Monday, September 30, 2013

Missing: Two Babies And A Huge Chunk Of My Heart

We had a crazy busy weekend and, although my children seriously drive me insane sometimes, when I get to spend so much time with them, I realize all over again how much they are the center of my world. Right now I'm feeling the weight of transiency. A friend of mine came over on Saturday and I gave her a pair of Ryan's old shoes. I desperately wanted to keep those shoes. I wasn't ready to give them up and accept that my baby is not a baby. But I knew she could really use them and she was so thankful for them.

But, a part of me still died. That set the undertone for the rest of the weekend. I kept going back to the thought that my children are slipping away much too quickly. Photos of Jacob just one year ago reveal a totally different person. He does not have an ounce of baby to his face. He is saying "like" every other word, much to our dismay and frustration. He is using big words and is in the pre-reading phase. He is so independent and is developing an engineer's mind. Today he tried to invent a contraption that would pull his box of blocks across the floor. Who is this kid?!

One Year Ago Today:

One minutes he'll stomp his feet and shout at me (in true teenage fashion). The next minute he will grab my hand as we walk down the sidewalk and say, "I'm holding the hand of a beautiful lady. I love you mama." While it is sweet and adorable, it also makes me want to melt into a puddle of sadness on the floor. Stop talking! Stop having your own thoughts. Stop using science. Stop learning to read. You're MY BABY. Where is the boy who used to keep me up at night? Who could fit into a Baby Bjorn? Who used to line up my high heels and try each one on in turn. Where is the boy who used to crawl all over the floor with a baloon tied to his wrist? Where is the boy who spent hours playing with wooden trains on the kitchen floor? Because I really miss that guy sometimes.

And then, there is Ryan. He is my broken heart walking on two feet. He learns new words every day and mimics everything he sees. Thanks to his brother, he gets to do big boy things much earlier than I would like. His new favorite words are "me" and "mine." When I ask the boys, "who wants a sandwich (or any other item of food), Ryan will throw both hands in the air and yell, "ME!" Today I asked him, "Do you want some cheese?" and he replied, "ME!" in the same fashion.

Today I took the boys to the grocery store and Ryan insisted on carrying his own shopping basket. He kept trying to hold mine so I asked him, "Do you want a basket?" He enthusiastically replied, "bako!" I handed him his own basket, he beamed and shouted, "bako!" as he pointed to it. He put the handles in his hands and followed behind me importantly as we walked aisle by aisle. He loves to walk in the grocery store. This way he gets to explore, and see all the items on the shelf. He loves to point to new things so that I will tell him what they are.

As I witnessed Ryan learning his new word ("bako") in real time today, I was very proud of my big boy. But also devastated. Where is my second born baby? The one who is protected from the world by his bodyguard of a brother but not protected from tormented by that same bodyguard. Where is my baby who took his time learning to walk and used to scoot on one knee? The baby that had holes in the right knee of every pair of pants as a result? Where is my baby who used to scrunch up his forehead in a grumpy scowl but would gift us frequently with broad smiles? Where is the baby who simply wanted to be in my arms at all moments of the day? Where is the baby who would take my fingers and make wobbly steps across the room? Where is my baby.


I don't even know what to do with all this mommy emotion I feel right now. I'm so overwhelmed with the transient nature of babyhood that I have no idea where to put my emotions. Do I just cry all the tears out? Do I tuck the sadness into the back of my mind? How am I expected to function on a daily basis? How is it that when my boss comes into my office tomorrow to ask me a question about trial preparation, I'm not supposed to say, "Wait! Hold it! My babies are growing up this very second and you expect me to discuss trial strategy?! MY BABIES. This very moment they are one SECOND closer to leaving me. How am I supposed to think about this case?! How am I supposed to think about ANY case?! How am I supposed to function?!"

For some reason, I feel like that would not be a good idea.

So what am I supposed to do?

The magnitude of life makes me feel really small and helpless sometimes. This is why I bawl like a baby every time I hear John Mayer's song "Stop This Train."

Stop this train
I want to get off and go home again
I can't take the speed it's moving in
I know I can't but honestly won't someone stop this train

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Facebook Makes Me Rage-y

Warning: This post contains high levels of extreme, unprovoked bitchiness.

I cannot stand to be on Facebook lately. I can't even stand to look at it. There are a handful of people whose posts I actually enjoy. The rest of the posts are so obnoxious that it takes everything I have to not be rude in the comments. I've had this problem for some time. But no matter how much I try, I can't quit Facebook. I'm addicted. It's like a car crash. I have to see the horribleness and yet, at the same time, I have to shield my eyes.

I know I'm not the perfect Facebook patron. I'm sure my post annoy a lot of people. I'm just going to admit that right now. I post a lot of pictures of my kids. But this is my blog. So welcome to my rant (feel free to leave anytime). Plus, it's ok to do these things once in a while. But if your FB wall is dominated by these types of posts...omg, why are we still friends? Oh yeah, because I can't kick the stalking habit!

First, there are the parents who always post about how their kid/kids are the cutest kids ever. Really? What do you expect from the rest of us? You want us to agree? Because everyone thinks their own kids are the cutest ever. We can't all be right. Chances are, your kid is just as weird looking as the kid down the street. You are just too mom-blind to see it. (OMG. Am I'm going to hell for saying that?) By the way, the same goes for all the furry babies out there.

Then there is the friend who got married months ago and refuses to land the honeymoon plane. She is stuck in her self-obsessed bridal world. Her wedding is the most important event of the century and she is going to talk about it/post pictures of it everyday for probably the next ten years. I know it's hard to accept that the world actually doesn't revolve around your most perfect wedding. But dude, it's time to check into the real world. If you post one more picture of your Most Perfect Bouquet Arrangement, I'm going to shove baby's breath into my eyeballs.

