Thursday, December 29, 2011

Not Working

I like my job. Sometimes I even love my job - sitting in my beautiful office, drinking my 3rd or 6th cup of hot tea, talking to co-workers, researching cases, writing briefs. Finding that perfect quote from the perfect case to cite in a brief that tears the other side's brief apart- that's fun, and I enjoy it.

But you want to know what else is fun? Not working.

Not working is awesome. Being born with a trust fund really would have been the way to go. But then I probably wouldn't have grown up camping all over the US in a little white, orange, and brown striped trailer, creating die hard traditions over things like asparagus casserole. So I wouldn't change my actual family or childhood, but the trust fund thing would still be pretty cool.

Neither JP nor I have worked at all since the 23rd and it has been so wonderful. Christmas was lots of fun, but hanging out at home with the kids the past few days has been even better. We've done a lot of laundry, a lot of cleaning, a lot of organizing (all the Christmas presents have a home and all the Christmas decor is put away), a lot of playing, and a lot of just being. For example, today I felt tired around noon. I lay down in bed and woke up an hour later. JP was asleep next to me and both kids were asleep in their rooms upstairs. I rolled over into his arms and fell back asleep for another hour. Heaven.

In other examples- we've been hiking. Santa brought JP a hiking backpack so we could go on longer hikes around the Austin area without our arms feeling like they're going to fall off from holding Claire. The Bear-carrier is a slightlyly ugly, discontinued pea green color that made it $59 on as opposed to $220 at REI. Personally, I think the color is bea-u-tiful.

As is Austin. We've gone on 2, 2.5 and 3 mile hikes around town and loved every minute. Landon is fast and adventurous, though when we're climbing something steep he likes to be in the middle, "so if I fall down, someone can catch me, and if I fall up, someone can catch me!" Exactly. When we were jumping from rock-to-rock over a river, and he had to scramble up a ledge nearly as tall as his head, I moved to help him, but he waved me off with a, "Don't worry mommy, I'm an expert climber."


We're heading to a state park tomorrow for some longer, fancier hikes and I can't wait. JP worked too much around Thanksgiving and I worked too much the week before Christmas - and I'm sure we'll both work too much again some time soon (though hopefully not at the same time), but as long as we can steal away days or even a full week like this, it feels like the balance gets restored, at least for a little while and I have loved every. single. second.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Fun and Family (and presents)

Christmas! It came, it went, it was wonderful. Because I'm a few days late in my posting, you will be blessed with an abbreviated version of our 61-hour holiday tour. We spent Friday sleeping (well, that was just me), packing, and present-wrapping. We left for Papa and Gigi's house at 9 a.m. Saturday morning with a loaded down car and two very excited kids.

First stop- Kingwood. The suburban bubble I called home from 1988-2001 and still call home whenever I drive down my parents' street. We walked in to my familiar home with its ever fancier Christmas decorations (I kind of miss the days of my mom's handmade MOPS crafts) and watched claymation Christmas movies while we prepped dinner and my parents and siblings packed for the lake.

all dolled up in their holiday finery

Dinner was delicious- a medley of family favorites including flank steak, hashbrown potato casserole, asparagus casserole, salad, and rolls- and some very expensive wine my dad got as a present at work. JP, Landon, and Claire remain unconvinced on the merits of asparagus casserole, but the five of us LOVE it. After doing the dishes (my sister and I helped with the china and silver; then she got out of it by going upstairs to "pack"- it was just like old times!), it was time for church.

family foyer picture!

We enjoyed a great church service and I run into lots of old friends and met TWO formerly anonymous blog readers in the foyer. (Frequent commenter, "Patty from TX," saw me walking down the hall from the nursery with Claire and cried out, "Is that Clairebear?!" Patty is very sweet and has fabulous hair. I also met Lori, who recognized Landon first, I think. So crazy that they both go to my old church! I love meeting readers.)

After church, it was a fast change into Christmas jammies and then we all drove the 60 minutes to the lake house in Livingston. We arrived about 9:30 p.m. and put an exhausted Clairebear to bed (which is a shame, her reindeer footed pj's were adorable). Landon was in high spirits and was allowed to stay up for the opening of the presents.


Landon's gift from JP and me was the coolest pop-up super hero book EVER. Of all the presents I bought this year, I think I'm most proud of that one.


And JP was most proud of this one- my "Kate Spade purse basket." I got an iPhone case, purse, and shoes (he broke our specified budget and, appropriately, didn't get me anything for my stocking or from Santa - in his words, "I wanted the credit for it!"). I will admit that I "suggested" the iPhone case (which I adore) and the purse (which was 80% off on the site's cyber Monday sale), though I had no idea that JP bought either, but this part is crazy-- those red shoes are the ones I featured on this site 10 days ago. I had never seen them before that post, never shown them to JP, and he'd purchased them weeks ago! After 10.5 years, I think he finally knows my taste :).


