Friday, October 31, 2008

Dragon Tales

Last year Landon the Lobster charmed the Chicago law students and this year a Landondragon roamed the halls of a BigLaw firm.

The firm hosted its Halloween Party yesterday. We were given pumpkins filled with candy and toys, and children of attorneys and staff bedecked in a variety of adorable costumes trick-or-treated along the offices. It was lots of fun and Landon was a big hit. It didn't take him long to figure out that picking a crinkly wrapped object out of a pumpkin elicited claps and praise from the crowd around him- by the third office he would dig right in, pull out something shiny, and look up with a big smile for his fans. Somewhere along the way he developed a deep love of lollipops- you take that stick out of his mouth at your own peril.

Last night we dressed the dogs in their costumes. Do you think they look happy or embarrassed?

I'm gonna guess embarrassed, but by the end I swear Tex was wearing his bumble bee wings with pride and I know Rosie felt as beautiful as she looked!

This morning was Landon's daycare Halloween party. He switched up his trick-or-treating strategy, this time picking a piece of candy out of one of the buckets in front of each classroom, carrying it to the next classroom and dropping it in their bucket, and then repeating the process all the way down the hallway. He was redistributing the candy wealth, a sugar socialist if you will. At the end he had a single lollipop and plopped right down next to his classroom door looking content.

And then tonight, in the grand finale, we did a little trick-or-treating around our cul-de-sac. Landon made it to three houses before sticking a lollipop in his mouth and standing still in the middle of the street. The little dragon was promptly bathed, snuggled, and put in bed- he was asleep before I even closed the door to his room.

Happy Halloween from us both!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Babies and Career Ambition

I wrote 90% of a post answering a question from Anonymous about her "having a baby in law school" panel and whether or not I'm being naive in thinking that having a baby this early won't affect my career. I still want to do that, but this afternoon I became distracted by this comment to my last post: (The first two sentences about breastfeeding have been omitted because it really is impossible to have a rational internet-based discussion on the topic, as she proves.)

Seriously, LagLiv, you irk the heck out of me. You want it all- law school, career, and baby, all in a year's span. People can coddle you all you want, but I think you are simply an immature woman who wants to play house when you get home from work, but won't sacrifice to give your child the most of yourself. I'm your age, have my graduate degree, and have chosen to stay home with my daughter for the first 1 1/2 years of her life, and I wouldn't have had a baby this young if I wasn't planning to give her my all!

I deleted it, as I said I would, but then I realized the rebuttal I'd already silently fired off in my head ties in with the original topic so this time I'll give in to my desire to answer back.

But first I want to address the original commentor's question about her panel (she asked for discussion topics- I know many of you reading have had children in grad school, so please include yours in the comments) and my decision to have Landon in law school. I was really surprised to find that some of my readers think that getting pregnant as a law student and/or this young is something I would change. I suppose that given the tone of many of my posts during 3L year that's a reasonable assumption. I've been honest about my realization of how unimaginably difficult a baby can be, and I'll admit that even now that things are so much easier I've thought how different this phase of our life could be if we weren't parents yet- JP could spend more time at school and out with his classmates, I could spend more time at the office, we could go out and then SLEEP IN on the weekends... and all of that would be great. But I can say with absolute conviction that even knowing what I know now- especially knowing what I know now- I would never change our decision to start our family when we did. Being a student gave me the flexibility and freedom to deal with all of Landon's issues in a way I wouldn't have been able to as an attorney. By 3L year it was about graduating; I ended up doing well in my classes, but all I had to do was pass and there isn't a career student out there who couldn't have managed to do the same. Plus I love being a young parent, I loved having so much free time with him that year, and more pertinent to this post, I love that my career will grow around my family and not the other way around.

Which takes me to the next part- am I naive in thinking that having a baby this early won't affect my career? I think this is a good question and I'm going to try to answer it fully but I'm having a hard time turning my thoughts into coherent phrases. I'd say that yes, if I thought my BigLaw career wouldn't be affected that would be naive. But I don't. In fact I'm 100% certain my career will be affected because of Landon, but I want it to be. I have always wanted a professional career and I have always wanted a family- I never wanted one without the other. I want to grow up as a mother and a lawyer at the same time. The fact that I have a child means certain things- I don't stay at work late unless it's absolutely necessary, I won't ever be the super star associate who's always in her office in case a nearby partner has a last minute late night project, I'm not going to be the top biller, and I'm okay with that. Living the work-life balance I want from the beginning may affect my partnership track, but it also means that I'm building a law practice on (mostly) my terms and one that is sustainable with the family life I want. Basically, whatever effects children might have on my career I want up front because I'm not interested in being a lawyer if I can't also be the mother I want to be. But even with all that said, I'm not yet sure how negative those affects will actually be. I work hard, I get things done on time, and so far I've had new assignments requested from everyone I've worked with. I may not be the rock star associate , but I'm going to be a good one and that should keep my career progressing along the right track until I decide where this track is heading.

And where is this heading? I'm not sure. I grew up pursuing the most prestigious, gold-star laden path, but since law school I've been slowly letting opportunities pass that I know aren't right for me or aren't worth the time away from JP or Landon. I don't think I want to be a partner, at least not one at a large PPP-focused law firm. I really don't know where I'll be in ten years and that is a strange feeling. Right now I'm trying to learn all I can, build good relationships with those I work with, and pay down my law school debt as fast as possible.

