Sunday, August 31, 2008

Hotel Lag Liv

I love entertaining; my favorite thing about our new house is that we can have more people stay over at a time and I can have big dinner parties without making my guests eat on trays. This weekend one of my favorite sets of relatives - an aunt, uncle, and two teenage cousins, flew over from Atlanta to spend two days in "the greatest city in the greatest country in the world" (as JP calls it- often). My uncle is a pilot for a big airline so they can fly free when there are open seats on the plane, and it just so happened that there were a few open seats on an Austin flight late Friday night. The two girls fawned over the Landon, who greatly benefited from the amazing black-market teething gel my aunt brought from behind a pharmacy counter in Georgia. None of the girls had ever been to Austin so we made the most of their 36 hours here- even stopping downtown for a quick walk down 6th street on the way back from the airport Friday. On Saturday I made a big breakfast and then we all put our suits on and headed over to Barton Springs, a wonderful natural swimming pool in Zilker Park.

It is completely filled by a crystal-clear and very chilly natural spring that pumps 27 million gallons of water into the pool a day. Landon was not at all put off by the temperature and immediately tried to stick his face in the cold water. There was lots of splashing and giggles as he crawled around the smooth rocks at the pool's edge, and he was determined to jump off the big, old diving board but his mean mommy kept stopping him before he could impress the ladies with his diving moves.

At one point the five of us were standing around the diving board, debating whether or not we'd actually get in the water (it's seriously cold and this was before noon so it wasn't that hot out yet), when suddenly my aunt grabs my arm and says, "I think that's Matthew McConaughey!" And sure enough, it was! He lives nearby and had apparently gone for a jog and then a dip in the springs. Because I was the only one with a camera I was ordered to take inconspicuous pictures of him and here is one such shot:

My cousins, ages 15 and 17, were thrilled and immediately texted their entire phone book with the news. I was just happy to provide them with such a memorable first morning in Austin. The rest of the day involved some shopping, sight-seeing, and the eating of Tex-Mex for lunch and dinner. I gave my uncle my student spouse ticket so he could go to the U.T. football game and associated tailgates with JP. They stopped at the MBA one first and then moved on to the swimming letterman's party, where my uncle was thrilled to mingle with multiple Olympians recently returned from Beijing. The game was a blowout (52-7) so they left pretty early, stopping only to get more Tex-Mex on the drive home.

This morning we went out for breakfast, did a quick tour of the UT campus, and then dropped them off at the airport. JP went to study and I prepared myself for a day more screaming and crying (Landon doing the former, me the latter), but Landon was actually a fast-moving little bundle of smiles. We crawled all over the house - up and down the stairs - and into every room and closet, and every time I thought about bringing him down to his toys and giving my knees a break, I reminded myself that I was starting work Tuesday and I needed to take advantage of this time with him. So I did and we had a great time.

Tomorrow we're having a few of JP's business school buddies over for some sort of cookout, Tuesday starts the next step of our Fall Phase In, and then I think we're getting more overnight company next weekend. There's always something going on at the Hotel Lag Liv!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Waving the White Flag

Battle lines were drawn today, and it wasn't between JP and I while watching the Democratic National Convention- though last night I did inform him that if he did not STOP TALKING and let me LISTEN TO BIDEN'S SPEECH I was going to leave him, immediately. The snide remarks subsided, I listened in peace, and then we argued about everything he'd been holding inside until he looked like he might burst from the strain of it all. The night ended with lots of cuddling, so that means so far we have yet to let this election affect our marriage, but we do have a few more months to go.

Anyway, battle lines. They have been drawn between me and Landon's molars because I cannot f*cking take it anymore. I don't think I've ever cried out of sheer frustration - exhaustion, fear, sadness, stress- sure, every now and then, but frustration? Not until today. Landon's molars have been giving us hell for a while - night awakenings, short-to-nonexistent naps, low fever, a reappearance of drool (buckets of drool), diarrhea, fussiness to a never before seen degree... and today it was all so much I nearly had a breakdown. We took him to the pediatrician just to make sure it wasn't an ear infection or anything else that could be cured by a prescription or minor surgery, but nope, it's "just teeth". We've tried tylenol, motrin, Hyland's teething tablets, frozen banana, popsicles, vibrating teething rings, and everything else short of illegal substances and nothing seems to make much of a difference. If he's actively engaged in some activity (like being chased around the livingroom, merely playing toys or listening to a book is too passive), then he will be his cute happy smiley self. But the minute the super engaged activity pauses, he's sobbing, fingers in the mouth, lying on the floor. The dogs don't know what to do. Tex is most distressed and paces around the room trying to figure out how he can help. Rosie will lay down next to him and lick his head. They both look at me like why are you not fixing this?! Landon looks at me the same way.

I feel terrible for him that he hurts. I feel even worse for how bad I want to jump out a window and just run far, far away from the screaming. Today I stuck him in the bathtub around noon (after he refused a morning nap by screaming for as long as I could stand letting him do it), dumped every single waterproof toy we own in there, and let him splash for over an hour. He was busy and happy and I got to stare blankly at the wall for a little while. When he decided bath time was over I called JP and ordered him home. I'm sure there are moms out there who can handle this kind of day without back-up but I cannot. We spent the rest of the day trading off 30-minute intervals of playing with and distracting Landon, until JP had to go to a business school meeting at 6.

