Saturday, February 27, 2010


I've been struggling all week with Grant's death. It was such a blow on Saturday- so shocking and sudden that I found myself wanting to argue with the friend who gave me the news. "But I just talked to him on Thursday!" I wanted to yell, how can you possibly be telling me he's dead? I kept asking if we were sure, like maybe we'd get the news that it was all a misunderstanding- a flurry of texts and emails gone wrong.

Monday was harder. By then I believed it had happened- there was an AP report, an Above the Law post, and heartbreaking messages from friends and family on his facebook page (including a mention of how much he would have rolled his eyes at the thought of a facebook memorial, which is absolutely true, though we also know he would have been generous enough to understand that the messages are more for us than for him). And yet I'd find myself looking for his daily quip in the gchat list to the right of my gmail inbox. And it would be a fresh blow to remember that I wouldn't see them again.

This is the first loss where the pain I feel is my own. I've watched friends lose a parent, or a family friend lose a spouse, and it was devastating to witness. I ached for them and their families, but my tears weren't for me - the deceased hadn't been a part of my daily life. And while it takes my breath away to think of Grant's parents and brother getting that terrible phone call on Saturday afternoon, this time, my sense of loss is personal. And it just came from nowhere. He had just turned 29. He'd been working incredibly long hours and headed out for a weekend of snowmobiling in the country with colleagues to celebrate a recent filing. He hit a tree and died on the scene. He had so much to offer and he could have done so much more. He was so smart, so delightfully witty and sarcastic, and so kind and concerned for others.

We received an email from the dean of the law school with the details of Grant's memorial and the address of his parents. I'd never met them, but had to tell them something about the fantastic person they raised. I had no idea what to write, but tried anyway, hoping that at least another card to add to the pile I'm sure they'll get will let them know how much their son was loved and admired by those he knew. And I continued to struggle with forgetting the news as I went about my busy days only to remember suddenly at a stop sign with tears pricking my eyes or my voice breaking while I sang a song to Landon.

Then on Thursday a blog reader sent me this article by an attorney, Ann Nichols, who caters on the side, and happens to be catering Grant's funeral reception. I broke down while reading, but it's a beautifully written essay and the first thing I'd read about him that made me feel a measure of comfort rather than simply raw loss. It felt good to know that someone so thoughtful and eloquent was working behind the scenes to honor Grant. It felt even better to get a glimpse of his mother and know absolutely that sending them a card filled with my favorite things about Grant was the right thing to do. I'm glad to know that the "motley assortment of food" at his reception is truly a reflection of him- hummus, trail mix, carrot cake, and all.

His funeral just began and my heart and thoughts are with my classmates who caravaned to Michigan to attend. Rest in peace, Grant.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


I turned 27 today. To commemorate the occasion I took another dreaded belly picture to satisfy the demands of my more far-flung friends and relatives. Here I am, looking a little worn at the end of a 10 hour day, but standing tall in my new Nine West chocolate-with-a-hint-of-gold snake-skin-textured 3 1/2" heels. A marvelous $20 find at T.J. Maxx a few weeks ago.

As you can see, at 25 weeks The Belly has exploded onto the scene and graduated to proper noun status. It is an entity unto itself and demands attention the minute I turn to the side. At my 24-week check-up last week I horrified to find I had gained 12 pounds since my 20-week appointment. Twelve. My doctor wasn't concerned as my total weight gain so far was well within the average, but I continue to be mildly appalled. Not that that stopped me from eating six cookies yesterday when JP had Tiff's Treats delivered to my office as an early birthday present.

It has been a good day. I enjoyed a cookie for breakfast (with my tea, a calorie free beverage, so it all evens out), a nice french-fry filled lunch out with co-workers, some red velvet cake from my secretary at 3:00, and finally Double Dave's pizza and my traditional funfetti cake at home. I'm eating a salad tomorrow. A very big one.

In non-food-related birthday events, I finally had my year-end performance review and it was very good. I walked away with that slightly buzzed feeling I used to get after finding out a grade on an exam that I'd thought I'd done well on but then got nervous right before grades were posted only to find that I'd exceeded what I'd originally dared to hope for. It's almost as good as the feeling you get after a few margaritas. Man, do I miss margaritas.

So, a good day. Landon was VERY excited about my birthday (partially because for a while he thought it was his birthday too). When I picked him up at daycare his teacher said that Landon told all of his friends that it was his mommy's birthday and next thing she new all the kids were running around claiming it was their mommy's birthday. It's the cool thing to do. Later, he sang me a beautiful rendition of "Happy tooooo Youuuuu Mama" while eating his cake (quite literally while eating it, but it was beautiful nonetheless), followed up by multiple hugs and an encore of "Happy to You" as he went up the stairs with daddy for bedtime. He likes to recite his morning plan before bed- usually some version of "I wake up, come downstairs, see mommy daddy, get my milk." Tonight JP told me that he laid down on his pillow muttering, "wake up, come downstairs, see mommy daddy, eat cake!"

