Saturday, January 31, 2009

25 Things

I, along with most of the rest of those on facebook, did the 25 Things meme last night. And because I don't have time to write all of the posts floating around in my head, I'm going to cheat and repost my list here. Plus, I figure it'll make up for all the past memes I've been tagged for and never did.

So here it is, a list of 25 random things about me:

1. I loved living in Chicago and miss it every day.

2. I like Austin too.

3. I used to want a lot of kids, then I had Landon and had (many) nights where I wasn't sure I wanted one. Now I want a lot kids again.

4. I sometimes think I should have stuck with medical school.

5. After more than 7 years together I still crave JP during the day. I hope that never stops.

6. I'm a sucker for a good historical romance.

7. In 2000 I was the fastest woman ever to swim across the Hudson river at its widest point. I also found out that I hate open water swimming and have never done it again.

8. I am deathly afraid of moths. I have no idea why.

9. Bread and cheese (and french fries!) frequently make up 90% of my diet. Low carb would never be an option for me.

10. My freshman year in college was quite possibly the best year of my life.

11. I own over 20 pairs of high heels and have a deep and meaningful relationship with each and every one.

12. New pens (or really any school/office supply) can make my day.

13. I love Project Runway, Top Chef, and So You Think You Can Dance and do not consider them to be "reality shows."

14. I hate all other reality shows and do not understand their appeal.

15. Skiing is my very favorite kind of vacation and JP and my dream is to one day have a home in Colorado.

16. Clutter makes me unsettled and nervous. My house is not cluttered, though my office frequently is.

17. Diet coke is my favorite beverage. Red wine is a close second.

18. My hair naturally turned red in high school, but I still think of myself as a blonde.

19. I am a very risk averse person, according to JP I manage money like an 80-year-old.

20. I love dogs and can't read a story about them without getting choked up. I'm a huge believer in adoption and get irritated anytime I hear of someone "buying" a puppy.

21. I eat when I'm happy and completely lose my appetite when I'm stressed or sad. By Landon's first birthday I weighed significantly less than I ever had before. It was a difficult year.

22. My best friend since I was five came out to me when we were sixteen. It was a personal and political turning point for me and remains one of the most important conversations of my life.

23. I worry about the environment and try to decrease my impact on it.

24. I love board games and card games. LOVE them.

25. I always thought I'd be 30 before I even thought about getting married or having babies. I married JP at 22 and had Landon at 24- not what I expected, but I wouldn't change a thing.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Oohs and Ows

This morning I was delighted to rediscover one of my favorite pairs of shoes. Most of my heels are displayed in over-the-door racks I've nailed to the closet wall, but those I wear less often (i.e. anything with satin, rhinestones, or heels higher than 3.5") are kept in boxes back in JP's corner. And this morning, while trying to find an empty box for Landon to play with while I got ready, I stumbled upon these at the bottom of the stack:

So cute, no?! I bought them in 2003 but they're a bit much to be interview shoes and too delicate to wear on the icy streets of Chicago so I completely forgot about them. I decided they were just the thing to add some interest to my black pants and simple sweater and surely I could handle the skinny heel for a day?

And I could, but do you see those thin little straps that wrap around your ankle? Yeah, OUCH. They slide around as you walk and apparently I'm not used to having straps in that precise location because damn, they hurt- by my tenth trip up to the 4th floor to talk to the partner on this case I thought there was going to be permanent scarring.

But I love them still. I'll wear them again, just in shorter intervals to toughen up my feet. JP, if he ever read this blog, would find that last sentence insane, but he just doesn't understand the depth of my relationship with my shoes. Just wearing a favorite pair on a bad day will make me smile every time I glance down at my feet. I don't look much at other men, but a great pair of heels will totally make me turn my head as I go by.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Marriage Advice from the Stars

That should be ironic, right? But no- I've had a quote on marriage from Kyra Sedgwick saved in my drafts for months. I read it in some magazine interview and thought, wow, I really like that, I should write about it! But little topics like the Bar Exam and Starting My Job and Landon Dancing got in the way and I totally forgot about it. What reminded me was something Kevin Bacon said on the SAG Awards red carpet when he was asked how he and Kyra have kept their marriage hot and happy after 20 years: "You gotta keep the fights clean and the sex dirty." Who would have thought? Kevin Bacon, esteemed counselor of love and marriage.

Anyway, the quote from Kyra was:

"I feel the primary relationship has to be the mother and the father, and then it can be the kids. Of course the kids come first in planning your life, but it's incredibly important to keep your relationship as a couple strong and make time for it. It's the foundation on which everything is built. Kids should know that your needs are important, because if they think your happiness lies only in them, that's a lot of pressure on them."

I think this is so, so true, and something my parents did very well; they were always a couple in addition to being parents. I think back on the trips they took with just the two of them when I was little and how we'd sob into the phone when they called to check in (for the record, we were 100% fine and happy with our grandparents right up until the moment they called), and am so grateful they went. JP and I talked a lot about keeping our relationship a priority after we had kids. We brought Landon INTO a happy, loving marriage and he is better off it it stays that way, but it can be hard when you're gone all day and hesistant to cut into any family time we have together. But it's why we took him to daycare on Monday even though neither of us had to work (something my mother-in-law found appalling). We can't afford a trip away and that morning spent lounging around together was worth whatever time Landon had to give up with us- for him too.