This ties in with today's Anonymous comment about how I'm immature and coddled (which I have to say are two things I've never been called before) by doing law school, a baby, and a job all in one year. First of all, working right now isn't really a choice. My husband is in school, we have no income, and I don't think it would make me a better parent to let my $140,000 in loans and our inevitable future credit card debt build up by refusing to use this degree we both sacrificed for me to earn. I am providing food, shelter, clothing, and labradors for my family and I'm actually quite proud of that. JP is pursuing his dream of getting his MBA and starting his own company, and he can do that because my salary frees him from having to chase after traditional MBA jobs he knows he doesn't want (like investment banking or consulting). I'm proud of that too. Second, taking 1.5 years off to stay home with your baby is wonderful, but I'm actually more concerned about staying home when our children get a little older. I think it's then, more than now, that it matters that it is JP or I who greets them when they get home from school and is there to talk during that 30-second window in which they feel like opening up. We talked about this before getting pregnant and that's why we're not replacing our 10-year-old cars and not taking expensive ski vacations no matter how very badly we want to go on them- it's our hope that one of us can work part-time when Landon starts full-day school in first grade. I think it will probably be JP- who, by the way, I noticed Ms. Anoymous felt no need to include in the "giving your child your all" discussion. Now that may not be enough for some people, and I understand that view, but as I've said many times before, you can tell me your story and why you think your views are best, but you can't tell me what is best for me and my family. I know myself, I know I would be borderline miserable without my job and I just don't think that would be giving Landon my all.

As I was telling a friend this morning, a comment like the above would have really upset me before having Landon, but now I just shrug and delete. I'm the mom of a happy toddler and the wife of a happy husband. We're living our lives and trying to plan for a future of being the best parents we can be. Having Landon so early in our lives and careers means that we can build everything we planned around being there for him and his future sibling(s). Will there be sacrifices? Certainly in a traditional sense - not making partner, making less money, etc. - but neither of us see them as sacrifices. Our dream careers involve flexibility and family time and we're doing everything we can from the very beginning to make them come true.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Quick Answers

I have an almost finished post addressing Anonymous's excellent questions about babies, law school, and potential career effects, but I can't give it the attention it deserves at the moment- hopefully tonight. For now I want to answer some of the "quick" questions; I'm going to fight the (very strong and almost overwhelming) urge to turn each answer into a long-winded essay, but it's going to be hard and I'm probably going to have to steal candy from the employment office as a reward when I'm done.

The Bar: We get results next Friday the 7th (although the rumor is they usually come out on Thursday afternoon at 2:30). My stomach is already in knots, though I am significantly more nervous about the election results on Tuesday as I would rather fail the Bar than see a McCain/Palin presidency. Next week will be a difficult one for my stomach, I already have Tums on standby.

Breastfeeding: This could of course be a full post, but it won't ever be because I have learned through the reading of other blogs that the internet is never, ever a good place to talk about this unless you did in fact breastfeed for an acceptable amount of time, and even then someone is going to beat you down for some reason or another. But I will answer in short that I do not believe Landon's medical issues had anything to do with his not being breastfed. I've read the studies about breastfeeding and decreased chance of ear infections, but I had five when I was a baby and JP has had hundreds and still has tubes to this day because of malformed Eustachian tubes which the ENT believes Landon has inherited- the kid was doomed. And the reflux happened because he was premature and his stomach valves weren't fully formed. And with the initial feeding tube, breathing trouble, two weeks in the NICU, reflux, digestive issues (also common in premies), fussiness, and general insanity of his first year, I truly cannot imagine the stress I would have been under, both physically and emotionally, had I also been his sole source of food. Both of us feeding him (super expensive hypoallergenic lactose-free) formula was the best thing for our family. I have zero regrets.

Favorite Celebrity: I have to confess that I kind of love all celebrities- well, all the real ones. I've never seen The Hills or a few of the other shows that now have their "stars" gracing the cover of magazines, but if you're an actor, actress, or musician I probably secretly love reading about you and seeing pictures of you dressed up in outfits I either covet or hate. I am also eternally optimistic for all of them and am genuinely sad when it turns out that negative rumors are true (like impending divorces, bad parenting, bad behavior, etc.).

Who does Landon take after? Physically he definitely takes after JP- their toddler pictures look so alike, and now that his eyes have officially turned hazel there's even less of me in him (they stayed blue like mine up until a few months ago). I like to think he inherited his sunny disposition from me and his stubborness comes straight from his dad (well, okay, maybe a little from me too).

Dream Vacation: (I'm making this plural because how can you pick one?) African safari, South American tour, Mediterranean cruise, Australian cross-country tour (with scuba diving), Skiing in Banff (skiing anywhere!!), returning to Europe to show JP my favorite places (especially Germany, Italy, and Greece), China, Israel, Russia, Alaskan glacier cruise... We're hoping to take on the world over the next fifty years, which should be helped by the fact we'll still be in our mid-forties when all our kids are off to college.

Where would I live if I could live anywhere? Internationally: Amsterdam. Domestically: Denver or any biggish ski town in Colorady. Really I'd just love to move around more (yeah I know, this from the girl who hates moving, but I do love being in new places)- I'd love to live on the West Coast for a few years, go back to Chicago for a few more (sometimes I miss it so much it hurts, like this morning when we finally got a taste of fall weather, I nearly cried as it sharply hit me that we really don't live there anymore), and of course someday come right back here to Austin. Unless my family will also relocate to Colorado or Chicago, then we can all live there forever.

Blonde.counsels' offer for Houston dinner/drinks: Absolutely! I'm sure I'll be in Houston for business again soon. I had a trip next week that was canceled, but there's another coming up on November 20th. I'll keep you posted. And I'll definitely show you around Austin should you find yourself here.