This picture captures Christmas Eve to me. As much as I loved my designer gifts (and I do), what matters the most is the hanging out together, the listening to Raffi, the taking turns to open and exclaim over presents, the drinking wine and eating Christmas cookies -- just being together. That is the best part, and it is my fondest hope that we can raise our children to feel the same way. JP laughs at all of my family's beloved Christmas traditions, mostly because we seem to have a tradition about everything, but it's all rooted in simplicity and love and the fact that we've spent every Christmas for 28 years in the Kingwood house of the lake house. Again, I hope to create such warm memories and feelings of loyalty toward a certain casserole as my siblings and I feel each December.


Christmas morning arrived. As requested, Santa brought Landon a "fighter jet." Santa didn't realize it came in many pieces with 500 decals, but it was some good grandfather-father-son bonding time for them all to put it together.


Claire got a purse filled with accessories that she adores, and both kids got a play kitchen from my parents. Claire mostly just wanted to pet the four dogs (my parents have two; my sister and brother each have one; our two stayed home -- they're all adopted from SNIPSA, get one for yourself!) and dance to the Christmas tunes.


It was cold and wet outside, but we occasionally ventured out for a sword fight or to check the temperature on the smoker for my dad's pork butt (oh, the number of butt jokes that were made that day...)


We ate our traditional Christmas breakfast of tamales and breakfast tacos and then spent the day reading and playing games (Zingo, Left-Right-Center, Sequence) and napping. Finally, it was time for the 10-hour-smoked pork butt to be unveiled. My dad was SO excited. (And the dogs were too!)


We also made time for sitting around the fire pit (it was drizzling, but JP was so proud of the fire he built, we had to go enjoy it with him) and roast marshmallows.

Claire was VERY upset when we put the marshmallow in the fire.


But everyone found the s'mores to be delicious.


We set off a fortune's worth of fireworks that night, which scared the crap out of all dogs and children, but JP, my dad, brother, and I thought they were great (except when JP tried to set a mortar off upside down, that was a little scary as it blew up on the ground). I don't have any photographic evidence of that little event.

All in all, it was a great 2 days. On the 26th we left the lake for Kingwood, then left Kingwood for the Woodlands to visit and aunt and uncle and eat morgan kenveiders (delicious crepe thingies), and then left the Woodlands for Austin, arriving home about 10:30 p.m. I'll report on that later. First, before everyone gives up on this Christmas novel, I have to write down my most special memory of this Christmas. My mom and I had worked behind the scenes to get all of my family's VHS tapes transferred to DVD's. She surprised my dad with the bag of them at the end of the present-opening on Christmas Eve and we spent about 2 hours that night drinking wine, beer, and/or bourbon and watching our family in the 80's and early 90's. It was awesome. Watching my brother's first Christmas (I'm 6, my sister is 3), with our new bikes (my actually got my old bike, but my dad buffed it and cleaned it and added some very cool accessories; Santa is frugal and handy like that) and SO excited to go through our stockings. Seeing my dad holding my 6-month-old brother, saying, "he's going to be my little helper and best friend" and then looking around to see everyone all teary eyed because it's TRUE. It was so much fun and it made me re-committed to taking video at the big and little moments. And not just video clips- just letting the video roll to capture the kids in all their animated cuteness and JP and me in our early 00's glory (because someday, I'm sure, whatever we're wearing now will look silly, just like my mom's Crazy outfits from the 80's). It was a perfect end to a chilly, rainy, wonderful lake house Christmas.

I hope that you and yours had a great holiday as well, and if you ever see me in the church foyer (or wherever), be sure to say hi!

Thursday, December 22, 2011


I have billed 50 hours in last 4 days, including Sunday when I didn't start working until 8 p.m. It has been unpleasant. I went three days without seeing the kids or JP awake because I was coming home so late and then sleeping past the time they leave for work and daycare (and sleeping so deeply, I didn't even hear them). Yesterday I dragged myself into the office at 10 (after leaving at 4:30 a.m. the night/morning before) to find these sitting on my desk:

The note read, "Friday's almost here! love, JP". I love him so. The two nights I came home after 4 a.m. I found a perfectly clean house with sparkling kitchen counters devoid of any lunch boxes, papers, toys and/or food containers. This kitchen-counter-OCD does not come naturally to JP, he did it for me, because he knew that if I walked into our kitchen in my exhausted, shaky, over-caffeinated state to find STUFF on them I would probably cry. Truly, putting in the effort to make the house look as if I had been there to do my nightly sweep of the downstairs meant as much to me as the flowers--and those meant an awful lot!

