Thursday, April 30, 2009

Why Hello There

So... the blog. I feel that I should write something, I'm certainly thinking lots of things. But there is no time- I've been working until nearly midnight every night (with a 3-4 hour break for Landon time, dinner time, and JP time) and have been absolutely swamped during the day. Yesterday I forgot to eat lunch until 5 minutes before our cafe closed at 3. I may forget my tea- I never forget my lunch. But I'm really blissfully happy with my job. I like what I'm doing, I love knowing how to do it. A feeling of competency is vastly underrated as an indicator of job satisfaction- or at least I underrated it when I first picked my legal specialty.

The biggest thing on my mind right now is one I wasn't sure I should blog about. It involves money. Tomorrow my firm is having their all-associate meeting to discuss our compensation and I'm very unsettled about it. We have yet to freeze salaries or conduct lay-offs, but the general consensus is they're going to announce 10% pay cuts for the first years and freezes for everyone else (basically taking them back to what they made before they moved up a salary class on January 1).

With a husband in grad school, a child in daycare, and law school loan payments equal to 70% of my monthly mortgage bill, there's not a lot of financial wiggle room. We live frugally. Our cars are 10 and 11 years old (with a combined 300,000 miles- and they better last for a while longer!), we don't go out to eat more than twice a month, we don't eat chicken more than once a week (I know that sounds odd but I noticed a few years ago it was always the most expensive thing on our weekly grocery bill, so it's special; we eat a lot of pasta and rice and save meat for things like soups that last more than one night), we don't have a Starbuck's habit, we don't go on vacations, I don't meet colleagues for drinks or dinner -- basically, we're careful. I like having a nice house and nice clothes, but I shop at discount stores and never go anywhere without my stack of printed coupons.

We've lived even more frugally in the past- it's how we got through our first three years of marriage without failing to pay off the credit card each month. I remember two weeks during our second month in Chicago where we ate the same vegetarian bean chili (basically the world's cheapest stew) over rice because it cost less than $10 a week, and that stretched our dollars until JP's next pay check. I didn't mind that, it was actually kind of fun- being newlyweds, spending our nights walking around the city, never spending a penny, just soaking up all the free sights. But it's a little tougher now- there's a Landon and loans and an ever growing list of expensive things that threaten to pop up each month.

Of course I'm lucky to have a secure, well-paying job. And I know that. We've been carefully setting aside money each month for our online savings account (GMAC bank, paying 2.25% right now, way better than our regular bank's paltry percentage), so I know we can live on a reduced amount, I just find it very stressful to lose the financial cushion we're building. I couldn't sleep last night thinking about it. I'd really prefer a year's worth of expenses to be stuffed in my mattress just so I know it's there (I'm the type of person who wants every dollar safely in the bank and avoids the stock market like the plague, according to JP I invest like I'm 65). I wonder how much money I'd need to stockpile to stop stressing about it entirely, I know it's a lot more than I would have guessed pre-family.

I'm probably going to read this tomorrow morning and delete sections of it for being self-centeredly whiny, but I do feel a bit better. We'll be fine, we'll find more ways to cut back. I will place a complete moratorium on shoe shopping (though I'll note that Landon's $42 pair of Stride Rite shoes are more expensive than any pair I've purchased since I bought black leather boots when we first moved to Chicago in 2005).

Alright, It's almost midnight and I need to get back to work. I have a 17 page privilege log to review before production tomorrow, and I'd like to feel secure about my job performance when the firm's managing partner beams himself onto my computer monitor. I tried to think of a way to incorporate the picture below but decided to save my few remaining brain cells for the priv log. It's from Tuesday night last week when I was so sick. Landon made a big stack of all his books and read through them one-by-one while periodically checking on his mama, pathetically lying on the floor nearby. He may have thrown a huge temper tantrum on the sidewalk by the mailboxes today and then tried to bite his own toes in fury (yeah, I don't know where that came from), but my goodness he can be a sweet little guy.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tantrum Troubles

Landon has suddenly become a two year old. Not quite yet in age (his birthday is July 15th), but definitely in temperment. He's still usually the adorable, funny, cuddly little boy of the past several months, but he's spending an increasing amount of time as a frustrated, angry, screaming toddler.

Up until this point his few tantrums were over easily identified things like not being able to have graham crackers for every meal, not wanting to come inside, or not being able to splash in the dogs' water bowl. These I can deal with. I stick to my guns and relocate him to a carpeted surface where he can flop about in relative safety. I found that most of the time it only takes a few seconds for him to get over it, or if it seems like this one is going to last, I'll start reading a book out loud and he'll come over to join me, tears of outrage forgotten.

But now there are times I have no idea what he's suddenly so mad about and I'm not entirely sure he knows either. He's just mad. And he wants to scream about it, at my feet and between my legs, until his face turns red and sweaty. I don't know what to do about these. He doesn't seem to want anything, there's been no change in activity or location, he just kind of flips out. And he only does this with me.

This morning when I went to get him from his crib he immediately started shaking his head, kicking and screaming, and yelling "No No No". He swatted at my hands when I went to get him, so I just left the room and fed the cat. I came back in about 30 seconds later and asked if he wanted to get down, I think he did, but he was still screaming No! and kicking the rails of the crib, so I said "okay, I'll get you when you stop screaming" and left again. Repeat this about 4 more times and he finally answered "yes" when I asked if he wanted to get down and then he was good for most of the rest of the morning. What on Earth is that about?! He does that a lot when we're home at night too. JP is coaching until 7:45 and I'm alone with him, and I'm still a little sick, and very tired, and he just screams at my feet regardless of what I do (he screams when I pick him up too). And then suddenly he'll stop and be so charming and funny and sweet that I almost can't believe he was so awful a few minutes before.

