Monday, January 30, 2012

Calm Abiding

I went to yoga against yesterday. I've now spent a grand total of 3 hours in a yoga class in my entire life, all of them in the last 3 weeks, and I'm kind of obsessed. It came to me at a good time (or, really, I came to it). Yesterday's lesson focused on shámatha, a Buddhist "calm abiding" meditation using a dhárana, or single point of concentration. In short, by focusing on something other than all the things bouncing around in your head (aptly described as the monkey brain), like your body position and breathing, you give your monkey brain a branch to rest upon. And my little brain monkey needed a rest. As an added bonus my legs and arms were stretched to their max and my core muscles got a workout, but none of that compares to those few blessed moments that I was able to clear my head and focus solely on a spot beyond my closed eyelids. I leave that class feeling so relaxed and happy- a feeling that continued even after I came home to a house that was still missing a back door (it's back on now and looks FABULOUS), a shorted out electrical switch in the attic (that JP attempted to repair and nearly electrocuted himself; the trained and licensed electrician comes tomorrow), and an ever growing to-do list for getting our house on the market. I'll be at the studio every Sunday until we move, no matter how much JP lovingly mocks my non-aerobic monkey brain workout.

In the spirit of calm abiding, we spent some time hanging out in our master bedroom yesterday. Growing up, I don't think I ever once saw my parent's bed unmade. They went to bed after me and they were up and dressed with their bed perfectly made long before we woke up, so I can only picture their bed in a state of throw-pillowed perfection. JP and my bed is not like that. It's our oasis, a completely kid-free zone from bedtime until morning, but we never make it up, and everyone in the family is generally in and out of it throughout the day on the weekends. It's the place I sneak away to read one more chapter of my book mid-morning, the place I find JP asleep with the covers over his head, hiding from his to-do list in the afternoon (he always falls asleep within 60 seconds of laying down; drives me CRAZY, mostly with jealousy), it's the tickling, teasing, board book reading gathering place with the kids after they get up from their naps, my retreat when I have a headache, and the place I push JP in order to cuddle for just a few minutes in the middle of the day when I don't want to think about to-do lists anymore either... it's not in the physical center of our house, but on the weekends, it often serves as the spot our day ends up revolving around.

After a fun and productive weekend (I made food for every day of this week, and cookies, mostly so I could eat a cup of dough- my appetite is confused after my random two days of intense skiing), today has been the opposing of a calm abiding. I did our taxes and discovered we owed an additional several thousand dollars, a result of not sufficiently withholding extra money from JP's paychecks (a result of having never had two full-time incomes before). I found out that I officially did not get a bonus. I figured, but I had a secret hope that I qualified under the "merit" portion. As it turns, no amount of perfect reviews or partners crying because you're leaving can make up for missing the 2,000 hour threshold (and no amount of 200+ hour months can make up for your first 3 months being under 100 hours because work was so slow during the first quarter of the year). I talked to JP as he was picking up his newly repaired and repainted car and he told me his new company doesn't pay bonuses until April (we thought it was end of Jan when their fiscal year closes). And all this info sprinkled in while I talked to realtors, inspectors, electricians, home stagers, and lenders. Also, Claire sobbed at daycare drop off. I want my dhárana back.

It'll work out, because it always does. We'll probably have to go to an apartment first (or rent a house, but my Ft Worth realtor confirmed that there is not much of a home leasing/rental market in the area we want to buy, which every single person I've talked to has volunteered as the best neighborhood ever, and which has taught me only ever has 2-3 homes for sale at a time and the ones I like sell within 48 hours), which means moving twice and I don't know what we'll do with the dogs. But given our tax bill and other things, I don't think we could buy right away even if we wanted to, and other than the issue of the two giant dogs, renting for a while does make an annoying amount of sense.

So that's today's news. I'll process it tonight and come back tomorrow and research the hell out of the rental market and find the Best Rental Ever and everything will fall into place on a path that will end up giving us the Best House Ever, etc. a few extra months down the road. Until then, look at my baby boy:

How and when did he become so very big kiddish? He's supposed to start Kindergarten in the Fall. (Maybe. Yet another decision tree to research and decide upon.)

And then there's the Bear, who is on the cusp of big girldom herself. She eats everything with utensils, puts on her own shoes, offers strong opinions on her clothes (and everything else), and apparently used the potty successfully today at daycare. Not that I wouldn't love to get rid of diapers, but what on earth? She's 19 months old, this is supposed to be my baby. My last baby.

We haven't told Landon about the move yet. Now that our vacation is over and we're about to get a sign in our front yard, we'll tell him soon. He's going to be sad to leave his friends- most of them have been in the same class together for 3 years, but he's a nice mix of mellow and outgoing, so I think he'll adjust pretty easily. Claire won't care as long as her books and her family come with her. And as always, as long as we're together and we can snuggle in bed on the weekends, everything else is secondary. No matter how much I cringe at thinking of moving twice in the next year. And oh, I cringe.

Calm abiding. It'll come back. Perhaps tomorrow.

Saturday, January 28, 2012


We're back! The trip was wonderful, a truly welcome respite from the nervous anticipation of the past few months and the craziness of the months ahead. The kids were great travelers- even though JP and I were exhausted when we got everyone and everything home at 5:30 last night, I don't think it could have gone better. They slept well, ate well, played well, and traveled well, and it certainly helps that Landon continues to consider Claire's happiness to be his personal mission in life. So I have no complaints, and I love how freaking adorable they can both be at these ages, but man it will be nice to one day travel without two giant car seats, a pack 'n play, and two kids who can't be left alone for a moment (and a Claire who basically just counts as another bag because she has to be carried, though she did helpfully insist on wearing her penguin backpack while being carried).