Someone commented on this post that while she also thought marriage was easier than parenthood, parenthood made marriage much more difficult. I can totally see that, especially as Landon stops going to bed by 8pm (we have a lot of dinner and a movie dates at home- so much better without the expensive babysitter, marked up wine prices, and rude movie-goers) and our weekends become filled with our kids' activities. But hopefully I'll still be watching those E! red carpet interviews and reading In Style magazine and will be reminded of my priorities.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

By Popular Demand

Here are two pictures of the new 'do. They were taken this morning before church. I decided to see how little I could do to look presentable: I took my half-straight, half-curly just rolled out of bed hair, brushed it, and stuck hot rollers in it while I put on my makeup- this was the result:

It looks a lot better when it's blown out straight and then curled at the ends (especially in the back), but this took less than 10 minutes from start to finish, including makeup application, and I think it's good enough to wear out in public. I wish I'd taken a picture when I got back from the hair place, it's never going to look that cute again. I'm still working on my hot roller skills- I've used them twice and am not particularly coordinated with the sectioning and the rolling, but I have hope that one day it will not require all my concentration to stop dropping the clips every few seconds.

Now I must get back to my doc review and pint of Ben & Jerry's Half Baked ice cream, hope everyone had a relaxing weekend!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

French Fries and the Big Boss

The head of our section ("HP" for head partner) stopped by my office yesterday and announced that we should go to lunch. We just had our annual office performance meeting and had all been reassured that the firm's financials were strong, the Austin office was a top performer, and there were no plans of salary freezes or layoffs in the foreseeable future, so despite the unusual nature of the offer, I was fairly certain I wasn't about to be fired. He's famous for never leaving the office for lunch and eats at our little 1st floor cafe everyday, so I was surprised when he threw "leaving the office" out as an option for lunch. He looked a surprised too, and then became flustered when I immediately took him up on it- I'm not sure he even knew what restaurants were nearby. Our conversation went something like this:

HP: Well... what kind of place would you like to go to?
Me: anywhere that serves french fries
HP: I have to admit, I wasn't expecting that.
Me: Oh? Well I am a french fry connoisseur.
HP, amused: So where are the best fries around here?

We ended up at a steak place I suggested (great fries) where I happily ordered a cheeseburger, medium rare and he ordered, with decidedly less zeal, plain grilled salmon and a side of spinach. As soon as the waiter left I exclaimed, "HP! What about the fries?! That's far too healthy." He muttered something about New Year's Resolutions and admitted that my meal sounded far better, and when it came I was quite sure he was right, but I did commend him for his commitment to healthy eating.

It was a good lunch. He's almost the exact same age as my dad (not that I saw a need to tell him that) and full of great stories and a fondness for fishing and his lake house- we get along very well. We talked about Chicago, my aborted plans to attend medical school, and the exorbitant cost of daycare (he was shocked). I remain surprised that so many people find him scary, though when I was little most of the boys on my street thought my dad was scary, all my sister and I had to do was threaten to "go tell our dad" and we'd immediately get our way. They had no idea of course that my dad is a teddy bear with "leaky eyes" who may or may not have cried during an episode of The Wonder Years where they sold the family car. I'm not sure if HP is a secret softie, I think not, but he reminds me too much of my dad to find him at all intimidating.

Lately I've been contemplating a switch in legal specialty, but if HP is willing to make me his protege, as he told me in December, I think I'll stay in corporate a while longer. It's not that I don't like corporate law, I actually like it quite a lot, it's that I don't think I like or care about deals. I understand they will always be a part of corporate practice and I enjoy some of the process, but what I really like is being corporate counsel- finding answers for a company's questions and guiding them through legal matters. I'd love to go in-house one day and I think it's easier to do from corporate. I don't know. It's a strange adjustment to think of a job as a career. I've had jobs, various summer and part-time positions I always knew would end. But this is my first career- I have no end date, no set path, no precise idea of where I'll be in ten years. I only know that I will be working somewhere doing something and that my actions now could have influence on whatever that is. It's no longer based on something black and white like grades and a set application process, it's relationships, a good reputation, and experience. Good grades are easier.

I do wonder what I'll be doing in ten or twenty years, but for now I know that the big boss likes me, I'm enjoying this litigation doc review far more than I expected, and my burger was delicious. That should keep me floating along for a while.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


In lieu of a post with any deep meaning or insights, I offer you three short stories from the past two days, all of which I for some reason feel a need to share.

1. $7 of Happiness. Despite having a well paying job and no credit card debt or impending foreclosures, this economic downtown has me feeling a bit introspective about just how much STUFF I have and how little I need it, which has then led me to a moratorium on shopping. There have been gift cards sitting in my wallet since Christmas and even though they're free money I can't even bring myself to spend them. However, Landon needed bigger shoes so I forced myself to the mall on Monday and while there, decided to stop in Ann Taylor to spend my gift card and add at least one more pair of pants to my "pants that fit" collection. I've been looking for a pair in dark brown but didn't hold out much hope once I saw the clearance section was pretty wiped out. There was only one pair in a size 2 and even though I knew they wouldn't be long enough (for some reason their 4's are plenty long but their 2's are like 5" too short), they were the perfect shade of chocolate brown so I headed to the dressing room anyway. And they fit! And then I noticed they were Longs, which means someone had ordered them online and returned them to that store, just so I could find them! They were marked down to $49.99 from $98, and I had a $50 gift card- perfect! But then I convinced the clerk to let me use a 20% off coupon that wasn't effective until next week and then he actually rang up the pants and it turns out they had been marked down to $9.88, so my total came to $7.90. I know it's just a pair of pants, but it made my week- I'm still glowing as I wear them today. Bargain shopping is my Prozac.