And that's when it got really bad. We took another bath, but Landon started flipping out only a few minutes into it. We tried to read a book but he was kicking and arching so badly I couldn't hold him and the book at the same time. I tried to sing, I gave up, I put him in bed. Twenty minutes later, he was still screaming, so I trudged back up with little hope of making things much better, but determined to try. I held him as he squirmed and arched and kept singing our songs, and finally after about five minutes (which felt like an eternity, he weighs 25 lbs after all) he quieted, he snuggled into my neck, and I felt him relax. I kept singing, kept swaying, kept holding him in the Exact same position as if the slightest movement would set him off again (not an irrational fear), until my back ached and my arms started to shake. I gently laid him down, rubbed his back, and kept singing - and he started screaming again. I called JP, again, and ordered him home, again, and then put a crying Landon in the stroller and walked around the neighborhood for 45 minutes. It's a safe area so the darkness didn't bother me and the temperature dipped down into the upper 70's so it wasn't too hot. Landon was quiet and so was everything else. We pulled into the driveway at the same time as JP. Landon, now at 2 hours past his bed time, was very sleepy and went right down.

Most of today I've thought about the fact that next week I'll be in an office. A quiet, baby free office. That was the light at the end of this teething tunnel, and while it may be sad or weak or non-motherly, it's true. I know there will be times I am sad that I'm no longer home during the day Monday through Friday, but today would not have been one of them.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

First Day of School

Today, after spending what seems like months in orientation, JP started his business school classes. I was a teeny bit sad not to be the one packing up my backpack and heading off to the first day, taking notes in fresh spirals (or word documents), and making soon-to-be broken promises that this would be the semester I would stay on top of my reading. But it was a fleeting feeling. I am really excited about starting work- starting my career. I've been in school for a long time; written hundreds of pages of papers and worn out scores of highlighters, I'm ready to do my writing and highlighting in exchange for money. But that's not to say I don't see myself back in school at some point in my life. Whether it's for an MBA or MD or something I haven't thought of yet, I'd be a bit surprised if there's isn't another "first day of school" in my distant future.

JP gave me the honor of picking out his school supplies: 5 spiral notebooks and a binder. I attended a firm sponsored wine tasting last night (apparently they do this every month and spouses are invited, though last night JP chose to stay home with Landon) and stopped at Wal-Mart on my way home to find him the perfect notebooks. I slowly walked the aisles at 10 PM in my black dress and 4" black satin, ivory ribboned peep-toe heels, thinking back on all my school supply trips growing up- the picking out of the prettiest binders and the coolest new pens (well, the coolest pens in bulk and on sale). Unfortunately Wal-Mart had been decimated by some kind of school shopping tornado so I came home empty handed. But I was not deterred. Landon and I went to Walgreens at 6:45 this morning to present his daddy with a stack of spirals when he woke up. JP wasn't quite as excited as I thought he'd be, and he then gave me something akin to a glare when I asked him what his first day outfit was (my first day of work outfit has already been selected, along with the rest of the first week), but I know he's glad to be back on campus and I'm looking forward to hearing all about his day when he gets home. I'm even making a real dinner with multiple dishes to celebrate the occasion.

So now begins our big Fall Phase In. JP kicks it off with a short 3-day first week back, then I start work next Tuesday for a 4-day first week, and then Landon starts daycare the following Monday for a full week of everyone in their respective places. The daycare wouldn't let him start before the 8th and I needed to start the first day the firm would let me (our bank account is making me hyperventilate), which left us without childcare for the first four days. Luckily the firm has a back-up daycare program. I get 5 days free and 5 with a $50 copay, and you can choose to send your child to a daycare with reserved spots or have a nanny sent to your home. We're going the nanny route. I figure since Landon has been home with us all summer, the first day back in daycare could be a somewhat traumatic and I don't want to do drop-offs in two different places. So instead of all that, a very nice woman (whom I've already spoken with) will be coming to our house from 8-6 to play with Landon, his dogs, and his toys, and then he'll start real daycare after that. I think it will be nice for me to be able to get out the door that first week without also getting everything together for Landon - it'll be something of a trial run. I really like the way things are going to phase in for us. And given the way Landon leaps out of my arms every time he sees babies at all the business school events we've been going to, I'm no longer so sure that the daycare drop-off will involve tears. At least not from him.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Showcase of Home

A long time ago I promised to post pictures of our house. At the time I was in the middle of trying to avoid studying for the Bar Exam by talking a lot about how I needed to go study for the Bar Exam, so as you can see there was really no time to do anything productive like upload pictures. But now that the Bar is (at least temporarily) over, I can give you a glimpse into the Casa Lag Liv.

This was our first weekend at home since the Bar so there's still a few projects on the list (like putting a cat door in one of the upstairs closets for Lilly's food because Landon and the doggies keep eating it), but in general I feel very settled. The best part so far is having so much storage- after coming from a little apartment our closets and cabinets aren't anywhere near full (yet!) so it's easy to straighten up. Clutter is stressful to me, so I like being able to put everything away easily. It still feels big... it feels like home too, but even with two dogs, a cat, and a baby we don't use a lot of the space, and that bothers me. Unlike JP, I loved living in an apartment and enjoyed the coziness and efficiency of it. I'm certainly not complaining about owning a big house, I'm just still getting used to the size and the permanence of it. And I keep reminding myself that hopefully someday those rooms will be filled and we'll never have to move- unless we win the lottery and can buy that mountain property up in Colorado we've always dreamed of.

I spent about a week shopping around Austin before my in-laws came so that the house could be decorated. The archways were tough because I felt like there was so much pressure on what went in there - we certainly didn't own anything worthy of its own spotlight! My goal was to find things I liked but were cheap enough that I wouldn't feel guilty replacing them over the years as we found things we really love. Landon has quite a bargain hunter's eye and I'm very proud of the good buys we found. The picture above the fireplace was $15, the candle sticks were hand me downs from my mom, and the candles were $2 each. The arch in the living room is composed of a picture from Ross that cost $25 (the most expensive thing I purchased, but it reminded me of Chicago and matched my colors perfectly so it will probably stay up for a long time), the glass plate was $7.50 at Hobby Lobby, and the candlestick was another cast off from my mom and happens to match the plate perfectly. The front arch has my favorite wedding picture, our wedding album, and a candle wall thingy that was $10 and looks very pretty lit up.