This will be the equivalent of your neighbors making you watch a slideshow of their vacation, so I apologize in advance, but I have to include some pictures for posterity. Here are days 2-4 of our 2012 family vacation, in brief:

Little skiier:

What JP and I were so excited to run into while coming down the mountain for lunch: (aren't little chains of ski schoolers adorable?)

(squee! JP and I both kind of flipped out when we saw Landon;
if I was him, I would have been totally embarrassed)

End of day 2 when we got to take Landon up on a run with us! I cannot even describe how excited we were to get to do that- our baby boy! on skis! with us!!

The parents grinning ear-to-ear, Landon just wants to get on with the skiing.

"Mommy I KNOW!" (when I was telling him to snow plow for the turn up ahead; one of many reasons why we did not attempt to teach Landon how to ski ourselves (the other being that JP and I wanted fast skiing alone time))

Love this one of father and son heading down our final run:

Heading home with two exhausted kiddos after day 2..

Snowmobile tour up the Continental Divide on day 3- SO MUCH fun (that's Winter Park in the background)

The guide matched my snowmobile to my jacket; good man.

Horse-drawn sleigh ride! We picked the activity because it was the only one Claire could do with us. She loved petting the horsies, but then kind of lost her shit during the first thirty minutes of the ride, calming down only when I held her tight and sang "Dashing through the Snow" over and over (and OVER) again. Landon enjoyed the whole thing, but his favorite part by far was the stop to roast marshmallows and drink hot chocolate, which we could have down without the whole horse-drawn sleigh part.

On the drive back to the condo, we found a park with a sledding hill with a big bin of public sleds! It was one of the many things we discovered while looking at the park and town through our kids' eyes, a view that really changed the trip for us (for the better).

Landon loved it, as he loved everything snow-related:

Mommy took a turn (I swear it was faster than this looks):

My little Chicago baby:

I loved all the fun and activities, but one of the best parts of the day came at night when we put on pjs, fuzzy socks, and a movie and snuggled together on the couch. (Another best part was when both kids were passed out in the other room at 6:55 and JP and I had the rest of the evening to ourselves ;)

We really did have so much fun and the whole experience was more than worth the hassle of dragging two kids and all their accessories on planes, trains, buses, and rental cars to enjoy the snow and JP and my favorite kind of vacation. Last night as I was tucking Landon in bed he asked, "mommy, when we can we live in that place where I woke up this morning?" Not soon, but hopefully someday!

Now that we're back the realities of the new job and the move have slammed back to the forefront. JP has removed our backdoor in order to re-paint some rusted spots and just discovered the primer is supposed to dry for 24 hours. It's chilly out (low 50's) so we're all bundled up in sweaters in our house. I listed a few old baby items on craigslist for free (Goodwill won't accept them) and got about 27 phone calls in the first 5 minutes. I seriously underestimated the demand on that one. We have a few other weekend projects and then a home staging appointment on Tuesday, pre-approval meeting with the lender for our Ft Worth house on Wednesday, and I have to drive 90 minutes away to get my federal fingerprinting done on Thursday (because there are no acceptable locations in Austin, grrr). And I'll just admit it now, I'm completely stressed about selling our house for what we paid for it (we bought 6 months before the whole market fell apart), dealing with the dogs and psychotic cat and two kids while trying to keep the house spotless and showable, trying to buy a house in a new city before I start my job which means we have to qualify for the mortgage in JP's name only and we're not sure that's possible, maybe moving to an apartment first with our two kids, two dogs, and psychotic cat, finding daycares for the kids that have room for them for the last few months of the school year, and figuring out the timing of it all while not knowing my start date yet for the SEC because they haven't yet completed the background check. AND doing all of this while JP and I both work full-time with as little gap as possible because we can't have a gap in our paychecks in order to fund all of the above. (and without other little helpers like knowing anyone in the area and/or having retired parents who don't work full-time themselves and will swoop in to assist with these kinds of things; not that I think parents of grown children should have to do that, I'm just going to admit now that there's going to be a moment where I'll wish they did).

It will all work out. I know this. But between now and when it's all worked out, it's going to be a little hectic, and hectic was easier when it was just JP and me. For now we just work on the to-do list, which is currently paused on "re-finish and paint back door" and find comfort in the fact that by this summer we should be moved in and settled in a new house in an exciting new city with a wonderful new job. It's going to be great, but I'm just warning you, there might be a few stress posts sprinkled amongst the kid pictures between now and then.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Ski Trip Day 1

We've finished our two days of skiing and are about to head out on our 2-hour snowmobile tour with Landon. Clairebear is doing morning daycare today, and then we're doing a horse-drawn sleigh ride with her this afternoon.

It has been such a fun trip. It snowed our first day, so it was a little chilly, and JP and I didn't know the mountain so we kept ending up on these long horrible FLAT greens that he had to steal my poles to pull himself across. But still, any day spent skiing is a good day and we found some great blue and black runs later. Landon did great in ski school and couldn't wait to get back on his skis for day 2. Claire had fun at the kidscamp- her daily sheet described her as "busy, happy, smiley" which sounds like our Bear. We ended the day with sledding and frozen lasagna back at the condo.

A few pictures:

heading out to the slopes

a break in the snow!

my guy

my guy with my stolen ski poles

family picture at the end of day 1


bedtime stories in the top bunk

Day 2 was even better- gorgeous weather, great runs, and our little ski school graduate got to go down some runs with us at the end of the day! A preview of what's to come:

We seriously couldn't have been more proud. JP and I just kept grinning over his head as he navigated the slope between us. We love skiing so much, it was so fun to watch Landon enjoy it too!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Is This Where Santa Lives?

