or to be sent around for clients. You’ll do all the legwork and the first draft, s/he’ll edit, and then it will be published with their name first. It’s a great way to augment your resume, online profile, and visibility within the firm.

Is your new job with the SEC or is that an acronym for a different firm? Now I'm confused.

Yep, I'll be an enforcement attorney with the SEC (the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, not the Southeastern Conference, to the disappointment of a few of my friends and family).


Alright, just one more part to go! I haven't re-read or proof-read any of this, so please forgive the probably plentiful typos. My eyes are crossed I'm so tired, so it's off to bed, then yoga, then an open house and many more showings tomorrow. At some point I hope to actually be in our house for a few minutes over the weekend so we can grocery shop and otherwise prepare for the work week ahead.

Six weeks from today and we'll be driving a moving van over 200 miles NE to Fort Worth. (Hopefully to the beautiful new object of my housing affection. SQUEE! Wait, shhh, no jinxing.)

Friday, February 10, 2012

For Sale!

Aftr a whirlwind five days spent obsessing, list making, painting, scrubbing, mulching, and a million other little things, we had our carpets cleaned Tuesday, our pictures taken Wednesday, and were listed on Thursday. We were live on MLS at 3:00 and immediately had two calls for showings that afternoon at 4:45 and 5:30! And we have six EIGHT showings today, four on Saturday, and an open house on Sunday. One couple last night stayed for an hour- my poor dogs about collapsed from exhaustion as I walked them around and around and around the block (I thought it would be thirty minutes). That's a good sign right?

I'm biased of course, but I think the house looks pretty great:

living room, front hall, front door, study on left, dining room on right (formerly our play room; now a pretend reading room), guest bath around corner on left, master through arch/hallway off living room

fireplace we always meant to use; patio and deck in back with my pretty hanging flowers


kitchen and laundry

kitchen and eating area

Lanman's room

Claire's room (guest room and upstairs bath in other pictures)

upstairs game room

We did love this house, but I'm excited to look at our next home, which will likely be 1,000 square feet smaller and 80 years older. The dogs are at doggie daycare today while our home gets shown pretty much every hour all day (yay!) and then we head out for our family trip to Fort Worth tomorrow morning. Fixing up your house for other people to buy is not so fun; looking at houses other people have fixed up for you to buy is much more exciting. JP and I are heading back next Friday to tour schools and daycares (I've found two nearby, with great ratings, that can take the kids immediately or almost immediately!), follow up on the homes we liked, and look at apartments if we failed to fall in love with any of the homes (and as a back-up should we need to be in an apartment for a few weeks anyway). Things are happening!

I spoke with a fellow SEC staff attorney yesterday and after hearing her describe her general schedule and hours I was grinning so much, and feeling so overwhelmingly excited and happy and oddly relieved, my voice was shaky as I continued talking to her. This is going to be such a change for my family-- such an amazing change. With JP working from home, and my day ending by 5:30 without night or weekend work, we're basically going to double the amount of weekday time we can spend with the kids. And somehow this job is still the best possible career move I could have made, even if I didn't have kids or a husband or a hobby I'd love to discover. I am so excited you guys. So, so excited.

(back to Q&A later today or tomorrow- this post came bursting from my fingertips and I couldn't hold it back)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Q&A, Part 1

Thanks for all your questions! It's been fun reading them and seeing what you'd like to know. In Big Move news, I got a call from the SEC today and my background check is complete and they want me to start as soon as possible, preferably by the end of the month. Ahhh and noooo. Crazy day. I was mulching last night at midnight by flashlight and painting over little scuff marks on walls at 2 a.m. ALL I see now are scuff marks. They are EVERYWHERE- on my walls, on my baseboards- and I swear my house looked pretty great only two days ago when I wasn't obsessed with these things. I painted over a few marks in the pantry, resulting in a 12" by 12" swath of new paint only to realize this morning that my pantry is the ONLY room in the house not originally painted "Desert Castle." Instead, it was painted a teensy bit lighter than Desert Castle and I couldn't tell when the paint was wet. I like to think I'm generally operate on an even keel, but I nearly burst into tears staring at the square foot of two-shades-too-dark light beige paint. I covered it with white, thinking too light was better than too dark (that's the rule in makeup, which is really the only artistry and painting I know anything about) and it does look better, but it still kills me every time I open the pantry door. (Neither the realtor or JP noticed, but it is ALL I SEE.)

