Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Working Mom Update

I've been back at work for three weeks. I can't believe it's only been that long. Not in a bad way- the weeks go by very quickly, I just sometimes have a hard time believing I was ever gone. 22 days ago I simply walked into my office, flipped on the light, powered up my computer, and I was back. In those first few days every time I turned to look at the pictures I have plastered all over my bulletin board a tiny part of me was shocked to see that I had a three month old daughter. I hadn't forgotten- I think about Clairebear all the time, it just seemed (and continues to seem) so surreal. Everything in my work life is like it always was- the office is the same, my schedule is the same, my co-workers are the same, but somehow, I had a baby and exited the whole work scene for three months and now I'm back like nothing ever happened. Nothing except the fact that I went from being a working mom of one to a working mom of two. I have kids plural. A co-worker commented the other day that I get a little smile on my face every time I say "my kids" or "the kids." I didn't realize it but it doesn't surprise me. There's just a warm thrill of happiness that runs through my body every time I remember that I have two of them now. It's a little like how I felt when I referred to JP as "my husband" the first few (dozen) times. It's not like I forgot we were married, it was just so pleasant to be verbally reminded of the change.

on her way to "daycay"

Day-to-day everything is going great. I've had no trouble getting added to cases and I've assimilated quickly. I think it helped tremendously that I already had one child. I'm used to this working mom thing and I know that I prefer it. I'm also comfortable with the role that daycare plays in our lives and have the benefit of three years experience with Landon loving it (and definitely not considering himself "stuck" in it as some like to say) and seeming very secure and happy in his little world. Going from one to two hasn't been nearly as hard as I feared (and nowhere near as hard as going from zero to one generally). Once you have the infrastructure in your day to allow for getting one other person dressed, making their lunch, and carting them to and from an out-of-home location, it's really not much added to throw in a second. JP and my lives changed completely after we had Landon; adding Claire has only made our days expand a little and so far it's been a comfortable stretch.

Daycare is going great. We're so blessed to have our amazing neighborhood center down the street. Claire started two weeks before I went back to work and that helped in knowing she was all set before our mornings had to involve me getting out the door as well. I adore Claire's teachers (and if her smiles are indication, Claire does too). I actually compete with JP to get there first for pick-up just so I can spend a few minutes talking to them. As soon as I open the door they always hand over my spastically smiling baby while asking how my day went and complimenting my clothes (the shoes stay outside, they can't mar the perfection that is the infant room). Then they spend a few minutes exclaiming over Claire's wonderfulness and telling me stories of cute things she did that day. I'm sure they tell every parent how incredible their kid is, but I still love hearing it and I'm always so happy when I leave the room with Clairebear in tow. They keep me from begrudging the additional $1000/month we spend for Claire's care and the fact that it has eaten literally ALL of our discretionary income. It's worth it, even if I do miss eating in restaurants. Landon is also thriving in his new preschool class and gets to visit with Claire when she's out on buggy rides on the playground.

post-work picture

But even with our total satisfaction with daycare, and my overall satisfaction with my job, I would still have liked another month or two off if we could have swung it financially. It's a special time and I loved it. But I'm thankful that since it wasn't a possibility, we do have such a great daycare and I have such great co-workers (and our baby girl SLEEPS!), so that coming back full-time at three months hasn't been a struggle. I think phasing-in would also been nice if we could have handled it, but I haven't found it to be necessary. There's a natural phase-in process when you return (unless your section is just out of control busy, which doesn't seem to be the case for many firms right now). I think it would have been most helpful in calming those late-night fears before your return about the huge drop in control over your life that you're about to experience just by walking in your office door. Luckily, that drop-off hasn't been as extreme as it seemed from a distance.

Coming back full-time has its advantages. It's not spoken, but I think you're respected a little more and taken more seriously as an attorney climbing up the ladder. That only matters if you want to stay on the regular partnership track, but I do want that, at least for now. I had more than a few panic spirals while on leave just thinking about how dependent my little family is on my salary and how uncertain it seems like every job is in this market. That made me much more anxious to return and I do feel better now that I'm back. Three months is a blip on a partner's radar screen; six months away and then turning down work because you're only part-time when you get back is noticeable. It may not matter, but I don't think it's honest to pretend like there isn't any chance of a negative effect. To be fair, the women I know who have gone that route didn't care about the effects it might have- they wanted to work part-time for as long as it worked for their families and if it didn't, they'd go somewhere else (I should probably also note that not one of them was the primary or sole breadwinner for their family). So different choices, different paths, etc.

But back to me- I think everything is going as well as it could be. I'm finally getting fully integrated into cases instead of doing research issues on the periphery and that feels good. I miss my Claire-biscuit during the day, but I guess I'm just okay with that. I don't know how else to explain it. I know she is happy and being loved on by her teachers (they have a password-protected website where we can see the hundreds of photos they take; it is adorable to see my giant baby among the regular sized babies) and I'm doing what I need to do in the office. There's no way around my working status, at least not right now, and there is some pride in knowing I'm supporting my family. I'm sure that part of my peace with the situation is that I just don't spend much time thinking about it at all. It is what it is, and we just try to make it the very best reality it can be. And truthfully, most of the time, it's pretty great.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Skinny Jeans and Tutus

Just so you don't think every morning goes like the last one I described, Friday involved a time warp of a different variety. It was more like a time-sucking vortex where one minute it's 7:10 a.m. and everyone is happy, and next thing you know it's 8:51 and there's been lots of crying but nothing is done. I was still in my pj's, Landon was on his fifth trip to his room- a record by three whole trips- and still in his pj's, and Claire was finally fed (I'd had to keep setting her down to haul Landon back upstairs) but alas, also in her pj's. JP came home from swim practice and thirty minutes later, Landon was merrily waving bye-bye to me as he marched off to daycare with daddy- you'd never know I was literally tossing his sobbing self onto his bed an hour earlier.