We're here! As it turns out, this is an unduly expensive, poorly timed trip that I booked back when I was working 80 hours a week and thought I was getting a bonus (and thought I'd be at the firm at least another year, and before I backed my car into JP's and wrought $2,000 worth of damage, and before I knew I was taking a pay cut and paying for a move and buying another house...), but I know it's going to be worth it. Or, I've decided it's going to be worth it and am ignoring any qualms to the contrary.

But I know it is. I treasure the memories of my childhood vacations over almost any others.

The flight from Austin to Denver is only 2.25 hours, so we brought our ancient, giant portable DVD player for Landon (he is obsessed with the movie Tangled and we are so glad he will finally watch something for more than 2 minutes) and a bunch of books for Claire, thinking she (who has always been obsessed with the TV) would just watch the screen next to him. Then we cleared 10,000 feet and tried to turn on the DVD player only to find that the battery was dead, despite charging it the night before. Apparently it must be plugged in to work at all now, much like my ancient laptop. So we were stuck with entertaining the children old-school style, with books and a pad of paper and a few pens. And goldfish. It actually went really well. Landon was perfect, Claire very nearly so, though JP and I were pretty tired by the time we landed. Luckily the kids continued to behave with near perfection.

(Side note: luggage-wise, we ended up with one checked bag and one carry-on bag per person, plus the two car seats. I was pretty proud of that result, and my willingness to bring a single pair of shoes and wear two sweaters twice each on the five-day trip. Such sacrifice. And each kid managed their own carry-on, which was very nice. Claire's backpack held 6 books, a few zoo animals, and a matchbox car- the essentials.)

We rode a train to get our bags, road a bus to get our car, drove our car to get to Winter Park -- it was a planes trains and automobiles kind of day. We bought groceries to make meals in our condo and wandered across the road to explore the Village.

As it turns out there's an ice castle with a slide right in front of our condo. Good times were had.

At least until Claire found out the snow was not room temperature.

We moved on to scope out restaurants, ski rentals, and additional play areas. There's red wagons all around the village to assist in the transportation of children and ski gear. Princess Claire declined to disembark at any of our other stops.

We picked up our rentals (Landon's skis are adorable) and an absolutely exhausted, nap-free Clairebear was unhappily surrounded by ski equipment as we made our way home.

Poor thing, she was so worn out, but she worked up a smile for the occasional passerby (JP worriedly noted that she smiles way more at men than women, but I just told him it's because she loves her daddy so much). We ate a quick dinner of pasta and jarred sauce, gave the kids a bath in a ridiculously large bathtub, and tucked them in bed. Now I'm drinking a glass of wine on the couch with my laptop while JP and I watch Batman Begins on TV. I think it's going to be a wonderful four days.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Job Details and Other Things

Thank you all so much for your excitement and congrats on my news. I can't tell you how wonderful it all was to read- I always love comments, but on Friday I was practically giddy every time I checked my gmail account. And it was a trying day. Some partners did not take my news well- nothing terrible, they're just very sad and disappointed (for them, most acknowledged it was a pretty amazing move for me). One teared up. One is actually kind of angry. Others expressed excitement and just told me to make sure I kept the firm in the running when I was ready to go back to private practice. I know everyone will get used to it- it's not like associates don't leave all the time, it just wasn't very fun walking around and breaking the news to people I've worked with for more than three years. This is the only real "grown-up" job I've ever had, it's crazy and a little sad to think that in a few months I'll be making my morning (and afternoon and late afternoon) hot tea somewhere else.

But oh my goodness am I excited. Even when breaking the news to the partner I'm closest to, the one I knew would be the most upset (though I underestimated her reaction), I couldn't help grinning. Truly couldn't help it. I wanted this so bad you guys and I'm so excited about this adventure for our family. Though the 6 hours I spent on Friday filling out all the federal employee background check/employment paperwork was not particularly fun. You have to list all your jobs, addresses, and international travel going back 7 years. Since I'm still a young'n, that required me to list my parent's address from the months I lived there before I got married. I also had to separately list all the countries I visited, which included my post-college self-funded tour around Europe (UK, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Lichtenstein, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, and Greece). And it's not like it was a nice text box to fill in, it was a maze of drop-down menus and "saving" and moving to the next screen to "add another trip" and do it again. It took Forever. And I just realized I left out Vatican City, but does anyone really consider that a separate country besides the people who work at the Vatican? I made appointments for finger-printing and photo-taking, filled out more paperwork, and even billed a few hours. I got home at 10 p.m. Kind of ironic one of my later nights at work recently was the day I told everyone I was quitting.

On to the timing details: We're hoping to get our house on the market by the first weekend in February (though it's frustrated by our long-planned, long-ago-payed-for ski vacation that starts tomorrow; terrible timing, as it turns out). We hope to move in mid-March. I plan to start at the SEC on April 1st, though if the stars align and everything moves faster, I told them I would be happy to start sooner. I'll stay at the firm until a week or two before my first day at the SEC (with the rather painful pay cut I'm taking, each firm pay check has increased in importance). I've picked out a neighborhood near downtown that I'm completely in love with, but I am going to need help with daycares, so all you DFW people who commented, expect a post requesting your collective wisdom soon (blogs are so handy for moves to entirely new cities!). And then I think we need some kind of happy-hour meet up with frozen margaritas after I move.

And a few other random matters, since I'll be gone for the next five days and this blog will be temporarily dedicated to exclusive coverage of my kids all bundled up in ski suits:

(1) My dad is doing great. Well, great for a guy with a bunch of broken ribs, a broken sternum, a broken sacrum (bones near bottom of spine, which explains why he's been in so much pain while sitting), and a mass of other bruises and hematomas. But he can sleep for several hours at a time, he's working a few hours a day from home (by choice, he's getting antsy), and he's had my brother/his best friend home for the last three days. It'll be a long recovery, and he's going to get a whole lot more stir crazy, but for now he's glad to heal and feel all the love of family and friends through email and phone calls. I continue to refuse to dwell on what could have been (with a 98% success rate) and am just so glad he's home.