And that's pretty much my plan too.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

It's Kind of a Big Deal

It snowed yesterday. Here, in Austin, Texas, where it was 77 degrees on Sunday. In 48 hours I went from enjoying the fresh air with every window in my house open, to wearing a long down coat and drinking hot chocolate. And today? Today it was in the upper-50's and beautiful. Our weather is crazy.

And even though I'm now a hardened Northerner who outwardly scoffs at all the people lined up outside the grocery store snapping pictures of the falling flakes with their camera phones, I was secretly pretty excited about the whole thing.

I skipped out of work early and went to pick up Landon from daycare. He was practically humming with excitement about the "noe, mama- THE NOE!!!" on the ground so we quickly finished our graham crackers and headed outside.

But he was significantly less enthused when faced with the reality of the frozen water. He insisted that he did NOT want to touch it, but then informed me that "Tex really likes the noe." So I let the dogs out, but they were similarly unimpressed.

Snow started falling again so I suggested that Landon and I make a quick trip to the mailbox around the corner and then go back inside to read books. He agreed, but only after I found him some gloves and fixed his hood firmly on his head. He also insisted on bringing his lawnmower to "mow the noe" but once the wind blew a few flakes in his face he needed both his hands to block the evil water molecules and mommy had to carry the mower the rest of the way.

Most upsetting to Landon was when he asked the snow to "please stop being in my face" and it didn't listen. He looked up at me sadly and said, "but I'm sayin please". Stupid snow.

When we got back in the house Landon got his first taste of hot chocolate (a BIG hit) and we snuggled on the couch. I guess I said the phrase "warm and cozy" a few times because for the rest of the night Landon would walk over to me and crawl in my lap saying he wanted to be "warm and cozy with mommy." I really liked that game.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Battle Spaghetti Squash

I didn't make any formal Resolutions this year, but I did make a few informal ones ("informal" as in not written down- if it's not written, I can't break it), and one of those is a commitment to healthier, fresher eating.

I think we eat fairly well. Not gold-star level, but maybe worthy of a slightly torn silver one. But we can do better. We could utilize more fresh ingredients and our recipe repertoire could definitely be expanded. In pursuit of this goal we've been spending more time in the produce section of the grocery store and introducing new fruits and veggies to our kitchen. We spent Friday night perusing the aisles of Whole Foods with Landon standing point in the cart exclaiming over all the fruits and veggies ("they're so pretty mama!") - oh, the exciting life we lead.

Last night I attempted the mighty spaghetti squash. The Pioneer Woman linked to a post on her Tasty Kitchen site all about this handsome vegetable. I was intrigued and decided to take the plunge. JP was wary. Landon was delighted with the phrase "spaghetti squash" and kept pushing his step stool over to the kitchen counter to give the squash pets. The battle began at 6:00.

First up, you need to roast the squash. I cooked mine at 375 for 50 minutes.

Here it is, ready to be baked:

While this was happening, the boys went on a long walk with the dogs and I sat on the couch re-reading the last few chapters of the 5th Percy Jackson book because I speed-read them the first time very late Friday night. It's a fun finish to the series. Since I was on my own, I asked Lilly if she wanted to be my sous chef. She was super excited about the opportunity.

I also used the downtime to chop up some onion and parsley to toss with the squash. I kept some grape tomatoes and lemon on hand because I hadn't decided what else I was going to add. Ignore the cantaloupe and the basil plant- they're just bystanders.

Here is the mighty squash fully roasted. It's basically the exact same, but hotter.

And softer. It was very easy to cut in half, except for the stem- that was still tough, so I lobbed off the whole end to eliminate the resistance.

Next up you scoop out all the seeds. It's actually kind of tricky- the strings are strong and slippery and I kept freaking out that I was scooping out the "spaghetti" part of the "spaghetti squash." As it turns out, you can scrape away because you'll know when you get the real squashy stuff. I used a spoon, a knife, and then a grapefruit spoon. The ridged grapefruit spoon was most effective.

Then, and this is the magical part, you just take a fork and start pulling at the squash. It looks smooth and solid, but it's actually a whole bunch of noodles compacted together. It's amazing and I kept making JP come look at it so he could share in the wonder.

Ta-da! A bowl full of squash noodles!

They were so pretty, but I wasn't sure what to do next. I'd read a bunch of recipes on-line and decided to start with sautéing some onions and garlic in olive oil and butter. Then I was torn between adding lemon or tomato, but I was craving tomatoes, so I threw in a few of those. Then I added the squash and topped it all with fresh parsley and freshly grated parmesan.

And it was good- intriguing at first, and then quite tasty. But I needed more. I always try to like the "toss it with some butter and salt and pepper" directions but I invariably end up dumping in more ingredients. JP and I both liked it topped with spaghetti sauce. The noodles were still a little crunchy, so I don't think the full squash flavor had developed. Next time I plan to roast it longer and then go the simple route with lemon. JP still ate three bowls.