Then there's the grotesquely dependent couple who are way too loving that their posts can only be a deliberate attempt to hide the fact that they are hateful serial killers. Hey, if you really love your husband/boyfriend, you wouldn't tell him on Facebook, you'd walk three feet to where he is standing and tell him to his face. There is no way that you two are always as perfect as you try to seem on FB. And there is no way anyone on the planet actually cares about the time your husband was so sweet that he bought you tampons at the supermarket. Also, you live in the SAME HOUSE. You see each other every day. Why do you feel compelled to post your love-notes on FB for the entire word to see? Unless you hate me so much that you are TRYING to make me barf in my mouth. Obviously I am not really in love because I only show my affection in person.

Then there is the gym rat. Can I just say... my day is not complete until you post your daily workouts on Facebook. I live in a world of constant suspense until you post that daily pic of you looking hot/sexy in your workout clothes. Earth to human, workout clothes are for sweating. NOT FOR PLAYBOY POSES. Also, how do you have the guts to stand in the middle of a busy gym floor to snap a selfy? If you look that good at the gym, you are obviously doing something wrong.

On a related note, there are the health nuts who believe they have achieved elite goddess status just because they think they are eating the same way less evolved humans ate thousands of years ago. What is so good about being like a caveman? What if I told you I was on the paleo hygiene plan. Would that be equally impressive? I'm not impressed by your ability to substitute all carbs with cauliflower. Gross. I don't need a play by play on what you are eating for every meal. Seeing your ridiculously self-serving posts about how much better you are than us lowly carb-eaters makes me want to eat five consecutive Snickers bars and drink a gallon of black-listed soy sauce. Maybe if you LIVED like a caveman it might be prudent to eat like one. But none of us in America rely upon physical prowess to stay alive. We don't have to fight for our lives on a daily basis. Your goal to achieve bodily perfection is just about as practical as my goal to obtain a copy of a Gladiator movie poster signed by Russell Crowe.

This segues perfectly into Overly Nutritious Mom. Your kid only eats the finest of organic fruits and foods made painstakingly from scratch. This is totally fine. For the record, I support moms who want to feed their kids healthy foods. My problem is when your obsession with healthy food turns into a militant tirade on FB. These are usually the same people who post things like, "Responsible parents use cloth diapers" and link to articles about how kids who were cloth-diapered generally achieved a 20 point advantage on SAT scores over the poor, disadvantaged kids who were forced into the physical abuse of disposable diapers. Stop trying to convert me already. Unless of course, YOU want to come to my house and make all my baby food from scratch and scrape the shit out of my kids' cloth diapers. Then by all means, convert away!

I can't end this list without mentioning the "woe is me" vague-booker. Statuses like, "something horrible just happened and I'm going to publicize it to the world but don't ask me for details because it is super private!" Clearly, these people need to be ignored. Forever. If you open the door on a topic, FBland should be allowed to cross-examine you!

If you will excuse me please, I  have to cut this post short so that I can check FB before bedtime.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Almost Perfect...But Not Quite

Bonus points if you know the reference behind the title of this post!

Warning: this post contains a highly concentrated amount of sunshine and rainbows which may be damaging to optimism-sensitive readers. Read at your own risk.

Life in Dreamland continues. As I'm getting used to my new schedule, I'm realizing just how much my new commute has transformed every aspect my life. Everyday I feel like I'm discovering new ways that life is more amazing without a 5 hour commute.

For example, I used to loath the fact that we don't have a dishwasher. Every time I stepped up to the sink (usually at 10:30pm after a long, exhausting day), my heart scowled at the large tub full of disgusting, dirty dishes and I wished many plagues on all the previous owners who were too lazy (or poor) to install one. And I'd vow to eat hotdogs on paper plates for the rest of the month (a horror I wouldn't normally wish on anyone, much less my entire family).

But now that I have 5 extra hours in my day and have the luxury of coming home at 5:15pm and taking a 30 minute nap (like I did today!), suddenly washing every piece of silverware by hand (every single tong of every single fork) has lost it's heinousness. In fact, I put on my favorite playlist and sing to the spaghetti-caked dishware (boy are THEY lucky) as if I am in my favorite bar on karaoke night. (Sidenote: someday, I'm actually going to figure out a way to eat snacks while doing the dishes without having to comingle soapy, dirty hands with my Cheezits).

That is just one example of how my life seems brilliantly better now. I've always considered myself to be an optimistic, happy person. Now, with so much more time and less stress, I'm so happy that people are going to stop wanting to be my friend. For some odd reason, people do not like to be inundated with sunshine and rainbows on a chronic basis.

Obviously, things aren't perfect. Our schedules are still hectic. It's not easy getting the kids out the door at 7:00 every morning, there is usually a lot of whining and repeated requests for the kids to get ready. Then, by the time I pick them up in the afternoon (on my days), they are usually beyond tired and very crabby. Yesterday, I did not let Jacob have a smoothie because he was back-talking. The entire 15 minute drive home he was kicking his feet, flailing his arms, and scream-crying "I WANT A SMOOTHIE!" It sucked balls. Dude, I'm trying to help you not grow up to be a spoiled brat. A little more appreciation is in order! He should be thanking me for not letting him have a smoothie. Psssh, so ungrateful.

But that's the weird thing. When you have the benefit of a complete 180, the little imperfections are actually quaint and tolerable. I mean, nothing can be perfect. But things are pretty darn close. So close that it seems petty to complain about anything.

This is equally true for my job. I love my work. I love my benefits. I love my office. I love my commute. I love my clients. I love my community. But, there are always going to be some little things that keep it real.

For example, while people are very, very nice, not many people in my office are overly friendly. I can go most days without talking to anyone if I don't purposefully go out of my way to find people. This is mostly due to the way the office is configured and how we are all tucked away in private little corners. This can be a little lonely. (It doesn't help that I am the youngest person in the entire office).