(2) JP took Landon to get a haircut on Saturday. Since Landon's first haircut (oh my gosh, look at the little toddler Landon! he's about the same age Claire is now... his babyhood did not go by quickly, but toddlerhood has flown), they've gone to the barber shop together every 6 weeks or so for a little trim. Except this time, Landon came home with all of his hair buzzed off:

Once I recovered from my shock, I decided he looked pretty adorable, and EXACTLY like my little brother when he had his little buzz cut at age 5. Which is funny, because Landon has always looked more like JP than anyone in my family, so maybe the matching hair cut is unduly convincing.

Claire was also intrigued:

And (3), speaking of Claire, she is (a) adorable; (b) suddenly looking much older and it's freaking me out; and (c) never, EVER without a book in her had. Ever.

kills me

And now I'm off to bed- tomorrow is a big day of travel before SKIING on Tuesday! Packing for a ski trip for a family of four with two car seats and one kid who still needs her pack 'n play and diapers and sippy cups has destroyed my previously proud reputation as a light packer. Business travel is so much easier- a carry-on suitcase and my kindle in my purse. Now I have 5 checked bags (ski stuff is bulky), 4 carry-ons, 2 gate checked car seats, and a pink blankie to lug around. But I suppose getting to travel with JP and the kids makes up for the extra burden. We're going to have so much fun!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

New Adventures and a New Tag

I've told the firm, so now I can tell you: I've accepted a new job. In Fort Worth. With the SEC. I am over-the-moon excited and overwhelmed with a to-do list a mile long. We have to sell a house, move, buy a house, unpack, find new daycares, find new schools, meet new people, find new doctors, find new EVERYTHING. I don't know a single person in the DFW area. Having lived in Texas for 20 years and having gone to undergrad at UT, it's kind of amazing that I don't. I've only been to Dallas twice and Fort Worth twice. I never, ever would have thought I'd move away from Austin to somewhere more Texas-y. But I am and I am SO EXCITED.

I said this would be a year of adventure and it's going to start out with a bang!

(To get the back story, see New Adventures parts 1: the Application; 2: the Interview; 3: the Background; and 4: I got the job! Or, just click on the new tag "Ft Worth" to read them all.)


Monday, January 16, 2012

Three Things

First, thank you all for your comments about my dad. I waited a few days to write because I was having trouble figuring out how to address it. It was a big, scary event and it affected me, and I wanted to share it, but we knew he was going to be okay, so I didn't want to be overly dramatic about it, but it was scary, but he IS okay... so I waited. We didn't really even know the story until my mom got out there Saturday morning and then, after reading her detailed account, I was actually more upset than I was when I first found out on Friday (the idea that he was in an ambulance, alone in Germany, thinking he was going to die, ripped my heart out). But I have good news- he was discharged from the hospital in Munich this afternoon and he and my mom are booked to fly home tomorrow. It's going to be a hellish journey- navigating the airport, flying from Munich to Frankfurt and then Frankfurt to Houston, with a broken sternum, a bunch of cracked ribs, and terrible bruising all over (most of it on his back and backside, making sitting incredibly uncomfortable), but I know he's anxious to get home and hopefully he can max out the oral pain meds. My brother is driving over on Thursday to keep him company while my mom goes back to teaching and we're planning to head over as soon as he feels good enough to risk being in the same room as two children under 5. I'm just... I'm so glad he's okay.

Second, my firm was closed today, as was daycare, so I spent the day moderately supervising my children and engaging in one of my favorite activities- cleaning out closets! After doing this for much of the Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks, you'd think I'd be out of closets by now, but every time I go through one, I find more to give away. Claire's closet is now down to a chest of drawers and the hanging items that she is wearing now and those that she will be wearing in the spring and THAT'S IT- not a single box, bag, or shelf item remains. I can't tell you how happy this makes me. I did the same with Landon's closet, the guest room closet, and the top-of-the-stairs closet that previously housed a random assortment of items that are now either at Goodwill or relocated to labeled storage bins in the attic. I also cleaned out our junk drawer in the kitchen, something that hadn't been touched since we dumped a box of stuff in there after our 2008 move, the hidden shelves in our study where we throw things through squinted eyes so we don't have to see the mess behind the doors, the hutch behind the kitchen table that previously housed birthday party decor, board games, art supplies, laptop power cords, and 2008 New Year's decorations and noise makers, and our jumble of dvd's in the entertainment center. IT FEELS SO GOOD. I packed up an entire car full of stuff for Goodwill, packed bags of giveaways for friends, and just generally felt 10 lbs. lighter. I gave JP the grand closet/drawer tour when he came home from work. He was appreciative, but he doesn't quite understand the post-clean-out high. The homemade chicken lasagne with homemade tomato cream sauce received far more enthusiastic praise, he just doesn't quite share my loathing for extra Stuff and the way it just sits around taunting you while it takes up space for no real purpose. And I'll admit, the lasagna was pretty tasty.

