Friday, July 31, 2015

Nice

I've had an eventful work week! Wednesday I argued before the Court of Appeals for the first time. It was very eventful to me because a land use attorney of 40 years was my opponent and I, having zero land use experience, got to correct him on an issue of law that was critical to our position. The Court asked me if there was authority for my position. I think my excitement may have been showing too much as I referred the Court to the exact page and line of my opponent's own brief to support my position. It's very rare, the occasion on which I get to experience a perfectly-timed legal zinger. And I'm not going to lie....it felt AMAZING.

I've always hated public speaking and I've always been very shy and nervous when I am given attention in front of a crowd. I've been dreading the hearing all month, slowly counting down the days to when it would be behind me. But I came away from the hearing convinced that there is no better high than engaging in a craftful, well-prepared legal sparring match. I just may have acquired a taste for the blood sport.

In addition to this hearing, I was forced out of my comfort zone on several other occasions this week. It's a funny but I'm continually surprised to find that I am feeling more comfortable and confident in my role and equally surprised to find that clients and reporters and other attorneys take me seriously and ask my opinion.

Despite this growing confidence, in the past two weeks I've frequently found myself under critique or judgment. Several times in the past two weeks, my own coworkers have accused me of being "too nice." But it's never in a positive way. It's in a passive aggressive or condescending way. I try not to let it bother me but I have yet to find a good way to respond to this criticism. When I try to defend myself or even ignore it, I feel like I come across as weak or defensive, which tends to support my critic's point. So what else can I do? I'm not sure.

I'm not bothered by the fact that people consider me to be nice. I'm bothered by the fact that my coworkers associate niceness with weakness or inferiority. It's as if they are saying I can't be an effective litigator when I react to incivility or unreasonableness with civility. That being agreeable is akin to being a pushover. As if, openmindedness and the willingness to thoughtfully consider the position of the other side renders me incompetent. Or arrogance is a requirement for being a successful advocate. This bothers me VERY much.

Dear experienced and learned colleagues in the legal profession. It is not a sign of weakness to NOT be an asshole. Thank you.

First of all, to be an effective advocate, you have to be true to yourself. If I tried to be overly confident, unwaivering, or bull-headed, I would not be doing my client any favors. That is just not who I am. I can't be effective if I'm not being genuine. I don't know how to be that way (and I have no desire to learn). That's not how I'm effective. Recently, I drafted a letter to opposing counsel regarding a disagreement we were having. I was firm in my position while also attempting to extend an olive branch and find common ground and understanding. My letter was criticized at being "too nice." It was suggested that I revise it to include stronger, more bullish words. But I have to work with this attorney for several more months. I don't want to start off the case that way. I'd never try to solve the situation that way in real life (unless this guy just obviously could never be reasonable). And if he ever called me, there is no way I could back up the very strong tone and harsh words of the letter with my own voice. I'm successful as an attorney when I can be myself and playing up my own strengths- diplomacy, cooperation, open-mindedness. Everyone has a style that works for them. And it really bothers me that people assume there is only one way to accomplish things- by being an a-hole.

It also bothers me that people assume I'm "too nice" because I'm "inexperienced" or a "new attorney" rather than as a conscious decision. Sure, I may change the way I do things as I gain more experience. But my "niceness" is not a result of ignorance or inexperience. It's a conscious decision that reflects how I would like my profession to change for the better. It's also founded in my personal code of ethics and the professional reputation I would like to build. And finally, it's strategic. Sometimes it IS called for to be harsh and unwaivering. But in my own experience that is not true at least 80% of the time (maybe even 90%).

To end my rant, I would like to mention that it's completely fine to give on the little issues. Fighting every single minute issue is generally not in my interest or my client's interest. If an attorney asks me to do something that I'm not required to do but doesn't disadvantage or burden me? Why the hell not? It's a way to build good will, a good relationship with opposing counsel, and earn reciprocal professional courtesies. Machiavelli may vehemently disagree with me on these issues. But the law is not just about strong advocacy. It's also about candor. And professionalism.

Yes, there is power behind the law. But there is also humanity. Law is, in many significant ways, about co-existence and rectifying wrongs. Don't get me wrong. I'm not entirely an idealist. I know that attorneys and their clients can use the laws and the rules and even the code of ethics unfairly to their own advantage. I also believe that sometimes the ends justifies the means. But if winning and being a successful litigator necessitates losing sight of humanity and civility and always treating your opponent as an enemy, then I would seriously have to reconsider my profession.