But my two briefs are in nearly final form, I just need to check the TOA and TOCs that our document support group just added and incorporate a few comments from a partner who has been on vacation but couldn't help chiming in with suggestions from his blackberry (I think this kind of crazy dedication, and the ability to review documents and painstakingly type out 2 pages of comments all on your blackberry, is a partner requirement).

As soon as my two briefs, and the five others we have due today, are filed I am DONE with working and billing in 2011. It has been an interesting year for my career. But one thing is for sure, despite some very low lows with this crazy case, I have learned an enormous amount. Eighteen months ago I'd probably only written 2 substantive briefs from start to finish. I have now written 19. I have doubled the number of depositions I've attended, greatly increased my client contact, and tackled complicated legal issues that still only barely make sense. I may be exhausted and slightly demoralized, but my resume is fantastic, so that's something. And while I don't know if I ever want to be a partner in the legal sense (see above: typing redlines on a blackberry while on a beach in Puerto Rico), I definitely have a great partner in the personal sense and I'm incredibly grateful for that!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Holiday Dispatches

Dispatch A: I write to you through a haze of exhaustion. I appear to be unable to do any legal writing for the moment, so I thought I'd turn to something more free form. I worked on my Reply Brief #2 until 2 a.m. Friday night/Saturday morning, but didn't get nearly as far as I'd hoped, particularly with my unusually full weekend up ahead. On Saturday JP coached a swim lesson, I did some work, and we left at 5:30 for a very rare and much anticipated date night that I was almost too tired and too stressed out to enjoy. A glass of champagne over a dinner purchased with a long unused gift card to our favorite Austin restaurant helped, but as we headed over to the new Austin City Limits music venue in the W Hotel I did fantasize a bit about just going home and curling up in bed with my kindle. Luckily, Robert Earl Keene is a fabulous live show and JP's floor tickets had us standing six feet away from him. Less luckily, JP didn't tell me we had floor seats (or, "seats"), so I ended up standing for 4 hours in 3 inch heeled boots which is less than ideal, especially when you're running on less than 5 hours of sleep and have a back that gets very angry when you stand up for long periods of time. It's a testament to how entertaining my new friend Robert is when I say that I wasn't looking at my watch or hoping to leave early. And JP was so happy and excited to see his favorite country singer, he was grinning from ear to ear the whole show (while holding my too heavy leather purse that I totally would have left in the car had I known we had floor seats).

On Sunday I woke up much earlier than I wanted to continue researching and writing my brief. My parents, brother, sister, sister's boyfriend, and one set of grandparents were all coming to my house around noon to celebrate my sister's birthday, so I left JP a to-do list and headed out to Starbucks to read a giant stack of Federal Circuit cases. I got home in time to drink champagne and eat pizza and red velvet cake (it all went together better than it sounds) and generally enjoy being with my family, though I couldn't help but think about how much I needed to do for work. At 7 p.m. I was able to get back to my laptop and I sent my draft to the partners at 4:30 this morning.

I was up at 8 to get the kids off to daycare and get myself off to work to start Reply Brief #2 that is due tomorrow. I have reorganized stacks of papers for the last few hours, trying to blink through my exhaustion enough to actually start writing, but it's not working. My one highlight has been the chai tea latte my dad picked up for me this morning from Starbucks. He forgot to add the "nonfat" to the order, so I ended up with full fat deliciousness (or maybe 2% deliciousness? whatever their default is) and oh man, it is SO MUCH better. I had no idea. I'm not sure I can go back. Unfortunately, the caffeine content was not high enough to kick my brain into the fully awake and functioning mode. I'm starting to think my time would be better spent curling up under my desk and taking a nap, but I've never been a very successful napper and I think I'd just be haunted by how much I need to do.

But somehow, some way I'll send out another brief by 4 a.m. tomorrow morning. Then I'll sleep, and then I'll come back and incorporate comments and turn new drafts. And again, somehow, both of these suckers will be filed by midnight on the 22nd and then I'm not billing a single other hour until 2012. I know I'll be glad for these crazy deadlines when it's Christmas Day and I can just sit back and enjoy my family, but right now, all I really want to do is sleep. (As a side note, this is exactly why I do everything Christmas related as early as possible. If I still had to shop or decorate or address cards right now, on top of all this work, I think I'd have some sort of breakdown. At the very least, I'd find the impending arrival of Christmas Eve a source of stress instead of happiness. Instead, one of the only things getting me through this brief is knowing that soon I get back to my warm, happy, already-prepared, low-key, love and laughter filled family Christmas holiday. I really can't wait.)