I don't expect everyone to be my friend (although, that would be nice- I like people to like me), but I kind of hoped more people would put forth an effort on a personal level to get to know me (not just at the welcome pizza lunch we had last week). At first, I took it upon myself to reach out and make friends. But, I think I was trying a little TOO hard and mostly things were just awkward. Lesson learned: you cannot pursue friendship, you have to let them happen naturally.

I also have the most uncomfortable chair in the entire world. It's the opposite of ergonomic. It was designed to make people crippled from spinal pain. But I may only be here 6 months. Do I go out of my way to complain when I'm technically a temp? Do I bring in my own chair? Is that a little presumptuous?

When it comes down to the work itself, everything is awesome. It's the perfect mix of litigation and general counsel projects. Due to my trial preparation background, I'm assisting in a big case that is going to trial in December. I've been told that I'll actually get to participate and co-chair the trial! I've jumped right into this case, which is really fascinating and has become my life. I was asked to get started on opposing the other party's summary judgment motion. In two days, I cranked out a very tight  27 page opposition. The attorney I'm assisting (with 20+ years of trial experience) told me she could not have done better which made all my inane legal research and headaches and criss-crossed eyeball stares totally worth it!

In addition to this case, I'm been doing the legwork on an insurance coverage case. I have a weird love for insurance law. It's my passion. I drool when I get to discuss tender issues and indemnification and insurance bad faith. This kind of stuff is a drug to me. If I could take insurance case law and regulations and make them into something tangible, I'd inject that stuff right into my veins.

I also get to help on a lot of general counsel stuff. One of our clients is the local sheriff's office. I spent 10 hours last week researching state and federal gun control laws and how they interplay and overlap so that we can advise on the issuance of gun licenses. Last week, I knew nothing about gun control laws, aside from what I've heard on news radio. Now, I feel like I could lecture on this stuff.

I think my fellow lawyers will agree that this phenomenon is probably one of the best things about being a lawyer. You are constantly exposed to new issues and topics. And within the course of a week, you can go from blundering idiot to bona-fide expert on any given topic.

So, things are very good around here. Throw in the fact that the office has an automatic hot and cold water dispenser (unlimited tea- yay!), and things are....almost perfect :)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Happiness Guru Says

In high school, I knew a lot of kids who knew exactly what they wanted to do when they grew up. They had amazing concrete life plans. I, on the other hand, couldn't make up my mind. I wanted to be a pilot. An astronaut. A rancher. A film maker. A diplomat. Operator of third world orphanage. I was indecisive. Looking back, I realize that if I had just known what I had wanted to do, it would have been incredibly helpful to creating a road map for my life.

Instead, I've blindly stumbled through life. No goal, unsure of the end game, and without the luxury of a lot of viable options. I went to law school on a whim, mostly because I had no other idea what to do with my life and because I realized it was really hard to get an entry level job with just a political science degree. (I DID discover in college that political science, political ideology, and political philosophy were my intellectual passions...but yeah, try translating THAT into a paycheck!)

I stumbled blindly into lawschool. Which led me haphazardly into the only summer associate position I could get (insurance defense). Which led to my first real job (insurance defense). I thought I had hit the jackpot when I discovered litigation. I never saw myself as a trial attorney but, surprisingly, I loved everything about it. Oh wait. No I didn't. After my 3 year long litigation honeymoon phase ended, I discovered a LOT of things I didn't like about practice in a private firm. I didn't like the crazy billable hours. I didn't like the pressure to bill more and more and bring in more and more clients. I didn't like the stupid schmoozing. I didn't like that you had to sell your soul to get and keep business. I didn't like working for insurance companies who were doing their best to pay you as little as possible. I didn't really like my clients either: unsophisticated and, mostly, irresponsible (some criminals, others just bad people).

On top of that, I didn't like my 5 hour daily commute and a lot of other situations with my firm's organization and....certain, um, personalities. Basically, although I still enjoyed litigation. I hated everything else about my work. Once, again I made a rash and blind decision. After applying to several other jobs and going to a hand full of interviews, I only got one job offer. A job offer I didn't even want. But, I was so miserable that I took it. I decided that if I was going to dislike my job, I might as well dislike a job with a 20 minute round trip commute versus a job with a 5 hour round trip commute.

Turns out, this job that I didn't want is absolutely the most perfect job on the planet. If I had known that this job existed from the beginning and all that it entailed, I'm pretty sure I would have known right away that this is what I wanted to do. I sometimes regret that I didn't have this goal to zero-in on from the very beginning. I could have tailored my lawschool experience and my internships towards this goal. I could have focused a lot of energy and dedication to this goal. I probably could have skipped a lot of crap and I probably could have been much farther in a viable career. But, at the same time, I realize that the crap I dealt with and worked through and survived is a large part of the attorney I am today. Somehow, each sub-par experience gave me a little tool. Now, I have a collection of tools that I'm finding helpful and relevant.

I guess, in the end, I'm very lucky. Hindsight has shown me that every bad or less desirable experience has played an important role or learning opportunity that has become essential to where I am today: truly and wonderfully happy and standing in a great place from which to build the career of my dreams. Is this another career honeymoon phase? Maybe. But it feels different this time.

In kill-or-be-killed private practice, surrounded by predominantly overly-aggressive male attorneys, I always felt like a little girl trying to be someone I wish I could be but simply was not. In my new government position, work is still challenging and stressful, but the entire atmosphere is less intense and less testosterone-fueled. I feel like me. And no one expects me to be anyone else.

The experiences I have had in private versus government attorney work is amazingly stark. It's night and day! In private practice, I was afraid of being yelled at or chastised for everything and anything (I will never forget my former boss' email to the firm "WHOEVER JAMMED THE STAPLER AND LEFT IT THAT WAY, COME SEE ME IMMEDIATELY TO EXPLAIN YOURSELF!!!!"). I never felt like I was working hard enough. I never felt really appreciated, just a pawn for the partners to make more money. Everything came down to billable hours. You had to account for every six minutes of your day. This made every task stressful.