So at 8:52 I was still not dressed. Friday was a jeans day at work. Normally this is exciting, but right now in this weird post-partum, normal arms and legs, 10 extra pounds in my stomach phase, none of my jeans fit. I've bought two pairs of transition work pants, but I hate to spend money on casual stuff that I don't wear often and hopefully won't need soon. So I pulled out a pair of super stretchy skinny jeans that I'd never worn and surprise surprise- they fit! I'd never worn them before, skinny jeans have always intimidated me and I have no idea why I bought them, but I was very late so I didn't take the time to obsess over how they made me look. I just threw on a burnt orange and cream striped sweater and tucked my jeans into tan leather cowboy boots. My hair went into a pony tail and I put on some big brassy hoops. It was a decidedly non-me outfit, but I got so many compliments that perhaps I should dress like non-me more often.

Friday was busy- first I had a knock-down political fight with one of my favorite partners. Luckily it was by email so I could get work done between salvos. Then my day hit another time vortex and suddenly it was almost 4:00 and I still had way too many things to do. I finally left at 6:30. I suppose it says quite a lot about where I work (and the section I work in) that I was both annoyed at the unusually late hour and very much alone.

The rest of the weekend has been lovely. We watched some football yesterday. Or JP and Claire watched it and I occasionally noted the score on the screen while playing Candy Land with Landon. It is a disappointment to me that I simply don't care about football- even as an athlete at UT with free tickets to the games and great seats, I couldn't watch for more than a quarter without looking for a way to get out. It just takes so long! The clock is constantly stopping and not much seems to happen for long stretches of time, just a lot of running at each other and falling down 3 yards later. So I don't get it, and I feel a little left out when everyone gets so excited about it on facebook in the Fall.

But just because I don't care about football doesn't mean that I don't still love my Longhorns (from a safe emotional distance; I merely prefer they win things, my heart isn't on the line or anything) and I don't still enjoy putting my kids in burnt orange (or bright orange when burnt can't be found) attire:

Unlike her mama, the Biscuit loves her football. She sat on JP's lap for nearly 2 hours watching the colors move on the screen. That's probably non-APA approved, but Landon still refuses to watch any TV, so Claire's just getting the time he won't use.

She really is the smiliest baby I've ever seen. She spends about 90% of her non-sleeping, non-eating time smiling huge face-filling smiles. And she doesn't discriminate- young, old, known, unknown- if you make eye contact with her and smile, she'll give you a big one back. She's a big hit at parties, grocery stores, and senior retirement communities like the we visited today (brunch with my grandparents and a trip to the zoo; to be covered in a future post).

In addition to the zoo trip, I also shopped for and decorated a basket for our daycare's yearly fundraiser (I'm Room Parent) and re-read the first two Anne of Green Gables books. It's been a great weekend.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Sibling Love and Caterpillars

This was one of those perfect mornings. Both kids slept in and woke up happy. Clairebear waited for her bottle and smiled her mega watt smiles at me for five minutes so I could get Landon's breakfast out for him. They ate at the same time, all three of us at the kitchen table in our pj's. JP came home from swim practice and helped get them dressed. I made lunches- 3 bottles and a PBJ shaped like a dinosaur. It was the rare morning where time seems to stretch to accomodate everyone, where everything gets done and no one is crying.

At one point, post-breakfast and pre-shoes and socks, Landon decided he wanted to read Claire a story. I was heading back to my room to get dressed, but dashed back to the kitchen when I heard his recitation begin:

(I really, really wish you could hear the inflection in his voice as he read aloud, he so wanted Claire to understand what was going on. And he struggled to read the book backwards and upside down so she could see the pictures, just like his teachers do at circle time. Okay, now the recitation:)

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

There is a moon and a little egg -

and a caterpillar! And he is very hungry.

The sun is up. The caterpillar eats 1 apple.

And 2 pears and strawberries and oranges!

Then he eats a lollipop and cheese and cake and a pickle and a muffin and watermelon

and he has a BAD tummyache.

But now he is a big caterpillar! and he makes a house...

[anticipation builds]

and then he is a BEAUTIFUL BUTTERFLY!

The End.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Two Sides, Same Coin

The Lag Liv family did not have a good night last night. To set the scene: Between 5:30 and 6:00 pm JP deteriorated from perfectly healthy to a total flu-like mess. 102 fever, body aches, chills, night sweats- I had to bench him as a parent and send him to bed at 7. Claire had spent all day being very mad at the world- whether it's allergies, a tummy ache, gas, teething, or more likely- a cataclysmic combination of all four, she was pissed and she wanted everyone to know. Holding her didn't seem to make much of a difference, but of course I spent all day doing it anyway, and she's heavy. Landon has had a cough and runny nose for a few weeks, though the pediatrician thinks it's just allergies. I feel fine, which should be a good thing, but it's not because I had to deal with everything while my co-parent lay shaking and shivering in our bed.