Dispatch B: On a related note, I offer you a slightly modified version of this year's Lag Liv family Christmas card:

Happy Holidays from our home to yours!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Friday Faves

I'm brief writing today- all day- again. My Opposition brief from last week was filed last night (for once I'm not remotely concerned about their Reply, there is nothing they can say to resucitate their original brief after I ripped it into teeny tiny pieces. The fact that their expert made a mathematical error that vastly overstated their claim was just icing on the cake- icing I used for the top, bottom, and middle of the brief, of course. So fun!). These two briefs are less fun-- they're both replies in support of our original briefs on the two topics, which the other side just tried to kill in their own oppositions. Replies are frustrating- you can only respond to what they wrote, and you're kind of tired of the whole topic, having just spent a million hours writing the original briefs, and I mostly just want to yell at them in all caps for purposefully mischaracterizing everything I wrote in the first place. I got the documents this morning. I read them each quickly one time so I could get over the anger at their false accusations regarding my ability to interpret case law (they do it in every brief, so I'm used to it, but it still annoys the crap out of me), and then set about outlining a way to correct nearly everything they say. The replies have to be filed on December 22nd (6 days away), so I have a lot to do. I have a very fun and busy weekend planned (date night with JP to see Robert Earl Keen play at ACL on Saturday; family in town to celebrate my sister's birthday in my house on Sunday) and I refuse to lose another weekend to this case. So I will sacrifice my Friday night and the usual frozen margarita that comes with it. Dedication- it comes in many forms. I'm comforted by knowing that as soon as these documents are filed on the 22nd, I'm not coming back to the office until 2012. Huzzah.

But on to things more fun than yelling at opposing counsel about lost profits- a random collection of pretty things I'm either coveting or loving (or both) at the moment.

(1) This Fendi bag. I love it. It's somehow ugly and gorgeous all at the same time. At $2500, I will never have it, but if I could look like Blake Lively while holding it, it might be worth the investment. (She's holding it here while filming a scene of Gossip Girl)

(2) This Burberry trench. This I am actually determined to own one day. One day many, many years from now.

(4) These Kate Spade shoes. They are the perfect shade of red and I need them. (Though without the novelty of the rainbow heel, I will not justify the purchase)

(4) Argyle tights. I wore this outfit to work the other day and received more comments and compliments on my tights than I have ever received by wearing anything, ever. They are from Target and cost $7.99. In other words, the opposite of my pretend Fendi bag and Burberry coat, which both cost a fortune and live outside my home.

(apologies, my bathroom is apparently very poorly lit)

(5) My Old Navy Rock Star jeggings. Another item I have received an undue number of "where did you get those?" comments. My $35 jeggings, purchased at 30% off with a $20 reward coupon, are made of stretchy denim magic. When you hold them up, you think they are meant for a small child (JP once tried to put them in Landon's folded laundry pile), but when you close your eyes and pull them on, they fit! and they look fabulous with high heels or, as I'm currently wearing them, with a sweater and riding boots. And they have functioning pockets and belt loops! A plus in the jegging world. Whenever these stretch out or disintegrate I'm immediately buying another pair.

From Fendi to Old Navy, so many lovely things in the world. Now back to my writing. I just keep reminding myself that in six short days this case will be over for me forever!

Thursday, December 15, 2011


As the holidays arrive and I look at our four stockings hung by the chimney with care, and I clean closets and wonder whether to save the baby and toddler clothes, and I investigate new career paths that pay less and/or require moves to bigger cities with smaller homes, my mind is constantly returning to the question of whether we're going to have more kids. But I don't know. And that bothers me.

There's a lot I don't know that doesn't bother me at all- the fundamentals of organic chemistry (despite 8 college hours in the subject), the appeal of Sara Palin, the appeal of Kim Kardashian, and how to cook a chicken breast without making it dry (well that one bothers me a little). But it seems that I should know if I'd like another baby and if I want my family to contain four or five human members.

When JP and I got married we thought we'd have 3-4 kids. I was one of 3 and it seemed like the perfect number to my 12-year-old brain- not as perfect or boring as the 2 kids/2 parents combo and not as crazy as the 4-5 kid families. JP is an only child and definitely wanted 3+ kids of our own. And then we had Landon. And while we loved him, we couldn't imagine voluntarily signing up for the first 12 months of baby care-taking again. Two years and a few months later, we accidentally got pregnant with Claire. Six weeks into Claire's infancy, I was absolutely certain we'd have more babies. I think I could have found out I was pregnant right then and been thrilled with it. But then Claire got bigger. She stayed just as awesome but we saw the way she and Landon interacted, and the way our family worked as a unit of four, and it was just so good and so easy. JP got a job and it was a bit rocky, but we figured that out and it's good again. While more time in the day would always be welcome, I honestly believe we get to spend enough time with our children and that they think feel the same. We're involved in their daycare classes, with their teachers and friends and parents, and we spend a lot of time together at home. And while I've learned that adding a child doesn't cut your time with your existing child(ren) in half, I do wonder how we could give enough to three kids and still give enough to each other (I'm a firm believer in the priority of the marriage before the kids- JP and I were a partnership before we had kids and we do our best by them in maintaining that happy, supportive, loving relationship as our family's backbone). And then there's finances (daycare is about $60,000/kid over the 5 years), logistics, and the increasing realization that in about another year we'll be done with diapers, cribs, strollers, and all other baby accoutrements. And that sounds pretty awesome.