One down- and upside of the spaghetti squash is that it wasn't nearly as filling as regular spaghetti. One cup of pasta has 200 calories while a cup of spaghetti squash has less than 50. For someone like JP who spent his day swimming for 2 hours, lifting weights, and then going on an hour long walk- he needed the full pound of regular pasta. He was still hungry, so after dinner he made a big batch of blueberry pancakes and ate every one.

I, on the other hand, appreciated the lightness of the squash and celebrated my foray into spaghetti squashdom by making my own little after dinner snack.

The ingredients:

The final product:

Delicious! A fresh eating success.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


I'm nearly 27 years old and have been blessed to be virtually untouched by death. All four of my grandparents and the rest of my immediate family members are alive and well. My parents are young and healthy. Two people from my high school class have passed away, both from cancer, and both tragic, but it was a class of 1,000 people and I didn't know either very well.

I just found out that a friend and fellow law school classmate died today in a snowmobiling accident. UChicago is a small school and I knew everyone in my class, most of them well. Grant was someone I knew well. He had the locker below me and for three years I saw him every day.

He was 29. He was brilliant, witty, kind, and possessed a biting sense of humor. He had the best gchat away messages. He'd share links to obscure and funny blog posts, relay conversations with partners, make fun of something he'd recently said or did at work, or just write a sound-bite so funny and smart that I'd marvel at how he came up with his material. I haven't seen him since graduation, but those messages frequently prompted me to write back and we'd chat for a few minutes every couple of days. It sounds superficial, but the idea that I won't see any more of those messages keeps making me cry. Maybe it's just because that's all I can process. My classmate can't possibly be gone, but I can grasp that his away messages are.

Grant is someone my mind went to often. About 18 months ago we were chatting about politics when he mentioned that he'd seen my recently posted pictures of Landon from Halloween. Grant was gay, single, and as far as I could tell not particularly interested in children, but he complimented my adorable little dragon and said that even though most of his friends' kid-centric facebook pages annoyed him, mine didn't. When I thanked him, rather surprised by his remark, he said,

"You wear motherhood very well
you make it look attractive"

And I think that's one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me. Maybe because it came right at that turning point in my relationship with motherhood when I found that I enjoyed it for itself and not just for Landon, or maybe it just meant more coming from Grant- someone who wasn't a close friend and whose life seemed so very different from my own, but it's stuck in my head and I suddenly felt a need to write it down.

I don't know what to say. I thought writing would help. It hasn't. I just can't believe someone my age, one of my favorite people and personalities- someone with such a bright future is gone just like that. I don't know what to do with that knowledge except sit here feel the weight of its truth.

(2/22: Thank you for all your comments; they've meant a lot to me.)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Things I Love

I started writing this list in my head over the weekend, with a plan to post it on Valentine's Day. But then my car's power steering stopped working on Sunday sometime between arriving at Landon's favorite park and trying to leave Landon's favorite park when mommy was hungry and wanted a Freebirds burrito. This made me very unhappy and I was in no mental place to write a list of things I love. Luckily a good friend lives right down the street from the park and she fed me a sandwich and let Landon and me hang out until JP finished his swim practice and could respond to my text message which read, "call immed. car broken. stuck at park. help."

I've shared a few things that I don't like, and while I could expand on that (as it turns out there's a lot of foods I left off that list), this seems more positive. Plus I'm in a really good mood because my car only cost $180 to fix and I'm busy again at work and no longer feel aimless. I guess that can kick off #1 of the Things That I Love.

1. Being busy. My job satisfaction plummets when I'm idle at my desk.

2. Your list of books from my last post. I'm in the midst of creating an excel chart with the titles and authors with a little column for me to check them off as I find them. This chart makes me happier than you can imagine and it will live in my purse until I've tracked down every one.

3. This little guy.

An obvious addition to the list, but it must be noted that I fall a little bit (and sometimes a lot bit) more in love with him every day.

4. Tex-mex food. The glories of queso, fresh chips sprinkled in salt, beef fajitas, margaritas, and sour cream chicken enchiladas cannot be overstated.

5. Pizza. I could eat it every day that I don't eat Tex-Mex. I recently made pizza dough FROM SCRATCH in my shiny new red stand mixer that I got as a Christmas present from my in-laws. Then I topped the dough with a little bit of marinara sauce, some prosciutto and grilled onions, and shredded mozzarella and Manchego cheese. Delicious, and the start of a new Friday night tradition (this week I'm thinking a classic pepperoni and black olive combo).

6. This picture of JP.

Also JP himself, but that probably goes without saying. He is my very favorite person in the whole world.

7. Shoes. Specifically beautiful teal patent leather Bandolino wedge sandals that I get on super clearance at DSW for $5.36. Even I would admit that I do not need a pair of teal shoes, but I wear that color a lot in the summer and am confident I will get my $5 of worth out of them.

