Wednesday, December 31, 2008

What a Year, What a Night

2008 has been quite a year- and a good one at that! I saw this on another blog and copied the idea, it's the first sentence of the first post for each month - amazing to think when the year began I was a law student with a little baby who didn't sleep and got ear infections all the time. I can't say I miss much about those days...

January: The last day of 2007 was a good one.
February: Chicago has received 12 inches of snow in the last 12 hours.
March: At exactly two weeks from today, I will have to have accomplished the following things:
April: Landon is now the proud owner of teeny tiny ear tubes and we have been promised that this will substantially improve, if not end, the ear infections and sleepless nights for all of us.
May: Yesterday was JP's last day of work as an investment banking analyst.
June: We are safe and nearly sound here in Houston.
July: Landon's first birthday is two weeks away, a fact that pretty much blows my mind.
August: This is what I woke up to this morning:
September: We had a lovely cookout with JP's business school friends - a married couple and another male student, all three from India.
October: This is a video from last Sunday night when we shared some quality family time in our backyard :
November: This weekend the Lag Liv house did its part to boost the Austin economy- not that the Austin economy seems to need much of a boost.
December: It's 8:45. I'm at home, but on my firm laptop working on a Series A Preferred Stock Purchase Agreement.

We're throwing a New Year's Eve party tonight and I'm sitting at work hoping that JP is diligently working through the to-do list I left for him (it was his idea to throw the party, so I figure he can do all the prep I normally do). The idea is that I'll walk in the door from work, prepare and lay out the food, get dressed in something sparkly, and then turn around and welcome my guests to my beautiful, clean home with a relaxed smile on my face. Yeah, we'll see. Luckily it's a great group of people (including the Indians from Thanksgiving- I think they're permanently invited over for all holidays), so I'm not too worried. Plus there's champagne involved and I don't have to drive home - hooray!

I worked until nearly 1 a.m. this morning on my litigation doc review project, and at precisely 12:48 a.m. I hit a button that deleted all the work I had done over the previous three hours. It was a very, very sad moment and there may or may not have been some colorful curse words directed at the computer and then I may or may not have immediately woken up JP to tell him my tale of woe. And when he dragged me into a spoon (while still in my clothes and shoes and very much not ready for bed) and whispered "night night," I may or may not have yelled at him for not waking up and displaying an appropriate amount of sympathy. And when he continued to sleep through my lecture, I gave up and stalked around the kitchen until I could calm down enough to sleep- two hours beore Landon woke up for the first time (he's been congested and waking up every hour from 3-6 a.m.). Good times. I called the software's tech support this morning and much of my work was restored, so not all (though still some) was lost.

I've finished my lunch (a relatively unappetizing chicken salad and crackers, at least the diet coke was good) and need to get back to work so I'll have time to survey JP's party prep before our guests do. I wish you all a safe and fun New Year's Eve!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Work: a four month reflection

I wrote most of this post about a week ago- almost all of it is still relevant, so I'm going to publish it in full and then add a bit more from today's perspective. As you'll see, my thoughts on work are quickly evolving. I think overall I've been on a steady progression of figuring out what it means to be a full-time working BigLaw attorney and mom, but the lessons are learned quickly and frustrations that feel overwhelming in one minute barely seem worth mentioning in another. I think it would have made an interesting read if I'd published all the half-written work-life related posts I had floating around in my head each day, but I didn't, so you'll have to make due with a summary:

[The following was written last Monday:]

Sept/Oct: Things started out well. Landon loves daycare and other than that first week there haven't been any tears- except once when I picked him up early and he was very busy in the play kitchen and did not appreciate the interruption in his cooking process. Work was relatively slow as the corporate department got four new associates (including me) at about the same time the economy crashed. Deals were still flowing, but not at the frantic pace they had been earlier in the year so everyone was pretty relaxed and had plenty of time to explain things. I thought this mommy-wife-lawyer thing wasn't going to be so tough.

Nov: JP's school schedule got busier, his business start-up process became all consuming, and I got staffed on a public offering at a time when no one else in the country was crazy enough to launch one. Luckily the senior associate I was working for in Austin was extremely flexible about my schedule and the two partners on the deal were in the NYC office so they really didn't care (or know) how or when I did my work. I worked a lot, but I was able to be home for dinner and JP and I were able to juggle our schedules so Landon got lots of mommy-daddy time. Mommy and daddy didn't get a whole lot of husband-wife time, but luckily neither of us needs a whole lot of sleep.

Dec: The week after Thanksgiving the corporate section exploded. Apparently the partners emerged from their turkey-induced coma to realize we had six deals closing by the end of the year. Because my offering was set to price and close the same week the diligence picked up for the M&A deals, I ended up completely off any of the other deals. This is kind of great because my Christmas isn't ruined, but it's kind of awful because everyone else's is. It's hard to explain, but there's a camaraderie that grows during late nights at work and I'm totally outside that circle right now. I wouldn't trade my nights at home with Landon for a closer relationship with my co-workers, but it's getting awkward. I have almost nothing to do. All the deals are at that stage where it's easier to just press on yourself than try to spin out discrete assignments, so I'm sitting at my computer watching the required "Basics of Law Practice" course while crazy busy people run past my door. Our associate evaluations are in January and I'm kind of worried about the fact that I haven't done any M&A deal work.

On the plus side, the head of our section has decided I will be his new protege. He's assigned me as point person for one of his clients, handing off their corporate issues for me to research and answer, in the hopes that I will soon become their direct contact. I am very excited about this. I haven't officially admitted it, but I don't think I like big deal work- it doesn't excite me and I have no interest in running my own one day. I really enjoyed the capital markets work; in fact, if I thought JP would go with me, I'd ask to be transferred to NY to be a full-time securities lawyer. This realization doesn't come as a surprise- the reason I was excited to start my career in Austin was because we do a lot of work for smaller companies that don't have in-house legal departments, so we get to act as a true corporate counselor. Whenever they have a question about a contract or stock option agreement or anything like that, they call us. Some people don't like it because it takes time away from the multi-national, multi-million dollar deals, but that's the kind of work I like, which is why I was so happy Big Partner picked me. It's been a bit terrifying to work on his assignments because I really want to do well and he's of the "I'll give you enough rope to hang yourself" school of supervising, but he seems to like me and we get along well. According to a more senior associate this is because he can "smell fear" and I don't have any. I was surprised to hear that he would inspire fear in anyone, but then again, I've always had a soft spot for curmudgeonly older men.

The absolute hardest part about the firm has been the loss of control over my schedule. I knew it would be, but it's impossible to fully understand until you're there. Most days it isn't a problem, but when things get busy, trying to create a good first impression while staying true to your need to see your family (and being the only new associate with a child) becomes very hard. In school you have one deadline- finals- and you could get your work done (or not done) however you want. With work you have a million deadlines, many of them false or moving, and you aren't the one who gets to decide what needs to be done when. I worry about getting home early enough. I worry about the reputation I'm establishing. As my partner mentor told me in the first week, your reputation is set early. If people think of you as a hard worker, it takes years of not working hard for them to stop thinking of you that way; if you they think of you as someone who avoids work, it takes years of stepping up to change that. Sometimes I think I should step up for these first few months, but then I play with Landon at night and know that I just can't miss that time except when absolutely necessary. In this regard I think it would be easier to start a BigLaw career without children. I'm ocasionally envious of my childless colleagues who can work past 7, meet their spouse for a late dinner, and go to bed without feeling like they're neglecting anyone in their life. I wouldn't change anything, I think in the long run it'll work out better to establish my career around my family life. And of course, you can't look at a big-bellied Landon and even think about delaying his presence in your life, I'm just acknowledging that fewer personal responsibilities would make starting a demanding career a bit easier.

[Back to the present:]

So... work. It's tough. That wasn't anything I wanted to hear before I started and I kind of hate admitting it now, but it's a daily struggle of setting boundaries, dealing with varied personalities, and fulfilling a constantly changing list of deadlines and expectations. I also frequently find myself nodding along to assignments while frantically thinking, "OH MY GOD I stopped understanding 85% of this twenty minutes and thirty acronyms ago. I wonder if it's bad to ask him to start over, speak slower, and spell everything out. And maybe just do this for me because he seems very knowledgeable." I've had multiple crises involving JP's lap and some wailing about medical school and my lack of a trust fund, but this meandering post notwithstanding, I'm pretty happy. I like working. I have absolutely no desire to not work. I'm just in the process of figuring out what I want to do with this J.D. and those hours I spend working outside the home. At the moment I'm trying to walk the line between all-star associate and slacker- doing a good job on my assignments but getting home as soon as I can. My balance feels really good right now, but I'm think I'm tipping more towards family time than any other BigLaw associate out there. I'm worried that balance is going to have to tip back towards work and I'm not going to be able to do it.

