Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Getting All Sentimental Up In Here

I don't know if it's fall, or I'm more acutely aware of my blessings, or if it's the awesomeness of the new job/lack of commute (or perhaps all three converging at once), but I'm constantly walking around thinking, "I'm so happy." Happy is a really vague and over-used word. But....it fits.

I've been thinking a lot about happiness lately. I would consider myself a very happy person (I've was often given the nickname "Smiley"). I've always been that way. I'm generally upbeat and positive and I have been pretty good (although not perfect) at making my happiness not reliant on things outside of my control. I have this incredible ability not to stress or worry about things. I like to find humor in everything around me, I go out of my way to look for it. I don't aim for perfection (except for work which has been an amazing outlet for the very tiny part of me that is really competitive and needs to accomplish things). When things heat up, I just shrug and think "eh, it will work out."

Despite this, there have been several things that had been nagging at me since graduating from law school and generally affecting my daily happiness/outlook on life.

The biggest thing was my guilt for being a working mom. But I cut my commute down considerably and, over the years, I have come to realize that my children are not being damaged by not having a stay-at-home mommy. In fact, they are smart, thriving, and happy and our house is overflowing with love. Plus, going to work makes me a better person. It's an outlet that makes me happy (mostly) and helps me better appreciate my time with my kids. At first I had to convince myself really hard that my kids were not missing anything by me going to work. Now, I can say with full confidence that I totally believe it.

The second issue was my dissatisfaction with our "worldly possessions." It was really hard at first not to be angry about my overwhelming student loan debt. I mean the amount of student loans I owe is absolutely ridiculous (and I didn't even go to an Ivy League school). I assumed, naively, that I would get a big fancy lawyer job with a big fancy lawyer salary to go with it. Sadly, I'm three years post law school and making less than many people I know with less experience and no professional degree or mountainous student loan debt. Because a huge chunk of my pay goes to loans, (and because we bought our house at the wrong time), we are stuck in our tiny, tiny, tiny home (did I mention it is tiny?). And we still owe a heck of a lot of medical bills from Ryan's birth.

I tried so hard to just be happy with what I had. I tried so hard not to compare myself with others. I tried not to think about what salary I thought I "deserved." I tried so hard not to look with envy at home design magazines and HGTV shows. I tried so hard to be satisfied. But deep down, despite my efforts, I kept a running list of the things I didn't have (dishwasher, fireplace, playroom, separate bedroom for each kid). I have not been proud of my materialism/consumerism.

While I continue to struggle with this, I've had a mini awakening. Our home was built in 1910. Homes were typically smaller back then (our 950 sq. ft. home is obvious proof). And the more I think about it, the more I realize that our society has simply created crazy expectations about what homes should be and look like. We don't need McMansions. We don't need 2,500 sq. ft. homes. We don't need sitting rooms and day rooms and man caves and gyms and sewing rooms. We don't need separate rooms for just the laundry machine (OMG...some people have those?!). We don't need leather couches (for the kids to not touch), or treadmills (that will go unused), or walk-in closets (sigh, ok, that would be both nice and useful). Homes are made up of people not things.

Then I had a flashback of a collection of photos my high school teacher showed our Humanities class. It showed the typical family from a collection of countries, each surrounded by all of their possessions. The wealth disparity was amazing. Some families owned little more than the clothes on their backs and a handful of possessions. Then there was the typical American family standing in front of a huge home, their nicely manicured lawn overflowing with material items.

This beautiful webpage reminds me a lot of that collection and absolutely makes me feel a million things all at once: http://www.featureshoot.com/2013/03/photos-of-children-from-around-the-world-with-their-most-prized-possessions/ This reminds me of how little kids actually need to be happy and, at the same time, breaks my heart at how little some people have. Those contradictory thoughts and feelings perhaps evidence the pervasiveness of our consumerism. We feel sorry for those kids with so little and yet, they still laugh and play and are likely the purest of all.

Putting everything in perspective, I've come to realize how fortunate I am in everything that I have both material and non-material. It helps me approach the current limits of our finances and square footage as a challenge and an adventure. My goal is to teach my kids that we don't need things to be happy. This has made me so much more accepting of what we have and I no longer look jealously at neighbors, friends, and coworkers with "perfect" homes and new cars and...dishwashers. I may not be able to give my kids their own rooms, but I'm giving them a lesson in materialism.

The final issue I need to tackle is body image acceptance. People laugh when I chime in on conversations about physical improvements. They dismiss me because I'm "thin." But body image acceptance isn't about a certain size or weight or circumference. It's about separating our self love from our physical appearance. Thankfully, in addition to extra skin and stretch marks, motherhood results in the creation of a new source of happiness: our children.

And now I'm going to be corny and just say what I often think to myself on a regular basis: life is so amazing. The fact that we are alive is so incredibly amazing. We didn't do anything to get here. We didn't do anything to earn this wonderful gift of life. Someone GAVE it to us (whether you believe that was God or science or coincidence). We hit the jackpot. Look around. The smell of dirt and trees. The somber quiet of the overcast sky. The beautiful pattern of falling rain (I live in Seattle, duh). The fact that we have vision. And smell. The fact that we have the capacity to love, and feel angry, and express sadness. We live in a giant fishbowl of amazingness. When someone hands you a $20 bill, you don't complain because you weren't given a $50. Why should I be unsatisfied? I have everything.