Now, I am still expected to keep track of my hours, but it is so much more laid back. I've found that since the billable hour noose has been loosened around my neck, I'm actually doing better and more thorough work. I'm taking my time and doing things right. I get to act like a normal human who does attorney work, rather than a spazzed out, over-worked attorney doing attorney work. Everyone leaves promptly at 4:30. People are not constantly on the verge of mental breakdowns due to stress. People have lives. People love their jobs. People stay at their jobs for 10, 15, 20+ years. People do NOT think they are God's gift to Earth. People are still a little (or a lot) weird. But they are nice. The short of it all: I am very, very happy.

Lately, even though I'm still only a baby attorney and not yet 30 years old, I feel like a happiness guru. I know what it's like to be unhappy, mildly unhappy, and apathetic about your job and life situations. The last four or so years have been short, but they have taught me a great deal about myself and about who I want to be. I know you can only be unhappy for so long before you are willing to make drastic and even rash decisions. But I also know that life is simply too short to waste it on being miserable.

In the beginning I stuck it out in situations that I did not like because I felt that was a necessary sacrifice. I learned that the exact opposite is true. Don't accept unhappiness as a necessary pre-requisite for eventually getting what you want. You may never get what you want, or what you want may constantly shift. If you are unhappy now, fix it. None of the other crap matters. Life and careers are both about your journey, not our destination. The destination of a life or a career is a purely abstract idea that may never come. So do everything you can to enjoy the journey. And if you don't enjoy your journey, CHANGE IT. IMMEDIATELY.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Cow Kisses

I earned major mom points this weekend. On Saturday we hung out in the alley and rode our bikes. Ryan even got to ride the big kid bike. But now he refuses to ride on his own bike. I guess it's just more fun being a big kid.

Then I took the kids swimming at the gym. We go to the gym all the time, but I usually make the kids hang out with drooly, hair-pulling, grabby kids in the baby jail, er, I mean the childwatch center. This time, they got to hang out with drooly, hair-pulling, grabby kids in the baby jail. But AFTERWARD, I took them swimming.

Jacob is very brave in the pool. He dunks his head and swims completely under water, a few feet at a time. He eyes the deep end with lust as he hangs onto the edge of the pool. He begs me over and over and over and over to watch him dunk his head or jump in with a floaty. 

Ryan is way more cautious. He clings to me and generally prefers to be in the very shallow end with the exception of the kiddy slide. He loves that kiddy slide. Probably only because he loves slides in general though. He would prefer the slide to be on land.

I'm not usually a fan of pools myself. So, it's a big treat when the kids get to go to the pool. I associate pools with being wet. And cold. And having to get naked in front of people in the locker room. And having to wear swim suits. These four things are probably my least favorite things on the entire earth. Id rather shovel cow poop. So, yeah, I tend to side with Ryan and his trepidation of the water. 

When we are done with the pool, the kids and I spend just as much time in the showers as in the pool water. I huddle desperately under the warmth. I close my eyes and can almost pretend I'm in a steamy spa. Until Ryan erupts into a tantrum because he can't reach the soap dispender. Ryan LOVES the soap dispenser. He demands to be in my arms where he is within touching distance of the dispencer knob. So my spa experience lasts about 30 seconds before there is a wet, squirmy baby glued to my arms dispensing foaming soap all over my body. But I'll never gripe about paying gym fees seeing as how we cost them about that much in shower soap every time we swim.

The next day, I took the kids up north to tour some local farms. I had no idea we had so many farms an hour's drive away! There were goat farms, fiber farms, produce farms, and dairy farms! 

Being farmers:

Before our hayride, I tried to get some good shots of the boys together. HA. Nice try mom.

They look so thrilled.

I asked them to be nice to each other. So Jacob went in for a kiss.

Ryan was clearly a big fan.

Then, conveniently, Ryan had an itch on his head.

SMACK. Didn't see that one coming, did ya?

Good thing Jake thought it was pretty funny. If Ryan doesn't stay cute, he's probably going to get the hell beat out of him on a regular basis.

Seriously? You can't both look at the camera at the same time? 

Please note: I am wearing my cowboy boots. And I stepped in real cow poop! Now they are authentic!

Jacob enjoyed the hayride.


Then we got a good look at all the dairy cows. Dairy cows are so pretty. I have a thing for cows. I think it started with a cartoon called Cowboys of Moo Mesa.

George Jetson was my first crush. Raphael the Ninja Turtle was my second crush. But Moo Montana...he was my first LOVE. I mean...look at that physique! And no, when I was in fourth grade it never occurred to me how odd it was that a cow was riding a horse. Now I see all kinds of wrong with it.

I imagine this is what it's like to eat in the Duggar household every night.

LOOK! A nine day old baby calf! If you thought you had a big baby, thank your lucky uterus stars that you are not a cow.

We couldn't leave without taking tractor pictures. I mean I have boys. Duh.

As we were saying goodbye to Stardust (who just happens to be the same age as Ryan), Stardust decided to give Jacob an unexpected kiss.

I love cows! Can I have a cow? No, literally. I want a cow. I can pretend it's my love child with Moo Montana.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Sorry For Footballing

I'm not an inherently competitive person (unless we are talking motion practice, in that case, "I'm gonna to rip your case apart element by element with my freakin' bad ass motion and persuasive case law!"). For example, in football, when I see a player on the opposite team go down, my first reaction isn't "oh yeah!"... it's more like, "why isn't anyone asking if he is ok?!"

And I have this weird thing for underdogs. I ALWAYS have to root for the underdog. I think it's due to the fact that I've lived in the Seattle area pretty much my entire life. Let's face it, when it comes to sports, Seattle doesn't have the best track record. I mean, we can't even keep a basketball team. Seahawks: until recently were a joke. And the Mariners.... oh man. So, I guess my love for underdogs comes from the fact that I've been rooting for underdogs my entire life.