2. The Hair Cut. I've been needing a haircut for quite a while- it was getting way too long and increasingly unruly, but I was never able to grow long hair until law school (I think because I stopped soaking it in a vat of chlorine for 5 hours a day) and I'm living some long lost girlhood dream. But I'm a lawyer now and lawyers shouldn't have hair that is thrown up in a messy bun every morning, so off to the stylist I went (and by stylist I mean Visible Changes- cut and style for $26). A flamboyant gay man greeted me with "Happy Obama Day!" and I figured I was in good hands. I explained that I needed a good cut, something I could style with no tools or skills in 10 minutes with a toddler clinging to my knees (I also missed that part of girlhood where you play with each other's hair and learn how to handle mysterious things like curling irons and round brushes- I am absolutely inept at all that.) He took his challenge seriously and proceeded to hack off my hair. At one point I looked down and realized there was more hair on the ground than on my head. He patiently talked me through styling, even making me practice curling the ends with a flat iron, and though I was in a state of shock, touching hair 6" shorter than it was mere minutes before, I liked it. I think. I find the layers intimidating, but I purchased hair rollers yesterday and now feel like an almost grown-up (true grownuphood comes when you drink coffee, I'm working on it) because I can "do" my hair. Kind of. I'll keep you posted. (Update: pictures here)

3. From Mother to Son Yesterday when JP and I picked Landon up from daycare we found him walking about the room with a silk purse dangling from the crook of his arm. JP laughed but I puffed with pride - why? Because the purse was a deep red which perfectly matched his striped sweater and jeans. Sure he may have grabbed that one because it was bright and shiny, but as a woman who carefully coordinates her purses with her outfits, I like to think I have passed on something important to the next generation.

So there you go, three stories that have nothing to do with each other and should be three separate posts except that none of them seem worthy on their own. I'm not even sure they're worthy of public perusal when grouped together, but I really am still giddy about my pants, vacillating between mourning and celebrating my hair, and grinning proudly at the memory of Landon with his purse. And if you can't share such feelings with the internet, then what are you supposed to do with them?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Can't Sum It Up

I have a feeling I'm not going to get much work done today. I have msnbc streaming live on my computer and keep tearing up during the Inauguration coverage. It's not just that I'm excited and hopeful about Obama's presidency, or that I'm relieved to be at the end of Busy's abysmal one, it's a deeper feeling of awe and gratitude that we live in a country that allows this peaceful transfer of power at all. President Reagan summed it up well in his first Inaugural address:

To a few of us here today, this is a solemn and most momentous occasion; and yet, in the history of our Nation, it is a commonplace occurrence. The orderly transfer of authority as called for in the Constitution routinely takes place as it has for almost two centuries and few of us stop to think how unique we really are. In the eyes of many in the world, this every-4-year ceremony we accept as normal is nothing less than a miracle.

To say that I'm happy would be a huge understatement. I'm ready for a change in leadership, ready to stop wincing when I watch my President speak, ready to respect the man in the office rather than just the office itself. I don't think Obama is the answer to all of American's problems any more than I think Bush was the cause of all of them, but right now in this moment, watching former Presidents and their families get in place to witness this changing of the guard with millions of other Americans, I feel overwhelmingly hopeful and proud.

Monday, January 19, 2009

In-Home Getaway

JP and I have had a few opportunities to get away since Landon has been born, but somehow they're never the restful experience I hope they'll be- probably because they always involve a big event, a friend's couch, and/or a very early flight home. But this morning three things came together to create the perfect mini vacation: my office was closed for MLK, JP's classes hadn't started yet, and daycare was open. JP, who can go back to sleep easily no matter how long he's been up, got up with the Landon and whisked him off to his baby friends while I remained in dream land, and then he came back to join me. And we slept in until 9:30 -- 9:30!! Together!! And then we woke up and just chatted in bed for a while- there was lounging. in the morning. when a toddler would normally be running around screaming and trying to get the dog to read him a book. And then, once we were up, we went on a sandwich lunch date. And there was more talking and no sippy cups and trying to keep things out of Landon's reach. It was the best morning I've had in two years.

I spent the rest of the day running some much needed errands and cleaning the house. JP got three business meetings and a haircut out of the way (his classes start tomorrow). And then we picked up Landon early and enjoyed several hours outside together on this gorgeous, 75-degree day.

I've spent a few nights at the Four Season's- it never left me feeling near this rested and recharged. I think this is how I'm going to use my vacation days this year.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

18 Months

Landon turned 1.5 years old on Thursday. JP took him to his doctor's appointment and gave me a detailed report:

Landon said "doc-TOR" several times on the drive over, as coached by JP, but then completely forgot how to say it when the doctor actually came in the room. He was still quite charming of course, and she declared him in excellent health and progressing perfectly in all his developmental milestones. His height remains in the 25th percentile (I wonder if that will stay true, with a 6'3" dad and 5'9" mom it would be surprising), his weight dropped to the 60th from the 75th (I thought his belly looked a little smaller), and his head remained in the mighty 95th! He looked very offended when the nurse pricked his toe, after all, he'd just been flirting with her, and he was furious when she administered his shots. On the drive home, his fury spent, he fell fast asleep.

So things went well. I was sorry to miss it, but I had an unavoidable conflict and I trust JP to ask pertinent questions, fill me in on the answers, and most importantly, snuggle Landon properly after his shots. And really, given Landon's tight bond with his daddy, he probably calmed faster in JP's arms than he would have mine. Besides, we're in for a lifetime of co-parenting, I might as well start giving up some control (and guilt) now.

I wrote him a letter at 17 months, so there's no need to repeat it all again, but suffice it to say that at 18 months old, Landon is somehow even more delightful. Sure he has his tantrums and will occasionally throw himself to the floor for no reason (well, I'm sure he thinks he has a perfectly legitimate reason, it's just that I can't figure out what it is), but those are blips on the radar screen. He's so full of love, and so eager to share it- he waves at everyone when we're out and about, he's constantly giving hugs to Tex, and at night when I put him to bed he throws his chubby little arms around my neck and snuggles in deep. I still tear up 9 times out of 10 while singing "You Are My Sunshine" just before laying him down.