There's also a good mix of new and old. One guest room is decorated with plaques my grandpa was awarded during his career in the Air Force and the linens are from my brother's freshman year at college. The other guest room has pictures painted by a close family friend that no longer matched the decor in my parents house, and the bedspread is from my old room. Most of the furniture was given to us by family; our only big purchases have been the couch set for the living room and the patio furniture out back. I really love the way everything came together, and almost everything has a story behind it.

The master bedroom and study remain unfinished- there's furniture but little else, and they will likely remain that way for quite a while because paying off loans takes precedence over replacing our serviceable, even if non-matching bedroom set. The dining room is going to remain a play room as long as our kids are young enough that we don't want them playing upstairs on their own. I just went to a teacher's supply store and bought a set of alphabet train posters to make a border around the walls of Landon's room as well as some cute "color and shape" posters, so I think that will add color in a fun, easy, and inexpensive way. And maybe he'll learn something when he's on his next nap strike!

So without further ado, here's a few pics of our home (you can put your cursor over the picture for a little caption and you can increase the speed to get through them faster):

Sunday, August 24, 2008

First Free Weekend

This was our first totally free weekend in Austin. No Bar Exam to study for, no boxes to unpack, and no traveling anywhere for weddings or other gatherings - we barely knew what to do with ourselves Saturday morning.

So we drove to New Braunfels. My parents (well, really my mother) decided to adopt another puppy from the same rescue organization where we got our two dogs and they got their first puppy, and they were going to meet the puppy's foster mom in New Braunfels at 11:00. So they drove over from Houston (with Shadow, puppy #1, so he could approve of his new brother) very early in the morning. My sister and brother had already decided to meet them, so they headed over from San Marcos and San Antonio respectively. We were faced with an empty morning (the evening was booked with a dinner out with JP's business school study group) so we piled Landon, Rosie, and Tex into the car to join in the fun.

After witnessing the formal adoption ceremony in the Home Depot parking lot at the intersection of I-35 and Hwy-46, we got sandwiches at Quiznos and ate a picnic lunch in Landa Park. It's a beautiful park with crystal clear creeks, giant hundred year old trees, and lots of room for the dogs to play. We managed to get the whole group together - 7 humans, 4 dogs - for a big family picture and really had a nice time. One big benefit of living in Texas again is impromptu family gatherings like that one. I know if we were still in Chicago my mom would call me on the way home to tell me about the new dog and I'd be thinking I really wished I could have been there. Now my family has four dogs from SNIPSA, and now SNIPSA can go rescue four more wonderful pets that would otherwise be euthanized in San Antonio pounds.

(The motley crew, before we got them all pointing the same way)

Then today, after carefully avoiding Lowe's and Home Depot for over a month, we decided it was necessary to return. Our credit card cried a little on the drive over, but the deck needs to be power washed and stained and our kitchen table needs refinishing (we inherited my parent's old table, which I love, but the top needs some TLC). Two hours and $300 later we have a rented power washer, 10 gallons of "redwood" deck stain, and a pile of supplies for my kitchen table project. JP has been doing the power-washing for about four hours and is only 3/4 done- and that's just the first step. He has Orientation tomorrow morning at 9 AM, so he needs to finish tonight. I'm helping by keeping him full of chicken nuggets and red Powerade. The dogs have been most distressed by all the noise out the back door and I think Tex is about thirty minutes away from attempting to break through the window to save his beloved master from the big scary water machine.

I did finally take some pictures of the house (remember when I promised to share those back in June?) and am working on a post with them - expect it maybe tomorrow, assuming Landon's evil molars cooperate and allow him to take a freaking nap.

And now Landon and I are going to go lend JP some moral support which will consist of lying and telling him he's "almost there" - kind of like what he said to me when I was in labor. It's important to return favors. And I'll have freshly baked chocolate chip cookies in hand, just in case he sees through the "almost there" thing.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Flying Solo

Well, not so much flying solo as sitting solo. I'm on my own tonight, and I can't remember the last time that happened. In Chicago I had a far more active social life than JP. I had so many friends through school and while he was happy to stay home every night (after a long day at work), I was decidedly not. But with Orientation and all his new business school buddies his social calendar is now as full as mine, which is great. Tonight he was even double booked- he's skipping a b-school boat party to play poker with a bunch of neighborhood men. The host is the husband of my firm mentor from last summer, so she and her 19-month-old son came over to play for an hour before the boys' bedtime (highlight of the night: Landon pushing his walker wagon with her little boy riding inside of it, both with big smiles on their faces. Oh the cuteness). After they left, Landon and I went through his bedtime routine and then I headed downstairs for a night of doing exactly whatever I want to do.

And apparently what I want to do is eat a lot of pizza and watch reality TV. I ate half a frozen pizza for lunch and just ate two more pieces cold for dinner. I'm considering the last two, but I just ate a small bag of cookies my attorney friend brought over, so I'm thinking I should just say no to more pizza. I'm starting to feel a little ill. But oh how I do love it cold... whenever we order pizza I try to save a few pieces to eat cold the next day as a special treat. Mmmmmm.

I've got the perfect set up. I'm wearing my flannel pj's, nursing my second glass of wine, sitting cross-legged on the couch with my computer in my lap, and watching all the old Project Runway episodes I've missed this summer (will that Suede guy PLEASE stop talking in the 3rd person- seriously, who does that?!). It's nice. I'm looking forward to JP's return home- especially since he's promised to bring home some of the winnings, but until then it's nice to have some quality time with Bravo and a good Cabernet.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Leaps and Bounds

Dear Landon,

I have no rhyme or reason to the writing of these letters. I suppose we could call this a belated 13-month missive, but really I just wanted to write down all the little adorable things you're doing right now. It'll be good for me to look back on when you're throwing tantrums across the living room in a year or when you break into our liquor cabinet in another fifteen (at least, right?). Because you really are a fast moving little bundle of happiness, and even though I am really looking forward to starting my new job, I love our special time together too.