8. Lilly, frequently referred to as "Fatty". I love this cat. She has personality and possibly a few lose screws, but she's amazingly patient with Landon and has accepted the dogs into her household. She also spends much of her time lying around in this position:

which makes me want to squish her tummy just a little bit with my foot when I walk by. She likes it, I swear.

9. The Olympics. I adore them- even the events I don't understand. I turn on the coverage every night at 7 (the first time we've broken the no TV during dinner rule since the '08 Summer Olympics) and keep it on until it ends at 11. I almost never watch sports on TV- I don't care about football, baseball, or basketball, but I can't turn the Olympics off.

10. Tex and Rosie, our noble, loyal, not super intelligent labrador retrievers. Also, how much my boys love them.

They are very important members of our family. They are also very large members of our family, weighing 92 and 94 lbs. at their last vet visit. They're on a diet of half food-half vegetables and getting walks every night. They only like one aspect of their new commitment to healthy living.

11. French fries. Possibly my single favorite food item.

12. Travel. There are so many places I want to go with JP (and the kids, I suppose). I took myself on a tour through 13 countries in Europe after I graduated a semester early from undergrad, and I'd like to revisit several of those places, as well as travel to so many more. In that vein JP and I have started a "Vacation Fund" in our online savings account and are committed to putting something away each month so that we can take a family vacation every year. Some of my most vibrant childhood memories are wrapped up in the vacations my family took and I'm determined to give that to our kids (even though it's hard not to feel like I should throw any extra money into my bucket of law school debt).

13. Cookies, especially the one JP picked one up for me at HEB this evening. Did I mention how much I love him?

14. Skiing. It's been years. I miss it but am also afraid that next time we get out to the slopes I'll be too afraid of falling (now that I am older and more fragile and more aware of the fact that you can die) to be nearly as good as I used to be.

15. My blackberry. It's a little bit of a love/hate, but I do love that I can send out my last email at 5:30 and run out the door, knowing I can read any reply from all the places I go that are not my office.

16. Alphabetical order. It just makes me happy. Chronological order too. And rainbow order. Really, any order. And labels. I really like labels.

17. Red wine. I miss it so.

18. Project Runway and Project Rungay.

That's probably enough, and I'm trying to flip between #'s 9 and 18 and it's taking all my concentration. I hope you're enjoying something you love tonight!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Family Library

Books are my great passion- the one non-work and family related hobby I refuse to give up, and my love for reading is the trait that I most hope my children will inherit from me. Since my big case settled I've been a little more immersed in books than usual. Work has been light and I feel almost aimless. I'm happy for the easier load, but I miss the sense of purpose that comes with being deeply involved in a large matter; now I'm on the periphery of several and it's been an adjustment.

But back to books. I read The Endless Forest, the final installment in Sara Donati's Wilderness series, the week my case ended and it was great. Very easy and enjoyable- I highly recommend the whole series and I'm sad it's over. After that I read Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade, a Lord John book by Diana Gabaldon that made her 7th Outlander book make SO much more sense that I had to re-read Echo in the Bone. And let me tell you, it was so much better the second time around. I now knew the background stories on several of the "new" characters, and since I knew the main plot points in the book, I could better enjoy the voluminous meanderings through Revolutionary Battles.  I'm still annoyed by the ending, but less annoyed with the book as a whole. After that I re-skimmed a few of the earlier books in the Outlander series, but I needed something new.

Enter Percy Jackson. I'm a huge Harry Potter fan and just generally love books that are written creatively and tightly enough to truly transport you to an alternate world. To me, that is where the Twilight series failed- there were aspects to the plot that I thought were good or at least creative, but by book four Stephenie Meyer was failing to stay within the bounds of the world she'd created that I was too irritated to care much about the end of the book (not to mention the fact that I still find Edward controlling and creepy and Bella too bland and directionless to have any place as a heroine for teen girls). J.K. Rowling was great at this- the world of Harry Potter could have been real as far as I was concerned and I loved the interraction between the magical world and the regular muggle world. Percy Jackson is a lot like that. The Greek gods are still around and still occasionally hooking up with mortals - this results in demigods, or half-bloods, and they get a few of the traits of their immortal parents and fight to save the world from various evils. Good fun. I LOVED Greek mythology in school and loved the way Rick Riordan worked so many of the stories and myths into his novels.  I also thought he did a great job with dialogue and telling the stories from a 12-15 year old's point of view. The books are fast, easy reads - I read the first one during Landon's unusually long nap on Saturday and the second one after he went to bed that night. I finished the fourth yesterday and am awaiting the fifth in the mail, already sad that the series is nearly over. I look forward to introducing them to Landon when he's a little older- the recommended ages are 9-12 (and 26).