He loves to point us out in pictures around the house and on his family poster at daycare. He follows JP around everywhere and had a big time "measuring" stuff with his little tape measure when JP was building the shelves for our study. We've seen a huge leap in how much he understands what we're saying over the past month and now he'll generally do what you've asked him to do- even when I think whatever I said was too complex for him to follow (I just talk out loud as I'm about to do something and lately he's started doing whatever I was about to ahead of me!). He still dances all the time and we have dance parties to music with inappropriate lyrics in the kitchen (we really need to make a G-rated iTunes mix). He also still loves to be read books in our laps, though unfortunately he has recently figured out that he can wait to turn around until he's right in front of us.

He's a continual source of joy and laughter and frustration, a quintessential toddler, and just when I think I couldn't possibly love him more, I do. Happy 18 months little guy.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Dear Ms. Google,

As I've done before, I thought it would be fun to share a few of the google searches that have brought lost souls to my blog. Most searches involve the bar exam, pregnancy, law school (especially law school and pregnancy), and baby/toddler issues. And because I think several people were looking for answers my blog did not provide, I thought I'd provide a little commentary to help them on their journey for truth:

anyone know when they release texas bar exam scores: I get about ten searches a day regarding the bar exam, "easiest bar exam?" "texas bar exam" and the like, but I chose this one because of the phrasing. When searching with google I usually just throw in a bunch of key words, so my search would look like "texas bar exam score release date," but I enjoy the conversational approach of this person- kind of like they're asking it aloud in a crowded room. And while the internet may be akin to a very crowded room, I think the keyword search is more effective. But to answer your question, the Texas scores were released in early November.

do women enjoy getting pregnant: Getting pregnant? yes, unless you're doing something terribly wrong. Being pregnant- not so much. I'd say the getting pregnant was the best part of those 8 months.

third trimester and no sex drive: Yeah, that sucks- and describes my entire pregnancy. Despite all the reasons Landon gave me to fear for the reality of baby #2, that is the only part I'm truly dreading.

my husband doesn't like me moaning about my pregnancy pains: Seriously? I was hoping those kind of guys had been eliminated through natural selection. Tell him to shove it and moan away or start a blog - or both, then you can moan about your pregnancy and your neanderthal husband.

law student best time get pregnant: I think it's a good time and there's never a best time, so do what's best for you. If you're asking for the best time while in law school I'd say 3L year or at least any time after 1L.

my pregnant girlfriend is offending me with her mood swings: This cracked me up. Once again it's all in the phrasing. I'm trying to imagine this man sitting down at this computer, pulling up google, and entering that phrase. What was he expecting to find? I love him a little for not saying "my pregnant girlfriend is acting like a bitch" or something like that- apparently he's just finding her moods a little offensive.

how can i make my husband's belly bigger: Why do you want to? Desserts, ice cream, and pizza do the trick for me.

postpartum sex sucks: I disagree.

why is my child crying and stuffing his hands in mouth: because s/he is teething and teething is a bitch. I have found little that works, but a few options are Tylenol, Motrin, frozen wash cloths, orajel (or it's much stronger cousin, Hurricaine Gel), teething rings, and sadly, time.

infant tummy troubles and texas: Is there anything specific about Texas that you think is causing this trouble? Funny enough, when I mentioned this search to JP he said, maybe they were asking if Texas would cure the troubles. I have to admit, that spin on it hadn't occurred to me- I was immediately wondering why Texas was causing this poor infant pain.

waving the white flag to a toddler: Also cracked me up- and made me nod with sympathy. When Landon is acting particularly toddlerish I: try to find humor in the situation, express some sympathy for his frustrations and then walk away and do something else until he's done, read a book out loud until he comes and sits with me, and/or call JP and tell him to come home. They all work to varying degrees at different times.

why do some lawyers love law school and hate practicing? Because the two have almost nothing to do with each other.

sharing my husband: I'm not a good sharer, I have no advice.

rude people who put their seat back on airplane: Tell me about it. But be careful, some people get very offended when you suggest their lawful exercise of airplane rights might be irritating to you.

bread and cheese breakfast Sounds delicious! I'm not sure why you were googling this as it's fairly self-explanatory, but if you'd like ideas, my favorite bread and cheese breakfast is a lightly toasted bagel, covered in grated cheddar cheese, and placed under the broiler for a few minutes. Yum!

big puffy pancakes recipe: You can find one here. Mine was not what I envisioned, but it was tasty!

how to get 70% in law exams: Aiming high, no? If you really want to know, I found it helpful to review someone else's old outline the morning of the exam and then spot two issues in the fact pattern and explain them as best I could. As long as you display some legal knowledge relevant to the subject matter it's almost impossible to fail.

how to write a 25 page paper: What were you expecting to find? Sit down at your computer, open Word, and start typing. Stop when you get to 25.

So there you are. I'm not sure many of these people found what they were looking for, but hopefully google eventually showed them the way.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Coffee For Dummies

JP is out of town on business. It's funny to say that since his business barely exists yet, but it's a trip taken with his two partners on behalf of their fledgling company, so I suppose it counts.. Things are progressing in that area and he's excited about all they're learning (they're visiting someone who's been successfully doing what they're planning to do), so I'm really happy for him, but dammit I sleep terribly when he's gone. I don't sleep so well when he's here either- what with the snoring and the talking in his sleep and random attempts between 2 and 5 AM to grab me from across the bed, drag me over to his side in the crook of his arm, and squish me up against him in a forced spoon- leaving me trapped under his vastly superior strength as he sighs a happy sigh and falls deeper into sleep (until I kick him in the shins to escape). So yeah, I don't sleep well with him, but I sleep much worse without him. It's like my body knows his is missing- I wake up constantly during the night to feel for him and am always surprised when he's not there. I sleep fitfully and wake up irritable, calling him immediately to yell at him for ruining my slumber- he generally takes this as the expression of love that it is, which leaves me even more irritable.