"I have everything." I say that on repeat when I wake up and am greeted by four small arms seeking hugs. I say that when I tuck two sleepy children into bed each night. I say that when I hear the boys giggling at each other or when I hear Jacob teaching Ryan something new. Not only do I get the gift of life, I get to share it. I don't think there is anything better.

One of my favorite quotes/sentiments (I have no idea where I heard this) goes something like this: we already  have everything we need to be happy. It's so true.

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Prostitutor

The other day I was in ToysRUs with both kids shopping for a friend's birthday present. After perusing several aisles with the kids, I realized how utterly unhelpful the entire effort was. Surprisingly, Jacob understood and accepted the fact that we were not here to buy toys for him and he never asked for a single toy once. But he was easily distracted and not helpful in picking out a toy for his friend either. So I had Jacob and Ryan go play with a train table display so I could get shit done. In peace.

After a while, I heard Jacob talking to another kid at the train table. The kid's mother was standing by watching. The kid started telling Jacob about his mom's work (something to do with large, fun construction equipment). Then Jacob, who apparently cannot pronounce the word "prosecutor," blurted out, "My mommy is a prostitutor!" The kid's mom looked very puzzled. I got such a kick out of it that I didn't even bother to correct him, which probably confused the mother more.

I look forward to more stories from Jacob involving, "my mommy the prostitutor."

Speaking of "prostituting," I'm still loving my job. Almost in a scary way. Most of my time is spent preparing for trial for a really fun personal injury case. Both sides have filed summary judgment motions. The issues involved in this case are novel and interesting and there really is no controlling case law. I've been doing a lot of the drafting for our motions and oppositions. Motions practice is by far one of my favorite things about being an attorney. I love to craft arguments, attack other peoples arguments, and basically take a bunch of weird cases and try to make them fit into the way I'm framing the issues. Whenever someone asks me to draft a motion, I get so excited, it feels like my eyeballs are going to explode from the pressure.

We attended a summary judgment hearing the other week and I sat in the benches while my boss argued the motion. The judge was also very fascinated by our case and you could see him getting all excited as he heard our arguments. As the opposing party was arguing their side, the judge took an argument I had written and promoted it. It was so awesome to hear a judge use an argument that I had created. At the end, he ruled in our favor and made a point to compliment our briefing. I was beaming with pride. I had spend at least 16+ hours researching and drafting that sucker! (Side note: this is another thing I LOVE about general counsel work versus law firm practice, I don't have to worry about over-billing so I can take my time on assignments, know every nook and cranny of the law, and do it all right without rushing or stressing!).

I'm also helping on non-litigation projects, which I'm still getting used to. Often times I will be thrown an issue in which I have absolutely no background knowledge. But the issues are always fascinating and my passion for public policy carry me through 800+ pages of public comment on rules from government agencies, almost without a headache. Administrative law was not my strong suit. My recent project has to do with law enforcement and mental illness, a topic that is very current right now.

Basically what it boils down to is that I love feeling connected to public policy. I love working on projects that will impact the community. I love being involved in local government, even if it is just a minor capacity. This job is my dream come true.

As far as the office goes, I'm slowly getting to know my coworkers better but I most often still feel like the new kid at school. I don't feel like I have a whole lot in common with my coworkers, although they are very nice. I know most people show a different version of themselves at the office. But I can be such a shy person, especially when I really want people to like me. I feel like the me at work is such a disconnect from the real me. I can't wait until I'm more comfortable and become better friends with everyone so I can feel like myself again.

My attempts at small talk are so freaking awkward and hilarious. I wish someone could film my attempts to interact with coworkers all day. I passed one attorney in the hall as he was taking his plate of lunch to his office, and desperate to start a conversation, I made a comment about the shape of the carrot on his plate. OMG. One of the legal secretaries has an office that inclines upward. Today, trying hard to start a conversation, I told her that she would be the most safe in a flood. Then there was awkward silence. I resisted the urge to laugh maniacally just to break that silence. Then there is the elderly coworker who asked me to have all of his babies.

There is one senior attorney in our office who is a very strange, but very smart man. I have a soft spot in my heart for strange people with weird people skills (because they are my people!). He likes to talk. A lot. The mind-blowing thing is that he can start talking to you about one subject and then go off into a series of tangents only slightly related to that subject but, eventually, he will always wind his way back to the original topic without missing a beat. He starts out talking about health information disclosures, then before you know it, it is two hours later and we are talking about meat packing at the grocery store and right when I'm about to give up hope that I will never get the answer I came in for, he will link meat packing right back to health information and - voila! There is my answer.

When he talks, he closes his eyes for up to 90 seconds at a time. Sometimes he flutters his eyelids uncontrollably it is like they are having mini-seizures on top of his eyeballs. Oftentimes, about 2.5 hours into his monologue, my ass is sore from sitting and my brain freezes over. I'll stare at him blankly and unfocus my eyes to create a double vision effect. Then I'll change the focus of my eyes to give him multiple eyeballs. Adjust the focus a little and he had three eyeballs. Adjust a little more and he has four eyeballs. Rotate my head a little and his four eyeballs begin to slant downward across his face. This is what I do to keep from pocking pens into my eyeballs.

Oh.. and you know how some people say, "yada yada?" Well, instead of that, he says, "smoochie-smoochie-smoo." The first time I heard him say that, my zen face cracked and I erupted into laughter in the middle of his office. I've found myself resisting the urge to incorporate that phrase into my daily conversations. What is happening to me?!