I worked until nearly 2 a.m. last night and will work at least that late tonight (major deadline this Friday), and I want to cherish that 5:30-8 p.m. block of time I get to spend with Landon in the evenings (he doesn't ever see me work- my laptop, blackberry, and cell phone stay in my bag until he's down). But yesterday I lingered outside the daycare door almost dreading going in because I couldn't handle another 30+ minute fit of rage on my own. He quite literally acts like he's possessed. And then suddenly he won't be- and his stopping seems to have nothing to do with what I'm doing about it. It makes me want to throw a tantrum of my own when JP finally walks in the door.

I hate that I dread our time alone together. I hate that I don't know how to help him calm down - books, going outside, music, my ignoring him, change of location, etc. seem to have no consistent effect. I finally started him removing him from the room I'm in (we have a very open floor plan so he can still see me) and telling him that when he stops screaming he can come back to the kitchen (or wherever I am). Oddly enough that seems to help the fastest, though I feel bad just giving up and removing my sobbing child from my presence because I simply can't deal with it.

Sigh... he is still wonderful most of the time, I just wish I better knew how to help him calm the angry 2-year-old within.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Decorating Bug

So, it's been a few days. I've mostly recovered from my strep throat bug, though after a long day of work on Friday I was afraid I'd reverted back to my Tuesday state of health, but a morning of sleeping in revived me and now I've come down with a decorating bug.

I decorate in spurts. My house is done for the most part. I bought this picture for the kitchen eating area a few months ago and I'm still in love with it:

It was a clearance aisle impulse buy and the perfect addition of color and style to make my downstairs relatively complete. We also finished the playroom with the much delayed 1st birthday gift of a toy box from JP's parents.

It fits under the window like it was custom made and blends in well with his craigslist train table and storage shelves I found at Target. Landon spends a lot of time on it looking at the window or reading books. I love this room- love its look, location, and role in keeping plastic crap out of my living room. I don't think it will ever be a dining room- our kitchen eating area can seat 12 when the table is extended so I'd imagine we'll always entertain in there. Someday if we no longer need the space for trains and play kitchens I'll make it a music room, I've always wanted to learn to play the piano.

The study is done, courtesy of a gallon of "burnt copper" paint, Ikea Billy shelves, Ikea desk, Target filing cabinets, and a lot of late nights, toiling after work and cursing my idea of painting all the trim dark brown.

(the orange doesn't look nearly that bright in person)

I'm quite pleased with the final product. It's been so nice to finally put our books and photo albums on shelves and have a retreat for night and weekend work.

Our master bedroom is still a work in progress. I've been slowly purchasing new linens, towels, and accessories- every time I get a 20% Bed Bath & Beyond coupon in the mail I add one more item to our hall closet. I hope the day that I complete my shopping will be the day we can afford a matching furniture set (right now it's a compilation of family donations and craigslist finds)- only then will the dreams in my head be fully realized. That's at least a year away and for once I don't mind going slow. My plans have evolved with each purchase and I'm quite excited to see where I end up.

Today's focus was Landon's "big boy" room. The room he's in now will stay the nursery for as long as it's needed- it's at the top of the stairs and separate from the other upstairs bedrooms (our master is downstairs). His future room has a beautiful view of the backyard and is right across from the bathroom, which should come in handy for potty training. This room has also evolved since I started thinking about it when we moved in. At first I fell in love with this quilt, but then I found an adorable "transportation" sheet set for $10 and a $20 reversible navy/khaki comforter at Ross and decided I could no longer justify the price of the quilt. Landon adores the sheets and carries the package all around the house exclaiming "BUS!" - he even slept with it a few nights last week. Today I found a set of navy, yellow, red, and khaki striped panel curtains at Wal-Mart (their home goods have come a long way) and these truck holdbacks. I also found a transportation "road rug" to put between the two twin beds at Wal-Mart and these prints on eBay to frame along the wall. I'm so excited about his room, it just needs a few more finishing touching- shelves and some sort of toy storage- and it's done.

And speaking of Landon, here's a picture of his 1 year portraits.

I thought he looked so much older when he took them, but now I can see how much baby was still left- and how little there is now. The next step away from babyhood and towards his leaving me for college (tear) is moving out of his crib, and that's where I have a question. When do they do that? Right now he's quite happy with his crib and its cage-like qualities come in handy on the nights he flips out at bedtime. He yells and shakes the sides and then curls up and goes to sleep after about 30 seconds, I doubt he'd fall asleep that fast in a bed he could get out of. We're not in any rush, there's no Landon 2.0 waiting in the wings for the crib, but Landon 1.0 has a track record of needing some serious nudges at each step of development and I'm wondering how that transition went for everyone else.

For now I'm going to get back to scouring the internets for the perfect piece of (inexpensive, matching) furniture to fit under the window and between the beds to serve as a nightstand and toy storage. It's the only thing that will cure this bug.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Waste of a Good Narcotic

So it turns out that codeine keeps me awake- loopy, but very much AWAKE. And it kept me that way, consumed with half-lucid dreams of choking on my own throat, until about 2 a.m. when I decided the medicine had sufficiently worked its way through my system to allow me to swallow a handful of Ibuprofen for the throat swelling and a swig of nighttime cold medicine to knock me out. I woke up 7 hours later, shocked to find Landon and JP gone for the day without my noticing and feeling not worse (though not better) than the day before.

I worked from home, which mostly involved me staring at the wall or out the window. No one was expecting much from me, in fact I was ordered not to work by the senior associate until I begged her to give me something to do. She told me that's the first sign of a workaholic- not knowing what to do with downtime. But when I'm feeling good I love and savor my down time- there's errands and shopping to be done, a house to organize, a Landon to play with, a JP to bother, etc. But when I'm feeling like crap and can't go out, can't nap, and hate everything on daytime TV, I might as well work, though I did thumb my way through Voyager for the 15th time.