Anyway, I'm not a huge sports person. When I started dating my husband, he would invite me to watch football with his friends. I tolerated it, mostly enjoying the beer and pizza and secret footsie underneath the coffee (beer) table. Football was too confusing. Too much counting.

That all changed last year during pre-season football. The radio people began to talk about this rookie kid who was too small to be a quarterback. Everyone was incredulous when it was announced that this rookie would not only make the cut, but be the starting quarterback for the Seahawks. Everyone was doubtful. They thought the coach was taking crazy pills. That's when I knew I loved Russell Wilson.

The more people doubted him, the more I loved him. And as he proved himself game after game, everyone's mouth's dropped open. And I loved him even more. I took so much pride in him it was as if I was the one who discovered his talent. I loved how he blew everyone's expectations out of the water. Not to mention, he's pretty much the cutest little thing you've ever seen on an NFL field.

But there was one small problem. I still knew nothing about football. My love for him relied solely upon what the radio talk show hosts said about him. So...for Russell, I did something I had not been able to do in the seven years that I had been casually watching football with my husband: I learned football. I learned the Seahawks. And all that learning was rewarded. Russell killed it last year. He tied Payton Manning for the most touchdowns thrown by a rookie. He lead the Seahawks into the playoffs.

But, the final game last year against the Falcons was what really clinched my new love for football (Russell Wilson). The game was so riveting and so intense. The Seahawks made a huge comeback the second half (it was so crazy that I swore it could have been a movie) and then just barely lost by two points. That day, my fate as a football (Wilson) fan was sealed. I believed in him when no one else did. And he made me proud! (I'm totally naming my next kid Russell.)

And that brings us to today. The Seahawks just creamed the 49'ers tonight. And now I have a bigger problem. What am I going to do when the Hawks dominate football this year and are no longer the underdogs? Gulp.

Oops. This post was supposed to be about my trip with the kids to a local dairy farm. Guess I kind of got a teeeny bit off topic.

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Nerd Fairy Visits

I continue to be the happiest person on earth. My work is amazing so far. It's too amazing. I have two feelings that are competing for my mind right now. One is total excitement and relief that I have finally found the perfect job for me. The other is anxiety and fear that all this wonderfulness will go away or disappear, either, because this is all a dream or because they are unable to extend my position after the original six months.

When I accepted the job, I was told I would be doing a lot of public disclosure stuff (mindless document review). So far, I've only been doing litigation (which is totally fine with me!). I've been asked to assist on a case that is going to trial in December. It's a personal injury case so I'm totally in my element and comfort zone. The litigation team (all four of us) were sitting around the conference table yesterday discussing litigation strategy. I was amazed at how much I knew about trial strategy and how much I could contribute. I was genuinely surprised.

I only have three years of litigation under my belt (only two years of active participation) and I've only co-chaired one trial, but here I was actively contributing to the strategy session. I was pinching myself and asking, "who is this person who has suddenly occupied my body?!" I feel like I've crossed a precipice. The one that divides newbies from non-newbies. It feels amazing. I have to say that I owe it to insurance defense work. When you defend cases for insurance companies you are exposed to so many different cases and issues that you quickly gain experience in a little bit of everything.

As idyllic and dreamlike as my position is, the actual work has been even more so. Everything is going so well that I feel like this job was made for me. My first day at work, I was asked to assist with researching an unusual and obscure issue on which there is not much case law or guidance. It just so happens that I had researched that same exact issue two months ago and had written an extensive motion on it. I was able to provide some information off the top of my head which, I'm hoping, earned me some major points.

I heard one of the litigation attorneys talking about an insurance coverage issue she was having in another case. Before I could stop myself, I blurted out, "Oh my gosh, can I help? I love insurance coverage. It's my favorite!" Half an hour later, I had finished drafting a request for tender. From the far reaches of my memory, I pulled out my knowledge of insurance company duties to defend and indemnify, standards for properly determining coverage, and extra-contractual damages. With each word I typed about breaches of good faith and coverage estoppel, I became giddy with happiness and a little person inside me was doing the happy dance on repeat. NERD ALERT.

My next assignment is to draft a complaint for declaratory judgment. This is like the jackpot of all jackpots for insurance law lovers like me. I'm so excited that I just spent an hour of my Friday evening researching sample complaints....for FUN.

Speaking of weekend, it could not have come at a better time! I just spent the past two days drafting an intense response to a summary judgment motion. It's lengthy and bursting with legal analysis. On Thursday I spent seven consecutive hours drafting it. I spent another seven consecutive hours on it today. By the time 4:30 rolled around, my brain was going to explode if I had to analogize one more case. I felt like my eyes were emitting rays of computer light. The next two days will give my brain plenty of time to rest.

But, honestly, I can't wait to go to work on Monday so I can get started on that complaint for declaratory judgment. I'm pretty sure the nerdy fairy has just inducted me into the nerd hall of fame.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Jacob's Totally Radical Ninja Turtle Birthday

Jacob's birthday party was strung together at the very last minute this year. Thankfully, I kept it pretty low key and made everything (mostly) easy on myself. With ending a job, traveling for a mini vacation, and starting a new job in the span of seven days...things were just a little bit crazy. But that's ok. I can handle crazy. I AM crazy.

When Jacob told me he wanted a Ninja Turtle party, I totally did a happy dance. The Turtles and I go way back. WAY, WAY back. In fact, I was a Ninja Turtle for four years in a row. No. Not just for Halloween. I was a Ninja Turtle EVERYDAY for four years in a row. Not just any Turtle. I was Raphael. The coolest, most sarcastic, smart-ass of a Turtle that there is. I wore green sweats and Ninja Turtle shirts and hats (to cover my hair and resemble the baldness of a turtle). Yes, I was a fashion nightmare. But I was totally oblivious...until a mean third-grader bumped into me in the school hallway and told me I needed a sex change (for the record, I didn't even know what that meant).