Third, while backing my car out of the garage this evening to take my "entire car full of stuff for Goodwill" to Goodwill, I backed directly into JP's car. It was a moment of breathtaking stupidity. I have a back-up camera and JP is always parked behind me and over to the right. The crunch of the metal felt exactly as bad as my previous 8 hours of cleaning felt good. My Highlander has some deep scrapes; his Sonata has a huge dent that messed up the alignment of the whole bumper. Fixing that (or, more correctly, finding someone else to it quickly so we don't lose a car for multiple days and without costing too much money in the month of our long-awaited ski vacation that I'm already kind of freaking out about the cost of) is now #1 on my to-do list for tomorrow. Ugh. Though, this close to my dad's horrible accident, I know to be grateful that my little incident will only hurt our credit card, even if I feel like a complete idiot for causing it.

Bonus fourth thing- behold, my somehow suddenly much bigger and more grown-up children as captured with my iPhone because despite my resolution to get back into photography, I haven't yet picked up my camera this year:

Landon, trying on his new ski gear, and Claire, showing my grandma her new laptop (which was a gift from my other grandma- we love having all four great-grandparents in the same building!).

Sunday, January 15, 2012


I went to yoga this morning- a 90 minute "Gentle Hatha" class, with a friend. It was exactly what I needed- some core work, a lot of stretching, and a lot of thinking and centering and clearing my mind in an effort to not think at all.


My dad was in a serious car accident in Germany on Friday. He was there for business and was on his way to the airport in Munich when his taxi (going 90 mph on the autobahn in the rain) hit an abandoned, stationary vehicle at full speed. He was wearing his seat belt, but was knocked unconscious and has a broken sternum, several broken ribs, and purple bruises all over his body. He came to with a medical team working over him, speaking in rapid German, and the pain in his chest was so sharp (from the broken sternum, we know now) that he believed his heart had been pierced and he was going to die. By the time my mom was informed and then she told us, we knew that wasn't true- that he was going to be okay, even if we weren't sure when he'd be able to fly home, so I took the news calmly, glad that my mom was already booked on a flight out there. But an hour later, in the parking garage of my building at work, as I fully realized what had happened and how bad it could have been- I started crying. My dad is 55. I know that in the natural order of things he will predecease me, but not fucking yet. I hate even thinking of what could have been and how devastating that 4 a.m. phone call could have been. So I'm not. I'm just thankful -- thankful that he will heal, thankful that my mom is there with him, thankful that his company has handled all the logistics and payments for both of them, thankful that we have so many wonderful friends and family who have emailed and texted him across an ocean to let him know he's loved. Thankful for the English-speaking doctor in the ambulance who held my dad's hand the entire ride to the hospital, reassuring him through the haze of shock and pain that he was going to be okay. And while I can't quite be thankful for the reminder of how quickly life can change, I'm aware of it, and I can be thankful for all the love my dad and I have shared over the last 28 years and even more thankful for the love we'll get to continue to share for what better be at least 40 years more.


Last night JP and I went on a date. We were supposed to do dinner and a movie at Alamo Drafthouse, but when we got there 30 minutes before showtime, everything was sold out. We go to the movies so rarely, we were honestly shocked to see that so many other people happened to be out on the same night we were. Then we remembered that seeing a movie didn't used to be something we thought of as a once-a-year treat. So, not wanting to waste a booked night of babysitting, we went out for a long dinner instead- appetizers, entrees, dessert, not rearranging the table so everything was out of Claire's reach- decadence! And while we love being with the kids and rarely feel any need to get out just the two of us, it was awfully nice to linger over a Mexican martini and talk idly with the person I love most in the world. JP is my soul mate and the love of my life. He has 10 years of my past and all of my future. He's my partner, my heart, the father of my children, and the only one who knows every facet of my being and loves- or at least accepts- them all. I love him completely, but there's nothing like a dinner spent laughing and talking about nothing to remind me of how terribly much I like him. Date nights are great for that.


I'm about to take the dogs on a run and do laundry and prepare the week's meals and do a bunch of other mundane Sunday chores, and I don't know if it's the wake of my dad's accident, or the yoga, or my happy night out last night, but I feel light. Light and profoundly thankful.

I'm doing the yoga again next Sunday.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Freedom and Resolutions

It's been a week since my last post- there's been a lot going on that I can't post about (yet) and then there's also been so little going on there wasn't much to post about (simple weekend, another hike, getting back in the work routine), and then the new Kresley Cole "Immortals After Dark" book came out yesterday so I had to drop everything and read it (Lothaire- SO GOOD!). But today I'm wearing my ruby red heels, a black pinstriped pencil skirt, and a white button down, and feel sufficiently powerful and lawyerish that I'm sure I can accomplish anything, including finishing and publishing posts that have been languishing in my drafts folder. Like this one about my 2012 resolutions.

I tend to make resolutions whenever I think of them, so January 1st doesn't usually bring anything new to my list of Goals and/or Things To Work On. I actually feel really good about where I am, and where we are, in terms of most of our goals from 2011. We spent a lot of the past year talking about what we wanted and how we were going to get there, and then getting there and reevaluating what we wanted (i.e., wanting JP's full-time employment, getting there and setting a whole new set of goals for how we were going to make that goal work in a way that didn't ruin all our other goals). But reading everyone else's resolutions has made me think about one that is noticeably absent from my more recent lists (that was always number one on my old ones): losing weight and/or working out. In part because I've given up and accepted that I'm never going to work out in my rare and precious free time, but it's in larger part because I am at peace with my body. Yes, I miss feeling as fit as I used to, and my stomach is so squishy that Claire can lose her whole fist in there, and I miss lifting a weight at the gym while looking in the mirror and thinking "I am making my body stronger." But it's okay. I'm active, I almost never sit down when I'm not forced to (like at work on a deadline), I eat well, I lift my kids, I hike and run and play outside with my family. I use my body, even if the physical benefit is now a side effect instead of the whole purpose of whatever I'm doing.