Luckily for me, my sanity, and JP's sanity, our realtor came by today and enthusiastically signed off on all our changes and updates and said we're ready for pictures and listing! We have a sign in our front yard and the whole thing is getting very real. We head to Ft Worth on Saturday with the kids to look at houses- should be fun!

And now that I made you read about the details I said I wouldn't make you read if you asked me questions, here is the first set of answers to my one-paragraph limit Q&A:

I'd be curious to know more re: your formerly quasi-alcoholic relative - is she still doing as well?

My grandmother is doing fantastic, thanks for asking! Not a drop of alcohol since June 2010. She toasted the last two New Years with sparkling grape juice, drinks the occasional O'Douls or seltzer with lime at parties, and in general just drinks a lot more milk, water, and diet coke than she used to. I can't even express the change we've seen in her, how happy and proud we all are for her, and how proud she is of herself.

How is your sister's puppy?

Louie is great. He enjoys a very active and pampered life with my sister, her boyfriend, and his dog in their house and fenced backyard. He visits every time she comes over and is a good boy despite the fact he’s spoiled rotten. (Much like my children, right?)

Do you think you'll have better work/life balance at SEC? is it a litigation-type practice?

I do. That wasn't the #1 reason I wanted the job (the subject matter and future opportunities topped that list), but it was a close 2nd. The attorneys I spoke with there work pretty hard, but nights and weekends are rare and vacations are respected and encouraged. It is a litigation-style practice (or, it’s definitely not transactional), but what I’ll be doing is the work up of the matter that takes place before a formal investigation is opened and a trial is scheduled. So it's depositions, documents, interviews, reading, and then writing up a big formal memorandum recommended the formal investigation (or not). As the government, we pretty much dictate the deadlines and opposing counsel reacts to me, not me to them. I think it's a great fit and I can't wait to begin!

Did your mom finish her masters or whatever degree she was working on?

She did! She has a Masters of Science in Biology. It was really tough doing that while teaching full-time, but she survived and I organized a surprise party for her in July when she was done. She teaches Biology II AP at my old high school and is quite famous- we can’t go anywhere with her when we visit because she’s always surrounded by current and former students.

Have your in-laws taken further steps? did you tell them re the move?
(lots of questions on this, understandably, so I combined them all into this answer)

No and no. I suppose we'll send them the "we've moved" card that we’ll send to nearly 200 other acquaintances (like we sent them a Christmas card), but my MIL hasn't contacted us in any way since December of 2010. I don't understand this and it makes me sad that they've never met Claire and they don't know anything about Landon now (they last say him when he was still 2; he doesn't know who they are now), but it's their own fault and they've made no move to fix it. My FIL has called JP once or twice to order him to call his mother and "fix this" because "[MIL] has her pride" and apparently can't be expected to even initiate contact, much less apologize. JP turned that down flat. His mother has always thrown overly dramatic, baseless temper tantrums and he’s always been the one who’s had to “fix it” (as ordered by his enabling, back-boneless father) and he won’t do it anymore. If her son and grandchildren don't mean enough to her to make a phone call after she screwed everything up all those months ago, then she doesn't deserve them. For his part, JP is relieved she's not part of our life, and I’d agree that there's certainly less stress and emotional drama. Still, it's sad.

How did JP manage to get to work remotely? that is so cool!

By asking ;). His company has been pushing that option in the last year so he was optimistic that it would work out. He also just found out that he got the highest rating possible for his year-end review, so that gave him some confidence to ask. He may have to change roles (one boss has signed off, the other is thinking about it) but he'll definitely be able to stay with the company. This will give him back 2 hours of his day, every day, that he currently spends driving, so he'll be able to see so much more of the kids. We're all very excited about that.