I know I'm young. And I may be naive. But just maybe I've made an actual conscious and strategic decision after having carefully weighing all the options. No doubt I'm not as strong or experienced as others. But maybe I'm just strong enough to remember that the opponents on the other side of the courtroom are just people like me. Maybe I'm just experienced enough to know that sometimes being bullheaded only leaves you at the end of a harshly-litigated case with a bitter taste in your mouth. And maybe being nice is actually my legal superpower?

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Hurricane Jon & Other Adventures

Sometimes, on the weekend, I try to be productive. Like clean, fold, and put away four loads of laundry. Cook meals. Deep clean the floors. Wash urine-covered bed sheets (not mine). Feed hungry children. Cure owies. And pick Legos off the floor one-by-one as my feet land on them. These are things I did this weekend. And I accomplished all this while many forces attempted to conspire against me.

For example, Hurricane Jon. 

He is always trying to escape my (occasionally) close watch to eat cat food. I swear I feed him. I really, really do! He just likes cat food!


And I have to learn to do dishes with my back facing the sink so that I can monitor how much of a mess he is making. The other day he pulled a container of plastic cutlery off the shelf. I turned around, saw him banging spoons on the floor, decided that was acceptable, and continued washing dishes. Just 30 short seconds later, things somehow managed to cross the line from acceptable to "my-baby-is-playing-with-20-plastic-knives." In case you are wondering, that was not acceptable. 


Also not acceptable? Jon has decided that toilets are water tables. To my horror, I caught him dipping toys in, pulling them out, chewing on them, and dipping them back in again. It made me want to wash my OWN mouth out with soap. He earned a nice, big scrub-down that night.


Between his meddlesome exploration and his general cuteness, it's hard to get stuff done. I kinda just want to take baby selfies all day long. 


Hurricane Jon isn't the only culprit. His brothers do a good job of trying to keep me away from my to-do list. They coaxed me into a trip to the park, during which we dilly-dallied to pick blackberries.


And Jacob showed off his fancy pedaling-standing-up moves.


Friday night, my husband I hired a babysitter so we could use a gift card to a local restaurant. We finished our meal an hour before we told the babysitter we would be home. So we stopped at the new arcade that opened up near our house. He killed me at air-hockey. I think we tied at skee-ball. But I won a jackpot at a machine with spinning and flashing lights. 

This is how we prefer to gamble- with guaranteed prize tickets.


We won a bunch of prizes for the kids and totally made their night when we showed up back at the house with our arms full of blow-up swords, stuffed dinosaurs, and a can of worms. 

Ryan, Jon, and I had made our own trip to the arcade earlier in the week. It's probably our new favorite place. And I'm dead set on winning another jackpot. 


Saturday we jumped on the ferry boat to Seattle for Jon's first Mariner's game. We took the other two boys to their first game last year and, to our surprise, the boys didn't destroy us and we all actually had fun. Jacob is an amazing cheerleader. The stadium was full of Blue Jay fans and he gave them a run for their money during informal cheering and chanting competitions all night. When the M's started to lose in the last two innings, Jacob stepped up and provided enough entertainment to keep Section 314's spirits high. 

This guy had us laughing pretty hard as he kept chanting, "Mariners rule and Blue Jays DROOL!" to the sea of Blue Jays fans behind us. Surprisingly, no one threw anything at us.


He would cheer and then randomly break out in faux-beat boxing dance moves. I think he's been watching too many homemade YouTube music videos. 


Jon's first game! Also: a baseball game is not a great place for a baby to nap. 


Jacob's face is my favorite part of this picture. 


Safeco Field with downtown Seattle in the background.


Ballfield baby selfie. Sadly this was taken pre-M's hat purchase.


Such is our luck...we managed to go to the only game the Mariners have lost in the past four games. The very next day, today, the Mariner's not only won in the 10th inning after a very exciting regular game (tied up by the M's in the 9th by a homerun), they had their first triple play since 1995! For the Mariner's sake, I should just stay away from Safeco field from now on.

After the game, we put the kids to bed as early as possible. They've been really bad about fighting sleep lately. We'll tuck them in at 8 p.m. and yet sometimes they are still up at 10 p.m. chatting or crying, or both. Must be all the daylight. Never thought I would actually look forward to night coming earlier in the day.

After the kids went to bed, my husband and I sat down for our nightly ritual of watching Game of Thrones. We've ripped through three entire seasons in a month. The show is very well done and the characters are captivating. My only beef with the show is that it there is so much unnecessary nudity. It's just so blatantly unnecessary that it makes me literally eye roll. And it's almost exclusively women. I mean COME ONE. Either NO nudity, or equal amounts of men and women. Ugh. Women can be objectified for no critical plot-related reasons, but men are fully clothed during sex and torture and bathing. Yep. Totally makes sense. (Speaking of objectifying men...Jon Snow = my latest swoon.)

