Monday, July 30, 2012

The Bear 2.15

Claire has been two for almost two months and though I've already admitted I can't capture her in words, when I made the kids' photobooks last year, my favorite thing to include these snapshots in time, so I have to try. It is amazing how quickly and how much you forget.


Claire is many things. She is sweet and snuggly, fierce and feisty, brave and physical, shy and clingy. She yells (YELLS) hi (HI!) at everyone we see in stores, but if someone comes up to her she hides in my shoulder. She loves babies, but if one even glances my way, she's quick to jut out her chin and yell "MY mama!". She has an ear splitting grin and she's quick to use it, but she also has a scowl that is years ahead of her physical age. She adores her brother and will follow him anywhere, but she also enjoys needling while wearing an impish grin.


Some of the most overheard exchanges between the two of them:

Landon, any time he wants to change rooms: Come on Claire!
Claire, stopping whatever she's doing and galloping over: Otay!

Landon: Stop that Claire!
Claire: Sorry Yandon.

Landon: Wanna do [insert absolutely anything here]?
Claire: YEAH!

Claire, every night: Nigh nigh Yandon.

Claire, every morning: Yandon up?!

Landon: Claire, can I give you a hug?
Claire: YEAH!
(Landon picks her up and spins her, it kills the daycare ladies)

Landon: Stop it Claire!
Claire: Sorry Yandon.

(I'm not sure what they were doing here, but I'm confident it involved a full back story
and probably some superheroes. Or pirates.)

She's more independent and opinionated than Landon was- she both picks out and puts on her clothes BY HERSELF and don't you dare try to sneak a helping hand in when you think she isn't looking- but she also craves us more. She follows us from room to room and is never happier than when all 4 members of her family are in the same room, preferably all within touching distance.

(watching Olympics with daddy)

Some of her most used expressions to/with us:



Wuv you, wuv you SO MUCH.

Mote peez! (Milk please)

Cheese peez! Cheez and fuit! Fuit mama. (The girl could live on cheese slices and fruit.)

Dirty! (when she spies anything that isn't supposed to be wherever it is)

Mama bye bye?! Bye bye Mama! (any time I leave the room)


She parrots everything we say, at least five times in a row after we say it. Sometimes it's 20 times. There's no predicting it and no stopping it until she decides she's done. Really, she just talks non-stop and she is not fazed by a lack of new material.


She has been introduced to time-outs (generally for an assault on Landon). She always looks deeply offended when we tell her to go to her corner, but she marches over directly, with her head thrown back and faux-sobs echoing through the room. She doesn't throw tantrums, at least not yet, and she has not picked up a screaming habit. She sits very nicely at dinner, has great utensil usage, and eats a greater variety of food than Landon. One of the hard things to explain about Claire is how she can be so feisty and yet also so generally happy and sweet. She's a trooper who gets dragged to everything. She wants to help. She loves to clean and scrub. She follows me around the house saying, "I be HELPful mama, I be HELPful." She worries desperately about other people's boo boos, offering kisses, and crouching down to the scene of the accident with a serious and concerned expression.

(helping daddy fix a sprinkler)

She's very opinionated about her clothes, so I took her with me to the mall to pick up a few new non-stained t-shirts on Sunday. She rejected all of my suggestions: "No dolphin!" "NO kitty!" "NO FOWERS!" But when she saw the boys half of the store, she burst into smiles, pointing and exclaiming, "Choo choos!" "Tucks!" "Elphant!!" So we're going to dig through some of Landon's old clothes- maybe she'll help me justify the fact I moved too many with us to this house.


For the last few weeks she's been doing this thing where every night, when it's post-bath and time for PJ's, she backs up and hops her way to JP for each piece. Last night I finally caught a short clip of the second hop segment to get her PJ top:

She's such a brave little thing. JP is doing swim lessons with her and though she sobs her way through them, when he says it's time to do one more run through, she'll sob "Otay" and make moves to get started. She can float on her back by herself and get herself out of the pool from the deep end, and after each little drill, she yells, "I DID it!" Sometimes she yells and sobs it at the same time, but she does always look incredibly proud of herself.


She's my baby, my sweet girl, my Clairebear crazy bear. She is so much and then more (and then 2!).

Friday, July 27, 2012


They are finally here! The airing of each event has been on my calendar (on all three of my calendars) for weeks. We've planned all our meals so we won't eat out and miss anything- tonight is a homemade pizza picnic on the floor of the family room so the kids can watch the opening ceremonies and then tomorrow starts 8 days of swimming!