Oh how I love office socialization!

Thursday, October 24, 2013


My pride was hung on a perfectly slender frame
Positioned atop the legs of a runner
A frame given by genetics
I draped it proudly, nothing to hide.
Emulating twigs on magazine covers.

Where once there was firm, smooth skin
Now there is give. Extra flesh
Having released two children from its clutches
It retains a disturbed shape, as if yearning
For the four phantom limbs it once carried.

I love my body for what it can do
A hymn I repeat without conviction
Trying so hard to bury disgust
At the ripples of silver stretching across my abdomen
A map of rivers reflecting the sun's light

The picture of motherhood is not idyllic
New cells divide, laying the floor plan to life
Just as old cells fall prey to atrophy
They sprout and flourish as a parasite
To be cut violently from my body, fruit gauged from its vine

Some days it is hard to love what is left
A deep scar cutting across my lower abdomen
My skin marred, tired, stretched like a blown tire
I squirm in the reeds of my new self
Struggling to find myself within my reflection

Each day I fight the fight anew
But would never wish the struggle away
Just as antimatter shriveled and exploded
That moment before it brought forth earth
Two hearts have left my body, strong and pulsing with life
And they are beautiful.

Since Ryan was born I've been struggling with self acceptance. I oscillate between being confident and proud in what my body is and does and angry and upset at what it no longer looks like. Sometimes I get so caught up in this battle that I lose sight of my blessings. Motherhood itself is a blessing. After going through 13 months of secondary infertility, I thought I would never take it for granted. And here I am, my "baby" is only 18 months old, and I'm consumed once again in the inconsequential and petty hang-ups. Motherhood is not a right. Motherhood is a blessing. While many of us do, no one is guaranteed to experience it. Anyone who has stared at the soulless darkness of infertility is acutely aware of this fact.

I'm counting my blessings today. I'm basking in the wonder and amazement of everything that comes along with being a mother. It can be hard. It can be ugly. It brings out both our worst and our best. But the entire experience, all of it, is nothing but a wonderful honor.

Right now, as I enjoy the beauty of this phase of my life, my thoughts are with all those people who are not so lucky. All those people still waiting and hoping and praying. Even though I only experienced a relatively short period of infertility, a little part of that struggle will always remain in me. My heart will never be able to forget the pain and the repeated blows that each new month of emptiness brings to those who are so desperate to love. For this reason, I promise to appreciate all that I have been given.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Fall Smells Like Goat Poop...And My Heavy Dying Mommy Heart

Finally, the search is over! After five years, we've finally found the perfect pumpkin patch! Pumpkin patches are like photographers. They are everywhere. There are so many to choose from and yet so little that are actually of good quality. And you never know whether you found the right one until after you try it. (A discussion of my annoyance of amateur/novice photographers who start their own business will be reserved for another post- do I sound bitchy? I've been feeling bitchy lately).

The last few years, our pumpkin patch adventures have been...less than satisfying. The one we went to last year was basically three rows of pumpkins sitting in the middle of a personal family junkyard. Although the kids did enjoy the beater tractors and the fact that chickens were running around everywhere. Unfortunately, all the pumpkins were on the verge of rotting. At least I got some great pictures. Including this gem:

And this one:

And this:

And, can't forget the owl boobies:

Anyway, the past can now be forgotten because we found the bestest of the best. And, the best part, it's only a short hour drive from home. In case you aren't in the "know," pumpkin patches are rarely just about pumpkins. Lucky for us, Maris Family Farms in Buckley, Washington offers so many activities that you almost need to go twice to do everything. They had the typical pumpkin patch activities such as a corn maze, hay ride, bouncy house, pumpkin slingshot, and face paint. But they also had a jump pillow (I had no idea what this was before our trip here), tube slides, pig races, goat feeding, petting zoo, zip lines, monster truck rides (yes, a REAL monster truck), camel rides, go-carts, pony rides, zombie paintball, and MORE! I was totally blown away by the awesomeness. The kids had so much fun! We were there for two hours and still didn't get to do everything.

My husband was not able to come today but we brought along plenty of cousins. This made for some very cute photo ops.

Kids and pumpkins. Nothing cuter!

He is such a ham. He has a pose for every photo.

He just wants it to stop so he can go kick some pumpkins. (As soon as we got to the pumpkins, Ryan ran right up to them and began to kick them furiously as if they were immovable soccer balls.)

A barrel full of cuteness! I seriously cannot handle all this cuteness. Is there a defibrillator nearby?

More Jacob poses.

We all enjoyed the jump pillow. Except Mommy's back is really feeling it today.

The slide was also fun and also made Mommy's back feel like it was cracking in half. (Seriously, I'm not even 30. What's wrong with me?!)

The bike-pedal powered go-karts were a huge hit! 

But I had to bend down and push and steer Ryan. (My back seriously hates me).

Then there was this creepy man.

And I promise that this was a hay ride.

The next pictures are very very sad. The first one is from last year. When I saw it, big wet tears puddled up in my eyes. I miss that baby so much. I miss the smell of that baby. I miss the way that baby cuddled on my chest. I miss that baby's gummy smile. Motherhood is the saddest thing on the planet.

And this is that baby today. Gulp. Tear. Wipe. Blow nose. Move on.