Swimming scholarships: To Rj, athletic scholarships are generally an undergrad thing but there's no rule prohibitting you from continuing your eligibility into graduate school should you have any left. You only get four years of active competition eligibilty, all of which JP used up in undergrad. The scholarships are given for a full year the first year and then by semester and are assumed renewable at each term. If you are injured you do generally lose the scholarship; mine continued through my first year even though I quit in November when it became clear my hip surgery did not bring about a full breaststroke-ready recovery and then was not renewed for sophomore year. Luckily I already had a healthy mix of academic and athletic awards, so I just threw myself into applying for more academic money.

Austin litigation: I already wrote "Matt" back personally but yes, the litigators at my firm definitely seem happy :)

Favorite Austin restaurant: For those who know Austin, you know this is a nearly impossible question to answer. The food and restaurant scene here is phenomenal, especially for a city of its size. Our favorite fancy place is Shoreline Grill (it's next to the Four Seasons), we got engaged there and celebrated many other milestones there over the past 7 years. My favorite BBQ is County Line, my favorite cheap tex-mex is El Arroyo ($1 Margaritas on Thursdays, you can't beat it) or Chuy's, my favorite expensive tex-mex is Fonda San Miguel, my favorite steak place is Sullivan's, my favorite fancy Italian is Carmelo's, my favorite breakfast place is Kerbey Lane, and my favorite breakfast tacos come from Red River Cafe, Juan in a Million, or Taco Deli. There's a million more wonderful places, but if we eat out it's almost always for Tex-Mex or breakfast. Mmmmm, now I want a breakfast taco.

And that's all for the quick stuff! Back to my diligence list.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Smiles, Giggles, and a Big Belly

It's a beautiful, lazy weekend here at Casa Lag Liv. We're waiting for the Landon to awaken so we can head over to a friend's Oktoberfest party, so I thought I'd use the time to share a few recent pictures of the little man.

These are all from Thursday morning before we headed to work, school, and daycare. I thought getting everyone out the door in the morning would be one of the hardest aspects of being a working parent, but morning is often Landon's happiest, smiliest time of day and we have lots of fun before piling in the car. These are all pics of him in our (undecorated and unfinished) bathroom and bedroom, taken in between getting dressed, putting on make-up, and doing my hair. I didn't know that having a toddler around would mean I'd get to start out the day with so much smiling and clapping!

Helping mom pick out her shoes in the closet- he can open and close the doors by himself, how screwed are we?!

Chased into a corner by daddy

Now on the offensive

Consumed by giggles

We clap for everything
Hooray Landon!
So big!

And this is from later that night, but I just had to capture his belly in all its glory:

I think with a toddler you're forever vacillating between wanting to tear your hair out and wanting to scoop them up in a huge hug and beg them not to get any bigger. I think right now we're at a 10% hair tearing, 90% fiercely hugging ratio, so things are going well!

P.S. You had great questions! I'm already working on a few answers and will have periodic answer posts over the next few weeks- thanks!

Friday, October 24, 2008

A Right, A Duty, An Honor

I voted this morning. And I teared up twice while doing it. I may be a dork, but I'm a patriotic one.

I had planned to vote early since I drive right by a voting site on the way to work from Landon's daycare, but I hadn't had time so far this week. This morning I knew I had nothing waiting on my desk, so I pulled into the Randalls parking lot at 8:15 hoping there wasn't much of a line. When I walked in the place looked deserted, I used my handy dandy blackberry to google the early voting information to make sure that this site did in fact open at 7 am. Assured that I was correct, I began to wander to the back of the store in search of voting booths when I saw a hand waving at me from inside the cereal aisle. I followed the enthusiastic beckoning to find a friendly senior citizen sitting on a stool, he wished me a happy morning and asked if I'd like vote. I showed him my registration card and was directed to another friendly senior citizen named Bob who asked me to sign my name; he then pointed me to yet another friendly senior who gave me a little print out with my special electronic voting booth access code. Along the way I was warned by two different smiling senior citizens that I should not put my "I voted" sticker on my leather jacket as it would "just ruin it!" - I thanked each of them for their advice and cracked up as I pictured my grandmas telling me the same thing. By the time I stood in front of my little voting booth I had spoken with at least six smiling people who all seemed tickled that I had come out to vote this morning. I entered in my little code and the first thing that greeted me was my Selection of Presidential Candidate. I turned the little dial to Barack Obama/Joseph Biden, pressed Enter, and my eyes promptly filled with tears.

It's not just that I'm proud to vote for a candidate I believe in (my first presidential election was 2004 and I was voting against a candidate more than I was voting for one), and it's not just that I think Obama will be a great president, one who will thoughtfully and intelligently consider things before acting, it's because it is such a f*cking honor to get to vote at all. The fact that we can all voice our opinions, that we can vocally disagree, that we can choose our leaders- well, that's a pretty wonderful thing. Both of my grandfathers fought in Vietnam, and it's an honor to them to exercise my right to have a say in who will steer this country through the next four years.

So go vote. The idea of McCain/Palin winning this election may make my stomach churn, but I would at least like that selection to have been made by a majority of all U.S. citizens rather than the smaller percentage who usually vote. And if you're like JP and fundamentally at odds with both presidential candidates, at least research your local representatives and propositions, they often have more of a say in your daily lives than those on the national ticket.

And, just as a general public service announcement, please for the love of God, stop forwarding blatantly false or grossly misleading political emails. Make use of Google,, and before clicking "Send" - I've had to request my name be removed from multiple people's forward lists because I found the contents of the email so offensive (one told me that as Christians we should fear all Muslims in America and our goal should be to drive them out - I try very hard to respect other people's views, but I will admit my opinion of the person who so eagerly forwarded that to everyone she knew is permanently negatively affected). The sharing of information is important, the sharing of false information is decidedly not.