But to the point- I am very, very tired. I am facing thousands of documents that need review for a litigation case that becomes more complex by the second. There are about 15 corporate entities, all with the same three words in their name (note to founders: use your imaginations next time!), some of which must be produced, some which don't, and a big mix in between that only need to be produced if certain discreet issues are present. To make it worse, my current batch is all the scanned-in loose papers from various exec's offices, so there's no highlighting of search terms, just hundreds of pages of scribbles (and the occasional doodle, which always makes me smile). I think I need coffee. Tea isn't cutting it and it's too early for diet coke (I don't eat in the morning and diet coke before food gives me a terrible stomach ache- besides I don't think diet coke does anything for me anymore caffeine-wise). Unfortunately, I hate coffee. I've only tried it once, but I hate the smell and even the slightest hint in a food item will ruin it for me. But it's plentiful (there are four varieties in my floor's coffee bar alone), it doesn't require removing a tea bag, which I always need to do 5 minutes into a meeting with nowhere to put it, it's cheap, you generally get free refills at restaurants, it's hot (I'm almost always cold in the morning), it's low calorie, and most importantly it would be a new source of caffeine! I've always found switching caffeine sources to be the most effective way to be jolted by it. And I desperately need a jolt.

So I ask you, is there anyway to make it taste absolutely nothing like coffee? I've tried the frou frou Starbucks drinks and hate them all (except the delicious and coffee-free chai tea latte)- is there no hope for me then? Does everyone hate it at first? I've heard it can grow on you, did you just choke it down until you liked it? That's what I did with tea (well choking combined with about 6 packets of splenda) and now I'm a big fan- and down to only two splendas per cup! Is there hope for me?

Monday, January 12, 2009

LSAT prep

I just got an email from a reader asking what I did for LSAT prep, and I figured that since this blog is occasionally about law, others might be interested as well. As always, take this with a grain of salt and feel free to add your own thoughts in the comments to make this post more useful to those who stumble upon it.

I think the most important part of any test prep is to know your strengths and weaknesses. I know that I am a good test taker, it is just one of my God-given talents. I would have liked to be a dancer, but instead I got a large frame, two left feet, and a gift for test scores I don't deserve. Knowing this, I was probably on the lower end of the LSAT prep work scale.

First of all it's a test-taking test and not a knowledge-based test. The MCAT is a knowledge test- you have to really know physics, chemistry, biology, and organic chemistry. Because of this I had just spent thousands on a Princeton Review course promising to teach me everything I needed to know for that awful test I ended up dropping halfway through (not that I got a refund on the review class). The SAT and LSAT are test-taking tests; other than learning the types of questions asked and practicing them a bit, I'm not sure there's much you can do. I didn't study for the SAT beyond reading the information packet of practice questions you got when you signed up and did very well, so I didn't get too worked up over the LSAT. I think the lack of fear helped as much as anything (I feel this way to some extent about the Bar too, even though that's very knowledge based, you can get a lot of points just by not being one of the people paralyzed with fear on the day of). I'm not trying to minimize the LSAT, it's just that after spending nearly a year preparing for the MCAT, the LSAT just didn't seem all that scary. Sort of like how the history majors thought law school was a whole lot harder than the engineering majors did- it's all perspective.

The first thing I did was take a full practice test about two months before the test date. I went to my local used bookstore and found an unmarked compilation of old tests from someone who apparently didn't end up taking the test (or just ended up not studying for it). On the first try I did pretty well on the reading comprehension, okay on the logical reasoning (arguments) section, and absolutely abysmal on the analytical reasoning (logic games) section- I'm not even sure I got one question right. That was upsetting. I googled something along the lines of "how to study for logic games section of LSAT" and came across this little book: The Logic Games Bible. It saved my life. (And just so you don't think I'm biased, I have not ever and will not ever accept advertising money for this site, anything I say is purely my opinion.) I worked through it cover to cover, forced my brain to reject any of its own thoughts in this area, and relied on their method 100%. It worked- I didn't miss a single question on the logic games section of the LSAT when I took it in June.

Other than the Logic Games Bible my prep consisted of working through the whole book of practice tests, one a day or so, flying to Hawaii for a family vacation the week before the big day (I actually think this helped, no time to get freaked), flying back in to Houston and driving straight to Austin very late the night before (once again, no time to take a last minute practice test and panic if my score had dropped), taking it the next morning, and then flying out to Vegas hours later with JP, where I promptly forgot all about the LSAT until I returned three days later. I brought a Shape magazine and granola bars to the test and felt a little embarrassed when everyone else had flash cards and special test day goodie bags from their review courses. But they also looked very stressed and I probably got more enjoyment out of reading 10 articles promising I could lose weight without diet or exercise than I would have been helped by last minute cramming. After all, I'm not really sure what you can do to cram for that test- it's a lot of reading and reasoning. After the test I did spend a lot of time on my personal statement, sending it out to everyone I knew and asking them for comments and whether or not they thought it was a good reflection of me. I'd highly recommend doing that, hard as it was to subject it to public scrutiny.