Anyway.....despite the many adventures and mis-adventures of the past couple days, I was still very productive and checked all the chores off my to-do list. I'd say that's a pretty big success.  

And to wrap up this weekend post....

Our dalias are blooming!


And Jon makes a pretty darn cute farmer.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

How I Single-handedly Raised The TMI Bar

There are plenty of moms who nourish their children on a strict paleo diet. There are also plenty of moms who only feed their babies freshly pureed organic produce and grass-fed, cage-free protein. And somehow, I always end up having to sit by these moms when I'm handing my nine month old a trio-of-meat hot dog to gnaw on.

Jon loves hot dogs. And they heat up in 15 seconds in the microwave (oh did I just add deadly radiation to mix?). And babies can eat them without silverware. And they have lots of protein. And they are inexpensive. And the package proclaims to be "100% real meat." So that's something. The MEATZ are REALZ!

There is only one downside to hot dogs: my fingers smell like hotdogs for HOURS after I touch them. I can't really describe the smell except to say that it's salty. And processed. With a hint of old tennis shoe. I don't know why I had to ruin a good blog post talking about hotdogs. I guess I just had to get that off my chest.

Since this blog post is already ruined, let's talk about vomit.

Last night, I was sitting on the couch minding my own business when a hint of tummy cramp came over me. Like any sane person who believes unwaveringly in her immortality and wildly over-estimates her immune system, I completely ignored it. I then proceeded to eat four mini-Hershey bars (I'm sorry, I refuse to call them "fun" size - the only thing "fun" about that size is that you can justify eating four) and a bag of popcorn. Partial disclosure: I had just run four mines. Full disclosure: the fact that I exercised beforehand was a total coincidence, I would have eaten it anyway.

Surprisingly, popcorn and chocolate did NOT make my tummy feel better. The ache grew into full-on nausea in less than an hour. By this time everyone was sleeping and I was lying like death on the couch, suffering in misery all alone and unbeknownst to anyone else in the house. I changed positions and burped and thought I felt better. Then, just one second later, the intense need to vomit hit me like Donald Trump fighting for the last slot at the tanning booth. Oh god. I was gonna blow. It was uncontrollable. The only thing running through my mind was "find something to puke in." So I ran straight for the bathroom. And immediately puked in the......nope. Not the toilet. The sink.

What an idiot. I realized my stupidity even as I was erupting chocolate and popcorn. But, you know, I was mid-eruption. There was really nothing I could do. When I was finished, I hunched back off the counter and surveyed the situation. I felt slightly better. But I had a clogged sink. I will spare you most of the details and just say that clean up involved a plastic drinking cup and baby nose syringe. WHILE I was still nauseous. I've seen and done things that you would only expect to find in an episode of Dirty Jobs.

48 hours later, I'm finally feeling better. I've only eaten like seven pieces of toast in two days. Is it horrible that I keep having to bury the thought that I should try to get sick again right before my swimsuit-involved vacation next month? Because I can finally wear my skinny pants. And it only cost me a couple hours of naseau, one unpleasant eruption, and a sink full of vomit.

Oh and Dear Lord Baby Jesus take my soul if my husband ever finds out I puked in the sink. He once didn't talk to me for two days after I left his bath towel on the floor.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Real Reason We All Have Kids

If you're making a pro and con list for having children, I'll be honest. There's a whole lot of stuff to put in the "con" column. For example....

Thirty dirty little fingers in your bag of Doritos
Doing enough laundry to stock a Goodwill
Being happy about sleeping in...all the way until 7am!
Calls from the school nurse informing you that your child ran into a pole
The phrase: "Because I said so."
Baby puke down your shirt
Every car ride you take will sound like a football stadium on Superbowl Sunday
The "is this chocolate...or poop?" game
Realizing you sound like your mom
Attempting to brush tiny teeth that are trying to chomp you
Poop in the tub
Poop on the floor
Poop in your bed
Poop on poop

I could go on....but we might be here a while.

The sources of my frustrations:




All these "cons," however, are balanced nicely by one gigantic pro. For 18 years, you have unlimited excuses to do all the kid stuff you want! Basically, you have an excuse to act like a child all over again. So, when I volunteer to take my kids on an outing so my husband can get work done around the house, I'm basically volunteering to play like a child while my husband does chores. I think I have the better end of this deal. He hasn't quite caught on yet.

What does this mean exactly?