Once I got on the Percy Jackson kick I started thinking about all the other books I loved when I was younger. Books my mom would find during our weekly visits to the library and praise until I finally opened it up and started reading. They were always good. I've decided I want those on our study bookshelves for my daughter to read, and more immediately, for me to re-read. There's something so comforting about curling up with a book you've read and loved before- it's my favorite thing to do before bed. So I've been making a list of the books I want to order or otherwise procure over the next few years (a trip to Half Price Books is planned for this Saturday) - let me know if you have any other suggestions, both for adult books to occupy me until Gabaldon publishes book eight in the Outlander series, and kids/young adult books for my family library:

- Anne of Green Gables: The whole series - love them.

- Laura Ingalls Wilder: Starting with Little House in the Big Woods, this is one of my favorite series ever.

- The Betsy, Tacy, and Tib books: The series starts with Betsy and Tacy and ends with Betsy's Wedding, and I think it is one of the best series out there for girls. Betsy is such a bright heroine- even though it takes place in a different time, Betsy has dreams to be a writer and pursues them. Her friends, specifically Tacy, take a more traditional route through life and that is portrayed positively as well. I adored these books and look forward to re-reading them more than any other. (The Wall Street Journal recently featured an online column on them)

- The Noel Streatfeild Shoe books: Ballet Shoes, Dancing Shoes, Skating Shoes, and Theatre Shoes. All classics, all will be on my shelves someday.

- Little Women: Another favorite, along with Little Men and Jo's Boys. I already have these as a gift from an aunt when I was younger and I look forward to retrieving them from my parent's house the next time I go home.

- A Wrinkle in Time and most other Madeleine L'Engle books. They captivated me in middle school.

I know there's several I'm missing - I read a lot as a kid. It was the only thing that got me grounded (staying up past my bedtime reading under my covers with a flashlight) or made me have to sit out at recess (I got caught reading a Babysitter's Club book inside my Social Studies book in 4th grade and got a demerit). I was such a nerd. There's also many that I enjoyed but feel less of a need to own (like the Trixie Beldon books- a great series and one I'd love to find at a garage sale, Roald Dahl books, and others), but for some reason my brain is freezing on other titles. I'll add more as I think of them!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

This Time Around

I dislike belly pictures. Not because I dislike my belly (though I can't say we're close friends, it's more of a relationship built on tolerance), but because I hate posing for them. It feels so awkward- I don't know what to do with my head, my facial expression, my hands- really anything that isn't my belly. That, I know to point proudly sideways.

But here is one I made JP take in our kitchen yesterday. In retrospect I should have closed the laundry room door to make a nice white backdrop, pulled up my jeans, pulled down my sweater, and done something different with my facial expression. But nevertheless, the belly (which is measuring 24 weeks rather than 22) is better displayed than my last picture.

Also displayed are the boots I ordered last week after I got the most painful progesterone shot of my life. Aren't they pretty?

They're far more casual and Western-inspired than my usual footwear, but I think they'll look great with jeans and dresses, and JP loves them. As an added bonus my mom, who owns more boots than anyone, ever, suggested that she and my dad buy them as my birthday present, so yay! Free boots just for being born.

I'm also pleased to report that this week's shot didn't hurt nearly so bad as last time, so maybe having to spend 4 days recovering from the fire in my thigh was a fluke. And/or maybe it's just worse when I get the shot on my right side because of all the torn cartilage and scar tissue I have in there from my hip surgery? Who knows, but I'm glad this one was better because it was going to get expensive if I had to buy myself a present every time my leg is set on fire -- I have 14 more shots to go.

It's been interesting being pregnant the second time around. As it turns out, I don't remember much from my first pregnancy. I was pretty busy with law school and didn't know anyone else who was pregnant, so I had no one with which to fixate on the experience. I do remember being far more focused on the baby and its development. I loved the babycenter updates and would google my gestational age on a regular basis just to read more articles about what the baby was doing. This time I'm more focused on me and my changes. I enjoy the updates on the baby, mostly because I love seeing what type of produce is in my belly (this week I'm carrying a "large mango"), but I haven't opened up any of my previously purchased baby books or done much googling. I'm content to let her grow and just look forward to meeting her in about 4 months.

But when I felt a cramping and continuous dull ache in my lower abdomen last week, I immediately called my perinatal NP to check on it. Last time I'm certain I would have treated like I do any other random pain or potential medical problem and ignored it. (Like when JP's lung spontaneously collapsed in college and he grabbed his chest and said it hurt and his loving, caring, pre-med girlfriend told him he was fine and a hypochondriac and then the next day he was rushed into surgery because his lung had almost entirely deflated -- yeah sometimes it's actually not fine.) I think this new focus on my body is a positive thing for this pregnancy, but I do hate feeling so jumpy.

The other reason I think I'm less breathless with anticipation about baby's every gestational development is that I have this little guy running around outside my womb (in his adorable Weasley sweater my super talented friend knitted for him):

I'm very excited to meet and care for our baby girl, but I can wait. Last time I was so impatient for that big jump to being someone's mother, but now I'm already there, and I can soak up and appreciate this time spent in between one and two children.