But by far my biggest change has come in my relationship with food. I love food. I consider chocolate chip cookies to be one of my hobbies and eating one is often the highlight of my afternoon. But food does not control me. Now, I eat cookies because I love them, not because I've done something special to "deserve" them or because I've eaten badly and thrown the day away so I should have a bunch or because I ate less at lunch and now "need" to fill that caloric hole or because of anything other than the fact that cookies taste delicious and I like them. If you're someone who's never had issues with food, you can't imagine the power of that sentence.

Food used to have such a hold on me. For the most part, I came by it honestly. Starting in 8th grade I swam 2-4 hours a day and I was hungry All The Time. Swimming itself wasn't the problem, I was just always starving and I didn't make good choices to fill the pit in my stomach. I weighed more than I should have and trying to eat less always failed because I was so hungry. I had major hip surgery in 2001 and had to stop swimming for several months. The thing I remember most from that was waking up a day or two after the surgery and realizing that I wasn't hungry. My first thought was not about breakfast and the rest of my thoughts weren't dominated by what I could have for lunch and then dinner. It was so freeing. I lost 10 lbs. in a month. Two years later, I was 20 lbs. lighter and completely obsessed with every bite I took. I flirted with throwing up when I ate too much (one of the only things I've tried in life and utterfly failed at), restricting what I was allowed to eat down to almost nothing, and obsessively tracking the number of calories I was eating. My college notebooks are littered with tiny numbers lined up in totals in the margins- calculations of the calories I'd consumed that day, with subtractions for the calories I'd burned by working out. The goal was always for the net to be under 1,000. I wouldn't waste exercise running or hiking outdoors because I wouldn't have been able to know the exact number of calories the machine said I was burning and then I couldn't subtract it and then how would I know whether or not I could eat more at dinner? I got better and worse and better again over the next few years.

Then Landon was born and my world was no longer about me. I couldn't control it and I couldn't plan ahead for anything. Rather than cause me to buckle down even tighter on my eating, it freed me completely. Finishing my lunch did not mean obsessing over what was for dinner. Finishing lunch was an accomplishment (making lunch was an accomplishment) and then I was busy with my fussy baby until I was able to make and eat food again later. I also fully realized that I was an adult with a car and a credit card and, theoretically, I could go get whatever food I wanted whenever I wanted it (at least after the baby woke up). This also freed me. I didn't need to eat 10 bites of dessert if I was full after 2 because I could go buy that dessert again one day in the future. And, since I didn't feel compelled to eat every bite of that dessert, I didn't need to feel bad or guilty after the meal, and then I didn't need to work out to lose that certain number of extra calories. I could just eat, or not, based on whatever my body wanted at the time. Freedom.

I haven't worked out in a gym since 2005. I haven't weighed myself regularly since 2007. The scale on our bathroom floor has had a dead battery since my pregnancy with Claire. I have actually forgotten the number of calories in the average apple and every other food on the planet. And despite this lack of focus on food or exercise- or perhaps because of it- my body is now the size and general shape I always wanted it to be. I drink a glass of wine almost every day, but rarely drink two. I love margaritas and have one almost every Friday. I eat the food I want and whatever meal is in front of me and I enjoy it. I don't worry about the next one- what it will be, exactly when it will be, and what I should do in the meantime to earn it. I don't snack, because I don't get hungry between meals, no matter how many articles say many small meals are better than fewer big ones. I don't eat breakfast because it gives me a stomach ache. I eat a huge lunch because I love the feeling of being full around noon and eating gives me energy rather than making me feel sleepy. I eat a smaller dinner because I don't like feeling full when I go to bed. On the mornings I happen to wake up hungry, I eat breakfast, because not eating breakfast isn't a rule, it's just usually what my stomach wants me to do. There aren't any rules to follow any more. When I'm not hungry, I don't eat- because I don't have to eat just because it's a meal time, I can eat when I'm hungry. Food is always available to me if I want it. Just the same, if I'm hungry and it's not a meal time, that's okay too. There aren't any rules.

I'm not sure I can adequately describe how freeing all this is- how impossible my 2003-era self would have found it- or how much I hope Landon and Claire can adopt my more recent approach to food and avoid my former one. I think the best JP and I can do (JP has always had a healthy attitude toward food and eating; his is basically the one I have now- there is no censure in eating, ever; it is a part of life and a fabulous one at that) is to live by example, avoid negative comments about other people or ourselves, and share our love of food.

So if I were to write them out, I think my resolutions for the year are to spend more time outside, to continue going on adventures in and around Austin, to try yoga, to read more legal-type articles and headlines (and probably less paranormal romance, though seriously, the Immortals After Dark series is super fun), to learn how to cook chicken, and to get back to shooting my camera in manual. Meeting those goals would be great; failing at them won't affect my self-image or my self-worth. Freedom.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

New Adventures, pt. 4: I GOT THE JOB!

10:45 a.m., Jan. 10, 2012

That's really all I have to say on this one.


Sunday, January 8, 2012

New Adventures, pt. 3: The Background

2 pm, Jan. 8, 2012

I'm still waiting to hear the results from the interview, so I figured I should fill in the story behind this potential move. Because even if this opportunity doesn't work out, that won't be the end, I'm going to keep looking. It makes me sad to type that- unlike nearly everyone else I know, I like working for a big law firm. I genuinely like my job and I like the people I work with. But, for reasons outside my control, both of those statements are changing. And I think it's my responsibility to own my career and make changes before I become a victim of it.