In the last month you've developed all sorts of new tricks. You started clapping your hands a few days ago and think it's the funniest thing every time your hands make noise. When you wake up in the morning we immediately carry you downstairs for breakfast because you've made it quite clear that any delay in the eating of cheerios is unacceptable. As soon as you get a glimpse of the bag of cereal you get a huge grin on your face and start clapping for their honey nut goodness. While you're distracted with the O's, we make you a cup of milk and get your yogurt ready. Once you're done with breakfast we go feed the doggies their kibbles and you get lots of good morning kisses from them, which you think is very funny. You love your dogs and I'm pretty sure that "dog" is your first real world. You say it more like "don" but it's always the first thing out of your mouth when you see them. You don't have many identifiable words yet - not even mama or daddy, but you jabber on and on to everyone around you so I know you'll figure out a few soon. Lately you've been experimenting with the volume of your voice - you have some very high pitched squeaks you seem to save for Lilly the cat and you've started whispering and when someone whispers back you give them a small smile, like they've just told you a secret.

You still love your walker wagon and you'll push it around the house for as long as someone will keep turning it around for you. I know you could walk on your own if you wanted too, and you even took 4 steps all by yourself the other day, but you still prefer to crawl around at hyper speed. You love your wooden blocks and always have one in each hand as you crawl around the house. I like it because I know exactly where you are in the kitchen, even when I'm far away, because I can hear the clicking sounds of the wood hitting the tile. You even carry your blocks with you into the car seat and the high chair (carefully placing them in the corner while you eat and then picking them back up when you're done), and you'd bring them into the bath tub if I'd let you. You still love bath time and like to make big splashes until your face is all wet - if you get too much water in your eyes you'll just sit there and slowly blink until it's gone, then you splash again!

It's been fun watching you figure things out on your own. Yesterday you crawled into your cozy coupe all by yourself.

And then you figured out your own way to get out of it! It wasn't the one intended by the manufacturer, but it seemed to work for you.

A few days ago I was sitting on the floor of the play room with you and you turned to hide behind the post, then you moved your head out to the side so I could see you, and then you hid again. You were playing peekaboo! Usually I'm always the one ducking behind things, but you figured it out for yourself! It's little leaps like that that simply amaze me - a year ago you were just a cute little lump who slept and ate all day. You've also become a great mimic and love copying our movements - wrinkling our nose, putting our hands up in the air, or making certain noises. There's so many other examples of your mind working, your daddy and I swap stories of you at night and just marvel at all the little things you've figured out for yourself.

You still love crawling up the stairs and now you can do it so fast that if I turn around and realize you're gone, I can usually find you up in your room playing with your wooden train. We're working on teaching you how to scoot back down and you practice on the first few stairs, but for now you'll just sit at the top and wait for me to come carry you back down (so you can immediately crawl back up again). Your dogs usually walk up with you and stand guard until I come up. You love petting them and never pull their tail - we knew you'd be an animal lover.

Like your parents, you love food and will eat just about anything we give you. Your favorites are macaroni & cheese and any other pasta and sauce, ALL fruits (you even fed yourself a banana yesterday and only tried to eat the peel twice!), goldfish, peas, and apparently, Hula Hut tortilla chips:

You are a big flirt and always smile at the ladies we see when we're out and about. It was your flirting that got the customer service rep to give me a full refund without receipt at Wal-Mart yesterday, so thank you for that. I get so many comments from people when we're running errands- you're a very special, smiley guy. My favorite smile is the one you give when you see your daddy or me when we've been separated for a little while - it crinkles your whole face to make your mouth that big and I adore it.

Last night when I was holding you and singing "You Are My Sunshine" before you went to bed, you snuggled your head into my neck, and my voice broke from the tears that suddenly welled up in my eyes. You're the best thing I've ever done and I love you so much. I can't wait to keep watching you smile and laugh and figure out this big world around you.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Ice Cream and Having it All

I never eat ice cream at home.  I'll buy some at the store every now and then but always end up throwing it away a few months later when it's covered in ice crystals.  I do love the stuff and frequently buy it when I'm out, enjoying every bite of my overpriced scoop, even as the cheap part of me screams that I could get a whole gallon for what I just payed.  I do the same thing with alcohol.  JP and I still have bottles of liquor he bought when he turned 21 almost 7 years ago- we very rarely drink at home even though we both hate that we spend 10x more at a bar.  Anyway, the point is that neither heartbreak nor stress nor my in-laws has ever sent me to the ice cream hidden deep in my freezer, but two days home with a toddler has been eating out of the container with a spoon at 2:30 in the afternoon.  

Since the Bar I've been asked quite a bit what I think about starting work.  I always respond that I'm excited and looking forward to it, and that's the truth, but it seems superficial.  I've been looking for my deeper, more conflicted feelings, but I haven't found any yet.  I think about the hours, about the loss of control of my schedule, about the time away from Landon, and then I remember that all jobs would involve those things to some extent.  Not working is not an option I entertain, even when I'm lying in bed at night thinking about all kinds of crazy paths my life could take.  It's not even the financial necessity- though with a house, loans, a husband in grad school, a toddler, and two large, hungry dogs, that is certainly there.  It's the fact that I'm fundamentally not meant to stay at home.