I'm planning to repeat the Ibuprofen + nighttime cough medicine dosing and tuck myself in bed in a few minutes. I'm hoping to wake up tomorrow without my first thought centering around how much it hurts to swallow. And then I'm going to work and being productive because oh my goodness do we have a lot to do before our hearing next week.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Strep, Work, Codeine, and Cuteness

I woke up this morning coughing blood because my throat was so raw. At JP's horror and insistence I dragged myself to the doctor to receive a diagnosis of strep throat, some antibiotics, and Tylenol with codeine (so I can sleep, my throat hurts so badly that every time I swallow I get jolted awake). I stopped by work to pick up my laptop and was ordered by everyone to go home immediately and rest, but I know how much work there is to be done (we have a major production deadline Friday) and if I'm going to feel like crap I might as well be billing. I stopped at HEB to drop off my prescriptions and pick up a large slice of chocolate cake with buttercream icing. It wasn't prescribed by the doctor, but I'm pretty sure it's going to make me feel lots better.

Last night went surprisingly well. Landon only did his flip-flopping on the floor trout impersonation once, when I made him take off his apron before we left daycare (he loves the cherry apron from the dress-up corner, that and the red silk purse). He threw his food on the floor at dinner, which I took as a sign he was finished, so I removed his tray, which made him claw at his face in fury. That was new. I let his screaming self down and started reading a book in the play room; he joined me soon after and was very, very good the rest of the night. By 7:15 I was absolutely drained, so I got two couch pillows and laid down on the floor of the play room. He looked worried and kept walking over, laying his head on the pillow next to mine and saying "night night mama?" He then carefully made a stack of all his books, sat down next to me, and "read" every single one. Every now and then he'd lean over to rest his cheek on my shoulder like he does with the dogs and then go back to his books. He looked rather relieved when his daddy came home and could take over nursing duty.

And to end, here is a video clip of Landon showing of all his anatomy knowledge. It's about 4 weeks old and a little long, but blessedly unrelated to the image of my raw, bloody throat. (Ew, I brought it up again.) My favorite part is about 1:28 when he says "All Right!" That's his favorite phrase and every time you tell him "Good job" he responds with an enthusiastic "All right!". On Saturday he steered his tricycle to the mailbox (with me pushing from behind)- I couldn't help my constant flow of Good jobs! because he was steering so well and he kept exclaiming All right! and I was cracking up and oh, it was a fun 15 minutes.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Please Allow Me a Moment of Self-Pity

Currently sitting on my desk at work:

~ Tylenol Sore Throat/Fever/BodyAches/Headache Daytime medicine with Instant Cool Burst Sensation
~ Giant 2 Tbl medicine cup from my 11:00 a.m. dosing that I haven't had time to wash
~ Big cup of chamomile tea with honey
~ Costco size container of honey because it's the only one we had in my house. It came to work in a ziploc freezer bag nestled prevariously close to my laptop in my shoulder bag.
~ 11,256,231,489 pieces of paper
~ 5,324,826 post-it flags in a variety of coordinated colors
~ 4 different sizes of yellow post-its
~ 3 different sizes of binder clips
~ 2 chapsticks
~1 box of kleenex
~ 6 to-do lists of varying size and project type

And behind the desk is a very sick, achey, swollen throat lawyer whose husband is coaching every night from 5:30-7:30 for the next month so she now has to get out the door for daycare pick-up every day and care for their lovable, but increasingly toddleresque child by herself when all she really wants to do is crawl under the covers and pass out or cry or watch terrible daytime tv or all three.

Okay. Deep breath. Big cough. Squaring shoulders. Soldiering on.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Weekend Blues

Ever since I had a bad case of mono my freshman year of college that ruined my New Year's Eve and landed me in the hospital for five days with a throat that tried to swell shut- (wait, that's a story: I was at JP's apartment getting ready because my dorm was still closed for the holidays and I passed out on the hallway between his room and the bathroom. He came out of his room, saw me and ran over exclaiming, "It's only 7:00- we haven't even started drinking yet!" I had a 105 fever and was severely dehydrated because I hadn't had any food or liquids in more than two days. Turns out stomach ache + severe headache - liquids - solids - mom to notice the lack of eating/drinking + fever and shaking = passing out and a New Year's Eve rush to the emergency room.) Anyway, ever since that, my throat swells whenever I get the slightest bit sick. Usually that's all that happen, my throat gets puffy and painful but Ibuprofen, liquids, and rest make everything better in a few days. Given my busy schedule and my immune system's crappy track record, I've been remarkably healthy since Landon was born. Maybe it's a special kind of mommy immunity, but I've only been sick a handful of times in the past 2 years.

Last night I could feel my throat starting to itch, and I woke up at 4 a.m. feeling like I was choking because it was so swollen and painful. Today I've laid low while Landon read me books (he's very stern with the pigeon in "Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus", his reading goes something like this: "A Bus!! NO. A Bus! NO! NO! NO! Bus!!!") and I finished his "Landon's 1st Year" photo book on Snapfish (I started it yesterday morning to avoid working on all the doc review I brought home and got totally sucked in to his baby picture files). I'm feeling marginally better but I know this week is going to be absolutely crazy at work and while I like my job more and more every day, the thought of facing next week feeling like this makes me want to hide under the covers in the fetal position.