In eleven days our next President will be selected by our fellow citizens, go be a part of that decision!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Bit of Q&A to Spice Things Up

I fear that this blog has become dull. I've just been reporting what we've been up to, and while we're generally busy, it can't be all that interesting to read. There are a few topics I'd like to address, each of which have a half-written post swimming around in my head (examples: why California's Proposition 8 makes me sad and angry; the irritating fact that I have never once been asked what I do at JP's MBA events but the male spouse standing next to me is always asked that question during the introductory cocktail chatter), but I haven't had time to write them out. So I'm opening it up to you all- I need questions to answer. You can ask anything, though I won't guarantee I'll answer everything (although I might, you never know). I'd like to just have a list that I can address on the days I end up not writing anything because I don't want to bore myself and anyone else with a blow-by-blow of the events of the night before.

So, law school, pregnancy, lawyering, background, Austin, Chicago, marriage, shoe shopping, my favorite color - what do you want to know?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Weekend Rundown

So the weekend, it was good.

JP and I stayed up way too late Friday night and Landon woke up way too early Saturday morning, so that was an unfortunate combination, but it didn't dampen our spirits - the weather was spectacular, extended family members were on their way, and brownies were baking by 7 AM. I even remembered it was JP's (27th!) birthday and graciously offered to get up with our screaming son even though I really wanted to lay in bed just long enough to make him do it. The birthday lunch ended up being a bit of a snafu- my parents missed two turns driving over from Houston (there's only about 4 turns involved in the whole trip ;), my grandparents showed up exactly on time, my brother arrived somewhere in the middle, and my sister got distracted by a tailgate party and graced our doorway about five hours late. We did manage to eat brownies together later - with special cowboy candles - so that was nice. It was a gorgeous day and everyone had fun watching Landon run around in circles and clap. We're so easily entertained.

That night JP and I went to the UT v. Missouri game. It was fun (and funny) to be back on campus with all the drunk, irresponsible undergrads- ahhhh to be young again. It's nice to be back in the city where we fell in love- walking around campus brought back so many great memories. Unfortunately, we're not 19 anymore and by halftime (about 8:30 PM), the score was 35-3 and we were both so exhausted we gave each other permission to leave the game early. Still determined to take advantage of our night of free babysitting, we headed to our favorite tex-mex place to watch the rest of the game with the twin comforts of chairs with backs and frozen margaritas. By 10, after we'd spent several minutes discussing what we were going to do next, neither of us wanting to admit that all we wanted to do was go home, JP turned to me and said- do we really want to go out or are we just trying to prove that we can? I was thrilled to stop pretending that keeping my eyes open wasn't causing physical pain and immediately flagged the waitress for the check. We were in bed by 10:30, comforted by college memories of stumbling home from 6th street at 4 AM - once upon a time we were fun, now all we want is a good night's sleep!

In support of our staying out till dawn, my dad had volunteered to get up with the Landon. When we came out to the kitchen around 8:30, Landon had been dressed, fed, and taken on several walks around the block. My dad said he was so nervous about missing Landon's wake up cries that he checked on him every few minutes after 6:45- and finally at 7:15 he just woke him up! Of course the morning it's someone else's turn the kid sleeps past 7. I got the cooking started while Landon played with his grandparents and all four dogs (my parents brought their two puppies- there was a lot of labrador in our yard!), and when they left at 11 the party prep was well underway. By 2 PM, the kitchen looked like this:

Dessert Row: marble fudge cupcakes, Halloween oreos, and brownies

The Snacks: black bean salsa, Mexican cheesecake dip, cream cheese and various toppings, a vegetable tray, homemade spinach dip, and various salsas and other dressings. (Also "Lit'l Smokies" in a crockpot on another counter)

There were coolers of beer, soda, and water on the back porch, a wine station inside, and various juices for the kids. Everything turned out really well and even though I have never washed and dried so many pans before noon I had a lot of fun putting it together. Almost all the decor was bought at Wal-Mart (including the surprisingly expensive looking leaf-shaped placemats under the desser trays) and I'm reusing it when I host Thanksgiving for JP's family this year.

It was great to see everyone - law firm colleagues, MBA students, old friends, neighbors, former UT swim teammates, etc. Landon had a blast entertaining everyone and didn't seem at all overwhelmed by the 40+ people in his house- including the other kids who played with his toys. He fell asleep the second I laid him down in his crib and JP and I had everything cleaned up and put away before Desperate Housewives started at 8 PM.

I'd say the weekend was a success. Unfortunately we didn't do any laundry or grocery shopping, so tonight's dinner consisted of chips and leftover dip, but hey, something's gotta give. Including the "resurrected from Bar Exam hell" commercial paper research question I was greeted with this morning- something about liability for an altered check under the California UCC. By 5 PM I gave up figuring out the various transfer and presentment warranties and just scooped all the research into my purse and headed home. I suppose I should get back to that- I don't think explaining to the assigning attorney that my brain was fried from trying to create fudge swirls in 24 individual cupcakes is going to get me off the hook when I still don't have the answer tomorrow morning!

P.S. If you took the California Bar and know whether Articles 3 and 4 of the UCC were fully adopted by your state, please let me know. For some reason, I can't figure this out. I blame the fudge swirls.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Surviving and Thriving

So the the week of nightly midterms is drawing to a close; at 8:30 PM I'm still in my work clothes and drinking a cheap but tasty cabernet. Landon is asleep, JP is on campus writing something about marketing, and I'm trying to summarize a very busy past few days.