Every 4 years the general public cares about swimming and we get to watch it on the big TV instead of tiny video windows on or I am SO EXCITED. Every 4 years I get to cheer for old friends and teammates (very few of those left, but with Brendan's comeback, there's at least 1!), reminisce about what it felt like to dive in the water, swim your heart out, and turn to look at the scoreboard thrilled and terrified to see how you did (oh that is such an incredible moment when you see the "1" of the best time next to your name), and just generally scream at the TV and care about sports for a brief moment in time.

To get in the spirit of things, I've watched this video of the 2008 Men's 4x100 free relay about a million times. It's just as amazing as the first time I saw it.:

(this is the better quality video with the US commentators on, but I can't embed it).

My pulse still speeds up every time I watch it. This article explains the match-up in that race this year. The US looks like they're tied for 2nd/3rd with France, with Australia 1st, but we'll just see about that.

There are going to be so many great races. I wanted to host an Olympics party, but then I realized we couldn't because JP allows no speaking (no sound, really, the children have been warned) while the races are happening and I don't like distractions much either. I do love explaining swimming rules and strategy to my co-workers, I got all caught up in discussing relay order strategy yesterday with a fellow staff attorney and probably gave him way more information than he wanted to know, but I can't help it. This is the one sport I know anything about and I have to put up with my co-workers endless (and endlessly dull) football, baseball, and basketball talk the rest of the year. This is my time, once every 4 years for a brief 8 days, to become a normal, rabid sports fan. Can't wait!

Bonus fun:

Brings back memories of bus rides and plane rides to meets in high school. I love swimmers.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Just Watching

Last night JP and I were laying down on Landon's little twin bed, watching the kids play in their room.  We'd been quiet for a little while, me curled up in his arms, my head resting a little below his on the pillow.  I was lost in thought, wondering curiously and aimlessly about our next step- would JP find another job?  would it be in this city? this state?  how long would we live here? would we ever live somewhere we both believed we'd stay? what did I want to do next?  why, despite loving this job, was I so certain there was a next one?  JP was quiet too, presumably thinking about something, though I've learned through long interrogations that it is fully possible for him to lay awake and think of nothing.

The kids seemed to have forgotten we were there and we enjoyed an unfiltered glimpse at the two of them being completely themselves, completely with each other.  They have their own language, 90% what they speak to everyone else, but interspersed with words we don't understand and never hear directed at us.  Landon was weaving a complicated story about why his Batman was going to jump off the changing table and fight Batgirl (I'm not sure we explained they were on the same team) and Claire, draped in every necklace that could be found in the dress-up drawer, was nodding vigorously, trains and matchbox cars in hand, ready to provide transportation to the scene.  Landon stole (borrowed?) one of her trains for the Batman and she squealed repeatedly, trying to grab it back from his hand.  I looked at JP, waiting for him to interject, when I saw he was smiling.  He generally has a far lower tolerance for disobedience and rule breaking than I do, so I whispered, "aren't you going to say something?" and he just said, "no, wait, I've never seen this before."  We stayed silent, Landon gave Claire the train back, and they moved on to a new elaborate factual scenario involving all the train tracks, trains, superheroes, animals in Noah's Ark, and an old cell phone.  And so we lay still, together, watching them play, and I thought about how it can make you ache inside to love so much.

Later, I asked JP what he had meant on Landon's bed.  "Siblings," he said, "the two of them together- I've never seen it before and sometimes I just like to watch."

I often forget that although our last 11 years are shared, our childhoods were very different.  He was an only child of only children in a big house on a bigger piece of property with no siblings, cousins, or neighbors to speak of.  His parents were older, stricter, and remote, both from him and each other.  He's so loving and affectionate that sometimes I forget that nearly all of this- from the snuggling in front of our children, to watching them play together is nothing he has any experience with.

And he's right, it is nice to watch.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Other Things

Things I would have written about last week if I hadn't been distracted by women being patronizing to another woman:

- I wore my hair in a French braid to work. I'm not sure if any professional woman has done that since 1988, but it was nice to do something with it besides throw it up in a messy bun (actually blow drying and styling it being out of the question of course).

- Vermin count in my house to date: 9 geckos (3 still at large), 1 snake, 139 spiders, 6,345,231 springtails, 1 horned frog, 3 moths, 12 beetles, 1 dinosaur cockroach, 2 regular cockroaches, and as of last Tuesday, 1 dead squirrel. Luckily, that last one was outside on our deck, but it was right next to the side of the house, so I think it counts. 90% of the rest of the count was from our bathroom. I'm thinking of letting the geckos stay, it's the natural introduction of a predator in our ecosystem.