I had other things I was going to blog about- I have no idea how it suddenly got to be Sunday and I haven't written anything about our big shoe shopping adventure yesterday (Landon is a full size bigger than I thought, oops! The crushing guilt for inflicting discomfort on my child made me shell out $42 at Stride Rite yesterday without even flinching. He adores his new shoes and carried them upstairs to bed last night- his last two pairs were less than $10 on sale and his pair before that was borrowed for a friend, so that makes his new shoes almost free right? I didn't flinch at the time, but apparently I'm flinching now), my crazy wonderful day at work Friday (lots of responsibility + knowing what you're doing and knowing you're doing it well = job love), or my addendum to #7 in the last post- I've realized the situation hardest on us as a couple and it's not time- we actually spend a lot of relaxing, happy, flirty time together. It's the weekends when we both have work, we both want to play with Landon, we both need some down time, and the laundry, dishes, and errands aren't getting done by themselves that are hard. There's just not enough time for the want to do's, need to do's, and absolutely have to do's. I don't think JP's gone a day without putting in 10 hours of work since October and I miss his having guilt-free down time, we still do a lot of things together as a family, but I always know it's at the expense of him working later and it sucks.

Well, thanks to a flagrant misuse of parentheticals and run-on sentences, I guess I just did blog about all those things. And now a Landon who recently realized he's getting close to two and needs to start acting like it is about to get up from his nap and I need more medicine before that happens. More medicine and about 10 more hours in my day.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

JP and Me

So we've decided on the neighborhood center ("NC"). It's where Landon would have gone from the beginning if we'd gotten in and I think it will be a wonderful place for him over the next few years. I'll have more to say about this later, but right now I want to share this snippet from an earlier conversation with JP:

JP: So we'll go with NC.

Me: Are we sure? [lots of waffling, blah blah]

JP: Yeah, it's great, we like it, and it'll be good for baby #2 in about a year.

Me: Wait, have we decided on a baby #2 in a year?

JP: Well, it sounds like you have, so that's what we'll end up doing.

Me: And to think you said you didn't want to get married when I met you. You're so good at it!

And in honor of that sentiment (he really is remarkably good at being married), I've filled out this meme I saved in my drafts in February when dooce did it.

1. What are your middle names?
His is Paul and mine used to be Ann but I replaced it with my maiden name when I got married.

2. How long have you been together?
7 years and 7 months

3. How long did you know each other before you started dating?
about 36 hours

4. Who asked whom out?
JP, with eight Jack & Cokes worth of courage flowing through his veins, asked if he could call me after we spent 2 hours talking on a sidewalk in front of the 6th Street Bar we'd just been kicked out of for underage drinking. I told him if he remembered the conversation the next day, he was welcome to call. He remembered.

5. How old are each of you?
26 and 27.5 (it's important to add the .5 to his age, it shows how old he is compared to me)

6. Whose siblings do you see the most?
He doesn't have any, so mine.

7. Which situation is the hardest on you as a couple?
I'm not sure, we handle most of the hard stuff pretty well (baby, DCFS investigation, being 1,000 miles away from family during the Year of No Sleep). Right now our biggest struggle is JP's incredibly busy schedule- any minute he's not studying for school or coaching our neighborhood summer league team (did I mention he's doing that?), he's working on his company. We still make time for each other, but it results in us rarely going to sleep before midnight and the bags under my eyes are suffering for it. It's hard to feel like I'm at the end of his "to do" list, and not because I worry about his priorities, but because there's just always other things that Have to get done- cuddling with me on the couch has no firm deadline.

8. Did you go to the same school?
We went to the same undergrad (U.T.) but very different high schools. I went to a 4,000 person Houston public school and he went to a teeny tiny all-boys private Catholic school run by monks in an abbey in Washington, D.C.

9. Are you from the same home town?
Nope, see above. I was born and raised in a suburb outside Houston, he's an upper crust D.C./Potomac, Maryland boy who has since rejected his roots and embraced Texas in a way I never have or will.

10. Who is smarter?
The diplomatic thing would be to dodge this question, but I know he'd say me and in the traditional, measurable sense he's right. That said, he has a vastly superior grasp of world geography, history and world political issues and his work ethic puts mine to shame.

11. Who is the most sensitive?
If you mean touchy- him. I think it's an only child thing.
If you mean emotionally in tune- me.

12. Where do you eat out most as a couple?
We rarely eat out anymore due to personal budget cuts, but if we do it's somewhere cheap with good drinks (El Arroyo being a favorite). If Landon is with us, it's pancakes, usually Kerbey Lane. Shoreline Grill is our favorite special occasion/someone else is paying restaurant.

13. Where is the furthest you two have traveled together as a couple?
Jamaica for our honeymoon; also NYC and San Francisco.

14. Who has the craziest exes?
He has no exes and mine aren't crazy, so I guess neither.

15. Who has the worst temper?
Me. When JP gets mad he just gets non-responsive which forces me to yell at him. In our 7+ year relationship I've never seen him display any signs of temper despite the occasional act of provocation by me.

16. Who does the cooking?
Both of us, depending on who is busier on which evening.

17. Who is the neat-freak?
Me, though he has a bizarre thing about not wearing shoes in the house because he thinks it's dirty. I have a thing about always wanting my feet to be encased in something. I win, but it drives him crazy to see me with shoes on while I'm relaxing on the couch. I finally told him if he says "Take your shoes off, stay awhile" one more time I'd throw something at him (but not my shoes, those are staying firmly on my feet).

18. Who is more stubborn?
Him x 1,000. I enjoy getting my way but I'm ultimately an oldest-child people pleaser.

19. Who hogs the bed?
Neither. We both like to cuddle but I have to move away before I can fall asleep and JP falls asleep so fast he doesn't have time to try to hog it. He does sometimes creep over to my side of the bed to cuddle while he's asleep, but he's pretty amenable to moving over when I shove him with my shoulder gently guide him back to his side. Before 7 a.m. I do not like to be touched.