So that's what I did. As I said, you just have to know yourself and your test-taking needs. If you are someone who gets very nervous about standardized tests or has been burned by them before (like JP) then a class might be very helpful to make you feel as prepared as possible and comfortable with the test. Or you may just like the structure and camaraderie of a class (I tend to find that stressful because I realize everyone is doing more than me, one of the million reasons I loved the barbri self-study iPod option). If taking that many practice tests and putting that much emphasis on it would only freak you out, then try to avoid over preparing- I think it's easy to get to a point where your practice test scores start going down and that is scary right before the real thing. I think my biggest challenge on the LSAT was time. I'm a fast reader and never had an issue with time on tests but on two sections of the LSAT I was finishing just as the proctor said pencils down- that rattled me a bit. I'd recommend actually timing those practice tests if you do them at home. Hope that helps- good luck!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Too old for this

I went out last night. Against my better judgment, my deep longing for sleep, and my need to work until at least midnight, I met up with lots of young childless co-workers at a fellow first year's (absolutely incredible) house for drinks and food before heading downtown around midnight. I wasn't going to go. I was sitting on the couch with JP in sweats watching Planet Earth HD and contemplating how I was going to get all my work done, while still getting enough sleep, and told him that I just couldn't go to the party. But then I tried to remember the last time I went out and decided it must have been election day, and I think it's good to see colleagues outside of work every now and then and usually I'm not even invited because they know I'm not going to come, so I threw on tight jeans, a black t-shirt, very bright red heels with bows, and a wide red bracelet and headed out the door. I was just going to have a drink at his house and then come home. But then they were all getting in cars and I texted a friend of mine and found at she was at the same bar we were heading to, I called JP, who reminded me in no uncertain terms that no matter when I came home it was still going to be my turn to get up with Landon, and I jumped into a waiting BMW.

And it was fun. But then I got home at 2 (not too late!) and climbed in bed to hear Landon wailing at precisely 2:08. He was up for the next hour and a half- inconsolable, wide-awake, and absolutely certain it was morning and time for cheerios and milk. I finally fell asleep at 3:30 and deeply regretted my flirtation with a social life when he woke up again at 6:50. He was in a great mood and JP took over at 8 so I could go back to bed, but I never really fell back asleep and now I'm sitting in front of my work computer trying to focus on doc review and wondering when my brain is going to start functioning properly.

I didn't have more than the first drink at 10 so I'm not battling a hangover, but I'm definitely too old for these kind of shenanigans. Or more correctly, given that I'm younger than most of the people I went out with, I'm just too much of a mom with too much of a toddler.

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Marriage v. The Baby Carriage

Dooce wrote an interesting post Wednesday asking what her readers found more difficult, marriage or parenthood.

Like her, my answer was immediately parenthood, and I was shocked to read the comments and see that was the minority position. I found myself nodding pretty forcefully along with this paragraph of her post: "And while motherhood has become so much more natural to me there is still so much uncharted territory ahead, and I find that each age is so different than the one that preceded it that sometimes, although infrequently, it feels like we're starting from the beginning all over again. Sure, there are similar surprises in marriage, but right now almost eight years into our relationship I feel like what we share is the rock I use to stabilize myself when being jarred by everything else around me."

I've almost written about this topic several times- how people are always telling me how hard marriage is supposed to be and even if I think I'm happy now, I should "just wait" a few more years until it really gets tough. First off, I hate it when people throw "just wait" into a sentence. It's only used when Person A is expressing happiness and Person B wants to dampen it- why is that necessary? People were big on that when I was engaged and again when I was pregnant and I wanted to say: Look, I get that there are times when being a wife/mother will be hard, but life is hard, so that doesn't come as a shock, and I refuse to tell every random person about all the difficulties I foresee just so they don't think I'm being irresponsively optimistic- fight your urge to kill my happiness! Argh.

Anyway. My point is that I have never found marriage to be particularly difficult; in fact, it's probably the most natural, most happiness-inducing thing I've ever done. Sharing my life with JP comes easily- I've been sharing almost every minute with him since I was 18. And maybe that helps. We grew up together- the night we met we spent hours talking about our dreams- all of which seemed so possible as a freshman and junior year of college, and then we spent the next four years pursuing them with the other in mind. We made compromises easily- there wasn't anything worth doing that didn't involve each other. The little stuff came easy too. We were already living together when we got engaged, and even before we moved in I never slept alone, so I was used to sharing my personal space. We joined finances when we got engaged since I was waiting to go to grad school (and planning a wedding) and he had a job. When we got married I had less than $300 to my name and he didn't have a whole lot more than that- our money has always been "ours" and I can honestly say we've never had a single argument about money or the spending of it.

The big transitions never felt big. I thought the move to Chicago might be difficult, after all, I was 1,000 miles away from anyone I knew, I was absolutely miserable and overwhelmed in law school, and he was working insane hours at a boutique investment bank, but I remember the first year of marriage as one of the happiest I've ever had. We agreed on starting our family at the same time, and while I worried about the strains on our relationship once the baby came, I shouldn't have. When we brought Landon home from the NICU, I was still on summer break and he was working full-time, but as we got in bed he turned and asked, "which feeding do you want to take?" and I knew that we'd sail through this too. All through the sleepless nights, the DCFS hell, and everything else, I worried about everything except us. In my mind it's life that's hard, marriage makes it exponentially easier. I can face anything as long as I have him to cuddle in bed with at the end of the day.

Motherhood, on the other hand, felt like it threw me against a brick wall. Part of it may have been the newness of it all- I'd dated before meeting JP and we'd been together for six years before having Landon, so while I knew how to be a significant other, I had no idea how to be a mom. Motherhood was also physically and emotionally overwhelming in a way that sharing my life with JP just isn't. And it's not that we never fight or have days where we're out of sync, but in the end we can talk about it, share our sides, and figure out whatever is wrong (we do a lot of talking- no TV and generally no lights, just talking before we go to sleep)- I couldn't do that with a baby. JP ultimately wants me to be happy (and well rested!) and will do just about anything to make sure of that- Landon, not so much. And with Landon part of me is always questioning whether I'm doing the right thing for him, especially when he was a newborn, whereas I can trust JP to look out for himself or tell me what he wants. That need to do your best by your baby and not always knowing what that "best" is makes parenthood so hard for me- that and the fact that as soon as I have anything figured out Landon immediately changes.