But- if I'm done, shouldn't I know that? It's so big- creating a whole new little person to love and care for, to find adorable and brilliant and hilarious and everything we think about Claire and Landon- how can I not know if I want to do that again or not? To have a family of four v. a family of five? The idea of not having Clairebear is devastating, and I know I'd feel that way about baby #3 should I get a chance to meet him/her. Ambivalence just seems out of place and yet that is exactly what I feel.

If I were to bet (and I wouldn't because I hate gambling and even the fact that we have money in the stock market drives me crazy), I'd say we're done. It makes sense. We're happy. The world is generally built for groups of four. It's easier to travel, something we desperately want to do more of, and we can start taking big trips sooner if we exit the baby years at Claire. As a kid I thought the four person families were too perfect. As an adult I see that a table for four (and hotel room for four, and car for four...) is a wonderful thing. The thought of being done with pregnancy and the need for new clothes and making my body gain/lose 40+ pounds in a year, that sounds pretty good too. I love both of my siblings and can't imagine life or my childhood without them- I never once wished for a smaller family. But I also don't think that had it been just two of us, that I would have felt that something was missing. JP claims that if he were to bet (and he actually would because financial risk is something he finds fun) he thinks we're having more, but he's okay if we don't.

I don't know what we'll do. As I cleaned out the kids' closets I made two sets of bins. One "memory bin" for each child with the special clothes- the ones that even if we were to have a third and fourth I wouldn't reuse. The baptismal dress, the home from the hospital onesie... those are preserved forever. Then I made another bin of the clothes for each sex, at each age, that are nice, unstained, and cute enough that I'd look forward to using again, but should we not have more children, I'd give the whole bin away without a second thought. We've done the same with baby toys and gear- given away most, kept a select few favorites. I look at the pictures of friends with their brand new babies in the hospital and I can't imagine not having that experience again- of being in the hospital, marveling at what you created, and spending those weeks at home, snuggling on the couch with your sleepy, stretchy little wombat. But then I visited a friend today and held her newborn baby girl, and while I loved being able to chat with a tiny baby sleeping on my chest, I didn't feel a single pang of jealousy or desire as I handed her back over to mama.

Part of me thinks we'll wait a while, see where are careers go over the next few years, and then, if we do want to expand our family, try to have two more close together again. We're 28 and 30, we have time. Most of me thinks we're done. All of me wishes I knew what I wanted, and I wonder why I don't.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas Delicious

I promise that not every post I write this month will be about Christmas, but the holidays do sort of dominate between late Thanksgiving and early January. This past weekend was all about cookies. Specifically my Swedish great-grandmother's absolutely delicious though very time consuming sugar cookies. And frosting. Lots and lots of frosting.

I made up a huge batch of dough on Saturday, after a massage (using up FSA funds!) and a P. Terry's cheeseburger date with Clairebear, and before a reptile birthday party for one of Landon's friends (I held a spotted python. He was so soft and smooth, I wanted to put him in my pocket so I could pet him all day- except JP does not like snakes and my jeggings don't have functioning pockets).

With the dough ready, here's how you spend your entire Sunday immersed in sugar and Christmas cheer (and your whole next week eating 6-7 sugar cookies every day, just like the ELF diet recommends):

Pull your tripled recipe of dough (which nearly broke my industrial strength kitchen aid mixer) out of the fridge, turn on Christmas music (preferably, the Frank Sinatra/Dean Martin holiday station on Pandora), clean off your counter, put on some supportive shoes, and prepare to spend the next 3 hours rolling out and cutting the dough into festive shapes. And making a giant mess because by the time you are done, flour will be EVERYWHERE.

Your children can help.

love Claire's concentration tongue; dislike Landon's sudden morph into "big kid"

Then they will be tired, because pressing the cookie cutter into dough that mommy has lovingly (and repeatedly) rolled into smooth submission is really hard work. Put the little one in your bed because you don't really want her to take her nap yet and she won't sleep long without her blankie or the ability to wedge her face up against the bars of her crib.