- I am trying to learn accounting. It’s going as well as my attempt to learn organic chemistry in college. I really REALLY wish I’d taken business classes in undergrad. In fact, the business school is the only school I didn’t have a single class in on the entire campus (being a liberal arts honors/pre-med/biology/philosophy major who loves math), which is surprising since my new boyfriend took nearly all of his classes there and I really couldn't get enough of him.

- I just watched the footage JP shot of Landon's birthday party cake moment and found out that he zoomed in on my boobs while I was bent over (in my apparently rather low cut bathing suit cover-up dress) distributing cupcakes. I'm trying to decide if I need to edit it out. I'd say yes, but I would have to first learn how, so we're probably talking hours of time that could be doing something else like writing blog posts. And not that we're totally inappropriate around them (not totally), but I doubt it will come as a huge shock to my grown children that dad would zoom the camera in on that general area.  But still, I'm torn.

- I temporarily lifted our moratorium on unnecessary spending to buy a whole bunch of rugs and door mats at Target. We have 9 exterior doors and coming in from the pool onto tile was becoming a safety issue. The fact that they make my house look pretty was purely incidental.

- This article on Bikers Against Child Abuse made me cry. I can completely understand how, for a kid, something like this might make them feel safe when their parents or guardians can't.

- Claire is so fun and sweet and adorable right now that I have no words to explain it. I've tried- I have a draft "2nd birthday" post that I've been working on and off on for weeks, but I just can't capture her. She hops (hops! with great enthusiasm) to JP whenever he calls her to come over. She hugs fiercely and she says "wuv you. wuv you SO MUCH" while doing it. She talks so much and so fast it's hard to keep up, but she says things with such conviction that you have to pretend you understand, even if your brain is still trying to translate her language into yours. She is so brave- JP is doing her swim lessons and she sobs the whole time, but when he tells her they're going to do something one more time she nods her head and chokes out "otay" through the sobs. She only wants to eat fruit and cheese. She doesn't whine, only screams when Landon does something she doesn't like (never at JP or me, oddly enough), and only throws the occasional, blessedly short (less than 30 seconds) tantrum. She is fiercely independent and yet is so sweet she makes me melt. Also laugh. There are no words.

- My very favorite show is back on TV. Breaking Bad is the only show I don't watch with my laptop open on my lap. It's serious business.

- I'm still going to my barre class. I think my arms jiggle less and a complete stranger complimented me on my legs on Saturday. The woman at Gap (where I was just browsing... for the children...) will never know it, but she just guaranteed my next 10 classes.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Now You've Gone and Done It

Since having kids, I generally avoid posting on the "mommy war-are-you-mom-enough-women-can't-have-it-all" nonsense, largely because my reaction to these kinds of articles is a contradictory combination of getting really fucking annoyed and not caring at all. It's impossible to write in that mental state, so I don't, plus the "not caring" always trumps over the annoyance, so I don't even write many blog posts in my head like I usually do when I'm annoyed about something. But this article on Marissa Mayer, which I unfortunately read during work today, has forced me to come out and step into the arena because if I don't get my highly irritated reaction down on paper my head will explode.

By way of background, before I had kids, I worried obsessively about what others thought about my plan to be a working mom and the impact they claimed to fear it would have on me, my spouse, and my children. But once I had those children, I never worried about it again. My philosophy towards being a working mother essentially boils down to: I know myself better than you, I know my husband better than you, I know my children better than you, and I know that all four of us have more love, laughter, and general happiness in our lives than I ever imagined possible, so if you think the fact that I work has an absolute and all-encompassing negative impact on our lives, you're an idiot and I can't be bothered with you. Truly, all the angst and yelling and blogging and writing on the issue just seems like a bunch of white noise. Women work. Women have always worked. Millions of American mothers have to work and they do it without half the support, assistance, and luxuries that I (and most of the people yapping about it) enjoy. Talking about it can be helpful in relation to work-life balance and increased choices and tracks for men and women to take with regard to their career, but in general, I can't imagine why anyone cares very much what other people choose to do.

But it seems that people do care, at least about high-profile women's decisions. Which leads me to the reason for today's post- the internet's reaction to Marissa Mayer's maternity leave plans. For those who haven't read about her, Marissa Mayer was just tapped by the Board of Directors of Yahoo! to be the company's new CEO and she started work yesterday. She has a B.S. and Masters from Stanford in computer science, specializing in artificial intelligence, and was previously an engineer and VP at Google. She's also 2-3 months pregnant, due February 5th, and will thus be having a baby about 7 months into her new job. She informed the Board, they hired her anyway, apparently feeling she was still the best person for the job just like they had felt right up until she shared the news. So, yay! Progress, right? Apparently not. Despite the fact that Mayer is 37, quite bright, and has likely watched many friends and family members have children, a few people (fellow working mothers no less) have taken to their webpages to write open letters explaining to Mayer why she's wrong about her plans, her goals, and anything else she thought she knew about herself. I took issue with nearly all of it.