Because I enjoy this particular form of torture, here are the boys, last year and now.

I'm going to need to have you call 911 now. If my heart has not broken by now, I'm pretty sure that I just had a hard attack. Wait, that wasn't painful enough. Maybe one more.

October 2012 

October 2013

As you can see, I'm having a fit of nostalgia. I'm so paranoid that I will blink and Ryan will be 5, just like his big brother.

In the past two weeks Ryan's vocabulary has exploded. For the longest time he was only saying a handful of his favorite words (well "ball," mostly). But in just the past two weeks he's saying everything! His favorite sentence is "where are you." When he wants or is looking for something, he will sing out this phrase as he wanders across the house looking for his item of interest. I love it when he is looking for his Daddy and sings, "Dada, where ARE you?" Totally melts my face off.

When he's hungry, Ryan will go sit in one of the big chairs at our dining room table and say, "Eat! Pees (please). Eat!" His big blue eyes look at me from the edge of the table (his head barely reaches the tabletop) and I'm hypnotized to his every command. The problem with Ryan talking is that I can no longer say no to him. This is because (1) I actually KNOW what he wants for a change and (2) he is too darn cute.

Ryan usually does baby sign language for "please" when he wants something. But the other day, he walked up to me and said, "kaka" (cracker). Before I could reply, he grabbed my finger to lead me to the kakas and said "pees! pees! (please)." I swear that I died five times. He could ask me for anything in that sweet little voice and he will get it. It's the deadly combination of his big pleading eyes and the enthusiasm with which he utters the word "pees!" I'm doomed. This is the end of discipline in my household as I know it.

For as sweet as Ryan can be, he is equally as rough. He is such a bulldozer, trampling everything and anyone in his path. He loves to hit. He doesn't really intend to hit, he just likes sports and sees everything as a target. Every once in a while I'll catch him with a toy golf club, whacking the back of Jacob's legs. I'm pretty sure "no hit!" is probably the most commonly used phrase in our house. Then we tell Ryan, "Be nice. Give Jacob a hug" and he walks over to Jacob sheepishly, puts his face down, and, with his body still several inches away, leans his head into Jacob so that only his head is touching Jacob's body. It's the most obvious reluctant hug I've ever seen. Hopefully Ryan is learning compassion, however reluctantly.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Check Up

You know what is crazier than wrestling five snakes at one time? Taking two kids to the doctor's office for a dual check-up. I had to reschedule Jacob's 5 year check-up last month when I started my new job. I figured it would be a bad call to take time off work for a doctor's appointment my second day of work. So, with some fancy calendaring footwork, I managed to get both boys in on the same day. Ryan had his 18 months check-up and Jacob had his 5 year check up, back to back.

Perfect! Or so I thought. 

I always forget how much work it is to wrangle these two to the doctor's. We started off enjoying our laid back morning. As I took a shower and got dressed, the boys played together. Ryan is absolutely fascinated by everything Jacob does. He wants to be included in all games and jokes. When I stepped out of the shower, I was met by the sight of the boys having sword fights. Ryan was holding his own and managed to be a formidable foe. 

Saving the world before breakfast!

After that, time seemed to accelerate unfairly and we were rushing out the door. By the time our late morning appointment rolled around, Ryan was crabby and ready for a nap. Jacob discovered that his shoes were soaking wet from the day before (no idea how THAT happened). And neither kid had finished their breakfast. I shoved items into the diaper bag like a mad person (also packing my purse and lunch and work stuff). 

I managed to pull into the parking lot with three minutes to spare only to discover when I opened the back door of the car that Ryan had ripped off both his shoes and his socks during the ride. And Jacob protested the dampness of his shoes and refused to put them on. 

Needless to say, I showed up at the front desk out of breath and with two little barefoot boys. But at least we were only late by 30 seconds. Walking down the hall chasing after barefoot Jacob while wearing heels, my hands full of bags, with barefoot Ryan squirming uncontrollably out of my arms, we passed two teenage girls. I became acutely aware of the insanity of my life. I'm pretty sure that when teenagers see us out in public, they take an immediate vow of chastity and never want to have sex. Like ever. 

In the waiting room, the older girls gathered around Ryan offering him toys and giggles. Ryan pointed to all the older kids and exclaimed excitedly, "baby! baby! baby!" I'm pretty sure that none of them appreciated being called a baby.

When it was our turn to go back into the room, I stripped the boys down to their undies/diapies. And it didn't take lone before the exam room was a full blown circus. The kids were spinning on the doctor's stool, jumping off the chairs, wrestling and giggling on the floor. Ryan kept walking up to the wall and smacking his head against it, giggling in between blows. Then they began to spin like ballerinas, flopping all over each other and the floor. My attempts to calm and corral them did not work and I eventually gave up and let them get it out of their systems. Down the hall babies and kids were screaming in fear and terror. I reminded myself to be thankful that mine were laughing, however hysterically. 

When the doctor came in, she asked Jacob how old he was. Jacob proudly told her that he was five years old. She asked Ryan how old he was. Ryan also proudly declared that he was five. Now, when we ask Ryan how old anyone is, he answers, "five."

We took stats next. At five years old, Jacob is 44 lbs (50%) and 44 in tall. (75%). Ryan is 26 lb, 12 oz (50%) and 33 in tall (75%). It's amazing to me how consistent kids are in their percentiles. Both Jacob and Ryan have been the same percentiles pretty much from birth. I'd like to take credit for that but I don't really think their growth has anything to do with all the fruit snacks and hot dogs I'm feeding them.