I love both of them uniquely, separately, and more than myself- that came easy for each. But when I compare the challenge of assuming the new role and the maintenance of each relationship, marriage has been much, much easier than motherhood. And I know we haven't been married that long and I'm sure there will be bumpy times ahead, but we've already been through quite a lot and I can't imagine anything we couldn't face side by side. Someone told me the other day that raising a child is much more rewarding than being married, but I disagree- sharing your life with someone you love is unbelievably rewarding. For me, it's all wrapped up together in one big bundle of love and challenge and happiness and frustration. But if you're comparing the component parts, I think marriage is a breeze compared to being a parent. What do you think?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Baby Cravings

No, I don't actually want to eat a baby, a la Jonathan Swift's Modest Proposal, but I am definitely craving the having and holding of one.

I've said before that motherhood is irrational. I suppose it has to be to ensure the perpetuation of the species. Pregnancy sucks, childbirth, even with an epidural, wasn't the most fun 9 hours of my life, a newborn, especially my newborn, wrecks havoc on your emotional and physical well-being, and my nearly 18-month old continues his negative effect on my finances, the dark circles under my eyes, and my ability to enjoy a nice conversation with my husband before 8pm. And less dramatically, I feel like our life is really good right now. We have lots of family time, lots of relaxing time, and lots of play time, and a big part of that is because Landon goes to bed at 8pm. I can come home from work and jump into playtime with him because I know that in a few hours I'll be able to sit and indulge in something selfish like reading a book or watching TV. I can't imagine adding a demanding new baby to the mix.

And yet, I spend an increasing amount of time thinking about just that: When would we want Landon 2.0 to be born? When should we start trying? What if we wait until the absolute perfect time but I miscarry and we have to start over? (with 9 pregnancies and 4 live births between our two mothers, that is a thought I have often) When will we move Landon to his big boy bed? (feel free to provide me with some insight on that one) What names do I like? Will I be as excited about a girl when I really want another boy? How do I want to decorate the nursery? Time spent hypothesizing about this matter is not billable and it is definitely not helping me get through the 3,000 documents I need to review. Not to mention the fact that we actually can't have another baby right now. Childcare for two would be $2,200/month at Landon's daycare and we absolutely cannot afford that until JP is bringing in some money. I'm not even sure I really want another one now. I think we're doing a good job making time for everything, but it's a precarious balance. Luckily I can recognize this as the craving that it is- it's like my brain has picked up on this idea and now can't stop fixating on it. Maybe it's my lack of big upcoming events in my life- I've graduated, taken the Bar, and started my job, apparently I need a new big change to look forward to at all times.

But part of it is real- I do love being a mother and I want to hold and love a newborn again (preferably one without reflux and colic, but obviously, we can survive almost anything- though I have a feeling I'll never be able to convince JP to have a third, right now I'm working the "there is NO WAY the next baby will be as difficult as Landon" angle pretty hard). I love watching Landon play with other kids and I think it will be wonderful to see him with a sibling. It wasn't long ago that I thought it would be at least five years before we had another, I just couldn't imagine dividing myself into more pieces without breaking. But over the past few months Landon has required less and less of me and I can imagine giving of myself to someone new in a way I couldn't over the summer. At 18 months he's obviously still a huge drain on my energy and time, but he also plays, smiles, and dances, and he generally gives as much as he takes. He's also increasingly able to play on his own and tell us what he wants (not that he always gets it, but crying is easier to bear when I know what I'm denying him). I understand why so many families have kids spaces about 2.5 years apart, it's a major change from totally dependent baby to walking, independently playing toddler.

The financial issues are real. I know I make a lot of money, but my house, loans, grad school attending husband, and daycare attending child take every penny. And when I think about the practical aspects of a human family of four (and mammalian family of seven), I'm not sure I could handle it in a way that won't force someone to sacrifice more of me than they should have to. But on nights like last night when Landon is running around the living room alternating between imitating his dad watching football on TV (leaning back on the couch, hands across his belly, staring placidly at the TV- with little sideways smiles towards JP to make sure he's doing it right), dancing to the music from commercials, and throwing himself onto a pile of pillows in a fit of giggles, all I can think about is having another one. I'm not a baby person- I have never voluntarily reached out to hold one, but the other day when my co-worker brought his new baby around the office I immediately held out my arms to snuggle him. I didn't do that even six months ago.

We'll see, maybe in another year we'll be on the baby path. For now I suppose I'll have to make do with holding my friends' babies (one due tomorrow, another due in May). Maybe facing reality of a newborn and the probable flood of suppressed memories from Landon's early days will be enough to make me content with our longer timeline. But this urge has not been known to obey reason.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Redecorating, more fun that doc review

Yesterday I reviewed documents while drinking lemonade under the hot sun in shorts and a tank top. Today I review documents indoors while sipping hot tea wearing sweat pants and fluffy sweat shirt. Our winter weather has commitment issues.

On the home decorating front things are coming along quite well. We completed the second coat of "Fragrant Cloves" (dark coppery orange) on the back wall of the study late last night (the other three walls will remain their original "Heavy Cream") and did the first coat of "Dark Granite" (very dark brown) on the trim around the double doors and closet door this morning. The window sill and most of the rest of the trim was finished yesterday, so all we have left is the 2nd coat around the doors and the line of trim under the newly orange wall (we need to let that paint get really dry before we tape it). We have six tall, dark wood bookcases (courtesy of Ikea) ready to be secured to the walls, a must with our little monkey -- ooh quick funny story about a near brush with death at Lowe's: Landon has become obsessed with climbing ladders, I suppose it's because he climbs up his play scape outside- we don't even own a ladder, and Lowe's has very tall ladders all over the aisles of the store. Last weekend while I was scrutinizing a bookcase's potential as toy storage in the play room, I looked away from Landon at the exact same time JP looked away from Landon. Three seconds later we both asked each other where he was, turned to look down the aisle, and saw him on the 5th step of a giant ladder. I might have yelled something, but mostly I remember sprinting down the aisle in high heels (why heels at Lowe's? because they matched my outfit perfectly and had to be worn, despite JP's warning they might bar my entrance to a home improvement store), climbing up the ladder (he was too high up to reach from the floor), and plucking a very focused toddler off the next step. He instantly became furious and started throwing his body around, so I had to climb down the ladder in the heels with a writhing toddler held above my head. Luckily JP was there an instant later and helped us both down to the concrete floor. The worst part about this story is that it happened about three more times during our 10 minute trip, though he never again got nearly as high up. We're going to have to put a leash on that kid.