angry biscuit

I got in bed about 11 p.m. because Claire didn't fall asleep until 10 and I still hadn't eaten dinner. Then Claire woke up at 2 a.m. oddly happy but quickly turning very angry. I finally got her back to sleep (with new non-snot covered sheets and a fresh batch of water in the humidifier) at 3:30 and crawled back into my bed after forcing some more Tylenol down JP. At 6:45 a.m. I heard a horrible screamy-whining sound coming from upstairs and remembered that my sister's dog was up there (long story; she's living with us for the next two weeks but didn't come home from wherever she was last night). I ran up to let him out but he was in such a frenzied state that he accidentally peed in the living room on the way outside. At that moment Landon walked up to me (he'd been in the play room where he usually is in the morning before we get up) and said, "Puppy is dirty." I look down at his little pound puppy and yep, his soft brown fur is matted with what can only be puke, which I then notice is also all over Landon, his pj's, and his hair. I went back upstairs and opened Landon's door to find what can only be described as a scene from a horror movie. Literal mounds of throw-up on his bed so thick I had to scoop them off before I could even think about putting anything in the wash. Landon has only thrown up twice since he was a baby and I am SO glad. I do not handle it well- I was fighting down dry heaves and only the fear of waking up Claire kept me from screaming for JP's help (well that and his own sickness, but I'm not sure that alone would have kept me from calling him back into duty).

hiding from the horror

I dealt with the washing and the scrubbing of both child and bedding (and carpet) while trying to explain to Landon that when he gets sick (or "makes a mess" in his bed, which seemed to make more sense to him than the word sick, because he insisted he felt just fine), he needs to TELL MOMMY AND DADDY. He apparently saw no need until he realized his puppy's fur was less than pristine. JP and Claire woke up a little later, both feeling slightly better, and the day proceeded much better than it started. Right now everyone is sleeping, including my sister and all three dogs, which is why you're getting this post.

happier children, 11 a.m. this morning

So that's one side of the parenting coin. The hard side, the side where you really think some sort of monetary bonus should be issued for mornings like this one.

Luckily, there's a completely awesome side as well. On a normal morning Claire gets up around 7:30 a.m. I pick her up and she greets me with a smile. Her, "oh yay, a person! I like persons! They bring warmth and verticalness and bottles. No one has ever been mean to me in my whole life, so I love every body" smile.

And then I wait, until approximately 1 full second after I've picked her up, and her "hi" turns into, "OMG OMG HAI!!! OMG IT'S YOU!!! My very FAVORITE person is HERE! Oh I LOVE you! Oh let's cuddle and smile for many minutes and I will wave my arms and make smiles so big they take up most of my face. Just for you, because you are my favorite. OMG YAY!!"

It is awesome. JP loves me, but even he does not go into literal spasmodic fits of delight because of my mere presence. I haven't been able to get the transformation on video yet, but here's a picture of a smile maybe 2 levels down from the mommy/daddy smile:


So being a parent, it can suck and it can be quite incredible-- and it can occasionally be incredible even while it's sucking. It's something I'm really glad I jumped into blind because until you're there, you can kind of see how the awful is really awful, but you can't fully grasp how absolutely awesome the awesome is. From the outside it seems irrational, and well, I suppose it is, but it's also really, really great.


Friday, September 17, 2010

Two More Things

Two things that should have been included in the last post, but I couldn't go back and add because holy crap it's long enough already:

(1) We count to three before Landon has to go to his room. So if we've asked him to do something and he just stares at us, we'll ask again and then count. If by 3 he's not moving his little self over to do whatever we asked, it's up to his room. We added it because I felt we needed some sort of grade period between initial defiance and eventual compliance, and that grace period is three seconds.

(2) We also always try to tell him how many minutes he has until we're going to leave somewhere. At the park, at daycare, at our house before we go run errands-- anywhere. If we say, "Landon we're going to go in 10 minutes." and then give him another warning at about 2 minutes, life is SO much better for everyone. It's extraordinary. We started it on accident with telling him when we would be eating dinner (so when he was going to have to stop playing whatever he was playing) and then it crossed over to everything. It's a little thing, but that small amount of advance warning and knowledge of the day's schedule makes Landon okay with any change. He never has tantrums because we have to leave somewhere and I think that's partially why.

Okay, that, along with my comments on the last post, should be all I have to say on that topic (for now). Next up will be a new post from Little Miss Clairebear, who I almost regret to admit has increasingly become "the Biscuit" to all of us.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Our Discipline: a novel

I'm not a fan of most parenting books- the few I've looked up online or heard other people talk about usually offend me or make me roll my eyes. I’ve found I prefer to use other people’s experiences, combined with JP and my collective common sense and knowledge of our child, to guide us down this path of raising a human being. So because I've found other people's stories so helpful, I've wanted to share our current (but ever evolving) approach to discipline with Landon. I haven't yet because as it turns out, it's really hard to put something like that down on paper. I usually draft beautifully eloquent blog posts in my head when I can't sleep, and then I turn them into much less eloquent blocks of writing later. In this case, I couldn't even get through the post in my head. Plus, I very much don't want to come off as preachy or as sounding like we have it all figured out. I believe we have found something that works well for our particular son at this particular age. That is all. So in order to keep this post less than 1,000 pages long, I’m going to write the rest of this without all the equivocating that is probably running through my head, but please read it like it’s there.