After the appointment, we walked down to the lobby and threw pennies in the fountains. When I ran out of pennies, Jacob threw a tantrum. Ryan was on the verge of a tantrum until I handed him a piece of bark to toss into the fountain. I'm really going to miss when his low expectations disappear.

Despite the craziness of the morning, I really enjoyed spending it with my kids. I always love when I get a few extra bonus hours with them. That didn't mean that I wasn't very happy to put them in their grandma's capable hands and enjoy my quiet peaceful drive to the office. When I walked into my office and saw the clean desk, I let out a happy sigh. I soaked up the quiet, thought about the organized list of tasks that awaited me, and reveled in the thought that for the next couple hours no one would whine or throw a tantrum in my face. Then I turned on my space heater and made myself a nice, warm cup of tea.


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

On "Fairness" In The Workplace

Many months ago, I was listening to the radio when there was a discussion on gender equality in the workplace. One of the guest speakers said something that stuck in my head. It has been bothering me ever since. The female speaker said something along the lines of, "Women who leave the workplace for a period of time to have and raise babies, should, upon their return, make the exact same amount as their male counterparts who stayed behind and continued to work. It's unfair that women are forced to bear the burden of reproduction while men are completely unaffected. This is why there is income inequality."

Allegedly, in this woman's mind, if a woman stepped out of her career for a couple years to have children, when she returned to work she should be given the same salary with raises and benefits as if she had never left work at all. Even though this woman had no extra job values or career skills to offer her employer (other than an incredible new perspective on life) than when she left. Apparently, women are "burdened" by reproduction. And apparently, it's up to employers and businesses to right this horrible, terrible "burden."

I'm sorry. That's not equality. That's the opposite of equality. I'm all for equality in the work place. Women should be paid the same as men of equal qualifications for doing the same quality of work. But they should not be paid the same for not working at all. Equality is not giving everyone the same thing. Equality is measuring everyone by the same objective performance standards. Fairness is not taking away our differences but offering reasonable accommodations (non-monetary) to allow individuals to participate in and get the most out of their careers despite lifestyle choices.

There is a part of me that understands the argument that this woman proposes. At first blush, it does seem unfair that half the population has to step back from their careers for even a short period of time (often 6 weeks) based solely upon their gender and their desire to bring forth the next generation. But when our society sees the wonderful gift of creating life as a "burden," ... boy do we have it all wrong.

You know what is really "unfair?" Men will never experience the movements of a child growing within. Men will never know what it feels like to nurture a child with their own bodies. Men, aside from the obvious contributions at the beginning of a pregnancy, will never be able to create life. The amazing, surreal, and mind blowing experience of creating a person can only be experienced by men on the periphery. This joy is reserved solely for those lucky enough to be women. That is what is really unfair.

I'm not saying all of pregnancy and childbirth is easy. I, as much as anyone, know how hard it can be. I absolutely hated being pregnant. But even despite abdomen muscle separation, kidney stones, stretch marks, back pain, and being unable to breathe for the last three months of pregnancy, even despite all of those things, the miracle of it all is hard to ignore and I would never give it all up for the alternative.

So when our society, and women in particular, complain about the "burden" of reproduction as if it is some black mark or disability that women need to be liberated from, I can't help but think that we have our priorities all wrong. We're buying into the male-centric view that the end-all, be-all of our worth as humans is our place in the workforce totem pole and the size of our paycheck. Under this male-dominated view of self-worth, being separated from your job, for even just a couple weeks, is the ultimate career death and, therefore, the cure is for women is to be treated as if they never left.

As a working mom, I know it is important for workplaces to support both women and men who enter the wonderful world of parenthood. Obviously, I think that women should not be punished for taking time off to have children. They should not have to worry about being fired for going on maternity leave or taking sick days related to pregnancy and childbirth. They should be given opportunities to excel and move up in their careers upon their return to work. But why are we being told to treat our unique physical capabilities (i.e. the ability to create life) as a handicap? Why do we think we should be given things we do not earn as a consolation prize for having to bear the "burden" of enduring the great miracle of life?

It's not "fair" that women have to bear the majority of pregnancy and childbirth. Just as it is not fair that people with no kids have more disposable income. Just as it is not fair that some people are unable to have children. Just as it is not fair that some people are born with disabilities. Just as it is not fair that we do not get to choose our gender at conception. But giving women more pay for less work when they take time off to have children is as absurd as establishing someone's pay based upon how many children they have. Mothers above all else, who repeatedly have to introduce the concept of life as unfair to their children should understand the application of this very concept!

We all make choices in life. We all have different values. We all have different physical and mental capabilities. Some of us are men. Some of us our women. The only way to ensure "fairness" in the workplace is not by taking away our differences so that we are all the same but to reasonably accommodate our differences so that, no matter what those differences are, we have the opportunity to contribute to and participate in our professions and careers.

I find it highly offensive that society views our differences as "disabilities" as if we all should want the exact same things out of life and any deviations or alterations from the "straight an narrow" career path, whether forced or chosen, render us inferior or someone to be pitied or liberated. I also find it very unsettling that women view the natural ability to create life as an intolerable and insufferable burden that must be alleviated. We should celebrate the fact that we are fortunate enough to be born women and that we have the amazing ability to make an entirely new person with nothing more than our bodies (and, of course, some male contribution at the very beginning).