One time, when I was in fourth grade, my cousin asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. Without a moment's hesitation, I blurted out, "Raphael." I mean... Duh. She laughed, told me I was ridiculous and announced that it could never happen. I told her, in total seriousness, that I would make it happen. I would find a way! And I seriously believed that.

Anyway, the point being, I was more than thrilled to relive my Turtle, I mean, throw Jacob a Turtle party for his birthday (Go ninja, go ninja go!).

Aside from send out some invitations, I did absolutely nothing to get ready for the party until the day before. Saturday, the day before the party, I stopped at Party City and got all my party favors and some giant wall posters for d├ęcor. Then I buzzed around town for food supplies and streamers.

Highly daunted by ridiculous birthday party photos from Pinterest, I donned my "working mom with no time" badge proudly, flew by the seat of my pants, and pulled together a haphazard but mostly successful party.

Ready to party! Five-year-old Jacob and 17-month-old Ryan.

Jacob illustrated the invitations:

Decorations were simple: I bought some green globe decorations and made them into Turtle heads. I hung store-bought banners and posters on the walls, covered the table in a neon green table cloth, and strung some streamers around the house (literally, in the last five minutes before guests arrived). Jacob was IN LOVE with the turtle heads. I thought they were pretty cute too (even though I was horrified to find out that I didn't have red streamers for Raphael's head...poor Raph- is it weird that I have a strong attraction to a fifteen-year-old humanoid turtle?).

Gigantic Turtle wall posters didn't make it in the picture but hung on the door.

The food was equally simple. The night before the party, I pre-ordered six gigantic pizzas from our favorite local pizza place. I put a bunch of fruit and cheese on skewers for some fruit-kebabs. I also made green "ooze" juice for the kids. I found several online recipes for green punch but they all seemed really complicated. I was determined not to use more than three ingredients. I eventually mixed green Hawaiian punch with sprite and lemonade concentrate. No recipe. I just poured a little here and a little there until I ended up with a taste I liked. was surprisingly AMAZING! I wish I had gotten a picture. The color was a fantastic neon green.

Fruit kebabs

When the kids arrived, we all went outside to play some games in the backyard. My husband and I were so excited to share our lawn with everyone. About a month ago, we finished our backyard project (we had leveled and hydro-seeding). The back lawn is now the most-prized possession of my husband. My husband is so in love with his lawn that he refuses to let me put things on it because he doesn't want to make indents in the grass. In fact, he is totally obsessed with the lush, green grass. I have a couple theories to explain this obsession. They all involve a comparison of the thinning of his hair to the thickness of the grass....I have decided not to share this with him. You know, for the sake of our marriage.

First, we played Pizza Bingo! I created pizza cards (thank you online stock photos and Kinkos!) and put five pizza ingredients on each one.When I called out an ingredient, kids put a square on their pizza if they had that ingredient. The first kid to get five squares won. We, of course, played until everyone was a winner.

After Pizza Bingo, we played Splinter Says (Simon Says) and Pizza, Sewer (Red Light, Green Light). I was just about exhausting my game ideas when our star attraction showed up! Through our local YMCA, we got a karate instructor to come over and give a mini karate lesson. I was really nervous about how this would go since most of the kids were pretty young and had short attention spans. But it was a crazy success! The parents even joined in and, honestly, I think they had more fun than the kids!

The sensei, taught us how to punch, kick, and block.

Then he sparred with his partner and passed out real Ninja Turtle weapons for us to hold. The kids were so excited to hold real nunchucks and sis.

For the grand finale, we all got to break blocks! I can't even tell you how much the adults loved this. At the beginning everyone else seemed skeptical, especially after the demonstrator said, "ouch!" during the demonstration. I "took one for the team" and jumped to the front of the line. But in the end, every single person took a turn!


My inner Raphael came out. 

Then we came inside for food. Please forgive me while I take a second to brag...but... check out my cake! I borrowed a Ninja Turtle cake pan from a friend but the face looked kind mean. So I decided to make my own, totally from scratch, and without any instructions. Thank goodness frosting can hide a lot of imperfections.

Blowing out the candles:

The quiet observer, waiting to make his move:

My favorite picture from the day-- proof that we were all happy :)

After cake, we opened presents and then I sent the loud kids outside to play again. Everyone wanted to keep the boards they had broken. So I brought down the markers and we colored them. This turned out to be a very cool party favor.

The babies, just hanging out:

I was so busy running around during the party that the whole thing went by so fast. I barely had three seconds to chat with the guests. When they all left not too long after cake and presents, I was very sad to see it all end. I felt a little bit let down, but when I saw how happy Jacob was, it was easy to put those feelings aside and just live in his joy.

We survived another one. Phew!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Heart Burn

My Jacob is five. He is gregarious. He is stubborn. He is enthusiastic. Everything he finds on the ground is considered a "treasure" and is immediately treated as the most fragile and precious artifact in human history. Today I was clearing out some old toys in preparation of Jacob's birthday party tomorrow. Jacob stomped towards me from the kitchen holding out an empty candy wrapper accusingly.

"MOMMY. You threw this in the trash?! THIS is not TRASH. It's TREASURE!" He resuscitated the candy wrapper's injured dignity and placed it gingerly in his "treasure jar." I was admonished at great lengths about the value of this dirty, ripped, empty wrapper and instructed to never throw it away again.

Great. My kid is a Category 3 Hoarder.

Jacob is also very sweet. He will come up to me at the most random times, throw his lanky arms around my body in a half-pint hug and tell me he loves me. I instantly melt. Unless I'm trying desperately to finish blow drying my hair so that I won't be late for work. Then I tell him to go watch cartoons.