I guess I should start by explaining that we use time-outs. No physical or corporal punishment and no sticker charts or incentives (though we temporarily and unsuccessfully used incentives for potty training, but I consider potty training to be a developmental thing and not a discipline thing anyway). When he was younger, like around 18 months, time-out involved us sitting with him away from whatever sparked the tantrum. Around age 2, he sat in a corner of our living room right next to the kitchen. He was a few feet from me, but through an archway, so it was a separation. Also around that time Landon discovered he could move his body out of time-out, so we resorted to putting his kitchen table booster chair on the floor and using the little straps to buckle him in. That worked wonderfully for nearly a year- he’d even proudly tell his Gigi that “that’s my time-out chair for when I don’t behave.” It kept him in the mini corner and kept us from having to hold him there, which never went well. At around 2 1/2 we started sending him to his room. We don’t have baby gates or special knobs on his door, so he could leave when he was ready to come downstairs and apologize. That has worked really, really well, but probably wouldn’t have at any time younger than 2 1/2.

the chair (we took off the tray)

We chose time-outs because I don’t really like corporal punishment ever, but definitely and absolutely don’t like it at this young exploring/limit-testing age. I believe in discipline, but I don’t like the idea of punishment that involves pain when so often his misbehavior is based on tiredness or a level of frustration that I can’t help but sympathize with. The reason we don’t use incentive charts for behavior is because I believe Landon should behave because he’s supposed to behave. He doesn't get dessert because he ate a nice dinner or a toy because he was good on errands, he does those things because that's how he’s supposed to act. If he doesn't, he goes to his room. That sounds harsh, but the very few times we did the "if you do X, you get Y," it introduced a whole world of haggling and after about a day I got sick of it. We do always try to explain why he's supposed to do X, and we revisit our rules if X isn't working with our routine, but at the end of the day it sometimes comes down to "because we're your parents and we said so" and he can go to his room until he comes around.

We don't have a time requirement for the time-out. If it's minor and he's not upset, it's a few minutes, usually to give us time to calm down or clean up or whatever, and then we go up to talk to him and walk back down with him. If he's upset, then it's until he calms down. After a few minutes, one of us will go up to try to talk to him, to remind him that he can come back down as soon as he's ready to stop crying and apologize, and we'll keep doing that every 5-10 minutes until he gets a hold of himself. It very, very rarely takes that long. And we always talk to him once he comes down- he has to remember why he was sent up, why whatever he was doing wasn’t okay (which gets at him understanding the reason behind our rules), and how he can fix it (like by doing what we asked him to do before he jutted out his chin and decided he wasn't taking orders from anybody). We do hugs, say I love you, and continue on with our day. He never has any lingering resentment and usually quite openly announces to whoever is around that "I had to go to timeout because I wasn't behaving.” I'm definitely not someone who thinks disciplining my children risks crushing their delicate spirit. Landon's spirit is fine, and his world makes more sense when there are repercussions for things he knows are wrong.

Okay, so here are our basic principles:

(1) We are in charge, always, and we try to make decisions with our whole family in mind. No one parent is in charge of discipline- if Landon is acting up, that parent needs to deal with it, and then that parent is the one who talks to Landon afterward and springs him from his room. We both love him and we both want him to be safe and happy, and occasionally that requires sticking him in a timeout chair or tossing him in his room until he calms down. For a while I was the easy one. Partially because I was pregnant, but I can admit it was also partially because it is SO MUCH EASIER to ignore things - the early tremors of defiance before an outright tantrum. And you just can't. Within a month I noticed that Landon was significantly better behaved for JP than for me and I knew I had to suck it up and start being stricter. It seems counter-intuitive, but Landon is a million times better behaved and is honestly happier when we are very strict with him. It's part of my toddler chaos theory described in #5. Also, as part of this, we try not to push it or set him up to fail. If it's the end of a long day, we're not going to take him to a restaurant. But at the same time, if we're traveling and that's just the way things had to work out, we absolutely still expect him to behave while we're there.

(2) Our toddler is not in charge of the family and does not get to dictate what the family is doing or the environment in which the family is doing it. This is shown by example in #4, but basically I think Landon is allowed to be mad if he's mad. I get mad sometimes too. But like me, Landon is not allowed to express it in a way that interrupts or affects the people around him. He can object and we'll talk about it and figure out a way to do what he wants too. But if he wants to scream about an injustice done to him, he has to do that in his room (or in the car if we're in public, but if the screaming began when we were actually in a restaurant he's also going to be punished for it when we get home, which will be as soon as the other parent can pay the check). He can't continue on with his day until he calms down and either does what we asked him to do or apologizes if whatever led to the screaming involved disobeying a parent or hurting someone or something.

(3) Kids can learn to behave at an early age; they do understand you, and they can remember things you've told them in the past. This was SO hard for me. I remember many times of JP putting Landon in time-out when he was around 18 months and I’d hiss at him that he's too young, he doesn't understand, he can't be blamed! JP, who has never read anything about children except what I've forced him to, always said, yes he does. And even if he doesn't, he's learning. We're not hurting him, we're just making him sit for a minute in a corner because he wouldn't say please (or whatever). In the end, I think JP was right, and I was partially using him to make me feel better for my misbehaving child because I could yell at him and not Landon. I was also big on saying, "he doesn't know that's the rule!" and JP kept saying, yes he does (and once again, even if he doesn't, he's certainly learning it). Now that Landon is so verbal and so obviously understands everything we say (too much of what we say really), this is no longer much of a problem, but I think it was important we started young. Looking back, when Landon spent like 3 months resisting “please” and constantly turning it into a huge battle to the point where I’d try to give him things before he requested them just so I wouldn’t have to make him say it, I think it was all one big test to see if he really always had to do it. Once I cracked down and didn’t allow exceptions, the issue went away in less than a week. Sometimes they make things so hard on you (and them) but establishing your world order is important and “please” was going to be part of ours if it killed us all. (That was over a year and a half ago and I’m glad to say he always says it now.)