I wrote about this topic 5 years ago before I even had Landon, but I personally do not believe that having a baby changes everything about you and your world. Parenthood is a huge amazing thing. It has made my world wider and deeper, but it did not BECOME my world or change everything in it. I am still me. Things that mattered to me before I had two children still matter. I am still very professionally driven and take enormous pride in my work. While it's true that my heart bursts with love and pride when I see Landon repeat something I've taught him, or when Claire runs up to me and says "wuv you mama, wuv you SO MUCH," that does not mean I do not still derive joy and satisfaction from a "you kicked ass in there" email from my boss at work. Mothers, parents, people generally-- we are not defined by one thing. It annoyed the crap out of me when people (particularly people who knew me well) said things like, "just wait, you don't know how you'll feel when you hold that baby in your arms." Because no, I will not wait to hold a baby before continuing to take steps on a path I started years before and worked very hard to achieve, and I don't see why the hell Marissa Mayer should have to either, at least not if being CEO of a $10 billion company is something she'd like to do (and why wouldn't it be?).

But back to the article. Pretty much every patronizing word made me increasingly furious (JP just endured my reading it allowed, with much commentary, with a vaguely amused expression because I so rarely get mad about internet stuff), but these two quotes are particularly annoying:

"Would it be so bad to spend a couple more months in the comfort of your home, un-showered and wearing sweats like the rest of us? I know you're used to working long hours. But "all-nighter" takes on a whole new meaning when you become a mother."


"The cheers or jeers of other moms may not sway you, but don't discount the persuasive powers of your baby boy. You're a powerful woman, but I have a feeling you're going to be putty in your son's little hands from Day One. I can't fully explain the extent to which your priorities will shift when you have a baby. I predict you'll soon consider him the greatest accomplishment of your very accomplished life."

No, it would not be "so bad," and Ms. Mayer is not saying it would be (though the "unshowered sweat pants" thing does sound bad to me; I've had two babies and I had one that never slept ever and I still took a shower every day and never wore sweat pants, but I digress). What Mayer did do is accept a pretty incredible opportunity to take on a demanding job as Chief Executive Officer of a large public company, a job that is by definition a very individual one, and accept that she can't just drop off the face of the earth for 3-6 months after having a baby, nice as that may be (and oh maternity leaves are so nice; I watched 6 seasons of the West Wing while snuggling Claire on the couch, delightful). But unlike 3rd year attorneys, CEOs are not fungible, and that's why they're carefully selected and paid a bunch of money- because the Board of Directors has decided that individuals background and personality and vision of the company will lead that company to bigger and better things. What would have been ridiculous would be for her to have accepted the job and then taken a long maternity leave- I think that would have actually hurt women more (not hard, since I don't think this current thing is hurting them at all), because why would a Board or upper level management not continue to handicap women of childbearing age in selecting these positions? It's true that having a baby has a physical and medical aspect to it, but I could have easily returned to work at 3 weeks after having both of my kids, provided I had sufficient help at home, and she will likely be able to as well. And if not, she'll take more leave, just like any male executive would do if a medical procedure had unforeseen complications. Her plan to come back to work after 3 weeks, does not mean she thinks it would be terrible to sit at home and hang out with her baby. It means she made a choice to accept a job opportunity she's worked very hard to be eligible for and that choice comes with the (I think realistic) sacrifice of a shorter maternity leave. Will she regret it later? I have no idea, but I don't see why people who don't know her need to be telling her she will. You're allowed to have multiple accomplishments in life- hers could be her baby and her CEO-ship. Men get to have lots of accomplishments and nobody writes them open letters to let them know how they'll feel about it.

I just found the whole letter so damn patronizing. (This one, too: "Think about your colostrum over the company for more than just a few weeks. Please." Are you kidding me? Male CEO's will never have to put up with this crap.) I tried not to, I didn't want to get all worked up at 2:30 in the afternoon, but it brought back all those months as a pregnant law student when people tried to tell me how I'd feel (and how I wouldn't want to stay in school or be a practicing lawyer), and then even worse, ended up making me feel bad after I had Landon because I didn't feel a tectonic shift in the universe and rethink every priority I ever had the moment I became a mother. I was still me, maybe me+, now with greater empathy, capacity to love, and patience, but still the same basic person I'd known for 24 (now 29) years.