At least until I'm huge and it's 100 degrees and I just need to not be pregnant anymore. Then I can't promise I'll be patient at all.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Like Fistfuls of Mental Manure

I love this article. It's wry, depressingly true in many respects, and delightfully quotable. Every time I read it I giggle and then shake my head a little and click out of the window before I start contemplating the deeper meaning of our potential label as a nation and/or generation of whiners.

But even though it contains marvelous tidbits like, "I want my goddamn apocalypse, and I want it now", the real reason I wanted to write about this article is because of the paragraph below:

You have but to take a peek in the comments section below this column, any column, any article on this or any news site whatsoever, to see just how mean and nasty we have become. It does not matter what the piece might be about. Obama's speech. High speed rail. Popular dog breeds. Your grandmother's cookies. The anonymous comments section of any major media site or popular blog will be so crammed with bile and bickering, accusation and pule, hatred and sneer you can't help but feel violently disappointed by the shocking lack of basic human kindness and respect, much less a sense of positivism or perspective.

I'm in far too good a mood to write about this topic with any real force or anger behind my words - though maybe that's exactly why I should write about it now, but I've had a post percolating for weeks about commenting and etiquette on the internet.

I'm blessed with generally polite commentors on this blog and I am very thankful for it. Not that you all always agree with me- that's neither desired nor expected; after all I've been training JP for nearly 9 years and he still disagrees with me all the time. But your disagreement (like his) is phrased thoughtfully rather than angrily or scornfully, and because of that, the comments section for my work/life posts are some of my favorites to read. And that's sadly rare for any site that allows anonymous comments and is read by a good number of anonymous people.

I actually banned anonymous comments for a period of about 6 hours after this post. I also deleted a lot of purely vitriolic tripe published by people whose opinions I decided did not deserve to be heard. Your First Amendment rights don't get you anywhere on my blog- it's not a public forum and I'm not the government, I get to moderate at will. But I don't want to delete. I don't want to have to squint my eyes and skim through every anonymous comment to check to see if I really want to read it or just delete it quickly. I don't want to think about the negative ones long after they're deleted and mentally draft and re-draft responses I'll never publish.

And what I don't understand- what I will never undersatnd- is the sense of entitlement some people feel to be mean just because we're online. I can't tell you how many times I've heard some variation of - well you're the one putting yourself out there so you should expect criticism (and impliedly deserve it). But why? I leave the house every day without a need to steel myself against criticism or nastiness from those I encounter. Is it possible someone will be rude to me? Of course, but it's not expected and certainly not accepted behavior the way some people seem to think it is on the internet. Are there two sets of rules? Are we really going to teach our children, the next generation will which likely have so much of their lives revolve around the internet, that it's important to be nice or polite to those we meet, but on the internet making someone feel like shit is perfectly okay? And it's more than okay, it's practically your duty.

I don't understand that. With any amount of thought and intelligence it is possible to disagree with someone, and disagree forcibly, without being insulting or sending them the electronic equivalent of a punch in the stomach. And this goes far beyond my little website- as I've said, I'm blessed with a pretty awesome community of readers whose comments I genuinely look forward to reading. But some of the big mommy blogger sites can get so nasty that I've stopped clicking on the comments. And isn't that sad? They're such an opportunity for discussion and commentary on parenthood and working and life.

I wonder what those sites will be like in the future. Will the internet become friendlier under a generation of children raised with the possibility of speaking anonymously and hopefully given the guidelines and ability to handle it? That's probably too optimistic, but I like to think it's possible. I definitely think that if some people's parents could read what they've been commenting to a person, a real live person, on the other end of the internet, they'd be put in time-out immediately.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Broken Blackberry That Wasn't

Our weekend was lovely, but odd- at least for me. I couldn't get rid of this nagging feeling that there was something I was supposed to be doing but I couldn't think of what it might be. My blackberry was silent, which I enjoyed on Friday and Saturday, but by Sunday I was hitting buttons and sending test emails to make sure it was still working. Isn't that sad -- one Sunday without a flood of work emails and I think the whole blackberry network is down. This is what being too busy for too long will do to you.

Because it was absolutely delightful to play with Landon, take a trip to Ikea (where I fell in love with a bright pink hippo which has now been adopted into our family. I intended it to be for the baby's room, but Landon asked if he could be the hippo's "friend" until the baby arrived- he seriously looked worried about the hippo being alone in the nursery and she slept in his dump trunk at the foot of his bed last night), host a mini Super Bowl party, and do a bunch of other productive things (like organize all our old pictures into labeled photo boxes, and let me tell you, it feels so good not to have stacks of photos in random envelopes on random shelves of the study anymore) without trying to figure out when and how I was going to do that 5-hour work assignment in time to send it around for comments by Sunday night.

But I also felt a little adrift- by the end of the Super Bowl, after we'd cleaned everything up and I'd eaten my 4th frosted fudge brownie, I didn't know what to do with myself. I'd done all the baby research I wanted to do and have spent or earmarked what we're going to spend, so the internet held no allure. I was done with my organization projects and had finished my taxes. I think I need a new book series. Or a hobby, but that seems a little hasty since I'll probably be busy again soon.