And to add an interesting twist, I found out this morning that I've been drafted onto a massive litigation doc review and will be dedicating 40+ hours per week for the next three weeks to that matter. I would have preferred it not begin until next week so I could properly prepare for the New Year's Eve party I'm hostessing Wednesday night, the day off I was supposed to have on Thursday, and my elementary school best friend slumber party and reunion at my house Friday night, but I am not in charge (part of the problem with this whole work-life situation) and as always, I truly do know that I am blessed to be busy.

So that's my BigLaw working mother run down. There's nothing novel and no conclusions, but I will say that day-to-day, it's working. I don't wake up each morning invigorated by my passion for corporate law, but I also don't dread Monday mornings. I'll let you know if either one of those things happens, but until then, I'll be drifting along, trying to figure out what it is I'm doing now (that's the first step) and whether or not I want to keep on doing it forever.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Home and Home Again

We are home again, in tact and in possession of a plastic shopping cart, set of play dishes, book about lost ladybugs, and many other new toys for all ages. It was wonderful to spend Christmas with my family and so funny to think that the last time I spent Christmas up at our lake house I was 7 weeks pregnant with the little guy now seen drag racing his shopping cart.

We left on Wednesday morning, somehow managing to fit all of our family members (minus Lilly, her Christmas gift was three days in the house without the dogs) and all our stuff in JP's 4Runner. Landon spent the first 30 minutes of the drive staring out the window, another 20 minutes loudly protesting his restricted mobility, and the last 2 hours fast asleep. Tex, however, was not so restful and kept popping his head up to ask if we were there yet.

We did our usual fancy Christmas Eve dinner at home, followed by church service, and then the hour long drive up to the lake house. Landon was quickly put to bed and the grown-ups commenced with the cookie eating, wine drinking, and present opening (we always open all our presents on Christmas Eve). JP was thrilled with the Robin Williams stand-up tour tickets I got him (so excited about that) and I realized I was really an adult when I got all excited over my red Williams Sonoma mixing bowls.

Christmas morning was foggy and grey, but warm enough to be outside- a very good thing with four labs and a toddler. Santa came very late since my younger siblings thought any time before noon was cruelly early to get up (yeah, cry me a river)- Landon actually found his shopping cart while exploring Santa's workshop (my parent's bedroom) and didn't have to wait until the big reveal! He spent much of the day demanding cookies and dum dums (this happens automatically when you're in grandma's house), playing with his new dishes, and going on missions around the lake lot.

My grandparents drove over from San Antonio and we had a great time relaxing with them and eating more cookies. We played a rousing game of Double Deck Canceling Hearts after dinner and then JP and I went to bed only to be awoken every 30 minutes by a very uncomfortable and fussy Landon. Merry Christmas! I'm now terrified of having another child- I forgot how debilitating it is to be forced awake 30 seconds after you've finally fallen asleep again.

We headed back to my parent's real house, the one I grew up in, on Friday afternoon and they watched Landon so JP and I could go get some Mexican food and drink margaritas. After rushing through too many meals with our ticking time bomb of a toddler, it was quite nice to linger. We drove back to Austin this morning and right around La Grange Landon noticed for the first time that there was a dog in his car!

There were actually two of course, but Rosie falls asleep immediately when the car starts moving and wakes up again when it turns off. Landon should really try to learn something from her.

All in all it was a great trip, and the best part is that Christmas isn't even over! We couldn't fit our gifts for Landon in the car (and didn't try very hard given his age and limited ability to focus), so Santa is making a special second trip to the Lag Liv house. What a lucky little guy- I can't wait to get pictures of him with his train table and trains in the morning!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Present Progression

Last night we opened a few presents that had arrived in the mail from my aunt and uncle in Philadelphia. We're struggling with the logistics of getting JP, me, a Landon and his giant car seat, two big dogs that take up the entire back of the SUV, our suitcases, many accessories, and presents (to both give and receive) into my Explorer and on the road to Houston, so I think this year is going to be a series of mini Christmases. And given Landon's attention span, that's probably the best way to go anyway.

I had just gotten home from work and was excited to open a gift with the little guy because I thought he'd love pulling off the paper. I was wrong:

Nooooooo. Why did you take the pretty paper off? Nooooooooooo.

Hmmm, where'd that come from?

I am intrigued.

It is mine.

So we made progress! And when it was time to open his present, he ripped the paper off like a champ. I have a feeling we're going to have to repeat this little lesson tomorrow night.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Holiday Happiness

I just experienced a Christmas miracle! I was watching TV with JP and a bowl full of Snickerdoodles and announced that I had a craving to see Love Actually. JP groaned and was very thankful for the fact I never spend money on DVD's. He then started flipping through the channels (apparently he was not as immersed in Rachael Ray's Chefography as I was) and what did we come across on the Oxygen Network but Love Actually! I may or may not have squealed. My chick-flick avoiding husband is now at the kitchen table working on his business plan and I am on the couch alone with my bowl of Snickerdoodles. The cookies and I are enjoying each other's company.

My mom texted me last night to ask what I'd gotten JP for his stocking. I had to admit I haven't gotten him anything and I'm quite sure he hasn't gotten a thing for me. Ever since we joined finances a few months before we got married, we've been really bad about not spending money on each other. This is probably also due to being grad students with loans and not having expensive taste. My mom, who always manages to find the perfect gifts, on a budget, for people who didn't know they wanted anything, sounded a bit disappointed in our lack of effort, so today I dragged myself out to the stores and found a few stocking stuffers. (To clarify, I already bought him his "big" gift, and I'm so excited about it because I know he's going to love it!) The shopping itself wasn't so bad, but MAN are there some stressed out people out there! I have never found the holidays to be very stressful, maybe in part because of our low key gift giving.

(Quick aside: Oh how I love this movie, where else do you get quotes like this: "There was more than one lobster present for the birth of the baby Jesus?" and "The octopus costume's taken me months. Eight is a lot of legs David!" How does JP ignore the magic?)

Other projects for today included baking 8 dozen Snickerdoodles for a cookie exchange party I'm attending tomorrow. I don't bake all that often- I can't give myself too many opportunities to eat that much raw dough. JP walked in with Landon to find me carefully licking every dollop off the electric mixer beater, something he said might be sexy if I didn't already have cookie dough smeared on my nose and cheeks (hey, beaters are tricky). I used this recipe and they came out perfectly, I highly recommend it. Tomorrow I will come home with four each of 19 kinds of cookie. I'm not sure if that's a good thing. I also mailed all my Christmas cards, with a family letter and personalized note. They take too much time, but I love getting them too much not to send them out.

(Oooh! It's starting over! Now I can see the taping of "Christmas Is All Around" with Billy Mack, and everything else I missed in the wonderful first hour of the movie. I believe JP just groaned again from the kitchen. He's not getting any Snickerdoodles.)

We also went to PetSmart to buy some stocking stuffers for the dogs (my mom asked about them too). Rosie is getting a pretty new collar and Tex a delicious new bone. It is going to make him a nervous wreck to get it in the presence of three other dogs (my parents have two younger labs, it'll be quite the furry gathering at Christmas). He's going to walk around eyeing everyone suspiciously, alternating between hiding his bone and then finding it again only to look for a better spot. Poor guy, he doesn't know his owners are just trying to show him they care.

Speaking of caring, this was Landon giving Tex a hug this afternoon:

He does this often, resting his cheek on Tex's back and sighing a little. It's ridiculously cute, like much of what Landon does, and makes me so thankful we are here in our big house and accompanying yard. Because without those things we never would have adopted two big labs, and then I wouldn't get to see Landon love them so much. Lately I've been having days where I miss Chicago so much it hurts- I miss the city, miss the snow, miss the hustle and bustle and crowds. But I love it here too and I'm very grateful for my dogs and the fact that Christmas with my family is an easy three-hour drive away rather than a complicated flight out of O'Hare. It's also supposed to drop fifty degrees tonight- taking our temperature from a ridiculous 81 to a more seasonal 28. The holidays are coming!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Saturday Night

I have tequila, a funny movie that requires almost no thought (Tropic Thunder), my JP at my side, my dogs under my feet, and my baby sleeping soundly upstairs.