20. Who wakes up earlier?
Whoever's turn it is to get up with Landon, though now that he sleeps in till 8 a.m., we get to wake up at the same time and get ready together again. That's been nice.

21. Where was your first date?
The Oasis in Austin, Texas. I found out months later he drove all the way out there the morning of our date just to make sure he knew the way. Obviously, this was before iPhones and Google maps.

22. Who is more jealous?
Neither, we're both confident in the other's affections.

23. How long did it take to get serious?
About a day. I told friends I was marrying him less than a month after meeting him.

24. Who eats more?
Have I ever talked about JP's appetite? He had all the records at the UT athletic dining hall for eating the most, and this is a dining hall filled with football players. When we used to go to PF Changs in college he'd order 2 appetizers, 2 entrees, and a dessert and not share a bite with me. And he's thin with 6-pack abs. It's utterly unfair.

And we never have leftovers, no matter how much I cook. Recipe for 8? Gone. I miss leftovers.

25. Who does the laundry?
Kind of like the cooking- we both do, whoever has a free moment.

26. Who's better with the computer?

27. Who drives when you are together?
JP. I sit in the passenger seat and read out loud to him from the WSJ or Newsweek. This works well because I'm not a big fan of driving and he gets car sick when he reads.

So there's a little insight into the JP/LL union- after reading all that I have to wonder why he thinks he's the lucky one.

And here's our only decent Easter picture:

We've come a long way from being kicked out of a bar

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Daycare Dilemma

I toured a new daycare this morning. I loved it. I'm thinking of switching Landon at the start of the new school year. The biggest drawback is that they don't provide lunch. His current daycare provides all meals and given that I've managed to bring my own lunch to work all of ONE time, I'm really not sure I could handle making one for Landon each day. For one, that would cut into my prized evening "off-duty" time or my relatively stress-free morning time. Two, Landon eats all sorts of things provided by the daycare that he pretends he doesn't like at home, something about toddler peer pressure and everyone eating the same thing makes him an enthusiastic and experimental eater. Three, see number one. I don't want to. It would change my shopping list, require me to have more in my fridge than condiments, milk, and the precise items needed for the week's planned dinners, and well, I'm starting to whine, but I've been spoiled by our current daycare and its kitchen (which received a perfect 100 during its recent food/health safety check) and see no reason to force myself to become un-spoiled.

So why am I even looking at another daycare? It was an accident. It's the childcare center built by our neighborhood and I put Landon on the waiting list back in February of 2008. When we realized during our house hunting trip in March that he wouldn't get in by September, I erased it from my mind and picked among our available options. We've been very happy with his current center and assumed he'd stay there until Kindergarten.

Then I got an email Monday notifying me that Landon was now at the top of the wait list and would be able to start in the 2-year-old class in the Fall. I remembered all the great things I'd heard about the neighborhood center, found out their builder-subsidized rates would save us nearly $2,000 a year, and scheduled a visit for this morning. It's really, really nice. Beautiful building, big play areas, bright classrooms, and loyal teachers (average time there is 5 years and the center isn't a whole lot older than that). Landon's current daycare could be described in much the same way, so I still wasn't sure it was worth a switch when I asked to tour the infant rooms. Assuming we one day decide our lives can handle the upheaval of another child (we're not there yet), that baby will need some form of childcare, and the only thing I don't love about Landon's current center is the infant area. It looks very institutional and plain and all the babies are so young that even though the teacher-baby ratio is low, I don't think they get to do very much. This place keeps all kids in their current class for one year, which means the babies are of much greater variance in age (the class I saw today had only two that looked younger than 5 months, the other four were a little older and able to sit independently and play, so the caregivers could hold the newest ones a lot more -- much like Maya's distribution of ages). I liked that a lot. If we use a daycare center for the first year for this future hypothetical child, I'd want it to be this one. It felt homey and bright and quite a lot like Maya's.

As I've typed this I'm realizing that I've half-made my decision. The neighborhood center is cheaper by $1800 for Landon's age and $3300 for infants (it was subsidized by the neighborhood builders). I like it just as much for Landon's age and even more for infants. It's closer to our house (though the opposite direction from work). The transition shouldn't be too much of an issue because Landon was slated to move up to the Early Preschool class at his current daycare in August, so he'd be getting a new teacher, new room, and new classmates anyway.

The only things holding me back are the lunch requirement (that sounds a little ridiculous, but I LOVE how easy it is to take Landon to daycare right now- I literally just drop him off with the clothes on his back and he loves their food and eats so well! After a dinner where he refuses to eat anything but starch, JP and I frequently find ourselves saying, "well at least he ate well at daycare.") and the lack of cameras. Those daycare cameras really have been a comfort for me on the bad drop-off days.

So what do you think? What to you pack your toddler for lunch? Is it a hassle? Am I being absurd? Don't forget the cameras, they've been quite nice. But a savings of $2,000 for an equally lovely place? I just don't know. And I need to give them my decision by tomorrow morning. The wait lists wait for no one.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

University of Chicago, The Law School

I'm having lunch with an admitted University of Chicago law student today. I volunteered to be on the Alumni Admissions Committee a few months ago and since then have been matched up with several local UChicago admits; so far I've mostly answered questions by email, today is my first in-person serious discussion about the merits of the school. I'm trying to organize my thoughts.

The good: I think I can wholeheartedly recommend the law school itself. While I hate, loathe and despise the quarter system, the small class size (less than 200), amazing professors who actually enjoy teaching and interracting with students outside of class, and ease of access to courses and administrative assistance make it a great place to learn the law. The rigor is no joke, but I can now appreciate the fact that the Socratic Method was heavily used all three years. It made me good class discussions and participation and if you're paying $40,000+ per year in tuition, you might as well get your money's worth. The campus is also quite lovely with its gothic architecture, ivy covered walls, and giant trees.