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Dear Diary: Updated

Sometimes I feel like quitting my blog. But then I realize that as trivial and un-viral as this blog is, it plays an important role in my life. When I get happy news, one of the first things I want to do is share it on here. Same for when I feel sad. The very act of writing out my feelings helps me to digest and massage them. Even if I am upset about the silliest thing, I can express those feelings here and not worry about anyone judging me (well, not to my face anyway). Then I can try to move on.

Last night I did exactly that. I vomited my feelings so that I could try to put them behind me. And then this morning, I deleted those feelings. I realized that even though it's therapeutic to write things out and put them on paper in order to help get them out of my head. It is not always a good idea to hit that "publish" button.

Once things are released into the internet world, they live forever. That's a scary thought!

So instead of posting my emotional vomit, I'll focus on the awesomeness of this weekend.

Friday night was Date Night One. We headed out on a full-blown adventure, trying a new pizza restaurant in the Georgetown neighborhood of Seattle. Sitting around a delicious pizza exploding with two inches of toppings, my husband I were horrified to realize that we hadn't been on a real date since May, mother's day. After pizza, we went to a historic theater and watched an up-and-coming band called Lucious. They were incredible. I enjoyed the show despite my incredible back pain I got from standing for two hours to watch it (I learned early on in our music-filled dating experiences that, thanks to eight years of competitive running (and then two pregnancies), my back is destroyed and I cannot stand for longer than 30 minutes. As sad and old as I sound, I refuse to go to shows that do not have assigned seats. Turns out this show did not, so I was resigned to sitting on the floor halfway through and staring at everyone's asses). But the show was so good that it was worth crippling back pain.

The next day, we spent quality time with the boys in anticipation of Date Night Part Two. I took Ryan to get a haircut.It's amazing how a haircut can transform your baby into a big boy. Tear.

Jacob got to go rock climbing at the local gym. He's a little timid, just like me. But he did great!

For Date Night Two (I'm such a lucky gal), we walked to our local theater (I love that we have a brand new fancy theater within walking distance!) and saw Gravity in 3-D. Wow. That was the best movie I had seen in a LONG time. It was so fantastic. I would highly recommend 3-D, it made the experience so incredible! My sister saw the movie last week and told me it had no plot. But for the entire show, I was clutching the armrests and on the edge of my seat. It was amazing. As I held my breath time and time again wondering what would happen next, I couldn't help but laugh at my sister's review. The entire thing was an intense survival story- how is that no plot?!

Sadly, the 3-D glasses did NOT work in bed. (cough, cough). Can't blame me for trying.

When we went to pick up the boys this morning, we were greeting with huge smiles and even bigger hugs. As much as I love date nights, I love reuniting with my babies even more. Ryan's grandma dressed him all up in fancy boys clothes (a far cry from the sweat pants we dropped him off in), with his haircut, he looked too perfect. I couldn't help but to do a mini-photo shoot.

My baby is losing his baby face- NO!

Waving "hi."

Now everyone is home and together. We're going to spend the day cuddled up in our sweat pants and cheering on the Seahawks. Now that it is football season, all my Sundays for the foreseeable future are completely blocked out. I'm totally obsessed. And I'm now fully equipped to raise two sports-loving boys. Go Seahawks!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Drag Shows, Football, & Pumpkins

Phew. It's already Wednesday and I'm still kicking myself trying to figure out where the weekend went. We were very busy. Insanely busy. But it was mostly all good stuff.

On Friday, I met up with my former coworker and friend and we had a mini girl's night. We went to a gay bar to get a drink and showed up just in time for a surprise drag show. Glad I can finally cross that off the bucket list. The drag show was seriously entertaining. I really enjoyed it, in a way that made me feel a little perverse. I'm just not used to being jealous of other MEN'S bodies. Everything was over the top. It was perfect.

Jacob had a buddy over on Saturday. I naively assumed that the two boys would run off and entertain themselves. But, phew, these boys were busy busy. They each insisted that I draw them Batman paraphernalia. So I quickly became the resident Batman illustrator. I drew Bat Caves, Batmobiles, Bat Motorcycles, Batplanes, and even Batman himself. Even with all that practice, I don't think Marvel will be knocking on my door any time soon. Then the boys wanted to build houses out of scrap wood. Are you kidding me? Just my luck these boys would refuse to play Legos or cars or other simple games. Sheesh. Upside: I used up all those extra hot glue sticks taking up valuable space in my junk drawer. 

Let's see...what else? Ryan enjoyed an entire cookie dough ice cream cone.

And a gigantic Costco hot dog. 

Since my recent interest in the Seahawks has officially morphed into obsession, Sundays in fall are officially football days (I like to imagine that God is proud to share his day of with Russell Wilson). As someone who has never really liked football until now, it was a very unfamilar and surreal experience when I woke up on Sunday to discover that our cable wasn't working and my body went into an uncontrollable anxiety about missing the Seahawks game. Just the thought sent me into a strange, feverish panic. My body was feeling things I had never felt before....about football of all things! My husband looked at me in horror when I insisted that we go across town to watch the game with friends. I saw the question in his eyes: "who IS this person?!"