There are things in my life that are not perfect, all of them blog-worthy (someday, soon maybe, I need more hours in the day!), but right now at this very moment, things are oh so very good.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

17 months

Dear Landon (aka Buddy, Little Man, Handsome, Little Guy, LanMan, and Sweetie),

This is probably going to be long. I've been meaning to write you a letter for a while, but after working all day and playing with you all evening, it's hard to motivate myself to do much more than sit on the couch and snuggle with your daddy at night. However, as your cuteness hits new heights and I realize how much you've changed in the past few weeks, I know that I must write down my memories of you from this magical time in toddlerhood.

And what a magical time it is. Landon you are quite simply a delight. You are so full of personality and smiles and excitement for everything that it's hard to believe you can contain all that joy in your 26 lb. body (I think much of it must be stored in your rather pronounced belly). I'm already running out of adjectives so I think I'm just going to list my favorites of your favorite things right now:

~ wrestling. Your daddy has been wrestling with you for a while (and you've loved it), but it's only recently that you wrestle back. The other day I was laying on the floor of your play room reading a magazine while you were busy reorganizing all your books. Suddenly I heard a "grrrrr!" and felt a 26 lb. sack of potatoes land on my back. It was hysterical. I rolled you over and growled back and you were laughing so hard you couldn't stand up. Ever since, if your daddy or I are on the ground and looking away, you'll launch yourself onto us with a growl. Just thinking of it now makes me laugh.

~ reading. You love books. You have your favorites- Brown Brear Brown Bear, Doggies, 10 Rubber Ducks, and a few others, and you'll carry them around waiting to find someone sitting down on the ground. Lucky for you your mom spends a lot of time sitting cross-legged on the floor (one of the many reasons I didn't like our hardwood floors in Chicago) and whenever you see me like that you run over, waving your book around wildly in the air. As you get close, you slow down, turn around, and then hunker down into a half-squat and walk backwards for several steps until you are sitting in my lap. I'm not sure you realize you could just walk up to us normally and then turn around, and I'm kind of glad that you don't!

~ dancing. Oh, the dancing. Landon you dance at any tune- cell phone rings, commercials, your toys- anything! Your little feet start shuffling, then your arms start moving, and you're just a smiley little dancing machine. Your dad likes to waltz me around the house (or I should say, attempt to waltz with me, it generally just involves me stepping on his toes) and we love it when you dance with us!

~ dogs. You love your doggies and get very excited every time you see them. We went to PetSmart on Saturday and you were in heaven, running around and giving all the "DOUGGIES!" big pats. At one point I heard someone ask, "who does this baby belong to?" and I realized you had run three aisles over to pet an Irish Wolf Hound that weighed 160 lbs. and stood several inches above your head. You were not at all fazed by this small horse masquerading for a dog and you showered your love on him just like you do anything else with fur.

~ daycare. You love your teachers and your school and the teachers love you back. When I take you in the morning you jump out of my arms as soon as we get in the building and run with arms outstretched, index fingers at full point, towards the door of your classroom. You always have glowing daily reports from your teacher when we pick you up. Here was one of my favorites from last week: "Today we read 'That's not my Snowman' and Landon said 'noman' and we read 'Santa Claus' and then he said 'Anta'! He really liked the steakfingers. After lunch he fell asleep on his plate :)" Every time I read that I laugh.

~ missions. You are a very busy little boy. Sometimes it's reorganizing my tupperware cabinet, other times it's pushing your highchair around the downstairs in a pattern only you can understand- once on a mission you are very focused and do not like to be deterred.

~ belly. You have a glorious belly and remain quite fascinated with it. Every now and then in the bath tub you'll look down and give it a few pats with a satisfied look on your face. You've also started putting both hands over it when you run, like you're trying to hold it in place. It makes you daddy and me laugh every time.

~ joy. I think my favorite thing about you is your excitement about everything. You spend a lot of time running around the house throwing your hands up in the air, making all kinds of sounds at all kinds of volumes. Everything is a game. You love people and flirt outrageously whenever we're in public. You give high-fives to anyone and still give your coy little sideways smiles you did as a baby. You remain very enthusiastic about food, especially graham crackers and spaghettios, and your cup of milk is one of the great loves of your life.

Now before you go thinking you are always perfect and don't ever make your parents want to scream, let me tell you that you have moments where you take me to a level of frustration I didn't imagine possible. But the amazing thing about parenthood is that my frustration fades as quickly as yours. The minute you smile at me or lean in for a hug or relax into my lap, the effects of whatever tantrum you were throwing a few seconds ago disappear completely. It also helps that even in your tantrums you're adorable- like when you stomp your feet up and down really fast or run into a corner and scream at it. I've found the best way to calm you down is to start reading a book out loud, by the end you're always back in my lap, calm, and looking excited about whatever is on the next page.

There's something else I need to say, though I'm not sure this will make it into the baby book. On Sunday at church your daddy picked you up from the nursery a little early so that you could be in the sanctuary for the last song and closing prayer. You thought that was great fun. At one point when everyone was sitting down and praying, you were snuggled in my lap with a satisfied smile on your face, and I had my arms around you and I just felt so happy and at peace as a mother. I'm not sure when that happened. We had a very hard first year together and it took me a long time to get out of the mindset of you as a difficult baby and to let go of the nagging feeling that I wasn't enough of a mother to you. I wonder if the circumstances of your birth and first several months forced me put up some kind of barrier, or maybe I just needed to get to know you more as your own little person first- regardless, while I instinctively loved you from the moment we saw you on the ultrasound screen, that pales in comparison to the bone-deep, overpowering, absolutely terrifying love I feel for you now. I spent a while feeling guilty or lacking because it took me some time to build up to what I thought a good mother was supposed to feel immediately, but I don't think that way anymore.

You're growing and changing so quickly and even though part of me mourns each change, a much greater part rejoices in your daily advances. I love learning more about you and watching you learn more about your world. You fill our house with laughter and more love than any three people should have a right to possess, I feel so lucky every day to be your mom.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Mexican Cheesecake

I'm finally getting around to answering more of your questions and I realized I never posted the recipe for the delicious Mexican Cheesecake dip I made for our housewarming party (and almost every other party we throw). So while I work on the more involved answers, here's a tasty appetizer:

2 tsp. or 2 cubes chicken bouillon
1/2 c. hot water
3 packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/2-1 tsp. hot sauce
2 eggs
1 lg. can cooked chicken (usually says family size, I think about 12 oz.)
1 can (4 oz.) chopped green chilies

Preheat oven to 325. Dissolve bouillon in hot water, set aside. In large bowl, beat cream cheese, chili powder, and hot sauce until smooth. Add eggs, mix well. Add bouillon liquid, beating until smooth. Stir in chicken and chilies. Beat until smooth. Pour in to 9-inch springform pan. Bake 40 minutes (it always takes me longer- it needs to be "set"- no jiggling). Cool 15 min. or more. Carefully run knife around edge of pan. Remove side. Top with salsa, grated cheese, black olives, and sliced green onion. Serve warm of cold with tortilla chips.

Make sure the cream cheese is VERY soft or it won't mix well. I use electric beaters to really puree the chicken, I don't like chunks. And I usually cook it for about an hour. I leave it at room temperature before serving but it's also delicious cold (like when you eat it out of the tupperware container the next day- yum!)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

First Haircut

This morning we took Landon to get his first haircut. I loved his little duck curls in the back, but JP decided they were starting to look mullet-like and even I agreed we just couldn't have that. There's a Great Clips nearby and since Landon didn't have a particular 'do in mind, spending $11 seemed about right.

When we got there the stylist asked if he'd like to sit in my lap or on a booster. I had just procured a lollipop from the front desk and given his Halloween love affair with suckers I thought he'd do okay to sit on his own. I was right:

He was completely calm, sucking on his lollipop and didn't even seem to wonder at the new and strange happenings around him. He even stood still so the stylist could cut the hairs in the back.