(4) Screaming, hitting, kicking, throwing are absolutely unacceptable ALWAYS, no matter how tired, sick, etc. the child may be. I’m always thinking of reasons for why Landon is misbehaving that seem like they should mitigate punishment. No. That was a road to nowhere. I may understand that the reason he has a meltdown over the soap being the wrong color when he washes his hands before dinner is because he woke up early and didn't have a nap, but that doesn't mean it's okay to scream instead of washing his hands. It does mean that my child isn't possessed by evil spirits, which is a relief, but it doesn't stop him from being sent to his room until the screaming stops (which is usually pretty fast, particularly when we're eating something he really likes). That's also why, as I said before, we don't focus on making him stop screaming- if he's mad, he can be mad, but he cannot do it in the kitchen where the rest of the family is trying to talk and eat dinner. When he has decided he has expended enough energy protesting the soap situation, he can come back down and try washing his hands again. He also has to apologize for not behaving and yelling, and then we all move on and enjoy dinner together. If he comes down but is still grumpy and refuses to wash his hands or apologize, it's straight back up to his room.

(5) The rules are enforced always, no exceptions for public places, parties, etc. Exceptions = chaos, and chaos for a toddler = tantrums. I thought I was being nice by trying to ignore the occasional bad behavior in public or at a birthday party because surely he didn't want it interrupted and if I ignored it he would stop doing it, but no. As it turns out, not being punished is also very upsetting because it means the same action can produce different results. This is chaos and toddlers do not thrive in chaos. If I'm out with Landon and Claire by myself and really can't deal with a situation as it develops (like the grocery store), we leave as quickly as we can, occasionally resulting to temporary bribery to stop any loud acting out, and then it is time-out immediately when he gets home, even if he's reformed before we get there. That's hard to do, but I've found it works better in the long run. We talk about it as we go up the stairs, about how "remember at HEB when you yelled at mommy because you wanted a snack, and mommy explained we were eating dinner soon, but you yelled again? You weren't behaving, so that's why you're going up to your room." The punishment is definitely less effective, and he doesn't have to stay in his room long, but I think it's important to still do it.

Those are the principles, the rules have grown as he's gotten older, but include things like eating with good manners, no whining, do as your told (by your parents and teachers), no hurting other people or animals, say please and thank-you, obey higher standards of behavior for restaurants and public places, clean up your toys when you're done with them and clean up everything before bed, use "excuse me" and don't interrupt when other people are talking (really only grown-ups), etc.

Discipline is hard and it's exhausting, but at least for us, we have reaped enormous benefits from sticking with it. I read once that children need two things more than anything else: unconditional love and clear boundaries. That has really shaped our parenting, and I think enforcing firm boundaries is part of loving your child. Landon is extraordinarily well behaved- every teacher he's had comments on it. I think about 50% of that is just him and we can take no credit for it. I think the other 50% comes from us and what we do to work with his personality. When he gets mad he'll scream and cry, but he's never physical and has never thrown anything. If he did or he had a harder time calming down, I'm sure we'd have a different way of dealing with it than letting him extinguish his own rage up in his room (which usually takes 5-10 minutes and involves him sitting on his bed yelling, he doesn't even try to leave, which of course he could do if he needed to).

Over 18 months of trial and error have brought us here, to a system that works when consistently enforced, and to a kid who is full of smiles. We do lots of other things, like complimenting him when he's being good or helpful, and talking him through what we're going to be doing that day and why. I was going to say that we don’t need to discipline him much, because it doesn’t seem like it, but I’ve been paying attention over the last few days and it turns out he goes to his room about once a day. I’d never have guessed that. I think because it’s dealt with quickly, he recovers quickly, and we all move on quickly- it’s like a blip on an otherwise idyllic radar screen. So that's where we are now. We’ll see how it goes as he gets older and as Claire starts discovering she can push boundaries too. I've discovered parenting is just one big learning process for both parent and child, and as soon as you have something figured out, it changes!

a happy, fully accessorized Landon

P.S. I added these two more things regarding discipline in a separate post after I wrote this one.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