I could be good at it, I suppose.  Our house is clean and decorated, I do the laundry, run errands, pay the bills, and even plan to make dinner tonight, but none of that makes me happy or satisfied beyond the fact that it's pleasant to have clean clothes and a meal that isn't cereal.  I do love being with Landon and I'm cherishing our time together, but even while I close my eyes to freeze certain perfect moments in my memory, I know that much of my enjoyment comes from the fact that this will end.  I start work in two weeks.  This is why I chased him around the living room long after my knees were sore and I thought of ten things I should be doing instead.  This is why I held him and read to him and sang songs far in excess of our usual pre-nap routine.  I'm able to cherish it, to love it, because I know we have 13 days left before days like today will be relegated to weekends, holidays, and vacations.  I'm sure that should make me sad, but as I realized while digging into my gallon of vanilla bean ice cream topped with mini chocolate chips, it doesn't, and that's okay.  When I start work he will go to a wonderful daycare.  He will play with other babies in a sun-filled room of windows and toys and experienced teachers.  He will have a happy mother who doesn't look at the clock and count down until nap time, he will have a happy father who is equally involved in his care, and he will grow up watching his parents pursue their dreams, support each other, and love him.  

I frequently hear women say they want to be examples for their daughter, showing her she can successfully pursue both a career and family, but I think it's just as important- possibly more important - to be an example for your son.  As a girl I was constantly told I could do anything- be anything I wanted to be, and I believed it.  But as an adult, as a wife and mother, I know that isn't true unless the person you marry believes it too.  JP and I split everything- nothing, including all things baby (except pregnancy, that was all me), household chores, and cooking, is "my" job.  This, more than any girl power poster or teacher's comment is why I believe I'll be able to have the career I've worked for and the family life I've always wanted.  I hope Landon's wife will have that choice too. 

Of course I do worry about how my career will affect Landon, but I know that I've made each decision along the way with him in mind (long before I was even pregnant) and I will continue to do so.  He won't have the mom I had - at home, ready with an afternoon snack when I walked in the door from school, and that makes me a little sad- I wouldn't change my childhood for anything in the world.  But I am not my mother, a fact that has often been a source of frustration for me, but one that is true.  Sometimes I wish that I wanted to stay home - when Landon snuggles against me before his nap or when we're sitting on the floor of the play room making faces at each other... but I don't.  It's a simple truth but one that makes my decision easy.  Will there be sacrifices along the way, times when I miss something or resent my corporate commitments?  Absolutely.  But I know I'm on the right path, even if it can't be the perfect one, and I expect that will help quite a lot. 

Sunday, August 17, 2008

A Dance Down Memory Lane

Last night JP and I drove to Houston to attend a wedding of a friend of mine from high school. I saw several people I hadn't seen since our graduation 7 years ago. Some didn't even recognize me at first - I'm several sizes smaller, much leaner, and my hair is redder, longer, and usually straightened instead of left curly. It was weird to think of how much has changed from May 2001- back then I thought (knew) I'd be a doctor, I'd never leave Texas, I wouldn't get married until I was 30... and even as I made those declarations I knew that I could change them on a whim and still have plenty of time to carry them out. "What do you want to be when you grow up?" was still an honest question and one we all asked each other at the time. It's funny to think I didn't even know JP then. This person who holds my whole heart and happiness was just a stranger finishing up his sophomore year at UT.

My high school boyfriend was a groomsman, so last night marked the first time he and JP met each other. T and I were together for 2 years. He was my first date, first boyfriend, first kiss, first everything. We went to Homecoming together, prom together, and talked on the phone every night before we fell asleep. We haven't stayed in touch since we broke up right before college. We took very different paths after high school - T heading off to the Culinary Institute of America in New York and then cheffing around the world; me following the more traditional academic route. I met JP my first weekend in Austin, so I don't think that helped T and my post-break up attempts at friendship. It was strange talking to him and his girlfriend. Not in any emotional or romantic sense - we've both long since moved on, just odd to think that there was a time in our lives that we knew each other better than anyone else did, and now we don't know each other at all. Our lives couldn't be more different. I'm married, mother to a one-year-old, graduate of law school, and very tied down in Austin. He's not married, definitely not a parent, living in Canada, and about to embark on a trip around the world. We're both happy, which is why we always knew we had no future after high school - we're way too different, and it was nice to see that happiness. It felt like a bit of closure.

Friday, August 15, 2008

So Many Things

So much blogging fodder, so very little time with the laptop. Here are some random points, all of which had their own blog posts written out in my head at some point this week:

I've started reading again. I get addicted to books and don't stop reading until I'm done. This obviously interferes with the little sleep Landon allows, so I haven't read a novel since he was born. I've now read four in the last four days, and that combined with the Olympics means I'm exhausted and I can't even blame the little man for it. My downfall was buying the first in the Twilight series in the airport when our plane was delayed Sunday night. I forgot how pleasant (and quick) it is to read something that doesn't make your brain hurt. No trying to discern a judge's holding or reasoning- just skimming the words and getting lost in a story. It's been lovely and now I'm looking for more suggestions.

All three of my in-laws are here. So far no one has cried, so I'd say things are going okay. I could write volumes on this topic, but they don't know the blog exists and my parents do, so that doesn't seem fair. They're going to watch Landon while JP and I drive to Houston for a wedding Saturday night. They leave on Monday.

Landon. There is so much to say about him - he's the very essence of delightful. I smiled so much playing with him Tuesday that my face started to hurt. Monday night my firm mentor from last summer invited us over for dinner. Landon was in heaven with her little boy- I really think he misses daycare and his baby friends. They played with the same toys, chased each other around the house, and shared lots of noises and expressions. It was adorable. On Tuesday night JP and I attended his formal opening banquet for the MBA program. The second year students were providing free babysitting in a nearby room and I was a little nervous about how he'd react when we dropped him off since he hadn't been in a daycare situation in so long. I need not have worried. The minute he saw the other babies, he dove out of my arms, and crawled off at full speed. He didn't look back, and when we came to pick him up way after his bedtime, he was sitting happily in a corner with a very pretty 2nd year business student, scooting a car back and forth and gazing up at her with a big smile. He is such a flirt.