So do I think Marissa Mayer's plan to take a 3-week working maternity leave is "good"? I don't know, I guess it depends on what or whose "good" you're talking about. But I don't think it's bad, and I do think it's realistic and possible. She's the CEO, she may need to make decisions and lead some meetings, but as the boss, she will also have an enormous degree of flexibility to help in those first several months, as well as the ability to hire full-time help. Prior to reading some of the internet furor over that aspect of her hiring, I just thought it was great that she was hired- that if the Board thought she was the best candidate, they didn't let her impending motherhood stop them from offering her the job.

This relates to another annoyed reaction I had at an article- the terribly titled, but containing some (some) good, thoughtful content, "Women Still Can't Have It All?" My thought was, of course we can't. No one ever said we could. But that's okay- men can't either and neither can stay-at-home moms or dads. No one can have it "all" - "all" is not something I even think exists. The point, the goal, I always thought, was that we get to have choices. If it makes more sense for me to work and my husband to stay home, I want to be able to make that choice- I want employers to hire me as they would an equally qualified male candidate, I want them to not ask or care if I have children, and I want to be paid what another household-heading male would be paid. Choices are what matter to me. That there are sacrifices that accompany those choices is both inevitable and deeply personal. To me, Marissa Mayer's new role of CEO and mother is a positive thing for choices. She had them, she made them, and I'm not going to tell her that giving birth to her baby will render all those choices meaningless.

Now I need to go kiss my children and re-tuck them under their covers, go to bed and nudge my already-asleep husband into cuddling with me, and get some rest before another day of following through on my own choices, and perhaps not clicking on anything "mom" related on the internet for a while.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Cinco de Landon

So Landon turned 5 today. 5.

There was a pool party on Saturday to commemorate the occasion with friends.


I ordered a dozen water soaker guns (big enough to have some range; small enough to lack the power to hurt anyone) and a dozen mini inflatable balls online and let the kids go to town.


Fun was had. No one cried. I'd say it was a rousing success!


JP got in on the action, turning the pool into an all out water war zone. One of our five-year-old guests was hiding inside that double-stacked tube.


Air assault.


Don't worry, the smaller soldier made it, and launched a counter-attack at the back of JP's head a few minutes later. JP prefers parties where he gets to act like a little kid, so this was probably his new favorite.


But before the war got out of hand, I decided it was cake time!


I picked up the "4" candle and almost bought it by mistake- how is he 5?


I wasn't sure how Claire would react to Landon's birthday. She only just figured out that birthdays are awesome, but I wasn't sure she was ready for the fact that everyone has one.

As it turns out, the sharing of the birthday was not a problem and she was genuinely excited about everything birthday-oriented thing that Landon got to do. It was like she now knew the secrets of the day and was excited to spot them- when I brought out the cake, Claire squealed "candles!!!!"

The ice cream helped too.


And then today came, the REAL birthday. It began in the way of our new birthday tradition- breakfast with a little ceramic animal with a candle stuck on top. Landon's birthday animal is a dinosaur, it's like a zodiac sign, but without the ill-fitting prophesies.


I'm putting that dinosaur on his place mat every morning until he's no longer living at home (and then I'm packing it in his stuff for him to take with him).


Claire was super excited the word "birfday" was still being used in the day's description. Also, candle!


Presents! Landon was so, SO excited to get the Imaginext Batman Batcave he's been so sweetly asking for FOREVER.


It was the first thing out of his mouth when various members of my family called today to wish him Happy Birthday, "Thank you, did you know I got a Batcave?" As none of them are currently parents of the 4-8-year-old set, no one had any idea what he was talking about, but they were still very happy for him.


After the presents and the dino candle, Landon got to pick any restaurant to eat any meal of the day. His pick: McDonalds, for a second breakfast of plain biscuits with jelly. We realized that would only take about 10 minutes, so we asked what else he'd like to do -- hiking. JP did a "Fort Worth hiking trail" google search and came up with the Fort Worth Nature Center and off we went, sweeping through a McDonalds drive through on the way at 10:26 when we realized that holy shit we're about to miss breakfast and it's the only thing our kid asked for on his birthday. They should really serve breakfast until 11.

Luckily, we got our biscuits (letting him eat them in the car was a requested part of the present; they're never allowed to eat in the car) and drove a little ways further to the Nature Center.