I've tried to write something over the past two days, but my thoughts seemed too scattered. My emotions are too, which I'm not used to, and I think that's making it hard for me to write about any one thing- something super upbeat seems false, but something depressing does too. I'm bouncing around somewhere in the middle- little things are bothering me, but overall things are good, so we're going with bullet points of thought:
  • JP has decided he likes that Hoarders TV show on A&E. I can't handle it. He was watching it last night while I was turned around, cuddling into his shoulder finishing up a book (my 4th this week, my reading addiction has ramped up lately), but I couldn't focus. The little glimpses I got off the TV made me feel so dirty and disorganized and sad that I couldn't even kiss him when he tried to during a commercial. Compulsive hoarding is clearly a mental disorder, so the disgust I feel isn't for the people, it's the situation, and the children and pets so often involved. JP finally turned it off when he saw I really wasn't going to touch him until he did, and even then it took me a few minutes to shake it off.
  • Clairebear is teething. She was up three times last night crying with both fists shoved in her mouth. JP got up all three times and I could hear him singing "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" through the monitor. When I tried to get up the third time, around 4:30 a.m., he just kissed me on my shoulder and said, "you have to work in the morning." It's the little things that keep you falling in love over again. I don't think I ever said that to him when it was Landon and he was the one working.
  • Remember when I wrote about my upcoming maternity leave and how I didn't think I wanted the extra time or the phase in? Turns out I do. I can't have it- not without creating credit card debt we've never had, suspending payments on loans I want gone as soon as possible, and being stressed out about money every single day I'm not being paid, so I've come to terms with it, but I just thought I'd throw that out there.
  • I've been dreaming about the DCFS nightmare. I don't know why, there's nothing to spark it except maybe the fact that Claire is now the same age Landon was when it happened (actually, she's a month older). In my dreams I wake up before we reach any kind of resolution, so I'm just suspended in a horror I can't turn off at 3 a.m. and I have to sternly remind myself that everything worked out fine. But the "what ifs" are haunting if you let them get out of control.
  • Dreaming about it has made me wonder if we'll ever tell Landon what happened. I assumed we would. I'm not big on family secrets and since a few thousand other people know, it's odd that he wouldn't. It's also in my blog, which he could certainly read one day. But at the same time, what's to serve by telling it? He doesn't remember; it's not a part of our life now. And it's scary. Even at the age I am now I think I'd be upset to find out my parents went through that, that it can happen, that it happened to me. So I don't know. If we ever did, it wouldn't be a sit down blow-by-blow discussion. Maybe just a brief overview, probably glossing over the shelter time, to explain the occasional veiled reference to it by us or someone else.
  • I'm 8 lbs. away from my pre-baby weight. To celebrate I ate a big piece of cookie cake with JP last night. All 8 lbs. must be squarely in my stomach because my top and bottom halves appear back to normal, yet my old jeans seem eons away from fitting.
  • I forgot to mention that I finished my FAQs. I'll add more as I get new questions.

I feel better for getting all of that down, now it's back to work. I packed my lunch today and feel very proud of myself. Happy Tuesday to you all!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Baptizin' the Biscuit

This is nearly a week late, but I still want to memorialize the event in blog post form. Someday I envision a binder of printed-out blog posts that I can flip through in my old age to remember all the good times we had when my kids were young (while purposefully forgetting early mornings full of screaming like this one). A nice pot of tea will also be involved.

Anyway, I was going to write this post earlier, but it's been a week of emotional ups and downs and I just wasn't in the right frame of mind to do it. On Wednesday I was super busy at work- much busier than I'd hoped to be my first week back and it made feel very sorry for myself that we couldn't afford for me to use my firm's "phase in" option where you work and are paid about 60% for three months. But it is what it is and by Thursday I was feeling better and recommitted to feeling grateful for the 3 fully paid months that I did get. Thursday night was a celebration dinner for the big case I worked on earlier in the year. My sister babysat so JP could join me for a free evening with one of the top five best meals I've ever had in my life, so that was great. But then I got something Friday morning that made me upset and angry and put me in a bad mood for the rest of the day which did not help the absolutely impossible research project I was tasked with finishing. I was also very tired and still a little sick, so by the time I got home last night I was just emotionally, physically, and mentally exhausted. I read books on the couch with the kids, had a handful of dark chocolate m&m's and 2 glasses of red wine, and then put myself to bed with a book I've read a hundred times before. I'm feeling much better today.

So, the biscuit is baptized! It was a wonderful, low-key weekend and the perfect way to spend my last few days before returning to work. On Saturday my best friend Molly drove over from Kansas with her husband (they're the godparents). She's two years younger than me and we were big competitors in swimming - she broke nearly every record I set - and we became best friends somewhere along the way. We haven't lived in the same city since 2001, but we've stayed close. She just got married (I was supposed to be in her wedding, but it was 4 days before Claire was born) and it was so great to spend some relaxed time together, even if it was only about 20 hours.

We took them out for Mexican food and margaritas as soon as they drove up at 6:30 and Landon immediately took to her husband Tim. At dinner he kept telling Landon to "look over there!" by the bar. After falling for it a couple of times, Landon finally threw up his hands and exclaimed, "I don't know what you are talking about!" Cracked us up - particularly after a round of grande margaritas. After dinner Molly and I stayed up until 2 a.m. talking and eating m&m's. It was just like the old days except that instead of morning practice waking us up too soon, it was my kids.

We spent Sunday morning relaxing with the kids and prepping for the party. I had braised two pork shoulders for 6 hours each on Saturday. Now they were shredded and warming in BBQ sauce for sandwiches after the baptism. I also had my mom's award winning pasta salad, cole slaw, and CAKE! (When you hear Landon refer to it, it's hard not to picture it in all caps.) Landon announced that he was going outside to mow the grass so "it would look pretty" and then clean the porch. I really can't wait until he can actually do those things.

Claire was in a great mood and spent lots of time smiling at everyone and looking pretty.

My parents drove over from Houston, my brother drove over from San Antonio, and my sister drove over from a few blocks away, so we had a nice little group gathered at the church by noon. The baptism was a private ceremony in the small chapel, which was perfect when you have a squirmy three-year-old in attendance. Claire decided she was starving just when the ceremony was supposed to begin, so she's drinking her bottle in nearly every picture.

Landon was most concerned about his sister, so he stood on a chair and kept his eyes square on the Pastor the whole time. He looks very solemn and a little wary in most of the pictures- particularly when the Pastor dared to sprinkle some water on his baby sister's head.