The bad: The location in south side Chicago leaves much to be desired, but Hyde Park on the North side of campus is charming in its own way and if you live in South or West Loop downtown the commute is pretty easy. Parking became a nightmare by the time I left thanks to a bunch of new construction around the law school, but I don't know what the situation is like now.

The I Don't Know: Up to a year ago I wouldn't have told anyone to worry much about the loans. While graduating up to $200,000 in debt is not ideal, a benefit of the small class size and prestigious name is that everyone is guaranteed a BigLaw job paying $160,000 if they want one. Regardless of your grades (which are bizarre: 180+ is an A, below 174 is a C, median is a 177, no one but alumni understand how to read our transcripts. The school also doesn't rank, so no one knows where he or she stands in the class and law firms don't ask), you had an array of firms to choose from by the end of OCI. But the legal world has completely changed since I was a 2L and I don't know that I'd feel as comfortable taking out those loans in this environment. It never occurred to me during my law school experience that I wouldn't have a high paying job that could pay back those loans within a few years, I don't think that would be true now. I'm sure UChicago students are still in some demand, but with a huge pool of "elite" law students now facing delayed start dates and layoffs (a handful of people from my graduating class have already been let go from their firms), I don't know how much firms will be relying on OCI to fill their incoming classes over the next few years. It's something I'd at least be nervous about- grades, journals, etc. may start to matter in a way they didn't before.

I believe this particular admit is trying to choose between UChicago and a few other top 10 schools, so the loans issue would exist in any of those situations and for all I know she has a rich relative funding her education. If the financial side of things is equal (if it's not, I'd let financial aid sway me in a way I wouldn't have 3 years earlier), I think a major benefit of Chicago is the grade-blind OCI (firms don't get your transcript until after the interview and must meet with you if you select them) and small class size (greater access to professors and a wait-list free course registration).

And of course you get to graduate in this beautiful chapel:

and live in this beautiful city:

It's going to be very hard for me to be impartial, I miss it so.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Bunny Time!

So, the weekend. It is over and it was wonderful.

I got all my lawyer work done Friday afternoon just in time for my grandparents to arrive and see my office. We picked up the Landon from daycare and went to eat at our favorite Austin BBQ place (County Line, for those interested- get the ribs). I made the carrot cake and poppyseed bread Friday night and oh my goodness it was delicious! Everyone raved, especially those who didn't think they liked carrot cake and only tried it to be nice (I'm actually in that group too, but I knew my dad liked carrot cake and his birthday is tomorrow. I'm now a believer, at least in this recipe).

Saturday was a whirl of egg hunts (church and neighborhood) cooking, greeting new arrivals (parents, other set of grandparents, siblings), and decorating. I had lots of help from my mom and sister (the two great-grandmas offered lots of moral support and praise, but we decided they'd more than earned the right to watch) and everything came together perfectly.

That's the dessert spread, with the beloved water dispenser. The extended-to-seat-10 table was decorated with a matching table cloth ($5 at Ross, man I love that store), pretty pastel colored tea lights (also Ross, $2), and my wedding china. Events like this make me want to have a whole gaggle of children just to ensure the hostessing of large family gatherings for the next 50 years.

This morning we went to church where Landon refused to go in the nursery but sat somewhat quietly in our laps while munching his way through an entire bag of animal crackers. He did make two attempts to race up to the altar, but a 6'3" JP did his best to inconspicuously retrieve him to the back row where we were sitting. Landon also refused to smile for most of the morning so we didn't get a good family picture (and he was wearing a tie! and matching hat!), but he did enjoy his many walks with Papa (my dad) and all the attention from his varied relatives.

We didn't get to his Easter basket until after his nap, but he was excited about the new books and music. We also "hid" a few Easter eggs around the downstairs but at first Landon just enjoyed carrying his basket from room to room.

(basket = Hobby Lobby 50% off sale + $1 foam stickers. I'm so crafty)

But once he picked up an egg, sneakily hidden between two stair banisters, and realized people would clap for him, he got very excited about the whole thing. He even performed an Easter egg dance.

Our house was back to just the three of us by 3:30 and I accidentally fell asleep, fully clothed and shoed on top of the bed until 5. I awoke to find JP re-"hiding" Landon's eggs while he watched and clapped and then ran to collect them. I think the hunting of empty eggs is going to become a new favorite game in the Lag Liv house.

All in all, it was a fantastic weekend. Landon is now sleeping, a pink Easter egg clutched in his hand, JP is studying, and I've spent twenty minutes trying to work up the momentum to get up and switch the wash, but am sinking ever deeper into the couch instead. I think this Easter bunny is going to hang up her ears and go to bed. I hope you all had a wonderful holiday!

Friday, April 10, 2009

An Explosion of To-Do Lists

I have two guests arriving in a few hours, six more guests arriving tomorrow, an Easter dinner for 10 tomorrow afternoon, a house of nine overnight, and Easter brunch for 15 on Sunday. I am also slammed with work, and was in fact working until midnight last night (with a 4-hour break for Landon's daycare Easter egg hunt and evening family time). There are post-it note to-do lists yelling at me from various spots around my desk

The remarkable thing about all of this is that I'm not particularly stressed. Work is going really, really well. I'm happy (thrilled!) to be busy, I very much like what I'm doing, and I've received a lot of praise from higher-ups not overly prone to give it. The house guests and assorted entertaining is slightly more stressful, but I love hostessing and have gotten pretty good at it. I did most of my grocery shopping last weekend, added the final few fresh items early this morning, and have detailed lists of each recipe, ingredients, and the time I need to make it. The menu is as follows:

Easter supper on Saturday afternoon: honey glazed ham, my mom's baked beans, glazed carrots, corn pudding (the most amazing recipe I must post sometime, I routinely eat this alone for dinner and Landon is obsessed with it), crescent rolls, carrot cake, angel food cake, and fresh berries and ice cream.