We went on a short hike through the marshlands first. A bunch of alligators live there, but we didn't see any (to Landon's disappointment and my relief).


Claire was a trooper and did most of the first walk on her own two feet! Landon ran ahead because he's 5 now and can now lead the pack.


We stopped in at the nature center, which was filled with indigenous amphibians and other Texas wildlife. Some crazy stuff lives around here.


JP loves that hiking back pack. Claire is hitting the weight limit and as we buckled her in he said, "you know, this is such a nice backpack, we should have another baby so we can keep using it." Airtight logic, that.


Our last hike (#3 if you're counting; I was regretting my workout class on Saturday) was over a levee to Greer Island. It was very hot, very humid, and smelled like the poop of a whole medley of wild animals. Two fighter jets flew overhead, scaring the crap out of Claire. Kayaks were spotted, imaginary alligators were found. Landon asked if Claire wanted to hold his hand in case the jets flew by again. It was perfect.


He ran ahead at the end, eager to move on to the next part of the day- Sonic slushes on the drive home, hours to play with the Batcave, and Costco pizza for dinner. He was all flushed and sweaty- he's a fast runner and great little hiker- and his hazel eyes were bright with his smile and as I watched him I got a little teary. He had a tough beginning, five years ago today, and there are parts of his first year I still can't mentally revisit, but here we are five years later, this solid little family of four, living in Fort Worth of all places, enjoying a perfect day of biscuits and blue slushies and sweaty hikes through areas crawling with bugs, snakes, and other vermin and it's perfect. Just perfect.


Happy Birthday Lanman, it just keeps getting better.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

One Story, Two Requests

First, a story: My mom took me out on a date last night. I picked her up from her workshop (my favorite moment of the day was at 7:30 a.m. when I had both kids and their bags in the backseat and my mom and her bag in the front seat and I dropped her off in front of the science building at TCU, "Bye mom, have a good day!" and then dropped the kids off at their daycare, "Bye kids, love you!" and then proceeded to work. It made me smile to think that my little brood had grown by one child and several decades in age difference) and then we went shopping at Marshall's (where I resisted purchasing a gorgeous pair of deep red Kate Spade patent wedges, on clearance, IN MY SIZE, for $50 ($50!! original price $289); after passing that test, I feel I can now conquer the world, though the whole experience just confirmed my belief that if you never go in stores you never have to find things you want and then painfully talk yourself out of buying them) and then she treated me to quesadillas at Gloria’s (the best) and a 7:30 showing of Magic Mike. MM is a Soderbergh film and rather artfully shot for a movie full of so many peni. It might not win an Oscar, but I enjoyed the dancing and the nice views (of the ocean). Also, there was a plot, and not a bad one at that, but mostly I just kept wishing they'd show Channing Tatum dancing again.

And now, the two requests for advice:

(1) Home security alarms: yes or no? I've never had a home security system- not growing up or as an adult in Chicago or Austin- but I'm contemplating signing up for a monitoring service here in Fort Worth (the house is already fully wired). We live in a very nice neighborhood, but it's very close to downtown and highways and other neighborhoods "in transition" and we get regular reports of breaking and entering and other minor criminal activity over our neighborhood "crime watch" listserve. Those don't concern me too much- they mostly take place during the day in empty houses and we have a dog and a gate and a work-from-home family member, but I'm wondering if knowing there's an alarm and a button we can press for emergency services in a few rooms of the house would be a comfort now that JP is traveling for a week of every month. I have a slightly overactive imagination that is exacerbated by my insomnia and my mind frequently gets stuck on this loop of "what if someone tried to get in the house? what would I do? I have absolutely no skills, weapons, or access to help except through my cell phone which is usually at the bottom of my purse in the kitchen..." I have nothing but stubby fingernails and a mother's bone deep "you will get near my children over my dead body" instinct, but honestly, it wouldn't be very hard to kill me and I know that and it freaks me the hell out. I do now sleep with my phone on the nightstand when JP is gone, but still, do you think an alarm service would help at all? In my head and in reality? Does anyone have one and find they are really glad of it? Or is it more the experience my family had when signed up for one and then we kids kept setting it off until my dad called and canceled after about 4 weeks. The monthly monitoring would be an expense, but an acceptable one- the quotes I have aren't too bad and would just cut into our (shallow, but existing) budget for eating out and other entertainment, and I'm quite willing to make the sacrifice if someone besides the ADT commercial gives me a good reason to.