This assignment was every bit as demanding and difficult as I feared (and hoped). I was still able to get out of the office by 5 on Wednesday to go out to a lovely dinner with my uncle the pilot (and the Landon, of course, who at one point toddled his way behind the Bar and admired the rows of shiny bottles, much to the bartenders' confusion) and made it home in time to get Landon in bed before the debate and Project Runway finale. I recorded both, watched the debate until McCain's irritating use of air quotes and then switched to fashion fluffery in an attempt to keep my blood pressure stable. After cheering Leanne's win and reading a bunch of live debate blogs and commentary, I turned my attention to the large stack of contracts I needed to review by morning. I went to bed at 2 AM only to get up at 6 so I could finish before my required 7:45 AM capital markets meeting. The day never paused from there, and at 5:59 PM I found myself once again trapped on a conference call with the client and needing to get Landon from daycare before it closed at 6:30. Right as I was about to pass the partner a note (the same note I had written but avoided having to use during Tuesday's conference call) the call ended and I escaped. Landon was the last kid picked up. I planned to feel bad about that and had worked myself into a state of near guilt by the time I pulled into the parking lot, but when I opened the front door I found a fair-haired toddler running full speed down the front hallway- arms raised, face upturned with a huge open-mouth smile. His teacher knew how much he liked the lights and bats hanging from the ceiling (for Halloween) so she let him run around the main area until I got there - he looked so very pleased with himself. He gave me a hug and I decided guilt wasn't necessary, he was obviously happy so I figured I'd save it for another time.

Today was also crazy - more calls, more meetings, and more urgent research requests. When I was heading home at 5:45 (after checking to make sure no more work needed to be done before Monday) my blackberry buzzed with one last "quick research question." I called my good friend, a 5th year associate at the firm who lives near us and has a 19-month-old boy of her own, and asked if Landon and I could stop by so I could make use of their internet while Landon played with her son (I knew he would never let me work alone at our house). She said of course, and I quickly found my answer while the boys played. We headed home armed with a little plastic container of her husband's chili for me and a banana for Landon, I never did make it to the grocery store this week. Thank God for friends. Landon took a long, splashy, laughy bath and snuggled right into my neck for our goodnight song. It was actually a very nice evening.

While writing about this crazy week of work and mothering I was tempted to whine and say it was terrible and overwhelming, but the truth is, it was fine. Sure I'm tired, but I wouldn't be if I postponed watching the debate and Project Runway on Wednesday night or if JP and I went to bed when he got home instead of staying up and talking and watching the Daily Show. Landon got to play with his daddy every morning and seems no worse for the extra few hours he spent in daycare. I think the Universe was actually trying to work with us - the two days I was stuck on those calls and had to pick him up later than usual were the same two days JP usually gets him at 4 (Tues and Thurs). And while I have a bunch of company this weekend and I've done nothing for either gathering, I have time to get the grocery shopping and cooking done for the big Sunday shindig.

It's nice to feel at the end of my toughest week so far at the firm (and at home) that I didn't just survive it, I enjoyed it. That deal was the most fun thing I've worked on yet, and dinner with my uncle and Landon's bathtub shenanigans added to the fun at home. It'll be nice to have JP back in the evenings, and I'm definitely looking forward to a weekend of family, U.T. football, and parties, but this crazy, busy week was actually pretty great.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Now On the Cusp of Crazy Busy

This morning I attended my first parent-teacher conference. I heard glowing things about my "smiley boy" - his teacher said he's always happy and doing just wonderfully in daycare. She said he LOVES art time and when he sees them getting out the supplies he runs over to his easel. I got to see all his beautiful drawings and you can actually see the enthusiasm in the brush/marker/crayon strokes (they change mediums every day). She also described his huge smile, head bobs, and not-quite-on-the-beat hand claps during music time. He goes to sleep all by himself at nap time and is always the first one at the table for meals and snacks. She told me what they're working on in class and what we can work on at home (using our words and hand motions to express what we want, etc.)- all in all he's doing fantastic and it was fun to spend 20 minutes hearing about his happiness and advanced sharing skills.

Work has been really slow the past few days- I billed less than 5 hours every day last week. This morning I spent an undisclosed amount of time researching easels so Santa could bring one in his sleigh for Landon this Christmas. I also fake planned a ski trip we can't afford to actually take. And then of course, after days of doing nothing during a week when I was counting on doing just that, I get an email to join a conference call at 4:00 to discuss a new deal. Normally this would be fine, I'd just call JP and tell him to pick up Landon so that I could have the freedom to stay a little later than usual, but thanks to a microeconomics midterm that was not possible today. I didn't mention my time constraints before the call began because I was sure it would be over by 5:30- or maybe 6 at the very latest (daycare closes at 6:30, though Landon has never been picked up later than 5:45 and is usually picked up closer to 5:00). So the call kicks off and it's a crazy complicated venture capital deal and they want a term sheet by Friday, yes THIS Friday. I keep glancing at my wrist, watching the hands move to 6:00 and wondering if I'm going to have to resort to passing the partner a note explaining why the most junior person on the call is about to leave unannounced. But luckily, after a lot of squirming in my chair, the call ends, my initial role in the deal is explained, and I fly back to my office and out to the parking garage. I know that both the partner and senior associate would have been understanding, but it was important for me to hear this first explanation of what the client wants to accomplish in this (freaking crazy) deal and I'd like to keep the situations that require "understanding" to a minimum- especially since I'm going to have to leave by 6 every other day this week. I have a feeling I'm going to be doing some work at home after Landon goes to bed.