I previously promised a picture with my 22-week baby bump and here is one from Sunday:

It's actually a terrible picture to highlight my belly, since you can barely see it, but the one I took from the side did such weird things to my neck that I just couldn't publish it. I'll work on another. The real reason I wanted to post this picture for posterity is because Landon actually asked to take it. He wanted to show his Papa and Gigi his "handsome shirt" and "fancy pants" as he called them that morning before church. Ever since Christmas when I told him his sweater vest made him look so handsome, any shirt with a collar is a "handsome shirt" not just a shirt. Cracks me up.

And this picture below- this is one of my favorites ever. We had a friend and her 3-year-old son over to watch the game. The two boys are good buddies (they play in the church nursery together every Sunday) and they squealed and giggled as they chased each other in circles around our house for about 2 hours. At half-time JP suggested a game of "hide and seek." He closed his eyes and counted to 10 while Landon and friend ran directly into the playroom and threw their hands over their eyes. Can you find him?

They did this through 3 more rounds of the game, running to different parts of the house and freezing with their hands over their eyes. My friend and I were laughing so hard we were nearly crying. Toddlers are so much fun.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Filling Time

So what do you do when your biggest case and the main focus of your 12-month career as a litigator just disappears in a puff of smoke? Apparently, you take the day off and go to the zoo!

Yesterday morning I popped into one of my favorite partner's offices. He does a lot of securities litigation work, which I love, and I figured I should start finding some cases to add to my personal docket. Our conversation went something like this:

Me: So... you have any work for me?
Partner: Get out.
Me: What?
Partner: Didn't [big case] settle last night?
Me: Yes...
Partner: And how many hours did you bill in January?
Me: 203
Partner: Go home. Go home and don't come back for two days.

So I did, pausing only to call my grandparents to see if Landon and I could visit them in San Antonio the next day. I sprang Landon early from daycare (something that initially caused him great displeasure as I'd interrupted some sort of cooking experiment and he was patiently waiting his turn to stir the batter; I sat down and watched the magic unfold), and stopped at HEB to pick up something for dinner. When JP got home from his seminar at 6:45 I was cooking burgers while the french fries, personally cut by me, were crisping in the oven. And oh man, were those burgers were tasty- with sharp cheddar cheese and fresh slices of avocado, tomato, and romaine lettuce, all stacked on lightly toasted ciabatta buns. Yum. Working a half day can be delicious.

Then at 10 a.m. this morning Landon and I headed South on I-35 toward San Antonio. I sang along to the radio while Landon read "Dear Zoo" over and over again. We enjoyed a lovely lunch with my grandparents at their retirement community. Landon was on his best behavior and was fawned over by every resident we passed. He also got a tour around the front pond with my Grandpa.

On the drive over Landon had randomly remembered that my grandparents' community had a pond. He asked if there were ducks and then after about 3 minutes of silently staring out the window, he said, "I no bite the ducks." I told him that was probably a good idea and then after another few minutes of silence Landon said, "it makes them sad." Too true.

After lunch we became members of the San Antonio zoo. Landon was so excited to see all the animals in his favorite book spring to life.

The giraffe! The giraffe Mama! It's too tall!

(That is a "Dear Zoo" reference to those not up on their toddler literature.)

Next up was a staring contest with a rhinoceros.

and then some bonding with a brown bear.

Landon blew him lots of kisses as we walked away.

And just like last time, the "Mangoes" caused the greatest excitement and we stopped by their little habitat at least five times.

It was a wonderful day -- gorgeous weather, a quiet blackberry, and a special trip my little man. If there's anything I've learned so far as a lawyer (and as working mom generally), it's that you have to seize your down time when you can get it. I'm so glad for today.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

My Career-Changer

My biggest case just disappeared from my docket. It's settled and gone like a puff of smoke. It's a very odd feeling. I'm actually quite sad. It's great for our client and I'm glad for them, but I loved this case. This case is the reason I am happy as a lawyer.

It all started back in December of 2008 when an email went out looking for corporate associates to assist with a large scale document review. And like most corporate associates in the fourth quarter of that year, I had nothing going on, so I volunteered.

To give you a bit of context, before I got that email asking about the document review, I had called UT's medical school in San Antonio to ask if all the science pre-requisites I had done in undergrad would expire or would I need to re-do them if I applied to medical school in the next five years? I wasn't happy as a transactional associate. I wasn't exactly unhappy either, I just couldn't imagine doing what I was doing for the next 20-30 years. Especially when it took me away from my family. I was going to demand something more from my career, and while I was content to make the best of where I was long enough to pay off my loans (or at least make a really big dent in them), I was looking at other options. I like school and I'm good at it- surely there was something else out there for me.

So I started on the doc review and immediately found it far more interesting than corporate due diligence. This case was based completely on corporate law issues and was also very factual. Through the emails we were reviewing, we were building the story of our defense. It wasn't about finding a certain contractual clause, it was about meetings, dates, times, and people. I wouldn't say I found my calling in the doc review database, but I did enjoy the work more than I had enjoyed anything in corporate.