JP's orientation dinner was very nice, I'm so proud of him and glad that he's finally getting excited about his program. It was weird to be the spouse of the grad student rather than the grad student myself. I had a strong urge to tell everyone I'd just graduated law school or I was a lawyer or something to imply I was more than "the spouse". It was a strange impulse and luckily, one I was able to resist. I don't want to be the person who needs to announce her degree at the start of a conversation.

We've eaten out every day this week - my old clothes may fit before I start work after all. Wednesday was a carnivorous feast at Fogo de Chao with the young corporate attorneys- it was a "Congrats on Surviving (and Hopefully Passing) the Bar" dinner. Last night we all went to our favorite fancy Austin restaurant. I am very opposed to bringing babies to nice restaurants so a good friend of mine and her husband babysat. She's due with their first child in January so I was a little hesitant to call them- I mean why scare someone when there's no way out, but Landon was perfect, just like he's been all week.

Today involved a trip to the UT bookstore where I spent too much money on an adorable burnt orange dress to wear to the football games. We have season tickets in the MBA group and I think it's important that I look like a cute, supportive UT spouse- precisely $59.95 worth of important. We had dinner at Hula Hut and are now camped in front of the TV watching the Olympics (thank God for DVR or JP would have lost his mind this week with all these nighttime events). All three of my in-laws are asleep on the couch and I'm finally getting some quality laptop time.

Things are going well. I'm enjoying my time with Landon, enjoying my time with the house (which is now fully decorated and properly organized), and enjoying working through my to-do lists. I'm still looking forward to starting work in a few weeks, but this in-between time is nice too. Nice and crazy, just like we like it.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Olympic Hangover

I woke up this morning with bleary eyes and an aching head, neither of which had anything to do with alcohol and everything to do with staying up way to late watching the Olympics. The swimming has been incredible, although we missed the most amazing relay swim in the history of the sport when our plane was delayed two hours on Sunday night. When we landed, just before midnight, I turned on my phone and it started buzzing with text messages - every time I tried to read one the "new message" screen would pop up again and interrupt me. There was "You missed the most amazing relay ever!" and "Holy crap I love Olympic swimming!" and my favorite, "OMG OMG OMG" - I had no idea what they were talking about, but I knew that when we found out JP was going to be very unhappy that it was a trip to Chicago that caused him to miss it.

We were finally able to watch the video Monday morning. I've watched it three times since then and I get goose bumps and tears in my eyes every time. I also get extremely irritated at all the headlines pronouncing Phelps as the hero of it all - um, he swam fast, very fast, the fastest any American has ever swam from a flat start, but Jason Lezak flew. I can't even describe how fast a 46.0 split is -- it's not just unheard of, it was unthought of. No one has ever come close to going that fast in a 100 meter free and I can't imagine when anyone will again. Don't get me wrong, Phelps is an incredible swimmer and great guy, but he is not the only swimmer there. I heard two different radio stations telling their listeners on Monday morning (as we raced back to Austin so JP could attend his orientation) that Phelps won his third gold in the 400 freestyle Sunday night - NO, it was the 4x100 relay, not the individual event - he doesn't even swim the 400 free individually. Anyway, hooray for the US team, hooray for Phelps making the sport so famous, and hooray for the internet allowing us to take part in that incredible moment when O'Hare tried to make us miss it.

It's a little sad to realize this is probably the last Olympics we'll know any of the competitors. We'll always "know" the sport and that will keep it extra exciting, but it's amazing to watch your friends up there. JP trained hundreds of hours with those guys, lived with them in the gross hallways of their dorm, and cheered them on from behind the blocks. I know not to even try to talk to him when they're racing on the TV, he's in the zone, watching and willing them to win. And because I'm not allowed to talk while they're on, I spend some time swimming around my own memories of the sport. I miss racing. I can't say I've ever missed practice - I've missed being in shape and I've missed that feeling of satisfaction when you've worked your body to its absolute limit (our couch used to say that it's been a good practice when you can't pull yourself out of the pool), but what I really miss is standing behind those blocks, diving in, and letting go of everything you have in the pool. That, and the moment after you touch, when you turn around to see the results of your efforts - there's nothing like it.

I already feel like my swimming life was a long time ago - at seven years, I suppose it was. You can now legally do a dolphin kick off the wall in breaststroke, something that got you DQ'd when I swam it. Phelps has brought swimming a level of fame and familiarity it didn't have when it was my sport. There's more money involved and more athletes can continue swimming after college without living off their parents. The camera angles and media coverage has all improved and make the few meets they televise so fun to watch. One of our close friends is the current world record holder in the 100 fly and one of the only threats to Phelps's goal of eight medals. Truthfully, I'm not sure anyone can stop Phelps at this point - he's so dominate and he's barely breathing hard after shattering world records, but it's going to be fun to watch our guy try! U-S-A!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

A Lot of Happy

One of the many side effects of parenthood is an inability to sleep in. Well, that probably isn't true, I can certainly sleep in longer than the 6:37 which Landon has carefully selected as his wake up time, but I can't sleep in much past 8:30. 8:30 is luxurious - it's 2 hours later than normal, but when you went to bed around 2 AM and everyone else in the apartment is asleep, 8:30 is a highly irritating time to be awake. JP can sleep anytime, anywhere, for as long as anyone will let him, so after I got bored cuddling with him while he pretended to be in such deep sleep that he absolutely could not respond to my attempts at conversation, I found my friend's laptop and caught up on my Olympic headlines and other news. JP kept sneaking out of the reception last night to watch the swimming at the hotel bar, and given that a lot of those guys are close friends of his, I didn't even try to pretend I was irritated. Besides, I had several sexy dance partners to choose from among my law school ladies.