I could stay here for at least another year doing work for other sections that at best maintain my career and at worst knock me off track by learning too much about an area of law I actively dislike. I can't get into too many specifics, but basically, my section is changing. People have left- for personal reasons, and the occasional firm-related reason- it's added up to a lot of people. Right now I'm the second most senior associate in my section. I've lost my mentors. We've gone from being a major player within the firm to feeling like more of a satellite team, lending support of cases centrally staffed outside our city. None of that is necessary bad, but I feel like my learning has slowed and my favorite parts of my job- interacting face-to-face with a group of super smart people, working on big cases involving big money and complicated legal issues- those opportunities are dwindling as the cases move outside my office. I gained some amazing experience working on a huge IP matter this year, but that was outside my section and outside the area of law I actually want to practice and, looking forward and seeing more IP opportunities than corporate litigation opportunities on the horizon, I felt I needed to make a choice: either jump in to IP with both feet and move downstairs and join that section, or leave this office or the firm generally to pursue corporate and securities litigation. I could coast along for another year, collecting paychecks and helping out with small roles on other matters, but I wouldn't be growing and that's what being an associate is supposed to be about. I don't want to interview somewhere as a potential 5th or 6th year and have gained no substantive experience since my 3rd year.

I bookmarked the jobs page on the SEC website over a year ago. I've loved securities law since law school- it's the reason I started out in a corporate transactional practice before quickly realizing that it's litigators who dig through facts and case law and marge the two together in persuasive arguments. And that's what I love. So I switched to litigation and spent a year working on big corporate and securities cases and LOVING it. Then they dwindled. Then I went on maternity leave. Then I was back and all those fun cases were gone or in other offices. I looked at the SEC page again, but suddenly I realized I didn't have the securities experience to apply for anything there so I thought I'd spend a year gaining some and then apply. But finally, a few months ago, I realized I was never going to gain that experience in my current role and I needed to just apply anyway. I updated my resume and included a few bracketed bullet points- aspirational items I hoped to fill in. Things like, "write a securities article and get it published by the end of the year," and "work on another securities matter." And I did all of those things. I researched and wrote a securities article in October. I called partners and got staffed on an advisory matter relating to a previous securities litigation case I worked on. I put google and Westlaw alerts on certain new securities-related bills and cases. I read the BCG report on the SEC (which was mandated by Dodd-Frank), read the manual for the Enforcement Division, read the headlines daily... just generally inserted myself back in the world of securities law after a year-long detour in the world of IP.

While that was going on I also discreetly reconnected with alumni of the firm and my office, talked to a recruiter or two, and updated my firm profile. I didn't really want to work for another law firm- I really like mine. I got incredibly busy again on my IP matter and flirted with the idea of staying with my current job for another year and working part-time, figuring that if I couldn't get the career satisfaction I was looking for, I might as well up the personal satisfaction column and spend more time with my family. Then, at the end of October, I found out about an opportunity to apply for the SEC in Fort Worth. After missing several deadlines over the summer only to see every job on the job board vanish when the budget crisis hit, I knew I couldn't wait. I also knew how disappointed I was last time when the jobs disappeared. I was ready. I filled in my resume, typed up a cover letter (two things I hadn't done since 2006), and sent them off.

The interview was last Friday, January 6th. I spent about 2 weeks preparing in my free time- reading my old case briefing, reading everything enforcement related that I could get my hands on, spending several hours listing out everything I've done at the firm and organizing it into groups of "biggest challenge," "creative," "most proud of," etc., so I could have something pop in my head whenever I was asked one of those questions that are always hard to think of concrete examples in the moment. I re-read the articles I've written and re-outlined the briefs I'd written in securities cases, figuring they'd want to hear details on those and knowing I'd forgotten almost everything about them. I reviewed the organizational chart of the division, read recent headlines, even read a book published by a former SEC attorney (great book, actually, and several of the interviewers had read it as well)... I couldn't think of anything else I could do to prepare. And now that I'm on the other side of the interview, waiting for the phone call that will tell me if this will be the next chapter in my career, I know that short of magically finding a way to work on more securities cases, there was nothing else I could do.

So I wait. If this doesn't work out, I'll be disappointed, but good will come out of it. I've realized I really am ready to move on. I don't think I want to go to another firm. I've gained some interview practice. I've updated my resume. I'll just have to keep looking.

Friday, January 6, 2012

New Adventures, pt. 2: The Interview

10 p.m., Jan. 6, 2012

I went to a job interview today. My first one in 5.5 years. It was for a staff attorney in the division of enforcement at the SEC's regional office in Fort Worth and I want it SO BAD.

I woke up at 5 a.m., left my driveway at 6 a.m., got to Fort Worth at 9 a.m. I wore my grey herringbone suit, a cranberry shell, and black pumps. I carried a black padfolio thingy with copies of my resume and articles I've written. I never opened it but JP felt VERY STRONGLY that I should have one on my person.

It was a 7-on-1 interview. For one hour I swiveled my chair back and forth in an attempt to make eye contact with everyone asking me questions. And they asked a LOT of questions. Detailed questions. It was night-and-day from my OCI interviews which all revolved around how much I liked Chicago and whether or not I knew what type of law I'd like to practice (before immediately assuring me it was okay if I didn't know and then asking about my hobbies). I'm applying for an "experienced attorney" job now, and then spent 60 minutes making me prove my experience. It was as it should be, but man, it was intense. I had answers for everything. Maybe not the right answers, but answers. I made them laugh. They nodded their heads a lot. I think it went well.

I was back in Austin by 4 p.m. I'd been up for 11 hours and had spent 6.5 of them driving up and down I-35. And 1 hour possibly changing the next several years of our lives and the vertical trajectory of my career (it could now be up, very up). I still can't believe we might move within the next two months. I still worry about JP and the kids. JP particularly. But I keep thinking about what he said to me the day I found out about the opportunity- "You have to apply. This is your dream job. I haven't found mine yet." And he's certain he can work remotely for his current company. I hope he's right, because this really is my dream job, and if I get it, we're going for it.