Anyway, the study. The painting should be done Tuesday, the bookcases will be installed Wednesday along with the new desk (it's same dark wood color), and JP is assembling the dark wood filing cabinets I found today at Target. All that is missing is a curtain (need to find a fabric that involves all the colors and adds a few shades) and big dark brown leather chair. The chair will be a long time coming as it's not near the top of my furniture wish list, but someday it's going to look quite fantastic in the corner against the heavy cream walls. We're also working on adding some toy storage to the play room. Since it's not going to be a dining room for the next decade, and it's one of the first rooms people see in the house, I figure I can at least make it look like a real play room and not an empty room we threw a bunch of toys in. Plus, I think getting Landon's toys onto shelves will help him find "new" toys more often. After that is the master bedroom, but that'll probably wait until this summer. For one, we have no money left. And two, after painting one wall in the study, the huge and very high walls of our bedroom are looking quite intimidating- although I'm sure I can create a party around it!

Alright, back to reviewing. I have to work with my back to the living room because seeing the stacks of books and binders and random crap that used to live on the study floors is driving me crazy. My goal is to have the whole room assembled and presentable by Friday- not only because this level of clutter will soon haunt my dreams, but because we can't have another weekend with Landon home and this much stuff all over the floors. By yesterday evening he was wandering between the stacks, shaking his head and muttering "No, no, no" to all of them. At least he appears to be listening.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Doc Review with a View (and Lemonade)

It's nice when a Saturday is so beautiful that doing doc review all afternoon doesn't even ruin it. Of course it helps that things like document scanners, laptops, and wireless internet all exist- I can sit outside on our back deck, sipping lemonade and diligently labeling documents, while Landon runs with a tennis ball in each hand intermittently exclaiming "A BALL!"

There's something wrong about being able to wear shorts and a tank top outside in early January, but as I soak up the 85 degree sunny weather, I've got to admit that I'm not missing Chicago too much right now.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Ringing in the Year with Renovations

Happy 2009! Our party turned out wonderfully- JP's to do list was not (near) complete when I got home, so I had about 90 minutes to clean up, prepare and arrange all the food, welcome my childhood friend into my home (haven't seen her since my baby shower in early 2007!), make myself beautiful, and get Landon in bed, but we got everything done and I was just finishing my mascara as the doorbell rang with our first guests.

The water dispenser was the biggest hit of the night. Two of my guests are pregnant and I wanted them to have something fun to drink (and it's always good to encourage people to stay hydrated when copious amounts of alcohol are present), so I filled the dispenser with sliced lemons and limes and frozen cranberries. The cranberries were just for color, I counted on them not altering the taste much, but it was so tasty and pretty that two people asked me for the recipe! I almost told them it was a family secret. We played lots of games, drank lots of beverages, and just generally had a marvelous time. I somehow stayed alert until everyone left around 2 a.m. but nearly died when I got up with Landon at 6:30 (that's two nights in a row with less than 5 hours of sleep). Luckily he was in a very good mood and didn't seem to mind that I just lay on the floor while he played around (and over and on top of) me.

The fun continued with an elementary school best friend reunion and my own personal home makeover show. I decided on Monday that our study needed to be finished and decorated, so JP and I traveled to the land of cheap Swedish furniture and spent all our Christmas money on bookcases and a desk to effectuate my HGTV-inspired vision. Yesterday out-of-town childhood friend and I went to Lowe's to pick out the bold paint choices I had in my head and our other childhood friend came over for an evening of wine, reminiscing, taping, and priming the walls. I make my guests work for their alcohol :) It was lots of fun and I think the room is going to look fantastic if we manage to keep it somewhat in line with my vision - I've never painted before, so we'll see. There's still a ton of work to do and the entire contents of our study is stacked all over the downstairs, but the mess is not bothering me nearly as much as I thought it would.

And perhaps the reason it's not bothering me is because I have to bill at least 20 more hours on this project before Sunday night and I still haven't gotten more than 6 hours of sleep since Monday. Tonight I'm going to work until 9, knock myself out, and sleep for a solid 8 hours. Tomorrow we'll put a second coat on the trim and paint the accent wall and then I'll bill 9 hours (yeah, probably won't happen)- that would leave very few left for Sunday so it can be filled with family and the final coat of paint. Good times!

It's been a very fun end to 2008, I look forward to a year with more parties (I just realized we haven't gone a month without hosting one since moving here), more decorating (I now have BIG plans for our bedroom), and lots and lots of family fun time. And this is a complete change in tone, but it seems the right post to mention it: over the past two weeks I've been randomly clicking through my archives and have found that for the first time I'm able to read through "The Nightmare" posts without feeling haunted for the rest of the day. I don't even tear up for many of them (and I inherited my dad's "leaky eyes). And while I'm reading, the most overwhelming thought I have, more than the dull anger and persistent shock that it happened at all, is gratitude and awe at how many people supported me then, and how many of those people are still reading today. So thank you for being a part of my life. I have absolutely no doubt that this blog- my writing of it and reading the comments of others- has played a large role in healing my scars from 2007 and making 2008 such a happy year. I wish you and your loved ones a very happy and prosperous 2009!