(2) Travel rewards/points credit cards: which one? Now I'm just blatantly trying to piggy back on research other personal finance minded people have done. We put everything on our credit card - everything - and, with one stressful outlier this past May that is now resolved, pay it off in full every month. It's our cheater way of living on a budget. We have an amount we've decided the credit card cannot go over, we both check the balance frequently online or on our phones, and if we get close, we stop buying anything except for gas and groceries. It works better for us than excel sheets and itemized budgets. We currently have the 1% cash back card JP got when he signed up for his very first credit card in 2003. I added myself to the account when we got married and we've been using it ever since. It's fine, and the little cash back checks are nice, but I can't help but feel -- especially in light of my dreams of travel and family vacations and new need to purchase four airline tickets if we ever want to fly anywhere -- that we might get more bang for our buck if we were earning airline miles or hotel points or other magic points I hear about on TV commercials and then get confused when I go online to read their fine print. Any recommendations? DFW is our closest airport which is a hub for American Airlines, so I contemplated just getting an AA credit card, but then I read a bunch of articles online that told me not to do that and now I'm back to doing nothing.

Thoughts on any of the above? Next up, I can promise a new RRA post and a post on the Lanman's 5th birthday (to be discussed separately, because a joint post would be weird, kind of like seeing a penis-filled stripper movie with your mother), but for now we can (pretend to) be responsible adults and discuss the pros and cons security systems and credit cards. Then romance novels and then my firstborn's birthday. Priorities.


Sunday, July 8, 2012

What We've Been Doing

I can't believe it's been a week since I last posted- a Wednesday 4th of July made for a very disjointed week. We drove to my parents' lake house Tuesday night after work to spend the 4th with them, my brother and his girlfriend, my aunt uncle and two cousins, five labradors, and several hundred dollars worth of fireworks. Also beer, margaritas, a boat, a few jet skis, and a large flotilla of lounge floats. And a floating cooler. Good times, though unfortunately I have no pictures to share- because I was too busy having the good times. We drove back Thursday morning because JP had to work, but I used up a time-off award and spent the afternoon grocery shopping and sleeping off the sun and bruising tube rides (which I dominated, no thanks to my brother's insane driving and JP's attempts to kick me off my tube; victory was sweet, but my banged up elbows and bruised legs are not).

While I did not take pictures of the fun and patriotic holiday, full of children and food and American flag bikinis, I did take pictures of the following random things with my iPhone over the last 7 days:

Tex got a hair cut. He looks totally embarrassed to be so naked, but he's so much cooler without his lab/husky double coat and my floor is SO much cleaner.


JP worked the whole drive to the lake house and half the time we were there and the whole drive back. JP's work is a demanding mistress and I am jealous of their time together.


I worked out at home on Saturday with a barre class dvd. I did the dvd because I felt guilty for missing the class, and I missed the class because I was so into my mopping I didn't want to stop until I was done. Who am I?


We went to a party last night. A party full of grown-ups and mixed drinks and music and a former American Idol contestant. It was so fun and so very unlike us now that we're old and boring. I even treated myself to a short shopping trip and one new shirt to wear for the occasion. I know- it flies in the face of my last post, but I haven't bought a new piece of clothing in several months and it was so exciting to browse and try on and critique and browse some more in the hopes of buying one single special thing. Which was on sale, coupon eligible, and further reduced with an old $10 gift card, for a resulting price of $23. I paired it with very old but freshly bleached white shorts, a long gold and turquoise necklace, gold and teal earrings, and tan platform shoes. As always, I laid out my outfit while getting ready. It's a tradition brought to you by my elementary school days. JP mocks it, but he loved the result when it was on.


And even though we stayed out until the crazy hour of 12:30, I still went to my 9 a.m. work out class. And then I came home to prep lunches for the week. I find the rows of tiny containers so satisfying.


Midway through my chopping and portioning, Landon requested a picture because he and Claire were playing camping/night night. From what I can tell it involves laying on the ground and snuggling and then annoying the other person by being a little too clingy with the snuggling and then separating and starting over.


And now my mom is here for an AP biology teacher's work shop at TCU and JP and I are going to take Landon to his first EVER movie in a movie theatre for an early 5th birthday present. I'm excited that he's excited and also that I get to share popcorn with him because JP doesn't like it. It's a good week!