He is easily upset but easy to calm down (with the right techniques and tricks). He is also sensitive and acutely aware when an injustice is being borne by anyone, especially himself. When he thinks I'm not looking he will grab toys away from his brother or be too rough. But if anyone else tries the same, he is right there to stand up for him (or, more frequently, to tattle). While he doesn't like to share his toys, he has a deep love for his brother and loves to make him laugh.

Jacob is very particular and methodical. Everything has to be done properly, by the correct process. If I interrupt his play or his work before the process is complete, there will be trouble. He gets this from his dad. But he has my sense of adventure and once he sees that there is a fun, new way to do things, he is very eager to try it out and experience it.

As Jacob turns five, I've been finding myself trying to remember what he was like when he was a baby. Before Ryan was born, Jacob was the center of our lives. Everything was about Jacob. Now Jacob shares us with his little brother and is independent enough to do many things alone. The stark contrast between my baby Jacob and my five year-old Jacob has me realizing how different they are. They are two different people.

My memory is very bad. I tend to live in the present and past events easily become abstract and elusive. I had a hard time remembering what baby Jacob was like until I sat down and scoured through his old baby pictures. With each picture, I was struck with a very clear memory of each particular moment. Baby Jacob started to come back to life. I began to remember him more clearly. The way he used to say "num" for water. The way he would tell us "back" as he put an item in its proper place. The way he used to look up at me so helpless and expectant, trusting in me so completely. How his tiny little hands used to fit in my palm. How he used to fall asleep on my lap and snore loudly.

These memories, that used to be so distant, rushed at me with so much force that I was overcome by grief. I suddenly missed that baby Jacob so terribly that I began to ache for him. "But," I reasoned, "he is gone." And it's the truth. Although five year-old Jacob is here for me to touch and feel and experience, baby Jacob is gone. He will never be here again.

I will never rock that sweet baby to sleep in my exhausted arms, waiting so patiently for his breathing to become regular. He now falls asleep on the top bunk of his big boy bed after I leave his room. I will never again admire his disproportionate, almost cartoonish, head. His body has finally caught up with his head size. I will never again be able to gaze at his bright blue eyes. Those eyes are now green.

My heart feels like it is burning from the inside out. I am helpless to the passage of time. With each year that passes and each birthday we celebrate, baby Jacob is left further behind. My greatest fear is that some day, I will forget him. That these memories will lose their power. That there will no longer be any recollection behind the pictures. That the heart and magic behind each photo will escape and leave behind only a hollow 2D outline of a sweet little baby that I once loved. A baby that was my whole entire world.

This feeling is a new one for me borne out of the perspective I've gained with the passage of time about the shortness of Jacob's year of baby hood. It makes me clutch Ryan so much tighter. And it makes me bawl thick, warm tears in the quiet of the evening.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Under New Mom-agment

I feel like I just had a life make-over. Or I'm living someone else's life. OR this is a dream. I'm going to wake up any second right?

The new job started on Tuesday and, holy hell, it is fabulous. I keep thinking "THIS is how normal people live?!" as if a cruel and unusual shackle has been cast off my shoulders and I'm finally learning what it is like to be a normal person. Everything seems brighter, better, and more wonderful. 

With my new job, I get the best of both worlds: I get to live like a "normal" person and have an attorney job! No late hours. No insane billable hours. No pressure to make partner. No anxiety over trying to bring in new clients. I get some darn good benefits. I get an office. I get to do interesting and important work. I get home at (or even BEFORE) 5:00 p.m. This just has to be a dream. The salary isn't anything special for an attorney job but...I feel ridiculous for even bringing that up given how great everything else is. 

The peaceful view from my new office:

The work itself is interesting and important. I'm part of a team that acts very much like the general counsel for the local government. We do everything and anything. We provide counsel on any topic that might arise out of the governance of a county and the operation of any government agency or department. This includes litigation and contracts. I already have research assignments on everything from agency law and the implementation of policies, Indian law tax issues, restoration of gun rights, and health insurance programs under the new national law. I've also been assigned to assist in pre-trial work for a case we are defending. I'm approaching everything with wide eyes, a bushy tail, and a unwaivering smile. Am I still dreaming?

There's just one tiny problem. I'm only guaranteed 6 months of employment. So as much as I want to let out a deep sigh and revel in the amazement that I actually landed this too-good-to-be-true job, the threat of future unemployment looms above all the wonderfulness. Still, I'm trying really hard to ignore that gray cloud and grasp desperately onto my effervescent and undefeatable optimism. 

Before I got this job, I had no idea what a civil prosecutor actually did (other than defend against lawsuits). I had no idea this was the job of my dreams. And that it was only 15 minutes away from my home. Even though I originally went to law school because I wanted to be an attorney for a government agency or a local government entity, I was positive that I would be a private litigator for the rest of my life. I had lost sight of my original inspiration or had simply accepted that it was too impossible to land one of these jobs, especially with my legal experience narrowly limited to the realm of personal injury litigation. 

When I interviewed for this job, I didn't even want it. When they offered me the position (by way of a presumptuous voicemail message welcoming me to the team), I still didn't want it. When I accepted the position (out of extreme desperation), I was convinced I was making the wrong choice and throwing my career away. But, I really wanted to be closer to home and told myself it would be worth the "sacrifice." 

The "sacrifice" has turned into the most wonderful situation I could imagine. I can't believe how lucky I am. Jobs like mine do not become available very often. Because they are so good, there is not much turn-over. I keep replaying all the events that got me to where I am and I cannot believe how well all the pieces fell into place. It's as if this is what I was meant to do. As if I've fallen in line with my destiny and the universe is indicating it's approval by no longer fighting against me. 

Now, if only I can convince them to hire me permanently....