He finished the dum dum just as I was wondering if I should have saved a clip of his hair for the baby book, but it was already swept away and without a lollipop to suck on, Landon was very read to go. I did pause for at least a second to muse about how grown-up he seems, but I'm so in love with this toddler version of my little baby that it's hard to be anything less than excited about these milestones.

The rest of the day involved errands, including PetSmart where Landon had a blast running around and petting all the "DOUGGIES!" We bought beds for the dogs for Christmas and I laughed realizing that we'd just spent more on them then I spent on JP and Landon combined. That's mostly due to how little we spend on each other, but it was funny.

Once home Landon was in high spirits. There was dancing:

And running around with a new hat he found in an open cabinet while I was baking cookies:

He moves so fast now it's very hard to get a centered picture of the little guy! Friends are about to come over for a hot dog cookout. I have my pretty vegetable tray out and sugar cookies cooling. I love weekends!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Taste of Chicago

Yesterday during a conversation with JP it finally hit me that we'll never live in Chicago again. I know you can never say never, but short of a divorce or living apart from my husband, the odds are pretty darn small that I'll live back in the downtown of my favorite city, and while I must have known this on some level, it had avoided sinking in. I actually got emotional. I miss snow, I miss downtown, I miss the lake and the stores and the Christmas festivities, I miss our little apartment, and I miss my friends so much I can't even talk about it.

But then, just as I was entering this new stage of Chicago mourning, our temperature dropped 50 degrees in four hours. At 11:30 last night I opened the front door to unplug the Christmas lights and was presented with this:

SNOW!!!!! I danced a happy dance in the foyer, eliciting some teasing from JP and a joyful bark from Tex, and the first thing I did when woke up was jump over JP to pull up the blinds of our window to see if the snow stuck- and it did! That doesn't happen very often in Texas so photographic evidence had to be obtained immediately.

A Landon, a camera, and a half-dressed LL soon found themselves outside. At first Landon didn't look quite as excited as I hoped he'd be:

But then his daddy made funny faces from inside the kitchen and he warmed up to the odd, chilly substance covering his deck:

The snow (or "snow"- it wasn't exactly the stuff of snowmen) didn't stick around long, but tonight's low is in the 20's and I'll get to wear my beautiful Chicago coat again tomorrow. As someone who always thought I hated cold weather until I moved to Chicago, it's kind of amazing to find myself so giddy at the prospect of freezing temperatures. But giddy I am! After weeks of 70-degree days, it finally feels like Christmas!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A Reason to Love Law School

I'm not sure if anyone's told you, but law firms don't have Christmas Break. I've heard horrible rumors that there's no Spring Break either. I'm wondering why I counted down the days until graduation... a few weeks off with no strings attached sounds pretty fantastic.

And speaking of being a student, JP has two finals down and three to go. I miss him at night. It's not so much the lack of help, though it's nice to have an extra set of hands to pass a cranky Landon, I miss being a little family. Laughing at Landon's new tricks, exclaiming over his brilliance when he says "duck" at the right spot in Brown Bear Brown Bear, reading nighttime stories cuddled on the couch upstairs- it's all just so much more fun when there's two of you acting as captive, enamored audience for your baby's antics. I can't wait for this weekend, it will be the first time in months that JP will be totally ours- no studying or group meetings, just lounging and errands and sitting on the couch with a movie.

We originally thought it was such a good idea to have one of us in grad school for Landon's first few years because it meant that one person had a flexible schedule. And while that certainly has its benefits, I'm already looking forward to the days when we can both come home from work and just be home. Right now I think we each get a lot of time with Landon but it's usually one on one, and as work our schedules to maximize our time with him, it minimizes our time with each other (or minimizes our time spent sleeping, either way, we suffer). Another level of difficulty is added by the fact that JP has spent the past several months knee deep in the time-consuming process of starting up his own company. I've held back on mentioning it until things were further along, but the LLC has officially been formed with two of his friends. There will be more details later, but the point is that between business school and doing everything to start this company (he's the "business guy" in the partnership, so the bulk of his work is up front as they're forming), JP has been quite busy. And my missing him this week isn't just a product of finals, it's a product of months of him needing more than 24 hours in a day.

So this next five weeks of him as house husband with nothing to do but help care for a toddler and secure funding for a start-up during an economic crisis is going to be quite relaxing and lovely for us both!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Law School Advice

In the past month I've had two friends (really, younger siblings of friends, but I like to think we're old enough to all be friends now) ask me for advice on law school. And since I was already sharing my wisdom, I thought I'd write it here for other people to add their own. My points will all be a bit superficial- there's a nuance to these questions that an email can't reach and everyone's situation is unique, but for what they're worth, here's my thoughts on law school.

1. Go to the best school you get in to. I can't emphasize this enough. Prior to starting law school, I had no idea how much rank mattered in the legal profession. It was only because I was under the delusion I wanted to be a law professor that I restricted my applications to the top 10 schools (and I only knew to do that because my thesis advisor told me it was necessary). And now, even with $140,000 in loans, I'm so glad I wasn't swayed by the promise of scholarships at lower ranked schools. A first year attorney at a top law firm makes $160,000 a year, but that doesn't do any good if you don't have a job. Of course there are plenty of people at non-top 10 schools who get great firm jobs, you just have to be at the top of your class and/or on law review (or know someone or be really lucky). The higher the rank of your school the less grades matter. This is wonderful because as far as I can tell, much of law school grading is completely random and it's nice to not have your future employment depend on what number your professor decides to throw at the top of your exam.

2. Ask about OCI before you pick a school. This is an extension of the first, but getting a job after law school is supposed to be the reason you're there in the first place. OCI stands for "on campus interviews" and it's the process where a bunch of firms descend on campus for short screening interviews of potential candidates. The ones they like are then flown back to the firm's office for more in-depth interviews (called a "callback" or "flyback." They also usually involve a night at a fancy hotel and a lunch or dinner where everyone pretends to be relaxed you're really still being interviewed. Do not forget this.) I think that at most schools the firms have a say in who they interview at the OCI stage, but at UChicago they do not. We "bid" for interview spots, but it's based on luck and I don't know a single person who didn't end up interviewing with a firm they wanted (most firms add extra spots if there's more interest than anticipated). Firms get our resumes in advance but don't get our transcripts until the interview itself, which means regardless of your grades you get a chance to charm them. UChicago should advertise this more because it really is a huge draw for that school (whereas the quarter system, in my opinion, is a huge drawback). Another plus is that we are not ranked, we are told not to put our GPA (which is never calculated anyway) on our resumes, and our grading system makes no sense.

3. Think about whether or not you really want to be a lawyer. Are you really just trying to stay in school a few more years? Law school is an expensive and stressful way to spend three years of your life if you don't want to make use of your J.D. once you're done. I know there are people working outside the legal profession who would say that law school was an important part of their career path, and I can understand that completely- I may even be one of those people one day. But in general, you're going to be doing something law-related and it's nice if you think you'll like it. And it's completely possible that you can love law school and hate practicing law or hate law school and love practicing law. I'm not sure one has much to do with the other.

4. Mind your debt. I may think it was worth taking on my loans to get that $160,000 job rather than have less debt and no job at all, but that doesn't mean they don't bother me (or haunt me, depending on the day). So remember that student debt is something you have to pay back, with interest. Don't try to keep up with high-spending friends, it'll be worth it when your debt is paid off before theirs.

5. Believe in yourself. That sounds cheesy but I spent my first year of law school overwhelmed by the intelligence and study habits of the people around me. I'm a last minute studier, it's just the way I work. Trying to be like everyone else starting months before exams and making 100 page outlines only made me more stressed and produced my lowest grades. By 2L I trusted myself and my 1-page summary outline worked much better for me than any hyperlinked 100-page all-inclusive bible of legal precedent (all of our exams were open-note, open-book, probably another good thing to ask about before enrolling). You got in wherever you got in for a reason. Yes law school is very hard and you will probably have to work harder than you ever did before, but that does not mean you have to completely abandon the methods that got you there. This also applies to study groups- if you didn't like them before, don't feel like you have to pretend to like them now. I love people, I study alone.