There is definitely Seahawk hysteria in our house. We are all a little Hawk-crazy right now (which is totally being fueled by me and my gigantic crush on the Hawk QB). Jacob fell asleep in his eyeblack tonight. I was so proud.

This weekend was a milestone for Ryan as vocabulary has grown exponentially. Ryan has been taking his sweet time learning to say new words. At this age, Jacob was talking in sentences but, as a second born with a big brother to look out for him at all times, Ryan has not really had a need to talk for himself. However, his vocabulary has grown four-fold, seemingly overnight. My new favorite words that Ryan says are butterfly (sounds like "fly-fly"), basket (which used to sound like "basko" and now, sadly sounds perfectly accurate), and pumpkin. He is no longer shy about trying new words for the first time and his first attempts at new words can be downright hilarious. 

When I ask Ryan to say a new word, he gives a sly smile as if he knows something that we do not. He will then put together random consonants and vowels in an unrecognizable form. Jacob and I say, "yay!" and clap encouragingly. Ryan's sly smile creeps further across his face, as if he has secretly known how to say the word for months and is playing coy with us. His second attempt is much more accurate, and we cheer louder, with Ryan joining in.

Ryan is obsessed with waving. He waves to strangers at McDonalds. He waves to checkers at Costco. He waves to squirrels. He waves to the moon. When he waves, his hand is limp and his arm snaps back and forth at the wrist and elbow. It cracks me up every time. 

Ryan driving at the mall. Clearly we need to have a talk about distracted driving.

On Monday after I picked up the kids, we stopped at the grocery store and, in a moment of festivity, I let the kids each pick out a tiny pumpkin. Little did I know, that Jacob would have great plans for his pumpkin. We got home and he insisted on carving, despite my repeated coaxign that he just color it with a marker. Turns out, you CAN carve a tiny pumpkin. 

Meet Pirate Patch, very appropriately named by Jacob:

He insisted that the pumpkin have an eye patch and pointy teeth. Jacob also wanted me to draw drips of blood hanging from the teeth but....ew, I drew the line right there! He is strangely fascinated by all things "creepy." As someone who has never watched a single horror movie (the parody Scary Movie films gave me nightmares for days!), I do not understand this interest one single bit. I prefer smiling witches and cute pumpkins and innocuous black kittens. 

My not-so-little-stop-growing-up boys:

Monday, October 7, 2013

At Peace With It All

The other day I was talking to my mom and she mentioned that one of my cousins who had a baby six months ago has returned to work full time. To that, she added, "You're not the bad guy anymore!"

"Huh? What do you mean I'm not the bad guy anymore?"

"You're not the only working mom in the family now."

When I went to work after graduating from law school and having a baby, I just assumed working was expected of me. Ever since I can remember, my entire family has encouraged all of us to obtain the best education possible. Education became not just the top priority, it was the ONLY priority. My parents. My grandparents. My teachers. My adult role models. The same chant rang through my ear, "All that matters is getting a good education."

Well. I did. I did what everyone freaking told me. I tossed away my application to that film school in Montana (which was pretty much my dream and, in addition to my fondness for hot men in kilts, explains why I saw Gladiator seven times in the movie theater) and sent in applications to the highest ranking liberal arts schools that I thought I could get into.

And then guess what? I did pretty well. And I loved it. And I wasn't ready to be done when I graduated in three years. I spent a year interning for a local government agency and then I applied to law school. My parents LOVED to tell their friends that their daughter was in law school. I didn't know if I was on the right track, but I loved to be the source of their smiles.

"Cool," I thought. "I must be doing something right."

But then something strange happened. I had a baby in my last year of law school. Then I graduated. Then I got a job. Full time. As an attorney. "Hey proud family! You must be REALLY proud now!"


What? Didn't you hear me? I'm finally USING that education you guys wanted me to get so badly. I'm finally working in the field that you all were so proud of me to study in. Isn't that fantastic?!


One thing I didn't count on was a weird sort of mutated double standard. According to what my world was telling me, it seemed, women should be educated and smart. But how dare they want to use their education in a work environment once they became moms. Initially, most of the pressure I felt was from my own stay-at-home mom. She kept insisting that I didn't have to work. That I could find a way to stay home with my baby. Even though she was gracious enough to watch my baby while I was at work, she would very adamantly insist in overly-judgy gazes that my baby needed ME not her. When I would pick my son up from her house she would say, "I can't replace you. You're his mommy."

I can't tell you how many tears I cried over the immense guilt I felt that first year. It was nearly unbearable at times. The criticisms around me compounded with the own insecurities I felt. I loved being an attorney. But was I sacrificing my child's needs for my own career?

When my son was 3, I tried to wean him from his binky. But every time I tried, my mom would sabotage me. "He needs his binky. It's his security. Because you're not there." Ouch. It was a struggle. Those first couple years. There are a handful of very vivid memories I have of me staying late after work, trying to catch up on my billable hours, sitting in front of my computer, gazing at the picture of my baby, and letting fat, wet, warm tears spring from my eyes. I cried silently. Alone. In my office. Wondering if I wasn't making the biggest mistake of my life.

Then one day, I overheard my grandma and my mom talking. My grandma (also a stay-at-home mom) was giving my mom an earful about how horrible it was that I would leave my baby to work all day. How horrible it was that my mom was raising my son.