After the baptism a few more friends joined us at the house for a BBQ pulled pork feast. It was delicious (a new recipe, which always makes me nervous when you have 14 guests eating it) and lots of fun.

Claire slept through the whole thing, but I'm sure she was really glad that everyone was there. Landon lost his cake privileges in a meltdown at the church before the ceremony. It was probably one of the worst things that's ever happened to him, and normally our punishments don't involve taking things away that are so highly anticipated, but you have limited means available to you in public meltdowns and once you've said it, you've gotta stick by it.

Luckily he was able to earn it back through perfect lunch behavior and a nice nap. He thought it was worth the wait.

All in all, a fantastic weekend. Now I'm just going to relax and recharge for my first full week back on Monday.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

More Like a Gently Sloping Valley

So, not quite a precipice. My return to work went really well. I'm busier than I'd like to be this early, but it's great from a job security standpoint, and so far it's staying on the pleasantly full rather than the overstuffed side of things.

Thanks to a bouquet flowers, an embarrassingly large balloon display (both from JP), and several dozen baby pictures, my office is a cheerful place. It feels like I never left, in a good way. It's just my cozy spot among my co-workers where I read and write legal things and talk to people as they pass by my door. I think the weirdest thing about returning was how not weird it was to be back at my desk after 3 full months away. It felt like I could have just been here on Friday, but now I have this three-month old daughter. I have kids plural. That's strange, but in a completely wonderful way.

I had assignments waiting for me. One I'm not so excited about and one I am. I fell right back in with my morning tea, lunch diet coke routine. I talked to the same people I always talked to... I really can't describe how odd it was just to slip right back into everything and then look at the pictures on my desk and smile thinking about my baby girl that I didn't have the last time I sat here.

The kids are doing great- they've already been in daycare for two weeks and it is going wonderfully. Claire is a total teacher's pet because she takes a 4.5 hour nap in the middle of the day and then spends her other 3 waking hours smiling and eating. Her teachers take pictures during the day and then post them on a password-protected site and it is hilarious to see my big baby sitting amongst all the normal sized infants. She gives all her baby friends lots of smiles and is apparently briefly confused to hear a baby cry, but then smiles right away when she realizes it isn't her. Landon is loving his new class. He's the youngest one- his teachers decided to bump him up an extra half level after last year, and they've all said they think it was the right decision. He has lots of new friends and loves the fact that baby Claire takes buggy rides in his new "big kid" playground.

Obligatory first day of work pics

The toughest things about my day yesterday was my 45 minute commute thanks to Tropical Storm Hermine and the blisters I got on my feet for wearing 3.5 inch heels on my first day back. I'm still adjusting to the idea that I can't just take another few months off again, that this is a permanent state of being for the forseeable future, but it's a perfectly acceptable one, especially in slightly lower heels.

Monday, September 6, 2010

At the Precipice

I go back to work tomorrow- or at least I'm supposed to. Landon came home with a cold and cough last week, the first time he's gotten sick in nearly 2 years (a treat from his new daycare class I suppose) and now I have it. Do you think anyone will believe me if I call in sick for my first day back? Anyway, as I sit on the couch, trying not to cough on Claire, I'm assuming this will be the last day for a long time that work and my blackberry can't touch me.

And I'm really quite sad about it. Not so much sad to go back to work, parts of me are happy about that, but sad that these unbelievably wonderful months at home have come to an end. Because they have been perfect in their escape from the realities of being a working mom while not yet reaching the realities of being a stay-home mom. For three months I still got to enjoy the benefits of working- a full pay check, our twice monthly maid, Landon's daycare, colleagues who keep me in work gossip and take me to lunch, while hanging out at home, usually in my pj's, watching HGTV and The West Wing reruns with my beautiful daughter. It's been amazing. As I've mentioned, Landon continued to go to daycare every day because (1) we'd have to pay to keep his spot anyway, so he might as well use it, and (2) he loves it and I think it did the most in keeping his life normal after the addition of our new baby. In the first few weeks after I had Claire I didn't leave the couch much- I was tired and healing and I think Landon would have been bored and frustrated that mommy was no fun and always holding the baby. Instead, he kept his routine, played with his friends, and then came home each day delighted to see his sister again. And for those hours in the afternoon and evening I could be up and about, reading books and snuggling with my little boy. It's worked out really well and I will miss it.

I know, really know, that once I get back to work and life goes on like it always does, everything will be fine. We have our routine, we have an amazing daycare just up the road that Claire already has been successfully attending for two weeks (her teachers adore her), and JP has a super flexible work-from-home schedule that allows him to pick up the kids every day. I will get back in the grind and I will find myself loving it once again. It's just that sitting here on the outside of it all, it's a little sad and scary to jump back in. Work represents such a decrease in control over my life. Right now the only thing that messes with our plans is us. But tomorrow I return to a world where an email can interfere with a weekend and a crappy assignment can affect your mood and I have this slightly desperate desire to just to hold it all away from me. If I could guarantee that I'd never miss a family dinner or never cancel a family plan, I don't think I'd have much of any problem returning. I am fundamentally okay with spending time away from my children and sharing them with their daycare teachers. But I can't guarantee that the balance between my role as attorney and mother will always be maintained the way that I need it to, and that is what makes me feel like I'm about to jump off a cliff.