Monday, July 2, 2012

What We Need

This "Do you need it now" thing is killing me. As it turns out, you need almost nothing "right now." Food, toilet paper, and tequila- these are the only things I've been able to get around my new standard. On the upside, we've cut our credit card bill down to 20% of what it was the first two months we lived here (moving/renovating is expensive) and 50% of what it used to be when I worked at the firm. So that's good. But I need door mats and rugs and the perfect piece of art for our living room wall I found at Target yesterday (yes, I buy most of my art at Target, but its all awesome). And that's just for the house. I also need new workout clothes for my new physically fit lifestyle and a few casual summer dresses because the one I just packed to wear at the lake house on Wednesday was bought for $10 at New York & Co in 2004 and a pedicure because apparently I suck at painting my own nails and an updated bikini wax because seriously. And the kids need a few new non-stained t-shirts and JP needs a new office chair because he's sitting in the one I bought for my first apartment in college in 2002 and its back is broken and the cheap polyester sweats under the skylight in the afternoon. But even though I/we need all of those things, when it comes down to it, we don't need a damn thing right now.

(Except maybe JP's office chair; that thing is terrible and I feel bad that he sits in it all day, but he won't even hear of buying another another one until his birthday in October because he never wants any family money to be spent on him but I don't care because I just talked myself into buying one for him anyway.)

So this new standard- it can't be maintained forever and it really would be nice to have such indulgences as a cheap rug to walk onto when you come in from our pool onto the tile, but it's a good experiment. We did buy Landon his birthday present, because even though he does not truly need a $50 Imaginext Batcave, he is turning 5 and has been talking about getting this Batcave with such patience and reverence and barely contained excitement since he saw one at his friend's house seven months ago. We have stopped by to visit said Batcave on every trip to Target and he lovingly runs his fingers over the packaging and says, "when I turn five, I really hope I get this Batcave" and then sighs and continues his walk down the aisle. I do the same thing in home goods. Also, wall decor. And shoes. I haven't bought a pair of shoes since well before I accepted the new job. It is amazing what bargains you don't need when you never set foot in a Marshall's, Ross, or TJ Maxx. And when your every web move is being tracked at work, there isn't any opportunity to discover a fabulous pair of heels that are in your size and totally on sale at But while I miss and the hours I used to spent perusing its wares, it was an easy sacrifice for nights and weekends with my kids and without a blackberry. I've never even undocked my work laptop. Unreal.

JP and I talk a lot about what we want for ourselves and for our kids- and not the sappy emotional stuff like love and laughter because, duh, but what stuff do we want? What fun and frivolous things do we think of as we work all week? Oh for now it's the mortgage, grad school loans, and kids' daycare, but hopefully someday when two of those three obligations are done (OH THE DAY!), what do we dream for our lives in 10 years? And for both of us it comes down to experiences. We have no need for a bigger or fancier house (though I will renovate the kitchen at some point) -- 2800 square feet is more than any family of four needs. I don't care about cars and there's no way the cars JP cares about will be within our financial reach in 10 years (or 20, 30, etc.). I enjoy pretty things but have no dreams of a closet filled with designer goods. No, for as long as I enjoy my work and don't feel the need to exercise the career flexibility I hope I'll have, it's experiences that we want. Vacations- fabulous fabulous vacations with our kids. I want to take them everywhere. I want to camp in the great National Parks of the US that my parents showed me (um, cabin camp, I'm not quite as brave as my parents). I want to revisit all the countries in Europe I've already toured, but I want to do it with my family. I want to take them to a beach so white with water so blue we will all lovingly mock our first family beach trip to the brown grey shoes of Galveston.

We probably still won't be able to do much of that in ten years, but our student loans will be fully paid off and our kids will be out of full-time daycare and even at our current salaries that will free up a nearly half of our monthly budget. Half. The simultaneous paying off of two professional degrees while paying for two kids' childcare is perhaps the best argument I never thought of for delaying the start of your family (not that I'd change a thing). Because in 5 years we should be able to save something to go somewhere every year. In 5 years the kids will remember those trips, just like I remember jumping rocks over raging rivers in Rocky Mountain National Park and sitting by a campfire with my parents and siblings on a bluff overlooking Lake Ouachita. I remember petting a bat held by a park ranger at Devil's Den in Arkansas and disconnecting our trailer in a Walmart parking lot so we could drive the van up the highest highway in the US to Estes Park for a day hike in the mountains. I remember my sister yelling out with a shocked "HEY!" as we were all swept up by a chair lift and she stood with her skis just outside of its path on our first ski trip. I remember so many things and I can't wait to make memories that my kids will remember too. We take vacations now too of course, fun and practical ones like the two-night trip we're planning to one of my favorite State Parks in August, but oh when my mind gets spinning on the "what I dream for one day" path, it puts us on a beach in the Caribbean or touring a castle in Switzerland. I hope we get there. It's far enough away that I don't have to care about how realistic it is, I can just dream, and in the mean time, focus on what we need.