Now that my commute is shorter (it's 15 minutes at the maximum which is only 13% of the length of my prior commute), I have truly become a different person. I get home at 5:00 p.m. and leisurely make dinner while the kids play at my feet. Sometimes we actually go to the park or ride bikes in the back alley or run errands or even do chores... DURING THE WEEKDAYS! This was absolutely unheard of before since I never got home before 7:00 p.m. and many times I got home at 8:00 p.m. 

With my prior commute, I would typically come home from work on a Friday night at 7:00 p.m. at the earliest. I would come home purely exhausted and have to fight an internal battle between desperately wanting to spend time with the kids and desperately wanting to put them to bed so I could collapse on the couch. Then I would sit on the couch and do absolutely nothing but be a zombie for the rest of the night. 

This Friday, I got home at 5:00 p.m., I disassembled Ryan's crib, I picked up the kids from my mom, took them shopping for party supplies, played with the kids, picked up dinner, re-organized the boys' entire room, and tucked them peacefully into bed. What a change! THIS is how normal people live!!

The momentum from this positive life change has encouraged me to be more balanced and healthy in other aspects of my life. For the first time since we were married, I put together a budget (with my husband's input). We set aside some goals and I'm tracking our spending with nazi-like discipline. I'm also eating much more healthy now that I'm not constantly rushing to throw food together or cram all my meal planning in on the weekends. For the first time probably in the history of my life there was a real (non-potato) side of vegetables served with every dinner meal this week. My daily lunches are even half vegetable. Who am I?! 

I feel like I have a complete handle on all aspects of my life right now. It's amazing how the extra energy and hours I've saved from commuting have completely enhanced my quality of life. THIS is how normal people live! I absolutely love it!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Osoyoos, Canada

Osoyoos, Canada is a little vacation world that boasts beautiful scenery and pleasant pool and lakeside experiences for tourists. It's a tourist town and while it is popular among Canadians, its treasures are unfamiliar to Americans. Five minutes from the U.S. border, a desert lake surrounded by mountainous hills, it's Canada's best kept secret.

Our hotel was way down there, right along the water's edge.

This is the place were our good friends finally tied the knot 2.5 years ago and, lucky for us, they invited us to join them on their vacation this labor day weekend. We headed up on Thursday and returned Monday evening. The kids, who have been unusually testy lately, did surprisingly well on the seven hour long car ride up and back. (It was only supposed to be six hours, but thanks to some accidents and traffic, we spend an hour each way parked on the freeway or moving at a snails pace on the highway).

Enjoying our hour long "pit stop" on the way up:

Our friends do not have kids and have absolutely no plans to change that. I was a little concerned that my rowdy family would ruin their otherwise quiet vacation. Luckily, the kids kept their melt downs to a minimum and I'm pretty sure we all had fun :)

Ryan was surprisingly accommodating at bed time. He slept anywhere that I tucked him in. One night he slept on couch cushions on the living room floor. One time he slept on the pull out couch with Jacob. And one time they both slept on couch cushions in our bedroom closet. I laid both kids down, kissed them goodnight, and they just drifted off to sleep. It was incredibly amazing. I totally lucked out when it comes to low-maintenance kids at bedtime. Part of me thinks that they are low maintenance because I have always kept their bedtime routines short. They know that when the light goes off, they have to stay in bed. I don't act like bedtime is a big deal and so they don't treat it like a big deal.

By the end of our four night vacation, we had a daily routine down which primarily involved lounging by the pool and hot tub, ordering poolside drinks, and eating food. In addition to that, I got in a daily 5-6 mile run each morning! We stopped by the grocery store our first night and stocked up on groceries. I cooked our first dinner meal (soy sauce and Italian dressing grilled chicken with oven-roasted veggies) in addition to from-scratch pancakes the next morning, and a french toast feast on our last morning. We also made plenty of BP&J sandwiches (my absolute favorite- I could eat them anytime).

We went to a horse track and I got to show off my horse racing prowess. I even came away with a whopping 70 cent profit. Ryan loved watching the horses, Jacob loved watching the races, but the time in between posts was pretty much a nightmare as the kids were hot and restless.

So we decided to stick by the pool the rest of the day. Walking to the pool became a game. Jacob would run ahead of us down the long, winding hotel hallway with a blow-up floaty around his waste and Ryan would shriek and run after Jacob, his lower body rocking from side to side as his little legs pumped out from underneath him, his belly puffed out, and his two arms dangling behind him. He looked very much like a penguin trying to run on ice.

Ryan lost his banana chip.

I prefer to stay pool side. I don't like to be cold. Even for a millisecond.

Jacob was a water bunny and practiced his favorite activity: jumping into the deep end on his floaty. He can swim but only when he is completely under water. He hasn't figured out how to swim with his head above the surface yet. Which is totally odd, but whatever makes him happy.

We also found an awesome lakefront park that we all enjoyed (even the grown-ups). No one can judge you when you are on vacation. That's the rule.

Heart melt:

On our last night, we visited a small amusement park to celebrate Jacob's birthday. Even the big kids had fun riding the go-karts. The celebration was clearly a success by the gigantic smile that was frozen across Jacob's face.

Our last morning in Osoyoos was Jacob's actual birthday. During my morning run, I stopped at a grocery store and picked up bread and candles and ran three miles back with these items tucked under my arm. This was not my favorite run in recent memory but it was worth it to see Jacob's face when I presented him with a glowing plate of french toast.

My gregarious, testy, intelligent, protective, creative little man is five years old. Although he tests me to the ends of my limits, he brings so much enthusiasm and spice to our family. He is an elephant-sized personality in a little boy's body. And he is so proud to tell every stranger he meets that he is now FIVE.

As I mentioned, our friends do not have kids but it is so fun to watch them enjoy the pleasures of "foster" parenthood as they play with our kids. They are so good with our kids and have developed a great relationship with them. We are so lucky to have these awesome people in our lives and in our kids' lives.