You will continue cutting and rolling and cutting for another 2-3 hours. There will be no pictures because you started this project in glasses, pj's, and unbrushed hair and now feel compelled to finish it before you do any of those things. By the end you will probably just make whole trays of Christmas trees and stars because they're the easiest shapes to cut (the snowflake cookie-cutter having been immediately abandoned as too intricate, along with the wreath and its impossible cut-out center and skinny ribbon strings). The dough will keep multiplying until you finally just eat the last cup or so raw. It will be delicious.

Wash it down with a diet coke, take a shower, and get ready for decorating and the eating of much frosting! Invite friends over to help if you can.

For the decorating-- make a rainbow of super sweet frosting (powdered sugar, skim milk, a dash of vanilla, and food coloring) and get out sprinkles and a giant bowl of red hots (the best cookie accessory).

The children will want to help- don't let them leave the table until they've decorated at least 10 cookies. Marvel at the fact that your little girl refuses frosting and only eats naked cookies. Ponder how you can possibly be related (despite the fact nearly every other thing about her is exactly like you).

As the kids get tired, force your husband to decorate at least half of what he plans to eat. It will be your responsibility to create any cookies you can actually give to people (daycare teachers, etc.), so take care with the frosting and use the colors appropriately. In other words, be the opposite of your husband who dumps pink frosting on snowmen, doesn't use red hots as little buttons down the tummy, and otherwise acts in complete disregard of your sacred holiday tradition. Make him clean up.

At the end of it all, pop in a Christmas movie- preferably a claymation version from the 1960's- so your kids can detox from the sugar while you (or, preferably, your husband) clean up.

Wrap up a selection of cookies for your kids' teachers in pretty bags with ribbon, try not to wince at the sudden decrease in your cookie stash, and then eat one more cookie (an ugly one, decorated by your husband, because that's all you have left) and curl up with your kids on the couch for at least an hour before attempting to make a non-sugar based dinner or pack lunches for the week ahead.

And then later, after all that is done and the kids are in bed, eat a few more cookies, drink a glass of wine, and know that you have done everything necessary for the holidays to arrive.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Stressless Christmas

My Shutterfly photo books are heeeeeeeeeeeeeere! They arrived yesterday and I am SO HAPPY with them! I actually squealed when the mail guy brought them to my office and spent the whole afternoon all giddy and jittery and failing to restrain myself from flipping through each one for the 42nd time. I talked to opposing counsel in my tax case and I'm sure he thought I was WAY too excited about tax qualifications, but they are just so beautiful (the books, not the tax provisions) and I love the pictures so much! This year I incorporated excerpts from emails and blog posts to capture the kids in various months. Last night, as I was forcing JP to read Claire's Book for the second time, he asked why the letter he was reading was signed, "love, mama" instead of being from both of us. I answered, "because I'm the one who wrote it! I write them letters every once in a while and save them." He looked shocked. A few thousand people have read those letters on the internet and my beloved husband had no idea they exist. But back to the books- I ordered an extra copy of each this year because I realized I wasn't going to part with them until I die, and maybe not even then, so now the kids will have their own set. Oh I love them so.

Along with the photo books came the 125 Christmas cards I also ordered on Shutterfly (with matching address labels because they were pretty and my magical coupon codes made everything so inexpensive I started trying to think of more things I could order with photos on them- until I realized no one needed a large blanket or life-size stand-up photo of my family, not even me), so now I'm happily sticking on my address labels (printed a few days ago on holiday labels I bought at Target) and matching return address labels and humming to the tunes of the Frank Sinatra holiday station on Pandora. Other than the yearly baking of the Swedish sugar cookies (planned for this weekend), Christmas cards are my final holiday task list item and I was getting a little antsy about it. The presents are bought and wrapped, the house is decorated, and the Christmas outfits are hanging in the closet. I've been busy every December I've had at the firm, so I've learned to plan for Christmas in whatever pockets of free time I have in the months preceding- something I can't really help but do anyway.

I know the holidays are supposed to be stressful, but I've always found them to be nothing but wonderful. Maybe I have low expectations, or maybe other people do way more than me, but decorating the house takes about 2 hours, and I can do it after the kids go to bed with Love Actually on TV or Christmas music playing off the CD's I copied from my mom's collection. JP decorates the outside of the house, something he did this year between conference calls the day after Thanksgiving (he worked about 10 hours a day every day that whole week; as it turns out, working in the consumer industry is not so fun around the holidays). I start my Christmas shopping whenever I find something I think the person I'm shopping for will love. This year, I bought my mom's Christmas present in March and it is perfect. My brother's was purchased in May, my sister's in June, and my dad's just last week (he was tougher). I have a covered bin in the coat closet where I add the items, mentally checking off my list. The kids were done a few weeks ago (though a last minute order of new crocs is on its way- they need them and the cyber Monday deal was too good to pass up). Now I just get to go to parties and sing along to Michael Buble and excitedly check the mailbox every day to see holiday cards from friends and family. I LOVE THIS MONTH. Not even the fact that I have three more briefs to write and file before the 25th can mess it up.