That's it for now. As I said, I know these points aren't universally applicable. There are good reasons to go to less expensive, lower ranked schools, especially if you know what you want to do post-law school and know you will have a way to do it. I've just had friends take the scholarships and graduate jobless and regret their short-term decision. The extent to which law school rank matters (even within the top 10) was shocking to me. I'm not defending the system, there are fantastic future lawyers at schools outside of the top tier, but I think it's important to know about. And even if it isn't a factor in your school decision, it might be for things like whether or not to try for law review or other activities.

And now I'm going to bed. JP's finals start tomorrow so it's just Landon and me every night this week and I'm tired just thinking about it.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

In Lieu of Words

I am in a funk. I'm not sure why, I suppose it could be exhaustion, Landon's evil molars, JP's finals, a persistent and unusual feeling of inadequacy or insecurity at work, or a wee bit of stress brought by our property tax bill and value of the stocks we were going to sell to pay it. Yes, perhaps it's some combination of those things. Regardless of the reason(s), I am struggling and do not like it.

Things really aren't that bad, in fact by almost all standards, things are so good I feel bad feeling bad. But whether or not it's justified, I've spent the past 72-hours feeling crappy so I'm offering you these pictures of Chrsitmas decorations and (grainy, shaky) videos of a dancing toddler to keep myself from spending two hours I could be sleeping trying to write something deep and eloquent about my funk. I think that sleep, cuddles, a weekend spent with my dancing toddler and away from my office are precisely what I need to find my normal, happy self.

First a few pictures of my downstairs. I took a box of random, not exactly cohesive Christmas decorations, and stuck them in various places on my usually clutter-free counters. I'm enjoying the temporary clutter.

I made this centerpiece out of a wreath smushed at the bottom of the box, a hurricane glass, candle, and $1.99 place mat I purchased at Wal-Mart late that Friday night, and three little picture holders I bought at Walgreens for 50 cents last year. That wood sideboard had been hiding in a corner of our dining room but I decided our eating area was big enough to accommodate it and it now sits proudly by the table and hutch (both of which I forgot to get pictures of).

I couldn't put much in the living room because of Landon and his penchant for reorganizing items in the house (reorganizing as in hiding somewhere you will never find), but I think the fireplace looks pretty. The beautiful lighted garland was a $36.99 buy at Costco, I'm growing very fond of that store.

This one shows the new TV and stand which I think are much more fun than the loan payments are going to be (they start in January and sadly, both those pieces together add up to one payment). Not picture is our 3 ft. tree with all eight of our ornaments (four of them labeled "baby's first Christmas"), some lighted garland wrapped down the banister of the stairs, and some other festive odds and ends.

And lastly, two videos of my tiny dancer (I have tried to stay silent while taking a video clip find it impossible):

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Second Shift

It's 8:45. I'm at home, but on my firm laptop working on a Series A Preferred Stock Purchase Agreement. The big deal that had me working late last monday is still big string of snafus (at the fault of the other side, their client, and the general suckiness of the economy) but I have hope that someday it will be over and I can get rid of the thousands of pieces of paper lining the walls of my office in neat little stacks (the stacks aren't actually organized, they just look much better than the precarious piles that used to be in on top of my desk). Tonight at about 4:30 I got an email regarding the deal I drafted the Series A financing documents for a few weeks ago- apparently the partner needs this SPA tomorrow morning and because I am so intimately familiar with the term sheet, I get the honor of drafting it! Hooray. I tried to press on at the office but quickly decided I needed a change of scenery- preferably one that included a Landon, a glass of merlot, and glasses instead of contacts (ooh, and sweat pants instead of a skirt and button-down. and JP.).

I don't mean to complain. With every headline and story I'm more thankful for my job and the paycheck, steady deal flow, and security that all come with it. I'm just tired. Very, very tired. My in-laws left today. The visit went well but I spent at least 5 hours a day cleaning up after them and keeping my house in order and after 7 days of that (and doing everything for a Thanksgiving dinner for 10) I'm exhausted. Landon is teething and up every few hours at night. JP has a final exam every night next week from 5-8 so he's studying like crazy (and I'm dreading next week's quasi-single parenting as an attorney with two big deals about to close). All I want to do is go to sleep, preferably while being cuddled by a JP who is freed from the tension that consumes him when his parents are present. I do not want to work on this 56-page agreement.

But work I shall. If I had time I'd probably write about my deep, scary thought this morning that maybe this isn't what I want to do with my life. Not that I'm unhappy, I'm actually enjoying myself much of the time, but I wonder if I want to do this forever. Do I want to move up in this job? I like being handed the discreet assignments and have little interest in running the deal myself. But that could just be the exhaustion and lack of any practical corporate legal knowledge talking. Who knows. I have too much debt and too much time invested in this path to stray from it right now, but I'm curious about where I'll be in twenty years. If the last several years are any indication, it'll be nowhere I have planned. And that's fine, almost comforting actually, because right now all I have planned is getting this stock purchase agreement finished before my glass of wine.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Halls, Decked

Around 10 p.m. on Friday night, I decided to decorate our house for Christmas. My in-laws were all asleep upstairs, JP was studying, and I had a lot of tension to work off, so I figured I might as well do it productively.

Decorating the house for Christmas was a big deal growing up. My mom replaced almost everything in our entire downstairs with a Christmas version - plates, cups, pictures, candles, wall hangings, knick knacks, etc., it all got switched. My favorite day all year was the day I'd come home from school to discover the magical transformation. Over the past few years my mom has cut back on her decorating and set aside the items she wasn't using anymore in a box for me. That box has been in our hall closet since July and on Friday I finally opened it. It was so fun, listening to Trans Siberian Orchestra, pulling out each piece from my childhood memories and finding a spot for it in my own house. I got so into it that I ran to Wal-Mart at 11:30 to pick up a few missing pieces like candles and extension cords so everything would be perfect on Saturday morning. And just like I used to twenty-five years ago, Landon woke up to a new house, one filled with twinkling lights, snow men, and holiday happiness.

When I was little I always thought I'd be sad to grow up and leave my house and its abundance of love and traditions, but as I realized last year, you grow up in stages, and each year I find myself creating a little more of a holiday separate from the one I shared with my parents. I can now see us spending much of the holidays relaxing in our own home, and I couldn't have imagined that just a few years ago.

We put up the outdoor lights today (and by "we" I mean I decided it should happen and JP and his dad did all the work). Our house and roof peaks are framed in brilliant white LED lights, there's twinkling snowflakes hanging off the front porch, and the bushes are blanketed with multi-color bulbs (I generally dislike multi-colored Christmas lights, but the LED variety are so bright and pretty I find myself growing quite fond of them). There's a big wreath on our front door, lighted garland wrapped down the banister of the stairs, and a mini Christmas tree with all eight of our ornaments hanging proudly on its little branches. The annual letter has been written, the family photo has been taken, and the cards are waiting to be addressed. Christmas has come to the Lag Liv house!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Thanksgiving Story

The day really began last night when JP and I dragged ourselves to the grocery store at 8:30. It was painful, I have never wanted to shop less, but a large dinner requires ingredients so off we went. I didn't have any particular recipes planned, but I had a few printed out and your blog comments to keep in mind, and for reasons I can't explain, I wasn't particularly concerned about the tasks ahead of me. By 7:30 a.m. I had pumpkin bread, made from scratch, baking in the oven for people to eat with their morning coffee. (JP and I hate coffee but keep all the necessary supplies for guests who can't seem to start their day without it.) Landon helped me get out the bowls for the million ingredients that go into the tasty, tasty bread.

Next came the 19 lb. turkey. I combined a few recipes and blog comments and have to say, it came out really, really well. I stuffed it with onion, carrot, and lemon, basted it with chicken broth mixed with parsley and onion, and pretty much let it do its thing. Unfortunately my giant turkey and roaster took up 85% of my oven, so the side dishes were a logistical challenge. I decided to assemble them early and just squeeze them one at a time into the oven whenever the turkey looked like it was willing to share some space. Everything got cooked and I reheated it all at the end while the bird rested and the stuffing and rolls cooked. And as per someone's suggestion, I made the mashed potatoes early and put them in my crock pot to keep warm- that worked out great. I was mostly alone in the kitchen, which was exhausting but truthfully my preference. JP and his dad had taken off to buy a bargain of a train table I'd found on Craigslist, which was of course in an area of Austin that couldn't be further. His mother and grandmother watched the parade and Landon helped me with the dishes I was doing as I went along.