Easter brunch on Sunday morning: spinach quiche, bacon/onion quiche (both crustless and delicious), egg and sausage casserole, fruit, cheese, orange poppyseed bread, OJ, and of course Easter candy (especially Reese peanut butter eggs, mmmmm).

A minor hiccup is the church children's Easter egg hunt and party Saturday morning which seriously cramps my prep time, but I think as long as I have the cake baked tonight I'll be fine. And I'm very excited to watch Landon pet the baby bunnies and find little plastic eggs he refuses to let JP or I touch. He still doesn't know they open. He very jealously guarded his bucket of eggs from the daycare party yesterday and it sat right next to his crib all night. Sometime when he's not looking I need to at least remove all the chocolate so I can eat it.

The beds are made and thanks to a last minute craigslist find we can now sleep 7 in actual beds with a mattress, frame, matching sheets and everything. JP is working on the yard. The Easter Bunny has finished her shopping (Landon's too young to know he's spoiled right?). The bowl of pastel colored dark chocolate m&ms has been replenished (I ate the entire first bag myself, a fact which I find rather horrifying). The table decor has been puchased and the water dispenser will be back on the counter. Landon has agreed to put on several dancing performances. It's going to be a great, pastel colored, bunny and family-filled weekend.

I just need to get through this work to-do list first. Happy Easter weekend everyone!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Back to School

For three hours each Wednesday night in April I get to be a student again. I am enough of a nerd that I actually got a few tears in my eyes when I walked onto the U.T. campus for the first time in years last Wednesday. I adored my time in undergrad. I met JP my first night there and walking around campus brings back so many wonderful memories of falling in love, finding myself, and having a ridiculous amount of fun in the process. It's a huge school and you have to take responsibility for your own happiness, and I did- between the swim team, my little honors program (Plan II for those who know UT), being an orientation advisor, being involved in numerous clubs and honors societies, and making friends with professors (one of whom I'm having lunch with next week), I had an absolute blast during my 3.5 years there. I heard some undergrads talking about how many days left to graduation and I wanted to yell at them "No, don't go! don't leave this magical place! The real world is so much harder." I love everything about my life right now, but I'd go back to undergrad again in a heartbeat if it was possible. I actually feel that way about elementary, middle, and high school too. Why did I want to grow up so fast?

This view is my particular favorite. The life sciences library is in this tower and I spent way too many hours in its quiet, beautiful rooms trying to master organic chemistry. My failure to ever understand the voodoo 3-D movement of hydrogen molecules is one of the many reasons I'm now a lawyer.

It is beautiful though isn't it?

I'm enjoying my photography class. I hate missing Landon's bedtime on those evenings but I keep telling myself that it's only four classes, that I never miss bedtime normally, and he is happy at home playing with his beloved Dada. And I'm so excited to be a student again. I have a shiny new spiral notebook and it sent a little thrill down my spine to write the name of the class and date on the first page and commence taking notes.

Unfortunately my professor is more of a "learn by doing" kind of guy. I appreciate this as it doesn't matter if you know the name of what you're adjusting out in the field as long as you know how and when to adjust it. That said, I learn better by definition. I need to know what ISO is first and then I can go about playing with it. The first class my brain was freaking out because even though I now knew how to adjust the light meter I didn't know the name or definition of what I was adjusting and my brain kept yelling HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO WORK LIKE THIS? It was a challenge, but we're getting through.

Yesterdays class was entirely outside in the Main Mall. For those who don't know UT, it's a beautiful section of campus in front of the Main Building and Tower, with three white stone, red roofed buildings down each side, enormous trees lining the paths in front of the buildings, and a grassy area in the middle. There's a big fountain at the bottom and a perfect view of the Texas capitol building. It's a great place for pictures. I learned a lot and my crowning achievement was this late-dusk shot capturing the cobalt blue of the sky. This picture is straight from the camera with no finishing or adjusting. I love it, though using a tripod would have made it clearer (and straighter).

It brings back so many happy memories that it's momentarily replaced Landon as my desktop wallpaper (don't worry, he still surrounds me in picture form in my office). I look forward to learning enough to take better pictures by the time the class ends- next time we've even been promised we'll be able to take notes!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Landon's Busy Weekend

In the 7 months that I've been a full-time working attorney I've learned that weekends are magical. When I was a student, weekends were an opportunity catch up (or at least pretend like I was going to, oh the things I'd tell myself on Friday I'd have done when I returned to class on Monday). As a worker bee, weekends are a break, a time my brain can function at a substantially lower level without guilt or apology. Sure I sometimes need to log in for a few hours, but I generally know what needs to be done and the hours it will require, it's not the ever present weight on my shoulders that impending exams used to be.

Landon likes weekends too. He loves having his mommy and daddy all together in the same house as he runs about to entertain us. This weekend seemed especially full of fun. I present Landon's Busy Weekend, a story in pictures.

1. He got a cheap Easter bucket to practice for the upcoming Week of Easter Egg Hunts. He enjoyed taking our practice egg in and out of the bucket, but quickly abandoned that in favor of turning the bucket upside down and zooming it around the room. He doesn't yet know the eggs open to reveal his favorite fruit snacks and I think that little surprise is going to blow his mind.

2. He got two new bath toys and had lots of fun showing them to his cat (who always supervises bath time).

Not pictured: Landon scooping water into the crab and handing it to Lilly to drink; Landon finishing the water she left behind; Mom suggesting Landon and Lilly drink the bath water out of separate plastic toys (or you know, not drink the bath water at all, but I didn't think they'd be receptive to that suggestion).