How did you deal with some of the crappy aspects of junior associate life?

Oy, I should probably do an actual post on this. It’s a multi-part answer. First and foremost, I knew what I was getting in to, I acknowledged that I was going into it of my own free will, and I understood I was being paid to check my blackberry every few hours at night and on the weekends and generally be on call, all the time, and never say no to much of anything. But, I also started out this job with a baby, so I was determined to place boundaries where I could and seize opportunities to spend time with my family whenever I could. I was also lucky enough to genuinely like the partners and senior associates I worked with, so I generally enjoyed the time I spent in the office- it was fun, I got to be smart, I got to earn metaphorical gold stars—it was a positive part of my day. On the setting boundaries, most of that was subtle. Things like going home at 5:30 without apology when I’m not busy. I see no reason to sit in my office, missing my kid’s post-daycare, pre-dinner time if I don’t have to. I just did it and no one ever really cared. I also tried to make sure my first project for any new partner was PERFECT. Setting your reputation is worth all the extra effort- I’ve found that once a partner thinks you’re great, they view everything else you do through rose colored lenses. If they think you’re a slacker or you cut corners, they see everything else you do in that light (like leaving early when you’re not busy). And finally, I seized down time. If I billed 60 hours in a week and then I had a day where all my drafts were being reviewed and not much would be going on for a few hours, I took them and ran. I’d leave the office at 10 a.m. and run errands or make a few pages of a photo book or leave at 3 to take the kids to the pool- whatever. I’d check my blackberry and then get back to work when needed, but I never wasted those hours sitting at my desk just waiting for comments (I did at first, of course, but after a year or so I learned various partners’ patterns and habits, etc., and I could “seize” a lot easier). Oh, and your city and specialty make a huge difference- an office of a large law firm in Austin is different from the office of a large law firm in Manhatten, and even within my office, being a transactional associate gave me a far more difficult-to-balance schedule than being a litigation associate.

I’m breaking my one paragraph rule, but I’m almost done. I think a lot of it is perspective- you’re paid a lot at large law firms and you’re paid that much, in part, because sometimes the job just sucks. But you signed up for it, so either find a way to make it work for you (setting limits where you can, trying to volunteer to work with the partners you know you like so your plate is full when the partners you don’t like need associates, changing firms or practice areas if needed) or leave. I’m not leaving now because I was unhappy or because I didn’t want to be a BigLaw associate anymore- I left because I couldn’t get the work I wanted and this job will give me a whole new world of opportunities after a few years, but I’m not going to lie- not being an associate is going to be pretty awesome and I don’t think I’m coming back to a firm until I can lateral in as a partner.

When is your next girls weekend with your law school friends? did the one in NYC who was dealing with a mean partner get out from under that partner?

In May! We're headed to Chicago for one of the friend's weddings. I'm so excited- I'll be back in my favorite city, witnessing the wedding of one of my favorite friends, and sharing a hotel room with the rest of the gang (and likely several bottles of wine).

And my friend with the mean partner (in Washington, D.C., not NYC) is still at her firm but no longer working for that partner.

I know this is a sensitive topic, so feel free to ignore this question. How have you handled "the nightmare" with respect to your job search and background investigation? Is it something you had to disclose, and if so, how did you present the issue?

I've never had to disclose it. I read all the questions on any background type forms carefully to be sure, but we were never criminally charged with anything and I was never administratively indicated for anything, and all those records have been cleared. It wasn't a problem for the Bar or my recent federal background check (just found out I passed this morning!). Our biggest question re: the Nightmare is if, when, and how we ever tell Landon. For now, I figure if it comes up, we'll share an abbreviated version; if not, we're not planning a sit-down "here's what happened" moment when he turns 18 or anything.