In my calmer moments, I know that I work with great people- that despite some very busy months last year I was always able to maintain my line between work and family time. I know that the idea of losing control is much scarier than actually losing it because in reality work pretty rarely messed with the things I wanted to do. I know that I was a happy working mom three months ago. I know that I will be one again after tomorrow. It's just that right now, on the precipice of going back, I want to stay on this side of the cliff for a little while longer.

(Also, this huge happy baby got herself baptized this weekend, story and pics to come)

Friday, September 3, 2010

5 years ago

So today is JP and my actual wedding anniversary. After last weekend we made ourselves promise that we wouldn't use today as an excuse to spend more money by going out for dinner or doing anything else crazy. And we were pretty good- dinner tonight was leftover lasagna, but we did go out for sandwiches after a joint trip to the gym and Costco. Oh the romance, it's in the air!

But I do have something romantic to share. While going through old wedding pictures to find one to post today, I found this video clip of JP's reception toast! I'd completely forgotten we had it. One of the only regrets I have about my wedding is that we didn't hire a videographer for the reception. It was such a fantastic party- people danced until the country club closed, and I was operating in such a cloud of happiness and hurt feet that my memories are a blur. But luckily a friend of mine happened to take some video during the toasts. JP and I didn't do personal vows (we like tradition and so does my pastor), so we made toasts to each other at the reception instead. I wrote mine out, of course, and then cried the minute I tried to read it. Also of course, JP refused to plan for his at all, despite my urgings, but because he's a great public speaker, he did pretty darn well just winging it. The quality of the clip is terrible, but it still made me a little teary the first time I watched it again.

I cropped it because it was getting a little long, but his present was a beautiful Cartier watch that I have worn nearly every day since. September 3, 2005 was such an amazing day, and I'm so glad I got to see a little piece of it again!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Her Name

Claire Annalise

A reader emailed me yesterday to ask how we came up with Claire's name. As you all know, I had some difficulty with girl names. After reading through various top 200 and other name lists, JP and I just didn't like many (or as it seemed at the time, any) female names. After occasionally seizing on one only to immediately reject it because I didn't like the nicknames that went with it, or I thought it was too common, or one of us had a bad association with it, JP quit and decided we could name our baby after she was born. I thought that was a terrible idea- it wasn't like we had a list of possibilities, we had nothing, and I didn't see how her squished little pink face was going to inspire a name out of thin air. Finally I picked the only potential name on our list and said she was going to be Claire unless he could come up with something better.

At first we kept saying we were thinking of other options, but the more we used it, the more we liked it- and the more the baby in my belly seemed to be Claire. I had first fallen in "like" with the name when I was pregnant with Landon. It fit all my requirements- not overly common but not unusual, easily pronounced, easily spelled, and no shortened nickname possibilities. It sounded pretty, but strong, and I could see a little girl and a successful woman sharing the name. I think it must have been the Diana Gabaldon Outlander books that first gave me the idea. The Claire in those books is a very smart, strong character and that was part of the mental picture I had of my future daughter. So Claire it was. Like Landon, the biggest reason we chose it was because we liked it, and it didn't go too much deeper than that.

Also like Landon, her middle name has more meaning. My middle name was Ann. I never liked it, so I switched it out with my maiden name once I married JP, but I've grown a little more fond of it in the five years since then. Ann is my mom's middle name as well as her aunt's and her great-grandmother's, and it happens to be my dad's sister and mother's middle names too. But the real reason for including "Anna" in Claire's middle name comes from my Swedish grandpa. He has always loved the name Anna Brita. Each time one of his four children announced they were having a baby, my grandpa would so hopefully suggest Anna Brita, "the most beautiful name in the world." It became something of a joke, but after he struck out with each of his 10 grandchildren, he still persevered with the suggestion for his great-grandchildren. It wasn't until recently, when he and my grandmother took a trip to Nova Scotia, that I learned the story behind his persistent suggestion: Anna Brita was the name of his grandmother. In 1888, when she was 23 and approximately 7 months pregnant, she boarded a ship with her husband and 20-month old son (my grandpa's dad), to sail from Sweden to America. There were many stops along the way and at some point she became very ill and went into labor.

From the Acadian Reporter, May 4, 1888, "from there was taken . . . to the Samaritan House the sick wife of Karl P. Norden, an emigrant. When off the coast of Newfoundland the wife was confined, and her position among several hundred of emigrants was not at all conducive to comfort. After being taken to the Samaritan House she grew rapidly worse; last evening Rev N. LeMoine baptized the little stranger, and shortly after the mother, aged 23, died. The husband aged about 30, and a little boy, and the baby, which is not expected to live are left." The baby girl died two days after her mother, and they are buried in separate numbered, but not named, pauper's graves outside Halifax (A-23 and A-90). My great-great-grandfather and his 20-month old son continued on to America alone. The story made me cry when I first read it in the email my grandpa sent out after his visit to her grave, and it's making me cry now, but the happy ending is that the two of them did make it to America. And many years later, 20-month-old baby Carl was a grown man with a farm in Siren, Wisconsin, a wife, and 8 children, the youngest of whom is my grandpa.

So, Anna was to be part of her name. The second part comes from my grandmother's mom, Alesa Isabella Christina Anderson, who spent her whole life thinking her name was Alice, only to find out many years later, I believe when she was filing for social security and finally saw her birth certificate, that her name was actually the Swedish Alesa. Back then most of the immigrants wanted to embrace their new American identities, so baby Alesa had become Alice and she never knew it. Thus, Claire's middle name of Annalise.

I think "Claire" suits her, and I love it more and more as she grows into it. I think she likes it too.