Sometime in the middle of the cooking and cleaning, I washed and dried all our wedding China and crystal. This was its inaugural use- in Chicago we didn't have a table to set or room to store it n our cabinets, so it's sat in boxes for three years. I dug the leaves and extra chairs out of our hall closet and set the table for nine, it looks like a real Thanksgiving table!

The Indians arrived at noon (real Indians from India, not the Native Americans in the Thanksgiving story, JP's grandmother got confused about that when we were telling her who was coming to dinner) and I had cut up smoked meats and cheeses as appetizers. The wife of one of his classmates brought over a traditional Indian bean curry which was very nice and went surprisingly well with our American meal. We had a blast with them, as always, and at 1:30 pm we sat down to eat this glorious piece of poultry:

It was a really nice meal- everyone was complimentary, chatty, and in high spirits. Once it was over the boys worked in shifts to wash and dry every piece of China and crystal, all the while teaching JP more bad words in Hindi (he apparently has quite the cursing repertoire). Lots of Washers games were played before and after dinner and once the dishes were done there was a touch football game in our cul-de-sac. We gave the Indians the most classic, vegetarian-friendly, American Thanksgiving Day we possibly could :) The experience was capped off with pumpkin pie, of which Landon was a HUGE fan. I fed him two pieces!

Now everyone is at the UT v. A&M game. I gave my ticket to my law clerk, he's infinitely more helpful than my secretary and I was having a tough time finding a sitter for Landon. It was a good decision, my feet and back are throbbing and I'm greatly enjoying an evening at home with a glass of wine.

So it was a really good day. We had wonderful guests and much to be thankful for. I never forget that a year ago today things weren't quite so perfect in our little world. Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thanksgiving Due Diligence

I worked until 11:30 last night, I'm working from home right now. My in-laws arrive tomorrow, I'm cooking a full Thanksgiving dinner, for the first time ever, for 9 people on Thursday at 1. I had to say no to a partner this morning when a deal that I thought had died popped back up in the form of a box of diligence materials FedExed to my office. I talked with another first year who had nothing on her desk, filled her in on the deal's background, and then informed the partner of my full plate and fully briefed replacement. He was happy with the switch, at this point I don't think people care much which first year is doing their work as long as it's getting done. I was sad to turn him down since I haven't worked with him yet and the deal is an interesting one, but given the sheer volume of material I have a feeling I'll be taking some of those documents home over Thanksgiving anyway.

Sometime before Thursday I need to grocery shop and look up recipes for turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes (can you believe I haven't made those before? I love them so). Getting some sleep would also be good or else I'm going to crack under the strain my in-laws bring to the house. My role is to keep everyone calm and rational and not yelling at each other, and escaping to my office to review some contracts might sound good by Sunday. Luckily we can all agree that we adore Landon and he's such a busy little guy these days, I'm sure we'll stay entertained watching him dance and run around the house.

I can't believe Thanksgiving is in a day and a half. I can't believe I'm cooking the 19 lb. turkey that's sitting in my fridge. Is it hard? I'm a good follower of directions, I should be okay right? Four of our guests are Indian MBA classmates of JP. They've never been to a Thanksgiving dinner and won't be eating the turkey, so that takes some of the pressure off. Plus they're funny and friendly (we've had them over several times before) and I'm looking forward to introducing them to lots of delicious side dishes. Which reminds me, I need to keep the stuffing vegetarian and keep it out of the turkey -- how do you make stuffing? Sometime tomorrow I need to look up recipes and create a shopping list. I am a Doctor of Law but I'm not sure I'm qualified to cook a Thanksgiving dinner.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Burning Through the Midnight M&Ms

It's 10:30 pm, I'm at work, and I'm not sure when I'll be able to go home. I'd complain about this fact except that it makes me feel like a real lawyer and I'm dorky enough to get a kick out of that. I also have a caffeine free diet coke and pile of m&ms on my desk, so really, it could be worse.

I did get to see the Landon. I went home at 5:30 and spent two hours eating graham crackers (I know, parenting fail, but it's all he wanted and then I decided I wanted some too and so that's the healthy, wholesome dinner we shared this evening- he eats very well at daycare, I promise), banging spatulas on various household objects, and reading Brown Bear Brown Bear on repeat while he did some kind of interpretive dance to the words (he's an artist, what can I say). The 26 lb. ball of pure joy he has been for the past several weeks deserve so many posts but I never have time to write them. I put his snuggly self to bed at 7:30, kissed JP goodbye for the second time today, and headed back to my office.

There's mountains of paper all over my desk, my extra chair, and the floor- I walked in to this morning hoping it wasn't as bad as I remembered from Thursday afternoon when I abandoned everything to run to the airport. Unfortunately, I think it might be worse. The good news is that I genuinely like what I'm doing. I don't think I love it, not yet anyway, but I'm not unhappy, I like the people I work with, and I make enough to support my family, pay off my loans, and buy Landon a play kitchen. I'm challenged by the work I'm doing on this deal and I've developed a small crush on the person who organized the virtual data room for the other side- such organization and comprehensiveness I thought only existed in my dreams. And of course, there's also the m&ms- they always make burning the midnight oil a more enjoyable experience.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Back to a Pumpkin

I'm back from my whirlwind trip to Houston for my firm's annual meeting and prom, and now that I've unpacked everything and eaten a delicious peanut butter, banana, and honey sandwich, possibly topped with powdered sugar and followed by a peanut butter cookie, I feel ready to tell the tale.

In short, it was a good time. I flew out Thursday evening, checked in at the Four Seasons, and headed to dinner at a nearby sushi restaurant with a group of people from the Austin office. Lots of raw fish and four bottles of wine later, I found myself in the hotel bar ordering a Long Island Ice Tea. I haven't had a Long Island since 2002 and I think it'll be a good six years before I have another because oh my goodness they pack a punch. Luckily I was surrounded by 100 other attorneys all at varying levels of intoxication so no one noticed any rambling or two-stepping that may or may not have taken place in the lobby. I got back to my room around 2am- so much for the evening full of rest and relaxation I so sorely needed.

Friday was our annual meeting which I found interesting and informative. There were some good speakers talking about various aspects of the economy, along with the annual financial report and naming of the new partners. JP and Landon drove over in the early afternoon; Landon was deposited with his grandparents and JP joined me at the hotel. We had a suite and JP thought it was important to spend time sitting in each chair in the living room- it reminded me of that scene in Knocked Up when Paul Rudd gathers all the chairs in their Vegas hotel. I started getting ready and had a minor crisis about hair. It's naturally curly so I usually step out of the shower, stick some mousse in it, and wait for it to dry and curl itself. Straightening it is as fancy as I get, I have never owned or operating a curling iron or other electric hair-styling device so formal events are tricky. I ended up just gathering my wavy hair into a low pony tail and wrapping a strand around the rubber band to hide it, I suppose it looked okay but other people had very elaborate 'dos. My dress was very fitted (i.e. very tight), dark fuchsia, satin, ruched, and hit just above the knee. I got a lot of compliments and I was probably one of very few people whose outfit cost less than $40. At 8 pm we were on a bus heading over the Museum for the party.

... which was absolutely, flat out ridiculous. I have never attended an event like that and it's funny to think I'll do it again. It was Middle East themed to celebrate our Dubai office and guests were presented with belly dancers, two live bands, countless open bars, ceiling-high decorations, delicious food, henna tattooing (I got a beautiful one down my hand that my mother-in-law is going to love when she arrives Wednesday), hookah bar, shoe "buffet" (tables of slippers and sparkly flip flops to change into for dancing), photographers, and lots and lots of tuxedo and formal gown-clad lawyers. I started feeling guilty for how much money was being spent on the affair, but ultimately decided that I'm not in charge, it represents half of a percent of our revenue, and we donate way, way more than that to charity -- plus we work hard and people look forward to this all year, so I just enjoyed my night at the ball. It was fun to see my colleagues all dressed up and even more fun to finally meet so many of the people I've been working with from other offices. After much dancing, a little drinking (I can't do two nights in a row- I'm not in college any more!), and lots of merriment, JP and I boarded the bus back to the hotel and slept in until TEN a.m. I haven't slept in that late in years. It was lovely.