new assistant

In other holiday fun, my firm's family Christmas party was yesterday. You might remember that Claire was a bit suspicious over the whole "hey little girl, come take some free candy out of this bucket" thing at Halloween. Well that is nothing compared to the face-crumbling, finger clawing, PANIC that occurred when I tried to sit her next to Santa Claus (in a separate chair, on my lap). Landon sat next to Santa and asked for a jet (a fast one, because seriously, who wants a slow jet plane?), but Claire would have NONE OF IT. She who walks up to strangers in stores with her arms up, begging to be held, and will follow strange families to their cars at parks, would not get within 3 feet of the white-bearded Santa man.

We moved on to decorating gingerbread squares (aka, eating the candy that's supposed to go on the squares), making ornaments, and eating pizza before heading home.

We've also recently attended JP's work party (mine is tonight and then we're done) and it was so nice to finally meet some of his colleagues. They were all so complimentary of JP (and full of awe at how much he eats; yes, it's that noteworthy) and had such great things to say about his work and general self. It's always fun to hear your spouse be properly lauded- especially when he works All The Time. (Also fun: overhearing your spouse's boss say, "man, you married UP").

normal work outfit + red lipstick = work party outfit!

This weekend will be all about cleaning out my last closet for another pre-holiday goodwill run, driving around to look at Christmas lights, making the daycare teacher gifts, and rolling out, cutting, and baking 25,000 Christmas cookies-- and having friends over to help decorate them :). JP will work some, I'll work some, and at night we'll watch our DVR'd shows that we never get to watch during the week because we're (guess what?) working! But the holidays are here and the red lipstick is out and the sugar cookies are coming- life is good.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Healthyness and Other Blessings

I got home from work on Monday at 1:30 a.m. Tuesday morning. I left at 1, but had to stop at the gas station because JP drove my car all weekend and left it for me with a cruising range of ELEVEN MILES. So at 1:09 a.m., in 29 freaking degree weather, with my little screen computer telling me I had a SINGLE mile of driving range left, I had to stop to fill my tank. I left JP him a special voicemail to listen to in the morning. I suppose I could have waited to share my irritation in person when we both woke up, but I feared that sharing a bed and morning cuddles would taken away my ability to make him fully appreciate how unbelievably annoyed I was in the moment.

Then when I parked my now-full car in the driveway and walked in the door at 1:27 a.m. I heard wails coming from upstairs. It was the Clairebear, growing her canines and VERY upset about it. I snuggled her for a while, forced some ibuprofen in her mouth, and cuddled her some more. I finally got in bed a little after 2 only to find myself too hopped up to fall asleep. I couldn't let go of the feeling that I should have stopped writing my draft 2 paragraphs before I did... the rambling words I hazily remembered writing just keep getting worse and worse in my mind until I was left with a deep-seated fear that I had lost all punctuation and possibly proper English before I sent the draft to the partner. The thought haunted me all night. At nearly 3 I was finally drifting off when the wailing began again. I kicked JP out of bed to go comfort his daughter but lay awake until he came back. And so the pattern repeated- Claire crying, me kicking JP out of bed, every 45 minutes until 5 a.m. I was so tired at work yesterday that my body ached from the inside. But, it was okay. My draft wasn't as terrible as my exhausted 3 a.m. mind made it out to be (though the partner did highlight the last paragraph and insert a comment, that said "it seems we're repeating ourselves a bit- perhaps we could shorten? or remove? this paragraph". I deleted my text immediately without reading it again).

And that long exhausting night with Claire was a nice reminder of how well our kids sleep most of the time. I don't think we've been woken up in the middle of the nice in at least 6 months. Usually it's a book, a goodnight kiss, a song, and a closed door - it all takes about 10 minutes and JP and I are back downstairs by 7:45 continuing on with our evening. Landon wakes up about 7, checks on Claire, and either plays with her in her room or comes downstairs and entertains himself until about 7:30. It's a blessing I'd temporarily forgotten to be thankful for.

And speaking of blessings- we headed to the ER (or really, minor ER) for the first time in THREE YEARS last Friday. Landon had slipped off the monkey bars at daycare and busted open his chin. According to JP (who happened to be working from home that day and was thus 1 mile away when he got the call instead of his usual 55 miles away) there was blood everywhere, but Landon was calmly holding an ice pack to his chin and asking a lot of questions about these "stitches" everyone kept talking about. I left work to pick up Claire (daycare was going to close soon) and meet the boys at the Immediate Care place. I found Landon just as JP described- dried blood all over his shirt, holding an ice pack, now asking questions about the fountain on the wall behind him ("but where does the water COME FROM? Can I drink it? Where does it go?"). We were seen quickly and though JP and I both held our breath during the "how did it happen" questions, it seems now that Landon can talk for himself and give his own detailed account of just how his fingers slipped on the bars, we weren't subjected to any additional scrutiny. I don't think a spike of anxiety in that moment will go away until our children are grown and we don't accompany them to the doctor anymore.