Also, any steps toward writing a book? I would definitely buy a copy! :)

Nope, no book. It was an intriguing and extremely flattering idea, and I know I made my potential agent very sad by turning her down (sorry Allison!), but I just couldn't get past the fact that I didn't really want to write one. I love writing blog posts, legal briefs, and articles, but a book has never been anything I wanted to do and I couldn't imagine finding the time to do it even if I did. Nor could I figure out how I'd write the story or who would want to read it (though thank you for volunteering!).

i just got into med school and am a long-time reader of your blog. i'm very curious about how you maintained a healthy relationship with JP while completing your rigorous law school coursework!

Hmm, I’ve never really thought about it. We’d send short emails or share a phone call during the day, but in general the only time we saw each other was at night. I worked hard to get my studying done during the day (I rarely ever brought books home) and we just soaked up the time we had together. He was my escape from the pressure cooker of the law school, so even if it was only 1 or 2 hours together, it was always the highlight of my day. There is no one I enjoy being with more, and I know he feels the same way, so it always seemed pretty easy. We went on walks around Chicago, ate very late dinners together (sometimes something he delivered to the law school lounge), and snuggled and spooned pretty much all the time we weren’t walking or eating. Oh and sex, there was/is lots of that.


And on that note, it's time for bed (ha! on my pre-posting proof read I realized that sounds all suggestive, but it's nearly midnight and after dragging the ladder all around the house to dust the air vents and vacuum corners of the ceiling and sweep the back porch and anything else I could think of for the last two hours, I am going to sleeeeeep). I'll finish the others tomorrow!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Something Different

Every single muscle in my body is aching, I have dirt under all of my fingernails, and I've been wearing the same yoga pants for about 3 days, but we got SO MUCH done this weekend. And we did it with cold temps and intermittent rain, JP working for several hours each day, and both kids running around underfoot (poor things, Landon announced on Sunday afternoon, "mommy we haven't done even ONE fun thing today" and we crashed our neighbor's Super Bowl party at 6:30 when we realized (1) the superbowl was on and (2) we had absolutely no food in the house, not even milk and butter to enable us to make an unhealthy meal of kraft mac and cheese). We have a few final projects (I'm "working" from home today to do them) and hopefully we can be listed by the end of the week.

But none of that is very interesting. Getting a house ready to sell just kind of sucks (I'm totally questioning the merits of home ownership- having just paid my enormous property taxes and now trying to move, I feel it might be overrated), but it's so dominant in my mind that it's hard to think of anything else to write about. So I thought I'd put it to you- anything you want to hear about? Besides fascinating updates about the scrubbing of base boards, of course. Any stories I never finished or other burning questions I've left unanswered? I did this once before, about 3 years ago, and got some great questions. I answered a few, but then got overwhelmed by how much I had to say about others that I never got back to them. This time, I'm limiting myself to a paragraph or less in hopes that I'll address them all, so ask away.

My yoga pants and I are getting back to the scrubbing of baseboards- I look forward to not writing about that tomorrow.

Saturday, February 4, 2012


Last night I had dinner with the lovely and brilliant (and funny) Becca of Academomia. Over margaritas (me) and pinot grigio (her) we talked about careers and kids and husbands and more. It was a wonderful few hours, even when it rained and the deck of the restaurant cleared out, leaving just the two of us, sitting under a red shade umbrella chatting away.

Today we are working through the realtor and home stager recommendations. It's a loooooong list. I agree with most of it, but have vehemently rejected those that involve spending any money (like "consider purchasing a leather chair for the corner" - um yes, a leather chair would look lovely there, and had that ever been in the decorating budget, we would have purchased it, but it is not and there's no way we're buying any furniture when we're about to move to a neighborhood with homes 1,000 sq. ft. smaller than ours) and those that involve too much work (repainting Claire's room- it's a soft yellow, and maybe some people won't like it, but hopefully it's not a deal breaker). They also don't like that our dining room is a playroom, but tough. We don't have dining room furniture and we're going to switch it around and move out most of the toys, so it will just have to do. Today's tasks mainly revolve around the walls (removing all hanging frames and personal pictures; fill in holes; paint over holes and any other smudges; clean baseboards; clean light switches) and the front and back yards (trim, blow, power wash, mulch, plant). I'm tempted to make a sarcastic remark about how much fun we're having, but it is actually a little fun. And it's definitely nice to feel like we're DOING something as opposed to just frantically making lists and going to appointments and hearing a whole assortment of people tell me just how much I have to do. The productivity is soothing.