It's a little strange to sit here on the couch in pj's and a jar of peanut butter beside me and think about the fancy dress and champagne glass in my hand 24 hours ago. I feel a little like Cinderella- a Cinderella with less breakable shoes and much happier home life.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Pants and Presents

Yesterday after my swearing-in I finally picked up my clothes from the woman I found to alter them. I had dropped off 6 pairs of pants, 1 skirt, and 1 jacket- all the bottoms needed to be taken in at the hips and waist and the jacket had to be taken apart and reconstructed to fit my narrow waist and not-so-narrow swimmer's shoulders. I was very excited to suddenly have all of my wardrobe available for me to wear, getting ready in the morning was taking forever as I tried to find new ways to match my two pairs of pants and assorted tops.

Because of the work involved I was expecting to pay anywhere from $100-150 and maybe more depending on the cost of the jacket, and given that all of these items had originally been quite expensive (though of course, I bought them on sale) I considered that price well worth being able to actually wear them. And the grand total was: $27.50. When she told me that I waited for her to go on, assuming that was the cost of one item, maybe the jacket. When I realized that was it, I spent ten minutes convincing her to charge more. She had done excellent work and my "new" clothes fit perfectly; there were eight items in there, that's barely $3 per piece! I ended up paying her $40 and still feel guilty about it. I am all for a good deal, but it's different to shop the clearance rack at Marshalls versus a single older lady in a little house who cares for her elderly mother. I dropped off a few more items (I went through my winter clothes and discovered none of them fit either) and next time I'll probably up her bill again, maybe double it for Christmas. JP and I are saving everything we can to build back our decimated emergency fund and my very high loan payments start in January, but I'm pretty sure that extra $25 means more to her than me and I don't care if she insists the time it took to take in my pants is only worth $2.50.

And on the topic of holiday giving, I wanted to solicit advice on presents for the various support persons in your life. Like Landon's teacher at daycare- there are two teachers in his class (one who is specifically his) plus another one who is there in the late afternoon. I'm assuming we get something for all of them, but can the one for his special teacher (who he adores, quick story: the other day when I picked him up she told me they'd had a "lunch date" - Landon had decided to hold her hand the whole way through lunch. Oh, the cuteness.) be different and/or bigger? What are some ideas of things to give? Being very anti-clutter myself I hate just giving them some kitschy holiday thing to put on a shelf and I'd imagine they get a lot of cookies and such. There's also our cleaning woman. I broke down and hired one when I started working, she comes every two weeks and does the major cleaning and we touch up between visits. I miss being able to randomly go out to eat when we don't feel like cooking, but the increase in my free time at home is well worth the sacrifice in expendable income. Any thoughts? Just pay extra the visit before Christmas? If it were me that's really all I'd want. And that just leaves my secretary, but we have a pool so I don't have one specifically assigned to me. I'm assuming there will be some kind of organized gift giving among the attorneys who share the center.

I like getting all of this out of the way early so as to spare our bank accounts a huge blow in December. I already have my gifts for my parents, JP's family, and my sister (still looking for my brother). JP and I never spend much on each other as we'd rather just save the money or enjoy a dinner out- with both of us so busy, time together is immeasurably more valuable than anything we could put on the credit card. We're trying to decide what to get Landon- I think it will either be a train table or play kitchen. Both would be big, solid pieces I hope he and our future children will enjoy for a long time and would be a good addition to our downstairs play room.

So, thoughts? Gifts for the daycare teachers and maid? Favorite play kitchen or train table? I should warn you ahead of time I'm biased against brightly colored, noise-making plastic monstrosities. Sturdy Little Tikes-like plastic is fine, but I really hate toys that make a million electronic sounds, ours didn't growing up and we did just fine (better, in fact) making them up ourselves. Landon loves the very basic kitchen at his daycare and is obsessed with our dishwasher at home. But he also loves his trucks and trains and a nice wood play table (with storage for said trucks and trains) would be great to have. I can now see how well-meaning parents end up spoiling their children, I'm probably more excited about playing with the kitchen set and trains than he's going to be!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Duly Sworn

Today I, along with what seemed like way too many new attorneys, was sworn in to the Texas Bar. The firm still needs to mail in my licensing fees and attorney taxes to make everything official, but I am in the possession of business cards and that makes me happy. I am very, very busy at work, but given the general state of the economy and the conversation of two girls behind me at the swearing ceremony who were still looking for post-law school employment, I'm not going to complain about that. I'm really enjoying what I do and in my first 2 1/2 months of working I've missed Landon's 7:30 bedtime less than five times.

And speaking of the Landon, he has recently started dancing whenever he hears music. It could be from his mini electric guitar he carries around the house with him, from his Sing Along Stage, or from the TV - when he hears a tune, he shuffles his little feet, waves his arms in a circle, and gets a huge grin on his face. It is quite possibly the cutest thing I've ever seen. When he does it in our bathroom in the morning while we're getting ready it actually makes me forget that I stayed up late reading the 10,000th draft of an S-3 and my eyes are bloodshot and I have to go in to work to read the 10,001th version. He is such a sweet, funny, snuggly, happy, busy little boy- I need to make time to write a separate update for him instead of cramming it into one about my Swearing-In Ceremony, but I need sleep more. Hopefully soon!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Oh Man

It's going to be a hell of a week. I was already swamped with a capital markets offering that is closing in two weeks and I just got an email saying that the M&A deal I spent a billion hours on the first drafts of the charter documents just completely renegotiated its terms and everything needs to be redone "quickly". Also this Tuesday is my Bar swearing ceremony and my grandparents are driving over from San Antonio to attend and then go to lunch and I'm flying to Houston Thursday for our firm's annual meeting and prom and my in-laws are coming for a week in a little over a week and I'd just REALLY rather not have 3,000 papers on my desk that need my attention.

In other news, JP and I bought a new TV for the living room. The one we've had until now is 10-years old, weighs about 1,000 lbs., is as deep as it is tall, and makes a buzzing noise whenever it feels like it. The new one is shiny and pretty and cost the same as my loan payments which don't kick into repayment until January. I figure buying the TV would be good practice for making them. I just watched the Discovery Channel in high definition for the first time and wow, the screen is like having a moving piece of artwork in your house. Almost makes me wish I had more time to watch TV.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Drive Home

Landon and I are in Houston. It was an impromptu trip- a decision made on Thursday, finalized Friday morning, and acted upon late Friday night. I found out that one of my closest friends who I haven't seen in over a year was going to be in town visiting her parents, and I figured that if we were going to be with 200 miles from each other, I could make the effort to close that gap. And so I did. We spent a wonderful four hours together with her boyfriend and Sir Landon and I'm really glad I finally got to meet "her JP" (as she calls her guy). Landon and I will head back home tomorrow after church and a quick visit to my grandparent's house. My sister is coming by in the afternoon so that I can head to the office and finish up a project that is overwhelming my desk at the moment. JP has several group projects due this week so he is spending the two days by himself- we miss him but he has promised to make the most of his time (and not all by sleeping).

I did a lot of thinking during the three hour drive to my parent's house. I left after Landon's bed time so that he would sleep in the car. The radio was off. The road was dark. My mind was free to wander. I thought about all the times I've made this drive - to and from State swim meets in high school, to and from orientation, the many trips up and back during college. My first trip home was October of my freshman year when I brought JP home to meet my friends and see my childhood home. I told my best friend (the one I saw today, she's two years younger than me and was still in high school at the time) that I was going to marry him; we'd been dating for two months. I remember pulling up in the driveway in his SUV, the same one he drives today, and he turned to me and said, "Can't you picture us doing this in the future with our kids in the backseat?" And I could. I remember how much I looked forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas, coming home to visit as the child who was all grown-up and off at college on a swimming scholarship.

I only lived at home for half of one summer, so I did that 3-hour drive quite a bit, usually by myself, and it's funny to think of how my inner monologue has changed. For years it was all about medical school- from freaking out over the way organic chemistry had marred my perfect 4.0 GPA to secretly wondering if I really wanted to be a doctor. I planned my wedding in my head on those drives, thought about children, wondered what my future would bring. But even through all my life changes over the past seven years, I'm still me, and I think that maybe my inner thoughts haven't changed that much at all.

On this particular drive I spent a while being nostalgic about my childhood. I love my life right now, so it's really only a tribute to how wonderful my childhood was, but I would go back to age 5 in a second and do it all over again to come back to today. Elementary school, middle school, high school- every grade was my favorite. Sometimes I long for those days of fun and carefree living- swim meets, nights out with friends, family dinners. I hope Landon feels that way when he's older.