This transaction is going to be demanding and fun, with an added twist that almost made me laugh out loud during the call. There's a guy at the center of this deal who has the special skills and contacts that form the foundation of the whole venture, so a big part of our job will be drafting contractual language that forces him to use his best efforts to continue in this line of work and not take his talents elsewhere. As we're discussing the difficulties and nuances of the situation, the VC guy says: "Oh, and there's an additional element you should probably know about... [the guy] was a corporate lawyer for 15 years." To which our partner replied, "F*ck."

Should be fun!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Happy Busy

JP has five midterms this week, one every night from 6-9 PM. A few weeks ago this would have made me a bit anxious (read: bitchy) about five days of solo parenting because a few weeks ago I couldn't have imagined handling a full-time job and a full-time Landon at the same time. But now that the day has arrived I'm not nearly as concerned. For one, my job is not particularly demanding right now - the crashing stock market has ensured that corporate deal flow is crawling along at a leisurely pace. And two, Sir Landon is not nearly as demanding as he was only a short while ago, and even better, much of that demanding neediness has been replaced by cheerful funness (not sure if that's actually a word, but Urban Dictionary assures me it is and it flows well within the sentence, so I'm sticking with it).

I'm starting to understand why so many families have children spaced 2-3 years apart. Only two months ago I couldn't imagine parenting two kids; I was just coming around to the idea of having another someday, but I insisted that the doubling of the diaper-wearing members of our household would not happen for at least another three years (so actually the number wouldn't double, since Landon should be wearing big boy underpants by then). I just couldn't fathom dividing my time into any more pieces- right now I feel like I can be a good mom (to Landon and our animals), good attorney, good wife, good friend, etc. but I didn't see how that would be possible with a needy new baby in my life. And that addition still seems overwhelming, but as Landon gets a little bit more independent each day, it at least seems possible. So while I can guarantee there will be no big announcements for another year or more- after all we can't afford to pay for two kids in daycare until JP is working, I'm happy that my mind doesn't go into a tailspin of panic at the mere thought. Life with Landon is crazy, but the happy crazy is currently trumping the pull-your-hair-out-why-the-hell-did-we-procreate kind of crazy.

As for this week, I'm going to miss JP's presence in the evenings, but more for the fun and companionship rather than the physical help. Watching him chase after Landon is often the highlight of my day- he makes all kinds of crazy animal noises and Landon absolutely shrieks with delight, shrieks you wouldn't think capable of coming out of something human and standing less than 3 feet high. And I'll miss our late night thrown-together dinners, eating out of bowls in our laps on the couch, talking about our day and how cute our kid is, but it's only five days and he's getting up with Landon each morning so they'll have some toddler-daddy time and we'll get to talk when he comes home. He might even be brain dead enough after 3 hours of accounting questions to let me win a political "discussion" - not, mind you, that I ever lose, they're usually just a draw. And I have some mid-week entertainment planned: on Wednesday my uncle the pilot has an Austin layover so we're meeting for dinner and on Thursday my sister is coming over to prepare dinner as a thank-you for her career makeover last week (which went very well!). And then Saturday my parents, a set of grandparents, and my siblings are all coming over to celebrate JP's 27th birthday and babysit Landon while JP and I finally make use of our U.T. football season tickets. And Sunday we're hosting about 50 people at our house for a very belated housewarming extravaganza.

So busy as usual, but a happy busy.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Putting My J.D. to Good Use

Today my firm participated in a Service Day at a local, underprivileged elementary school. Our group of 8 corporate lawyers (7 associates and 1 axe-swinging partner) was assigned to "landscaping and light demolition." I wasn't sure what this would entail, but I was excited to spend the day outside helping others- and the fact that I would burn a few of the 10 billion calories I ingested at Fogo de Chao at an offer dinner last night was only a side benefit. When I arrived at the school at 8:30 (with the gardening gloves I'd picked up at Walgreens along the way), there were almost 400 other professionals ready to help (professionals as in lawyers, programmers, and engineers, not professional as in "we know how to install water irrigation systems"). The school got a full "extreme makeover" and the teachers took their classes on tours throughout the day to see what was happening - the kids were so excited! One group painted the entire exterior of the building, another turned a weed-filled lot into a beautifully landscaped courtyard, another ran a "Field Day" for the kids, and yet another painted the interior of the building. My group had the opportunity to pull 5 dead trees out of the ground, plant 35 live trees, and dig a trench and install a water irrigation system around the (very long) perimeter of the school.

The trees we were assigned to remove were about 15 feet high and all we had were the tools we brought with us - two pick-axes and a few shovels. It turns out that even a dead and spindly tree is pretty firmly entrenched in the ground. I also found out that digging holes in Austin soil, which is basically a collection of rocks and dirt so dry it might as well be rocks because we've had two rain showers in the past four months, is really freaking hard. But our team worked hard and got those old trees out and put all the new ones in- I haven't felt that proud or impressed with myself in quite some time. I almost feel inspired to do go plant a few more trees in our backyard! Or, at least supervise JP while he does it- I now know all about "shaking the roots" and other important tree-planting details. My arms are going to hurt tomorrow, but it's nice to know that I really used my body today. I almost miss that feeling enough to start working out again.

It was fun to see a different side of my colleagues. One of the associates was firing out emails on her blackberry in between taking swings with the axe- she's working on a huge deal in Tokyo and is flying out there next week for the closing, she was pretty much running the deal from a playground in East Austin. The partner, one of the few I haven't worked with yet, is a lot of fun and took us out to his favorite dive bar, where we proceeded to drink five pitchers of Shiner at 3:00 in the afternoon.