The Fort Worth research remains a little daunting. For those who know the area, we're looking in various downtown and near-downtown neighborhoods like Berkeley Place, Mistletoe Heights, Tanglewood, and others nearby. JP will be working from home (our one piece of good news last week- his company approved him to work remotely, which was HUGE for us and such a relief) and I'll be downtown, so I want as short a commute as possible. We live 7 miles away from my office now and I see no reason to extend that drive. My biggest struggle is finding a daycare for Claire (and Landon, but only for a few months). If any of you have any suggestions, feel free to leave a comment or send me an email. I just need a longer list to begin my research and phone calls. Hopefully we can get our house listed soon so we can heard to Fort Worth for some day trips. JP has still never seen his future city, he's just acting on blind faith and full fledged support for me and my dream job. He's a keeper. A keeper with a very long moving to-do list that he hasn't complained about once.

Back to removing everything personal from my house, along with trash cans, any decor item smaller than a cantaloupe (taken straight from the staging sheet, I kid you not), and pretty much anything else pretty and/or useful. The goal is to make it look like no one lives here. The problem of course is that four people do live here. We'll get as close as we can.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Lilly Ann

This has been a difficult week. Getting back from vacation to the feeling of being behind on the 27 million things we have to do to move, finding out we have significantly less money available for the move than we thought (see tax bill, no bonus for me, delayed bonus for JP), watching both kids break down in tears at every daycare drop off this week, enduring a home staging appointment that nearly caused me to have a nervous breakdown, informing daycare of our impending move and watching the front desk lady cry because she's going to miss her daily visits from Clairebear SO MUCH and realizing we still don't have a daycare (or even a list of potential daycares) in Fort Worth and we love this one so much how can we possibly leave it?, writing to do list after to do list, firing our original Fort Worth realtor and hiring a new one, reconciling ourselves to renting, getting the news simultaneously that the rental market sucks and we can be pre-approved to buy a house after all, driving 90 minutes to get fingerprinted (because there are no federal facilities in Austin that can do this, apparently), beginning the packing/home staging process which at the moment is making my house messier rather than cleaner as it's supposed to, and having ACTUAL law firm work to do under the eyes of a still visibly irritated partner and wondering how all of the other stuff will get done when we only have nights and weekends to do it and we have the kids and somehow, two months from today I'll be on my second day of work at the new job.

And then, this morning, we put Lilly to sleep. It was time. She's become increasingly anti-social and aggressive, never with us or the kids, but with any other person who comes in the house. In the past few months, I've had to race home from work to rescue a nanny from Lilly's honestly scary growling, hissing, and paw-swiping, we have to lock her in a closet every Monday morning before the maid comes, she attacked our home inspector when we forgot to put her in the closet before he came, and she tried to attack a friend of Landon's when he came over to play. And she's scary- she's pouffy and growling and she doesn't back off until she's so worked up that she scratches and hisses at JP and I when we swoop in to put her away. We talked to the vet, he agreed it was the right thing to do, and I thought I was prepared.

She slept with us last night and I took her in this morning. It was so, so much harder than I thought it would be. I adopted Lilly when JP and I broke up during my junior year of college- she was a 9 oz. ball of dirty white fluff, abandoned in a box on 6th street. She was my first baby. And despite her escalating aggressiveness with others, she's been wonderful with my babies. I called JP immediately afterward but just sobbed when I heard his voice so I hung up on him and decided to write something instead. I can't go to work until I stop crying and I really need to get to work.

So, Lilly Ann, 2003-2012, a few of my favorite pictures (she was born pre-digital age, so I don't have any of her as an adorable tiny kitty who fit in a coffee cup and slept on the open organic chem textbooks on my desk in college).








It was right and I don't regret it, but man did I love that fat occasionally cuddly often ornery heartbreakingly sweet in those last few moments little kitty. And I'm really glad this week is over.