The wedding was absolutely wonderful. I remember telling people at my wedding that I thought I was going to burst I was so happy, and that is exactly how my friend looked last night. She was radiant and I don't know when I've ever been so happy for someone. The last wedding I went to (the one in which I was a 7-months-pregnant bridesmaid) ended in divorce 5 months later, so it was nice to attend one in which I had near certainty this couple was going to make it. They have such a strong faith, such a strong family, and such a strong commitment to each other... I kept tearing up thinking about them, thinking about my wedding, thinking about how absurdly happy I was then and still am now. They're both wonderful people and while I realize I just used the word "happy" like six times in this paragraph, it's just the best way I can describe last night. The bride and groom are beloved by so many, all of whom were so obviously thrilled for them... well it was truly a happy, festive occasion.

It was also a great party. They're both from large Irish Catholic families who made good use of the three open bars and live band. I loved seeing the aunts, uncles, and grandparents out dancing to rap and other club music. JP and I laughed thinking that we'll be out there bogeying in thirty years to whatever crazy music our kids are listening to. My friend the bride is a great dancer and I was glad to see her so relaxed and having fun. My wedding was, by far, the happiest, most fun day of my life. I wasn't nervous, I wasn't stressed, I was just so very happy - I tried as hard as I could to soak up every second, but truthfully I think my memories of that day are pieced together from photographs. It's just such a blur. I've been to weddings where the bride looks so stressed she's not really enjoying herself, and I'm glad that wasn't the case with my friend. It's one of the best, biggest parties you'll ever get to throw for yourself - soak it up! Everyone had a great time and my feet are sore from all the dancing. The brand new, very high red satin heels probably didn't help, but they were adorable and totally worth it - there will be pictures.

And now it's a beautiful morning in Chicago. JP is awake - to check the morning swimming results, not so much to get an early start on all my plans to enjoy my city, but enjoy it we shall. Or I'll enjoy it and he's promised to try very hard not to mention the great land of Texas every five seconds. I wonder at what time it's acceptable for me to make enough noise to wake up my friends to enjoy it with me...

Friday, August 8, 2008

Sweet Surrender

There's something about writing honestly- about admitting near defeat or uncertainty or inadequacy, that makes things turn around for me. When I wrote this post about "oh my god I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing, I'm completely faking this whole competent parent thing", Landon started falling asleep on his own that very night. Since then we've used a very basic nighttime routine and just laid him down in bed; sometimes, when all the stars have perfectly aligned, he falls asleep immediately, other times he cries for a few minutes, but the days of back problems from swaying a 24 lb. baby to sleep are long gone. He also accepted the sippy cup into his life soon after that and his bottles have all been packed away for weeks. The teething is still awful for him, but because I know he can normally fall asleep on his own, I don't question giving him tylenol or ibuprofen on the nights he can't - I know he's in pain.

A few days ago I wrote that I felt cheated out of much of Landon's first year and wished for a redo. I blamed it on the DCFS investigation, and while of course that's a huge part of it, when I'm being really honest I think that even without that intrusion I wouldn't have been the parent I think I should have been. But I think that maybe every parent feels that way to some extent. And since admitting that to myself (and the whole of the internet), things have felt better. I'm remembering how much happy time we did spend together and how even when things were horrible and he had ear infection after ear infection and I'd hold a sobbing baby at 3 AM, nearly sobbing myself, I still soaked up his cuddly, clingy baby self. I'm confident that as more time passes the bad will diminish in my memory, making the good easier to see. And, as a bit of clarification, any additional baby Lag Livs are a long way off. At least two years off, probably more. JP and I talk about the future all the time - it's something of a hobby. And lately, additional children have been a hot topic for discussion. When we got married we wanted four. Now maybe we want three. Some days we barely want one. We'll see where life takes us.

Today life is taking us to Chicago for a friend's wedding. We drove to Houston yesterday to drop off Landon and our two furrier children with my parents. We squeezed in a visit to Landon's godmama who let me "shop" in her closet - I left with armfulls of amazing clothes and my wardrobe is now greatly expanded. We also stopped by my grandparent's house - my grandpa had knee replacement surgery last week. It was great to see them and Landon got a big kick out of his shiny new walker - he pushed it all around their bedroom looking quite pleased with himself. I've been looking forward to this trip so much - it's the only Bar Trip we're taking (the purchase of a house eliminated any possibility of something more grand). We're sleeping on a friend's couch and packing both days full of get togethers. I can't wait to see my friends again and be back in my favorite city. And, to make it even better, the high there today is 76. After 42 days of 100+weather in Austin, that sounds divine. We're driving straight to Austin after we land at 10 PM Sunday night because JP starts Orientation Monday morning. As usual things will be something of a whirlwind, but a whirlwind that is fun, relaxing, and full of friends.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Southern Hospitality

So far one of the best things about living in suburbia, besides the big house that allows us to deal with Landon's evil and glacially descending molars without fear of the people in our building kicking us out in the middle of the night, is the friendly neighbors. We had heard this neighborhood was full of young families, block parties, and bunko nights, and we're pleased to report that all the talk is true.

As you know we closed on the house in April but didn't move in until early June. I asked friends to drop by to check on it and water the yard every week or so, and one day while they were trying to resuscitate our fried grass, our neighbor "John" (not his real name, not that it would probably matter given that his real name is about as generic as John) came over, introduced himself, and offered to do the watering for them. John watered our yard for 6 weeks until we finally met him, his lovely wife "Sarah", and their two sons. Since then we have relied on John to move our trash cans out for collection on the Fridays we're gone (why must our trash day be Friday? When you go out of town, Friday is often included in the travel plans, and when you only get one trash day a week and you are only allotted one trash can, you really cannot miss a day!), and then when we got back from the lake house around 11 Saturday night we noticed that our lawn was freshly cut and trimmed! John knew I had the Bar Exam last week and when he saw JP leave town and our lawn looking a little ragged, he cut ours along with his - in the 100+ degree heat, I might add.