Then I wondered what I would change if I could change anything about my past. But while I've made mistakes and there's memories that make me cringe, I'm not sure there's anything I would actually change. There's a conversation or two I would do differently, there's definitely an email or three I'd like to rescind, but as far as major decision go, I can't say I'd change anything because all of that lead me to where I am now- with JP and the Landon who was sleeping in the back seat. I do wonder if I should have stuck with medical school, I wonder if I should have gone to New York or San Francisco for law school, I wonder if we should have spent a little more time "abroad" in the US before returning to Texas. But here we are, and it's too good of a place to spend more than a car ride wondering whether I could be someplace else.

And now I'm going to go upstairs to the room I slept in when I was five, back when my two-year-old sister slept next to me and we'd stay up past our bedtime giggling and pretending not to be afraid of the dark. I'll flip through my babybook, remind myself that I need to work on Landon's, and then fall asleep knowing my parents are downstairs and all is good and safe in my world for now. It's good to be home.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Night and Day

Today at work I wore a black and white patterned pencil skirt with a black tucked in button down. I paired that with red peep-toe heels, a wide red bracelet, and a short black, white, and silver double-strand pearl necklace. I clicked my high heels up and down the hall, busy, borderline competent, and generally having a good day. I'm working on the second drafts of all the charter documents I struggled through last week and so far the feedback has been pretty good.

So that's me as a lawyer.

Tonight at home I found myself walking around the upstairs in a long sleeved t-shirt paired with fresh vomit, old work out shorts, a messy bun, and thick framed glasses. I was holding a Landon who had just recently woken himself up by throwing up thick, white, sticky puke all over his hair, ears, face, pj's, bed, wall, and floor. He was clinging on to me for dear life, trying very hard to calm down after his impromptu second bath. And as I walked the hallway singing his favorite songs, slowly, finally feeling him relax, I thought that the lawyer-me probably wouldn't recognize the mommy-me right now. My colleagues certainly wouldn't. Isn't it funny how you can have versions of yourself that seem so different on the outside but are both still 100% you on the inside?

And as a side note, I wouldn't say I enjoyed roaming the halls with a curdled-milk pukey smelling baby, but there's something so absolutely wonderful and almost gratifying about the way your child melts into you when he doesn't feel good. That complete trust and surrender to mommy (and daddy) to make things better is probably the greatest and most terrifying part of being a parent.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Toddler's Tragedies and Triumphs

Landon had a rocky day on Sunday.

It started out well with church. He adores other kids and I left him in the nursery happily shaking a maraca in a baby praise band. He gave me enthusiastic waves bye-bye as I walked away to the sanctuary and big hugs and smiles when I returned after service. It was a gorgeous day and I was looking forward to taking him to the park while JP studied. Unfortunately, Landon's world view went from rosy to black somewhere along the two minute drive home.

Suddenly everything was a tragedy: the ball rolling away when he kicked it, the ball being returned to him, the ball sitting on the side of the driveway, the wagon in the driveway, the wagon not in the driveway, the wagon just sitting there and staring at him- all of these seemingly innocuous happenings sent Landon headfirst onto the (cement) ground, rolling onto his back, and wailing up to the sky. I could just picture him shaking his chubby little fist at God asking why, why must the ball move when I kick it? Whyyyyyyyyyyyy. It was one of those afternoons where you have to laugh at the indignant fury of your toddler because you can't understand it, you definitely can't make it better, and it's way too early to start drinking.

Landon has had a few tantrums before and most of the time they're over things I can figure out - hunger, thirst, wanting something and not being able to tell me about it- these things I can work with. I hold him and let him point me around the room until we find whatever it is he doesn't know he wants, or I can distract him with a book or music or labrador retrievers. But Sunday I had to call his Aunt in from San Marcos for reinforcements, and of course, upon her arrival Landon became his charming, flirty little self. He enjoys making a liar out of me.

That evening we went to a friend's house (the one who's a 5th year attorney at the firm with a son a few months older than Landon, she needs a blog name- "Sarah") for dinner. Her husband made homemade pizza and the boys played and played with each other- it was one of the cutest things I've ever seen. They've hung out together lots of times and generally just play around and near each other, but last night they played peek-a-boo around the island in her kitchen. They were laughing so hard they could barely stand up; full belly laughs from two little boys is truly the best dinner music. And then when we got home Landon played a song on his sing along stage and he danced. He shuffled his little feet and smiled and clapped his hands and was so thoroughly adorable I couldn't even believe my own memories of the early afternoon.

Ahh, life with a toddler.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Toddler-Induced Hangover

Ah yes, so I passed the Bar. I was surprised by my general lack of reaction. I think it's because I'd already been working for 10 weeks and despite my efforts to the contrary, I'd kind of already assumed I passed. It was basically a neutral-lose situation; passing allowed me to keep doing what I'd already been doing for two months (but with business cards and without asterisks!) and failing would have been really bad. This sunk in during the impromptu champagne and cake happy hour the firm hosted two hours after results were announced, all eight people in my class passed and I can't imagine being the one who didn't. Also, the big reveal was rather anticlimactic as I found out via a congratulatory email on my blackberry while I was on a conference call in another office. In Texas the whole list of people who passed is published on a public website, so anyone can see it once it's up. This year it was published about an hour earlier than in years passed so I hadn't even started checking yet!

But none of that is to say I didn't celebrate it properly anyway. I had multiple glasses of champagne at the happy hour, went to dinner with JP, Landon, and friends, and then split another bottle of champagne with JP after we got home. Good times. I found myself completely incapable of work yesterday- my first day as a real attorney and I billed about .5 hours. I wasn't at all hungover, so I'm blaming the gorgeous weather and reading fatigue (I've been reading election news stories until my eyes bleed), although none of those excuses are going to get the 149-page S-3 that I had to bring home proofed before Monday.

This week has been crazy for an additional reason as Landon has been sick. He was sent home early from daycare Wednesday with a 100-degree fever. He was extra snuggly that afternoon and evening (which was actually kind of nice) and awoke fever-free and in high spirits Thursday morning. He couldn't go back to daycare for 24-hours, which would normally not be a problem as JP and I have flexible schedules, but we just happened to both have mandatory meetings at the same time Thursday afternoon. This also shouldn't be a problem as the firm has back-up in-home care, but when I called at 7am to book someone I found out there had been a shooting in my safe little city and two armed men were still on the loose! This had resulted in several schools being closed and there were no back-up sitters to be found. More scrambling ensued, and we finally found someone who could come from 10-3:30 and a friend of mine covered until I got home around 5. It was a little crazy, but Landon was in his most charming, playful form and everything worked out fine. Yesterday he returned to his toddler friends and had a great day.

Last night we thought his fever had just been a fluke and I was reflecting on how remarkably healthy he is- his first year had so much drama but other than ear infections he's only been sick once, and that was almost 9 months ago! But around 10 last night, just as I was telling JP how lucky we've been, we heard Landon's wail come down the stairs, kicking off a three-hour marathon of attempted comforting. I had already forgotten the details of those nights spent walking a baby up and down hallways trying to soothe him, but they quickly came crashing back. JP and I took turns holding and rocking him and finally resorted to putting him in the car and driving around the block for a while. I think he had to have been hungry (he didn't eat dinner) but his stomach seemed to be hurting him (the classic pulling up of the legs, hadn't seen that in a while) and he threw every cup or snack we gave him across the room (despite our weariness, JP did excitedly remark on his son's good arm). Finally around 1 am he fell asleep in JP's arms and we were able to put him back in bed. We still got about six hours of sleep, which a year ago would have been better than normal, but I'm exhausted! How on earth did we survive all those months? I'm pretty sure I'm the only person in my class whose bloodshot eyes two mornings after Bar results were posted have nothing to do with tequila.

But still, things are great and Landon is feeling perky again today. We cleaned the house and went to Costco where I had yet another "economics of Costco" conversation with JP, this time over 2 lb. blocks of queso fresco cheese (I love the stuff too, but 2 lbs.?! eating something constantly just so it's gone before it goes bad does not equal cost savings!!). Now I'm trying to think of productive things to do that do not involve the S-3 staring at me from across the table. I suppose our hall closet could use some organizing, yes... I think I'll start there.