As time went on and we finished the review batches, all the other corporate associates dropped off the case while I wandered upstairs to our litigation section to see if they needed any more help. Next thing I knew I was drafting affidavits, creating timelines, and otherwise becoming the person who knew the documents best. I was also actively deflecting the corporate work that had started to pick up towards the end of January. Finally, near the end of February I arranged a lunch with the head of litigation to ask about a switch. He was thrilled (he was the one who originally recruited me to the firm), so I scheduled a meeting with the head of corporate later that afternoon. That night my entire office was moved upstairs and I was officially a litigator.

Since then I have spent about 80% of my time on that case. I have run a massive privilege review and exclusively managed a team of contract attorneys, I have drafted sections of briefs, gone to hearings, done all the deposition prep, been on nearly every strategy conference call, and frequently communicated with the client. All on a matter that in 2009 was one of the firm's top producer's of revenue- it was a huge case. I had a central, visible role and was so happy that the partners on the case made fun of me.

There will be other cases, of course. I already have two waiting for me. But this one will always have a special place in my heart. It was an amazing group of people to work with, including two of the most known litigation partners at our firm. And it made me realize that it wasn't that I disliked being a lawyer or made the wrong decision in going to law school, it was that I disliked being a corporate lawyer. It just wasn't the right place for me and I never would have thought to try litigation on my own.

I genuinely like what I do now. I can see myself doing it until I retire. Maybe I won't, but it's no longer an impossible mental leap to imagine it so. And after 3 years of grad school and $140,000 of debt, I'm very glad I'm no longer calling up medical schools to inquire about applying in a few years. It's ending is a good thing for me personally, as it means I'll no longer have a trial in March and April and my perinatologist will be thrilled by that news. But I'm spending the morning being a little sad and a lot grateful for the case that changed my career so much for the better.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Shopping, continued, with shoes

Thanks for the comments and recommendations! In light of your wise counsel, and reviews from online retailers, I have decided to fall out of love with the beautiful bassinet and make the stroller my "pricey" item. As many of you pointed out, we'll use it longer and I think if anything is going to be high quality, it should be the piece of gear that will be pushed and maneuvered, rather than the one that just sits in our room. I mean they used to just stick babies in a nice padded drawer to sleep in right?

Since JP and my drawers are full of old swimming t-shirts we can't seem to part with, I think we're going with the Arm's Reach Mini Co-sleeper. I like the concept, like that we can have it attached to the bed or farther away as the baby (and we) may prefer, and really like we can use it for much longer than the bassinet. It's also $260 cheaper, and that's real money. Money that can be spent on diapers, fancy stroller accessories, and/or the gorgeous cognac leather boots I spent 30 minutes viewing from different angles on this morning.

(Actually, I already ordered the boots. I got my third progesterone shot this morning and my thigh really hurts and I seriously hate being pregnant and I really miss my sex life and I billed 200 hours in January and it's my birthday in a few weeks and this is my first bonus- shouldn't I get to buy one special thing for me? I'm sure my little girl will love them and be so glad her mommy has them in her closet.)

But back to the baby. For the stroller, I'm 98% sold on the Bob. In small part because I like referring to it as "the Bob," but also because of the amazing number of 5-star reviews it has on every baby review website. But we're not in any rush, so I can continue to shop around and wait for the perfect deal.

My inbox is filled with shipping notices from my online shopping. I'm taking my doctor's orders to not go out and do a bunch of shopping very seriously. And actually, by foregoing the beautiful bassinet (and in my mind, it will always be referred to as such), I can buy a changing table for the downstairs and a few stroller accessories and other not-strictly-needed items, and still stay under budget. So that's good, though it would have been fun to let go and buy something because it was pretty rather than practical. Sort of like it would be fun to buy these shoes. Or these. But I am practical and those are ridiculously expensive, even if they are beautiful and belong in my closet.

Now back to the baby, again. I bought a bunch of baby hangers and a storage bin at Target over the weekend and have slowly begun the process of putting away Landon's nursery decor and getting out some of his old baby clothes. It's bittersweet- I don't miss infant Landon, but in going through those tiny clothes I'm sad and a little bitter about how certain events in those first six months robbed me of any desire to look back on them. Going through his baby outfits brings back a lot of what I avoid remembering, but it's also been helping me remember what a darn cute little guy he was.

Both of those were taken in the midst of some really bad stuff, but look how happy he is! For as much as I fear the sleepless nights, the disruption to our relatively easy schedule, and the logistical craziness of doing anything with two kids, I'm really looking forward to experiencing aspects of the baby phase again. I'm sure it'll still be hard, but it will be a different kind of hard, and at least this time around I know that JP and I can survive anything and still end up smiling, at least at some point. And I'll have some really fun new gear, and a beautiful new pair of boots, along for the ride.