3. On Saturday he went to Mozarts on Lake Austin to feed ducks and meet a new friend (Becca and family from Academomia. They were delightful and it was so reassuring to see a family with a toddler and infant out in public and looking all put together and happy. Becca had both boys while getting her PhD and successfully defended her dissertation right after Wesley was born. She makes me feel unimpressive, but it was still so nice to finally meet her and her equally nice and brilliant PhD husband).

At first Landon didn't quite understand the "feed the ducks and not yourself" concept, as every piece of bread I gave him went directly in his mouth, but after a cup of cereal and Cinnamon roll he seemed willing to share old bread with his feathered friends. He had lots of fun pointing out all the water buses and sticking his feet through a gate under the deck with Becca's son Charlie.

4. On Saturday afternoon Landon and his belly went to the pool. Immediately after this picture was taken he flipped out and completely forgot that he liked water and spent the rest of the time running around the pool deck holding a beach ball and pointing out the "Wawa! Wawa!"

Not pictured: Later that night JP and I went on a date beause Steve offered to hang out with his favorite toddler. We are very lucky in our friends.

5. After church on Sunday he continued to work on putting on his shoes. He remains utterly unsuccessful.

6. 3.5 months after receiving his shopping cart, he suddenly realized he could fit inside of it. Kind of. This discovery occupied much of the rest of Sunday evening as he tried to figure out a way to be in the cart while also pushing it. Like the shoes, he remains unsuccessful but determined.

Landon also helped mom trim bushes (I turned around to find him loading all the fallen branches into his wagon), ate his weight in pancakes, learned all the names of his barnyard animals, and danced up a storm.

I wouldn't say I live for weekends, at least not yet, but I do enjoy the heck out of them.

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Happiness

Thank you all for your comments yesterday, they were so nice to read throughout a difficult morning.

I call these posts "The Balancing Act" because that's really what it is. Juggling sounds too haphazard and doesn't feel right for this life that works so well most of the time. Some days the scale leans too heavy on one side, but it's always just a lean, and luckily so far it soon tips back. Yesterday afternoon at 3:30 I walked into the senior associate's office and we started talking about being working moms (she has two little ones). We chatted for a while and she mentioned that I had been doing a fantastic job and the partner was going out of town so I should head home early. I found myself telling her about the weepy morning and she kicked me out of the office. Told me to go home immediately, play with my son, and log in from home in the morning. I was giddy. I flew down the highway and ran into daycare to scoop up this delightful gentleman who squealed and flapped his hands as he raced into my arms.

(click to enlarge)

It was a gorgeous day. I opened every window, turned up my iTunes, and danced around the house with Landon while we did some Spring cleaning. I (or excuse me, we) pulled the sheets off every bed in the house, washed them, and made up all the rooms for our guests next weekend (ten people coming for Easter, yay!). We rode his tricycle to get the mail (I push from the back, he steers, sometime in the last 3 days he learned right and left) and chased each other in the front yard. JP grilled out chicken breasts and we ate on the back deck while Landon walked back and forth between the two of us chanting "Mama. Dada! Dada. Mama!" When I put him to bed he snuggled in to my neck and sighed with a sleepy little "mama." He went down into the crib without protest and I closed the door knowing that it was the end of one of the most perfect afternoons I'd ever spent.

It was perfect not in its events (doing 4 loads of laundry is actually not my dream afternoon off, though my crush on my washer and dryer helps), but in its rarity and timeliness. Part of the difficulty with Thursday morning was that I didn't see Landon the night before because of my photography class (more on that later). It was the first night I've missed seeing him since November and it was harder on both of us than I expected. He's so much more aware of JP and my actions and presence and while I really, truly believe we're all okay being separated during the day, I've found there's firm limits on that.

I still billed about 6 hours today, but I did it at home, sharing a table with JP. I picked up Landon early and he very proudly presented me with this beautiful "sensory bottle" made of beads, some type of aquatic lizard (corrected: we have now determined it's a whale), and colored water.


He's very attached to it. He carefully showed it to each of his three pets, and even left it by their side for several minutes in an ultimate gesture of love (though he did race over to collect it when Lilly tried to bat at the lizard-thing inside). It is so fun being his mother.

I like what I do. I like my firm (a lot). I don't regret this working mom path I'm on. But it's nice to have a few days when the balance is tipped heavier on the mom side than the attorney side.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Hard

Landon ran into a corner and dissolved into tears when I dropped him off at daycare this morning. I left the building with tiny pins of tears pricking my eyes and a stern, steady inner monologue reminding me that I Cannot quit my job, I do not Want to quit my job, my family Lives off the money I make, I have worked Very hard to do what I do, I am Very Lucky to have such a wonderful job when thousands of lawyers are being fired, I Like what I do, Landon Likes daycare, we would have No money if I did not work, providing things like Shelter and Food makes me a good mom, even if I have to do things that make him cry, quitting work and living off credit cards would Not make me a better parent, etc.

I was able to keep the lecture up for my entire eight minute commute to work, where I immediately logged onto the daycare camera website to find him dancing on the wooden loft with two of his classmates. He's fine. I'm fine. But my God was that hard.

It's difficult for me to write about this kind of day. I feel such a need to prove to everyone that this can be done, that you can be a happy working mom, that having Landon this early when I don't have the choice to quit work even if I wanted to wasn't a mistake. But I think it's important because everyone has hard days and I don't want to pretend that I don't. I also think it makes it more believable when I write about how well everything works 95% of the time. Because it does.

But right now, even though I can see him sitting in a circle around his teacher, listening to a story with rapt attention, I'm dangerously close to tears remembering him sobbing on the floor when I walked out of the room.