So it was a productive day. I'm a little sunburned, completely exhausted, and feeling pretty good about helping a school that needed it. I've also put pick-axe on my Christmas list- those things get the job done.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Tables Turned

It's interview season- OCI, callbacks, offers, and job fairs abound in campuses and law firms all over the country. Admittedly it's not the best time to be emerging from the Ivory Tower and thrust into the real world, but companies are hiring. I feel lucky to be part of a firm that actually added schools to their OCI list and is planning to grant more offers this year than last year. Our halls have been teeming with flyback interviewees and because my time is considerably less valuable than a senior associates, I think I've either interviewed or gone to lunch with every one of them. It's odd to be on the other side of the table. After my first interview I had to select whether the candidate was "exceptional," "strong," "adequate," or "poor" in different areas. I agonized over it until I remembered that 9 other people were ranking this guy- it wasn't like my decision would make or break him. So I went with my gut and so far every person I've really loved has gotten an offer and the only two I've dipped into "adequate" for did not. So at least I feel like I'm in line with everyone else.

When I was going on callbacks I always wondered how I came across to others. Did my questions sound forced? Did I talk too much? Did I talk too little? Did I seem intelligent? I think what I've learned the most from switching roles is how little a lot of that matters. I pretty much walk out of the room thinking, "I'd like to work with him/her" or "There is absolutely no way I would want to be stuck in a room doing due diligence with that person for more than twenty minutes." And that gut feeling maps pretty well on to all the categories in the evaluation I have to fill out. So yes, questions do sound forced or fake, but they do for pretty much everyone and that's okay- I'm just happy to fill silence in an interview and tell you why I chose to work here. (That said, there was one guy who managed to ask insightful questions in a way that seemed like they were a totally natural part of the conversation, he was the most impressive person I've interviewed and he received the first offer.) You didn't talk too much, that's what you're supposed to do. You probably didn't talk too little either, unless you are the one guy who allowed huge voids of silence to dominate our lunch, making no effort to answer my colleague's and my questions beyond a simple yes or no. He did not get an offer despite his perfect grades at a top school. Almost everyone has come across as smart, I think you're given the benefit of the doubt that you are intelligent (given the resume you need to make it past the screening interview) and as long as you don't act like a total idiot, I'll assume you are probably smarter than me.

I think the most important thing is to sound excited about work, the firm, and the summer. Don't ramble or repeat certain phrases I can tell you've memorized (a la Sarah Palin)- some memorizing is fine and expected, like the "why do you want to practice law?" question, but using the same string of words 10 times in an interview does make me question your intelligence. Address both attorneys meeting with you. Be yourself. We're all normal people who remember going through this, we don't want things to be awkward or difficult, we just want to talk with you and figure out if you'd be successful in our office (and getting along with your colleagues is a big part of success).

One of my favorite things has been hearing people's stories. One girl I interviewed took 10 years to complete her undergrad. She was the first person in her family to attend college and got completely overwhelmed, earned a 1.8 GPA, and dropped out after one semester. She worked full-time for a few years, re-enrolled at U.T., and worked her ass off to bring that 1.8 up to 3.4, which basically means she got an A in every class once she came back. Her forthright and unapologetic answer about what happened that first semester really impressed me, and I was even more impressed that she came back and worked her way into the top 10 law school she now attends. She got an offer. My other two favorite people taught for a few years (one 5th grade the other 9th) before going to law school and it was interesting to hear their stories and decisions to become a lawyer (both of them also have offers). So my advice, for what it's worth, is to not try to hide who you are- everyone took different paths to get here and coming straight through from undergrad with a jam-packed prestigious resume isn't the only way to get in the door.

I really enjoy recruiting but was worried about interviews. I thought it would be hard to jeopardize someone's offer by ranking them too low, but that turned out not to be an issue. Most people are great and I comment accordingly. Two people were not- it wasn't that they were nervous and accidentally rambled or were awkward, it was that they were rude and seemingly uninterested. One guy pulled out his cell phone and texted back and forth on the elevator ride to the parking garage and the entire drive to lunch. Unless you really need to be in touch with someone (and if you do, tell the people you're with as a courtesy) there is NO reason to be texting away in the backseat of a car next to an attorney who is taking time out of his or her day to take you to lunch. You are still on your interview, act accordingly. I know that sounds minor, but it was really annoying when I was trying to talk him and he wouldn't look up from his phone keypad. (He did not get an offer.)

And now in the spirit of interview season, I'm taking off part of the afternoon to give my sister a mini professional working woman makeover. She recently changed her major to accounting and is attending a career fair tonight. She has no resume, no clothes that could ever be worn into an office, and yesterday asked me if she could wear red patent leather shoes to the event (NO). We have a lot to do in very little time, but it should be fun!

Sunday, October 5, 2008


Landon and I have taken five trips to two different playgrounds in the past three days. He's currently obsessed with being outdoors; any time we pass a window he points outside with great emphasis and makes all kinds of noises that aren't exactly English but still make quite clear that he wants to OUT. NOW!

JP was studying most of the weekend and I'm not so big on sitting around cooped up in the house, so go OUT we did.