(Side story: Claire was so offended in triage when the nurse didn't pay attention to her. She sat very nicely in the chair next to Landon and looked genuinely shocked when the nurse only took his temperature, his pulse rate, his blood pressure, etc. She kept looking at me like, "Um, I'm RIGHT HERE! Is she ignoring me? NO ONE IGNORES ME." It was pretty funny.)

We were quickly seen by the doctor and found out that Landon was a perfect candidate for the dermabond glue instead of stitches. What an incredible invention. After cleaning the cut and rubbing some clear sticky stuff, we were released! He had a bandaid we could take off in 24 hours, he could take showers and baths, and could even attend the bounce house birthday party of a friend the next day. My two siblings and I each had stitches once or twice as kids and I wish that glue had been around back then.

Landon's "bonked" chin (as he calls it) has been our single medical issue this year, another blessing I'm meditating on this morning. I'm a little irritated I have nearly $1,000 wasting away in a health FSA account that has me I'm frantically trying to think of eligible things to purchase, but am overall so thankful at our remarkably healthy year. Claire didn't have a SINGLE sick-baby visit and neither did Landon (though we had a few nurse calls during his big stomach bug in March). JP's ear was truly cured through his surgery last year and I've just had check-ups. In the 10 years JP and I have known each other, we've been in the hospital about seven times, had three surgeries between us, and been to the ER on numerous occasions. Landon's had two surgeries and went to the hospital more times than I want to remember his first year. Claire seems to have stopped our pattern.

And speaking of the Bear. She turned 18 months old on Sunday and had her check-up yesterday. She's in the 75th percentile for height, 60th for weight, and 99+ for head. She was very angry about her shots (daddy took her, so it was all his fault) and glared at everyone during check out. I need to write about her at 18 months, but turning a new draft of my brief takes precedence. So until then- she's healthy and happy, independent and cuddly, smart and sweet, and just generally adorable. 18 months might just be my very favorite age, with 2 and 3 years taking close seconds.

Now I'm off to turn a brief and research what else I can spend FSA funds on in the next 3 weeks besides a 5-year supply of contacts (and I only wear a contact in one eye, so that's a LOT of contacts...).

Monday, December 5, 2011

Today's Task

Today is going to be a busy day. Due entirely to my own fault (well, a discount Shutterfly code shares some of the blame; it expired on 11/30 and I felt compelled to get in all my photo book, photo calendar, stationery, and Christmas card orders -- $800 of merchandise for $295! It was a highlight of my week. And then on Friday afternoon I had to race out of the office early because Landon fell at daycare and needed stitches (he's fine; it's another story). And Claire and I went to Houston for the weekend), I have an entire brief to write today. Approximately 20 pages long, incorporating research across a variety of damages and intellectual property issues, in response to an issue of enormous importance to the case and the client. I promised the partner a draft on Monday. On Friday, sensing the fact that I really had not left myself enough time to do this, I clarified "Monday" to mean "before he wakes up and checks his email on Tuesday."

So today, I am writing.

I think one day soon I will write a post about writing a brief. It occurs to me that I had no idea what that meant before law school and reading about the process (i.e. about what it is litigators do when they're not dealing with discovery) will probably turn a lot of law students into future transactional attorneys, but I love it. It's hard- I'm staring at this stack of cases, a few half-written outlines, a highlighted and marked up copy of the opposing side's original brief (with things like "that's not what that case really says" or "check trial trascript, day 6- pretty sure we countered that in direct testimony" hand-written in the margins), and my big cup of Earl Gray tea and think, I love my job. Where else, outside of academia itself, could I get paid to be this academic? To simply write and think and write and think and write some more. Hopefully, by 5 a.m. this morning I'll have a coherent, well-organized response for the partner to redline. Then I'll incorporate his comments and we'll do another round of commenting, then I'll send it to the client and incorporate their comments, then it will go to a paralegal to cite-check, and then, on the day it has to be filed (the filing deadline in federal court is midnight), I will print out our latest version around 9 p.m., sit in an empty office somewhere on my floor, and read it from start to finish, making small hand-written edits to change a word, add a comma, etc. Then it will be filed, along with the exhibits and declarations in support and whatever else it needs. And then we will wait for their Reply brief where they'll try to convince the court that I didn't just really tear their original brief apart.

Because I will. Starting in about five minutes. Happy Monday everyone!