I want it so bad.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Shoes, Bears, Flowers and other things caught on my iPhone

It's back to the grind, and, well, to the surprise of no one, not working is quite a bit more fun than working. It just doesn't pay as well.

But in order to make the first day back a bit more palatable, I had a whole first day outfit planned: the dark grey dress I wore on Christmas Eve (bought at TJ Maxx on my first trip there in months when my mom visited; when the two of us get together, it's like we're compelled to visit any discount store in a certain mile radius, even when I have a deadline that keeps me working until 4:30 a.m. that same night), a beautiful dark red pashmina scarf my grandparents bought me in China 10 years ago, and my new ruby red slippers (the gorgeous 3.5" heels JP bought me for Christmas). I have never received so many compliments on a pair of shoes. And to think- he picked them out ALL BY HIMSELF, with absolutely no hinting or suggestions from me. He just remembered hearing me say I wanted a pair of dark red shoes. So he found me some. I love them.

I also love how Claire adopted her own supermodel stance in front of the mirror in the picture on the left. Really, at 19 months old, pretty much everything Claire does is my favorite thing that Claire does. She's so freaking fun and fabulous right now.

So is Landon. He just doesn't let me take pictures of him as often. But 4.5 is pretty awesome too- he's such a KID. He has such an imagination and loves school and his friends and playing outside (JP fears that, like him, Landon's favorite subject in school is going to be recess). He still adores Claire and is at times appears more invested in her happiness than JP or me (not because we don't want her to be happy, we're just immune to the false flood of tears that follows when a tired Bear is denied the object of her affection; Landon has no such limits).

(Pictured with his beloved fighter jet and "craft carrier" from Christmas. He loves them almost as much as I love my ruby red slippers, which I love almost as much as my rainbow shoes. There's a hierarchy).

In other shoe news (see these pics are totally all related), I cleaned out my closet. Goodwill made out pretty well with 23 new pairs of rarely worn shoes. I'm simplifying to the classics and divesting myself of my more unique and/or dressy options. Sad, but I feel lighter already- streamlining is also going to be a theme of 2012. Streamlining and adventure. It's going to be a good year.

Claire helped, of course. She's my little shoe nut- she always has to have something on her feet and she usually puts on other people's shoes over her own shoes and tries to wear them around the house. Her favorite is to stuff her sneakered feet into Landon's crocs. She'll walk around and play like that for hours.

On Saturday I caught her secretly caring for her baby behind the couch (the baby she generally throws on the floor in lieu of pushing her stroller around the house like she's in a drag race). She fed it a bottle and then looked genuinely distressed when the baby cried (it cries when you take the bottle away). Immediately after this picture she discarded the baby and zoomed off with the stroller again. Babies are too much hassle and the Bear cannot be weighed down with such responsibility.

And finally, in closing, because the Daily Show Iowa caucus coverage is both distracting and hilarious (I love the mocking of the CNN graphics; I watched CNN for 4 of the 5 hours of the Iowa coverage (parenthetical to the parenthetical- I LOVE election coverage) and I knew that was going to be in a daily show clip), behold my office orchid after my long absence from work. Apparently, it was my very presence that kept it from blooming for the last few months. I leave and BAM- a million beautiful flowers burst forth.

Happy January to you all.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Adventures

We celebrated New Year's Eve with my favorite blend of relaxed family fun and relaxed romantic fun. For the first part, I baked two kinds of dessert (s'more bars and brownies) and we had some friends and their kids over for sparklers and contraband roman candles. It was fun and everyone was gone and our kids were in bed by 7:30. Then, for the second part, JP and I cooked up a fancy home date night- filet mignon, twice-baked potatoes, fresh veggies, bread, wine that cost more than $8 (it was $11 and it was good), and champagne. We dressed up, we ate over the light of a single candle (I swear we used to own more, but we couldn't find them), and toasted to a wonderful year behind us and the possibilities of a wonderful year before us. We didn't stay up until midnight, but it was a perfect New Year's Eve anyway.

And in the spirit of the new year that began today, I baked cinnamon rolls from scratch for the first time ever -- from scratch!


Thank you Pioneer Woman for your recipe and step-by-step pictures.


Also in the spirit of the new year, I went on a run this morning before baking, so when I ate two of these babies immediately out of the oven, I felt I was in a place of perfect caloric karma.


The kids liked them too. Landon licked off all the frosting before eating; Claire just sucked off the frosting and abandoned the dessicated doughy bits. Efficient.

Our goal for this year is to go on more adventures. Simple ones, big ones, family ones, career ones... I think it's going to be a year of them.

One little adventure we had the other day was a day trip to Pedernales Falls State Park. I camped there as a little girl and remembered it being so far away, but as it turns out, it's only about 40 minutes from where we live now! It was a beautiful day and we had a blast hiking on the trails and then climbing up and over rocks around the falls.

After two hours of constant up and down, climbing and jumping, my legs were shaking and even JP admitted we were getting a work out. I don't know if I'll ever belong to a gym again (JP currently has a solo membership), but hiking outdoors is the kind of exercise I enjoy and hope to do more of this year. Adventures- it's going to be a theme.

I'm watching The Waitress on Lifetime because both my kids are asleep and JP is at practice swimming some ridiculously hard New Year's set that sounded more like punishment than the two hours of awesome his excited tone implied and my kitchen is clean and my work laptop is broken (it was an accident I swear) so I can indulge in a bit of daytime TV. Keri Russell just had her baby, and she's holding her saying, "We're going to have so much fun little girl. We're going to have SO MUCH FUN." And out of nowhere it made me cry (I'm not pregnant, I swear).

Because we are. We're going to have so much fun.