Hi Mom

UP the slide, our very favorite playground activity

Down the slide, almost as fun as trying to climb up

And attempting to go back up again

Other big accomplishment of the weekend: Halloween decor shopping. JP came along and picked out all sorts of gross scary things while I scooped up cute little ghosts and happy pumpkins. Our front porch is going to look a bit schizophrenic, but it was fun to shop for our first Halloween as homeowners. I already have the giant orange bowl filled with candy, and I may or may not have already eaten some of it. We also picked up costumes for the dogs- Rosie will be a ballerina princess and Tex is a bumble bee. I thought the noble Tex might look embarrassed when I tried his costume on him, but he somehow made springy antennae and glittery yellow stripes look distinguished. I also made TWO dinners from scratch, broke and then fixed the disposal, calculated my monthly loan payments from my four different lenders (the total is more than daycare but slightly less than my mortgage, this is how you can make what a new associate makes these days and still not have money to eat out or go on vacation), and introduced Landon to the joys of a lollipop. It was a darn good weekend. My trip to Houston was also excellent, though I got exactly no sleep and drank more than I have in a long time. But there was lots of new associate bonding and I hit a baseball on the field of Minute Maid Park (well, my bat made contact with the ball, never mind that it bounced off sideways and hit the net). I'm off to bed- attempting to go across the monkey bars today about killed me. Apparently I was in the best shape of my life at age 10, I used to be able to fly across those things. They're going to be my new workout routine- I figure doing that along with chasing after Landon (quite literally, chasing, I did a lot of running up, down, and around playground equipment the past three days, the kid just takes off towards the edge of anything tall and plastic) ought to counteract all the big firm lunches I've been eating.

Friday, October 3, 2008

October 4th

Tomorrow is an anniversary of sorts. It's not one I ever wanted, or ever dreamed I would have in my memory bank of important dates, and it's certainly not one I will ever celebrate. But "October 4th" will forever give me pause because this began on that Thursday one year ago. The date has loomed in the back of my mind for a while and I've wondered if I would write about it and what I would say. I thought about it off and on tonight as I chased Landon around a neighborhood park, as we laughed so hard during his bath that he nearly fell under the water, and as I rocked him before bed. Normally I read as he crawls around me too busy to be restrained, but tonight, for the first time in months, he snuggled up on my lap in the rocking chair while I read "Goodnight Moon." And then I read it four more times, holding my toddler who tonight seemed more like a newborn. The words of the book flowed from my mouth without thought, so my mind was free to roam elsewhere. I thought back to that first night in the hospital and how shocked and indignant we were- falling asleep with the absolute certainty that it would all be over soon. I remembered the way people talked to us the next day, like we were guilty and evil and lying, and how we started to get really scared. I remember existing outside of myself- thinking methodically, crying rarely, eating when forced- with every part of me was focused on doing anything and everything possible to get him home. I remember all the people who reached out to us- family, friends, strangers. I remember the people who pulled back. I remember, verbatim, the first blog post I read that said something negative about me- how absolutely stunned I was that someone could doubt me, how naive that now seems, and how much everything I couldn't stop reading still hurts. I remember Landon and how he charmed the nurses and smiled at clocks, and I thank God he never knew the drama surrounding him. I remember it almost as though it happened to someone else.

I just realized I switched to the present tense somewhere in that paragraph. I suppose that's appropriate, it is a lingering part of my present- something about that nightmare pops into my head at least once a day. Usually briefly and sometimes only tangentially, but those memories are always there, just waiting to be recalled by some innocent reminder. The good news is the images are no longer paralyzing. I refuse to dwell on them or get caught back up in the horror, which is why I don't think I'll ever go back and read my archives from that time. Our lives are full and happy- I was thinking today as I got off the plane that this may be the fullest and happiest I have ever been. I love my job, my house, my dogs, my friends, my family, my husband, my adorable, perfect, personality-filled son - I'm blessed beyond what I ever imagined. And I can say that even as a small part of my brain is replaying the scene in the hospital lobby when I handed over my baby to a stranger who was taking him to a shelter.

Sometimes I will let myself wonder why it happened, a futile and anger-inducing exercise. After all, it didn't make me stronger. I was already strong and those months remain the only time in my life I've felt truly weak. It didn't make my marriage stronger, it was already solid. I already knew that I loved my son, that my family loved me, that my friends were not fair-weather. It didn't changed my parenting, at least not for the better. Whenever he trips or falls JP and I check for bruises and reassure each other that anyone would believe the (true) story of how they got there. We both held our breath during his 12-month check-up, secretly afraid the doctor would uncover some injury we couldn't explain. I don't laugh at CPS or child abuse jokes, and I'm uncomfortably aware of how often people make them.

But I think those are the only lingering effects. What a good friend told me several months ago remains true, "You now know (what you knew before) you have friends you can count on, family who will do anything for you, a husband with endless patience and strength, and formidable resources within yourself." I also know that agencies wield a frightening amount of power, that people can be cruel, that people can be wonderful, and that I will never look at an accused the same way again. I've gotten so used to the fact that it happened that every now and then it will hit me just how insane it was- that we were accused of repeatedly and purposefully hurting our son. We truly lived a parent's nightmare, but luckily, it was one from which we were able to wake up and free ourselves. Almost completely.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Artistic Genius

One of the many activities Landon partakes in at daycare is "art time". The teachers always post their kid's creations on the wall and so far all of Landon's pages have been blank except for his name. Last week they used water colors and I was told Landon had lots of fun with that medium, but unfortunately none of his enthusiastic brush strokes landed on the paper. On Monday when I picked him up, Ms. Teacher proudly handed me this masterpiece. The color, the bold, confident strokes of the... crayon. The kid obviously has a gift.

It hangs proudly on our refrigerator - our first piece of child-created art!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Who Is That Little Boy?

This is a video from last Sunday night when we shared some quality family time in our backyard. Highlights include Landon climbing like a little monkey up the side of the playscape and my dogs chasing after an invisible ball.

Watching the clip really brought home how "little boy" Landon has become - where's that snuggly, lumpy little baby I rocked to sleep at night? I know he's still in there somewhere, but wow, he's grown up so much already! And you know what, I kind of prefer this fun, active, personality-filled version.