It means going to the playground...and actually PLAYING (hey, you can do this without kids if you aren't squeamish about giving off the impression that you're a pedophile). Sidenote: they should really make adult-sized playgrounds...for adults!

It means throwing back your head and screeching excitedly while flying up and down on the teeter-totter.

It means the uninhibited love of siblings (often displayed through pig piles and punching fits).


It means walking UP all the slides.


(you guys, that is REALLY, really fun)

It means "testing" a package (or two) of Ninja Turtle fruit snacks before giving them to the kids.

It means hundreds and hundreds of underdogs.



It means that your primary method of transportation is giggling foot races with humans half your size.

It means the wonderful smells of newly sharpened-pencils, freshly opened backpacks, and never-before-worn clothes from an afternoon of back to school shopping.

It means jumping in ball pits. And running down hills. And rainbow sherbet ice cream cones with gummy bear toppings.

It means spontaneous bike rides to 7-11 for Redbox movies and Sour Patch Sour Slurpees at 8:00pm. (Which is exactly what we did tonight after our trip to the park!)


But riding in the stroller when you get tired...three blocks in.


And riding through sprinklers on the way home!


But, then you get to tuck all your kids into bed and stay up for an adult bedtime while you enjoy adult beverages and close your eyes to 33% of the scenes in Game of Thrones.

Hmmm, I guess they're kinda worth it.


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

This Post Contains: Biceps & Dogfood

I got up this morning full of ambition. I checked the YMCA class schedule, picked a class to attend after work, and threw my workout gear in a bag. Included with my workout gear were my very bright, new pair of running shoes: Nike Pegasus.


These are the best running shoes ever. I've been wearing them since I ran on the track and cross country team in college. But two years ago, I couldn't find them at the store and had to substitute for a different pair. They did the job. But they just weren't the same as my trusty old Nike Pegaus. One day recently, I was determined to find a pair of Nike Pegasus. So I piled all kids in the car, bribed them with bags of chips, and dragged them to all the sport stores. I squealed in delight when I finally saw these on a shelf (I was so excited to find my shoes that I was willing to overlook the hideous color although I do get complimented on the color ALL the time...um, ok then...).

I've been cross training a lot in an effort to build more muscle and ease up on my poor runner's knees. I love trying out new classes. My personal favorites are cycling (spin), TRX suspension, and HIIT. The result of cross training has been awesome. Guys, I have biceps! My diastasis recti is almost gone! (After my second baby, I took everyone's advise about diastasis recti too much to heart and didn't do any ab work for fear my abs would tear farther. But it turns out, in my case, that was keeping my abs from heeling! So: scissor kicks and planks and sit-ups!Yay!).

Biceps- PROOF!


Today, I was determined to make it to the HIIT class after work....and even as I walked out the office door at 5pm, I was mentally preparing for a trip to the gym. But somewhere in the three minute walk to my car, I convinced myself that working out was over-rated and I should go home and hang out with the kids and cook dinner.

My husband took the big kids to the park and Jon and I danced in the kitchen, skewering chicken and making some amazing thai peanut sauce in the process. Jon wasn't as up to the task as I was. He got grumpy somewhere about halfway through skewering the sixth chicken breasts (hey, little boys have HUGE appetites). I wrinkled my nose in frustration at all the work I still had left to do. So, to buy some more time, I threw handfuls of baby treats all over the floor, as if I were feeding a dozen smelly indoor pigeons.

It worked like a charm.


This is probably against the rules in every baby book known to man.

But so is letting your baby eat cat food. And Jon seems to do OK with that. It's not like I encourage it or anything. He's just too fast and sneaky sometimes. <cough> third child </end cough>.


Speaking of babies eating animal food. I was in Target two days ago and nearly bought these for my kids:


And then I realized it was dog food.

Seriously. Moms are tired. WHY would someone package dog food to look like baby food? WHY?! I've got a bone to pick with someone.

Baby food, for comparison:


They are even all the SAME COLORS! And SAME FONTS. WHAT TO THE HELL?!

Let's move beyond the fact that this dog product looks exactly like a baby product. Now let's focus on the fact that this particular item is a "Meal Enhancement" for a dog. What? Huh? Why? Do dogs work out in gyms now?

And now the REAL problem.....it's in a pouch. With a twist-off, replaceable cap. WHY IS IT IN A POUCH? Oh DUH. Because you can't fit a dog bowl in a doggy purse. And because dogs can't just sit down and start lapping out of a bowl in between grocery shopping and yoga class. That would be so inappropriate.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Just Sadness

My mother-in-law is gone. The event came and went so quickly.  A big event for us but a mere wrinkle in the history of the world. We gathered Friday, all sitting around in the living room where she entertained us so many times. It was almost like any other gathering. The TV was on. We chatted, about nothing in particular, while periodically checking our phones. We flipped through old photo albums, remarking and laughing at the old outfits, the young faces, the special events. An occasional photo would trigger a memory, and tears would form, sometime concurrent to a smile.