I decided the lawn mowing deserved more than just effusive thanks, and given our limited budget we couldn't get them a gift card to a local restaurant or anything like that, so I rolled up my sleeves, put on an apron, and baked. From scratch. They have no idea how special I must think they are. The culinary delight I whipped up isn't the fanciest of treats, but it is incredibly tasty and a little different from the ordinary breakfast bread. It is my mom's recipe and she used to make it for our teachers for teacher appreciation day (since we also grew up on a budget). Everyone loves it and should you find yourself with a neighbor deserving of glazed goodness, or you just want something tasty to eat for breakfast that is as delicious as a donut but feels much healthier (though, looking at the ingredients, it's probably not), I have included the recipe below.

And to top off their wonderfulness, Sarah kept talking about how much she missed having her babies crawl all over the house (her youngest is 7, maybe your memories improve over time...) and offered several times to babysit. My firm is hosting an end of summer dinner tomorrow night and almost all our usual sitters are invited (fellow summer associates from last year), my sister is out of town, and our other friends are sick or at the Olympics, so JP was going to stay behind. This would normally not be a big deal and he'd look forward to a night of Economist reading and no lawyer-talk, but this restaurant is our absolute favorite in Austin. It's where we celebrated all our birthdays in college, where we got engaged, where I met his parents for the first time (though that last memory is less than pleasant and only reinforces how delicious this place is because we continue to love it so much), anyway, he really wanted to go. When she told me again she would love to watch him, I offered up our Wednesday dilemma and she enthusiastically agreed to be at our front door at 6. I'm going to have to bake more bread.


Bread Ingredients

3 c flour
1 ½ tsp salt
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 ½ cups milk
1 ½ tsp almond flavoring
1 ½ tsp butter flavoring
1 ½ cups sugar
2 T. poppy seeds
1 ½ tsp vanilla
3 eggs
1 1/8 c oil

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Mix all ingredients for bread together and pour in to 2 or 3 loaf pans, greased and floured. Bake for 45-60 min.
3. Make Orange Glaze (recipe below) during last few minutes while bread cooks.
3. Remove pans from oven and liberally poke holes in warm bread. Pour glaze over the top while it is still in the pan.
4. Let sit at least 15 minutes and remove.

Orange Glaze
¾ c. sugar
¼ c. orange juice
½ tsp. butter flavoring
½ tsp. almond flavoring
½ tsp. vanilla flavoring

Mix orange juice and sugar over low heat in small pan until sugar dissolves, then add flavorings.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Breakfast of Champions

This is what I woke up to this morning:

Isn't it beautiful? It's my parent's lake property in Livingston and it's a great place to let your brain rest after you made it work so hard that little puffs of smoke came out your ears. Last night we drank an excellent bottle of champagne and ate enormous steaks, twice-baked potatoes, and the world's best asparagus casserole. I alternated between being overjoyed the Bar was over and freaking out over all the things I kept realizing I should have written in my essays. Regardless, it was wonderful to see my boys again- I couldn't stop hugging and kissing Landon. He was all, "mom, put me down, I want to play with the mini Tex!"

This is Shadow, the 4-month old lab mix puppy my parents adopted from the same organization where we rescued Rosie and Tex. Landon is delighted that we were so thoughtful as to get a dog that's just his size. Our little dog pack is loving the lake house - they have so much room to run! Shadow would join in for a lap with the big dogs, immediately lay down for a power nap, and then pop back up and race off with his too-big paws and too-long tail. All three are comatose at my feet as I type- it's going to take a few days to recover from all the revelry.

Today has been a good day. I got up with Landon at 6:45 and we snuggled on the rocking chair on the deck, watching the sun come up over the lake. I don't feel done. I feel like I'm just taking another day off and tomorrow I'll wake up with the guilty knowledge that I have to catch up, that I'm not doing what I'm supposed to be doing. I think it will take a while for that to fade- it's been too long, too many years of always feeling I should be studying for something. Plus I'm not entirely certain I passed. I think I did; I'd be surprised if I didn't, but I wouldn't be shocked. It's an incredibly difficult exam. I think I was below average in Procedure and Evidence, above average on the MPT, who the hell knows on the MBE, and probably in the middle for the essays. Given that about 75% usually pass, I should be okay, but I have no confidence in that statement. So the wave of relief I'd hope to feel is being kept at bay by a fear of my name not being on the pass list when it's published November 7.

Right now I'm looking forward to going home and watching TV, reading, and just sitting and doing absolutely nothing without guilt. Or at least doing all those things to the extent that Landon will allow me. Our August is actually kind of crazy - a trip back to Houston to drop Landon off with my parents before we fly to Chicago for a wedding, another trip to Houston the following weekend for another wedding, a 6-day visit from my in-laws, JP starting Orientation Aug 11 and business school Aug 27... so you know, the usual craziness. But craziness makes me happy and even though I talk about wanting to sit and do nothing, I know I'd be miserable within hours. And with this kind of craziness there won't be a constant weight on my shoulders. I've thought about the Bar Exam every day since graduation and worrying about things like finding the perfect candle sticks for our mantle and whether or not JP and his parents will kill each other after six days together sounds positively luxurious.

Also, this is what I had for breakfast this morning:

With three layers of chocolate cake, two layers of mint chocolate chip ice cream, and a layer of ultra thick cool whip, my world is looking pretty bright.