But there were distinct differences that made this get-together stand out from those of the past. She was not there. She will never be there again. But she was just here half a day ago. It's scary how the world can crash in on you in just a few minutes.

We laughed and chatted and sat quietly and remembered. But the air was somber. Our faces were red and puffy. The children ran wildly outside, oblivious to the changes. But she was not there to tell us what dinnerware to use. She was not there to direct the cooking. To wipe and scrub everything meticulously.

Her face smiled happily at us from the portraits that hung on the wall and lined the cabinets and counters. She's gone. But there she was, smiling at us from all angles of the room.

During dinner, Ryan looked around the room and oh so innocently and so casually asked us, "Where's grandma?"

We had explained earlier in the day that grandma had gone to heaven. But his three year old mind just didn't seem t grasp the meaning of that phrase.

"But where's grandma?"

The thought of that moment catches me at random times throughout the day. Driving home from church. At the grocery store. Standing at the sink doing dishes. It always catches me off guard and forces upon me a torrent of uncontrollable tears.

I'm happy that she is now cancer and pain free. But I'm sad that my husband lost his mother so young. I'm sad to say goodbye to the sweet, loving woman that I have come to know. And I'm sad that my children will not see their grandma on this earth again.

Friday, July 10, 2015

His Tears

I've only seen my husband cry three times.

The first time was on our wedding day. In May of 2007, we traveled to Chicago with some friends. Our friends returned home and we stayed a couple extra days. With the help of a judge that we discovered on the internet and unbeknownst to any other soul on the planet, we said our vows on a warm, sunny beach in Downtown Chicago, the expansive skyline that I had grown to love so much from my college days in Chicago loomed behind us.

We met the judge, picked our spot (after booting out a couple of tourists) and promised each other a lifetime. Me, in my inexpensive white dress and my husband in his first-ever suit. As we made our promises, through my own tears, I made out the subtle hint of dampness resting at the edges of my new husband's watery eyes. Happy tears. Excited tears.

The second time I saw my husband cry was after the birth of our first son, the very next year. After a long, pitocin-induced, tiresome, and fruitless labor, the nurses wheeled me into the operating room for an emergency c-section. I screamed and cried in terror. I wished I could be anywhere else in the world. He held my hand, he told me it was going to be ok. He remained calm and strong.

To the soundtrack of Sting's greatest hits (not our selection, we had not prepared for a c-section afterall), my son was pulled from my swollen belly. He had been through a great deal of stress and they, almost immediately, rushed him to the corner of the room to be checked out. I did not see him, but I heard his strong cry. It was startling and nerve wracking. My first sensation of motherhood. My husband went to see Jacob, then returned to me to give a full report. "He's beautiful," he said to me. At first, the dark spots on his surgical mask were the only sign of his tears. Then I saw one, large and round, drop from his eyes and mark its own spot on the bright blue mask. Tears of joy. Tears of thankfulness. Tears of amazement.

Last night, we went to visit my mother-in-law for the last time. After an eight year battle with cancer, she was finally ready to go. The past couple weeks have been hard. Full of downs and more downs, knowing the end was approaching. My husband was somber but stoic. He shed no tears.

Last night, she lay as she had every other night. Eyes closed, head propped to the right side. The arch of her eyebrows framed her face. The oxygen machine groaned and compressed loudly. We held her warm, fragile hands. I noticed that her nails seemed extra long. Jon cried out, oblivious. Her eyes fluttered, then opened. The line of her mouth took form, but I could not tell if it was a smile. She gasped. She looked at us. I don't know for sure that she saw us, but I know she was expressing acknowledgement of our presence. Jacob first, then Ryan, each kissed her hand. "We are all here mom. We love you," came my husband's voice, cracking and heavy under the weight of unbearable grief. His eyes filled with tears that spilled from every corner of his eye. Tears of grief. Agony. Pain.

I tried to take it all in. Her touch, her appearance. But I could only think one unbearable, heart-wrenching thing: I was watching a son say goodbye to his mother for the very last time. Is there anything more harrowing? She closed her eyes again and made no more sounds. I clutched my own sons tighter as we left that evening.

She passed today. In the quiet of the early morning. The earth lost a beautiful soul. A wife, a mother, a grandmother. We miss her so much.