Listening to my grandma talk, I couldn't help but succumb to the wave of self-pity that washed over me. But at the same time, I started to understand a little bit of what my own mom was up against. When she was criticizing my choice to go to work, she was projecting a little bit of the harsh judgment of the world in which she, herself, was raised. She was reflecting on all the broken homes that my childhood friends grew up in, a cause of which she always attributed to the fact that there was not a parent at home. She was projecting the voice and concerns of her own mother (my grandmother). This was new territory for her. This was a world she did not understand.

As my mom was about to respond to my grandma's harsh criticism, I expected another heavy blow. But when she opened her mouth to the telephone, I didn't hear what I expected. She told my grandma how proud she was of me. How well I'm doing juggling everything. How much I love my baby. How hard I am working for my family. How well my husband and I work together. The breath that had been squeezed out of my body just moments before, returned and filled my lungs once again. I felt hopeful.

At first, my mom was my harshest critic. But over time, she became my biggest fan. Even though I lived a life very different from hers and was trying to survive in a world that she could not even imagine, she learned to support me. This year on my birthday, she stuck a handwritten letter in the diaper bag. I found it after I pulled up to the house and parked the car. I sat there and poured over every single word. It was so uplifting. As I read each sentiment, I felt, for the first time that she finally understood. She finally appreciated. It was incredible how accurately she described my personal challenges and worries and addressed them head on with encouragement and support.

The other day when my mom said, "You're not the bad guy anymore." My family's long-lasting criticism made sense. I've been fighting a lonely uphill battle. Until then I didn't realize that, out of a very large family with 50+ cousins on both sides, the majority of whom are married, that I was the ONLY full-time working mom. Up until this summer, when my cousin returned to work after having her baby girl, I was it. Taking the criticism on my own. (Some of my aunts were working moms but I don't remember my grandparents ever criticizing them- I haven't figured that one out yet).

All this time I was the only one trying to change my family's very traditional definition of the term "mom." I wish I had worried less about what they thought and focused more on being happy with my own decisions. It's easy to feel unsure about your mothering choices, to let the feelings of the outside world chip away at you, when you yourself won't come to peace with your own insecurities. Ultimately, for me, finding a job that was a good fit for my family and having my mom on my side was the key to feeling secure about my choices.

While I've slowly come to terms with my own insecurities and developed a small little support team (my mom and my husband), my jobs have played a very critical factor in how I feel about my choice to be a working mom. And yes, it is cliche, but everything really does come down to balance.

My first job offered a great career but was bad for family. The second job was great for family but boring and a waste of my lawyer skills. The third job was a part time (30 hours) version of my first job. That still didn't work. The private law firm atmosphere plus my commute was just not family friendly, even for part time (omg, the stress! the billable hours, the commute!). My new job, and where I hope to stay for quite some time, combines the best of all my prior jobs- interesting and challenging work, without the crazy private law firm environment. My commute is amazingly short and I have just the right amount of family time. For the first time since I have embarked on my law career, there is not the faintest hint of mommy guilt associated with working.

On top of all that, I feel like my own kids are showing me that having a working mom is not a black mark. It turns out that having a working mom is just one of a series of possible positive and healthy experiences. The way Jacob gregariously approaches new people in an effort to turn every stranger into a friend, the way he bravely tries new things, and showers us all with hugs, smiles, and his laughter; the way Ryan is a brave and tough little bulldozer who is selective about his "friends" but showers those select lucky souls with boundless cuddles and loves, the way Ryan wants to sit at the big boy table like his brother, carry the grocery basket at the store, and bravely climbs the big toys to frightening (for his mama) heights. My boys are like any other boys. They are smart, adjusted, secure, loved and loving. They, above all else, are proof that this whole thing is working. And they are the best reward after a long hard day at the office.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Children: Highs and Lows

High: Walking into the boys' room first thing in the morning to be greeted by gigantic, groggy smiles and high-pitched giggles.

Low: Sitting on the bedroom floor in front of my mirror (the outlets in our only bathroom have not worked for five years) trying to apply eyeliner while Ryan repeatedly hops in and out of my lap, yanking my hair to stabilize himself in the process (causing my head to bobble as if I were a dashboard toy) while Jacob is dangling dirty socks in front of my face (and blocking my mirror view) begging me over and over to smell them. It's a miracle any eyeliner comes within a millimeter of my eyes.

High: Kissing my two sweet boys goodbye and sniffing in one last whiff of their baby-shampooed heads as I rush off to work.

High: Walking in the door after work to be greeted by loud happy cries of "Mama! Mama! Mama!" With two pairs of arms bear hugging my legs and torso before I can even get my shoes off.

Low: Exactly 45 seconds after the bear hugs end, Ryan angrily empties an entire bag of fish crackers on the floor because I refuse to give him a sucker, Jacob is pouting and stomping his feet loudly across the floor screaming, "I WANT TO WATCH JEOPARDY!," neither child will finish his dinner, Ryan's tantrum turns into major diva drama as he flings his pathetic body on the floor and cries loudly into the fake hardwood, and at that precise moment, I walk into my room to discover that SOMEONE has emptied the contents of my make-up bag and colored all over my walls with eyeliner.

Low: I fall into the toilet trying to take a pee because SOMEONE forgot to close the toilet lid.

Low: A sticky, half-sucked-on sucker has wrapped itself in my favorite sweater.

Low: Poop. On. The. Floor. (Not mine.)

High: Ending the night with a much-needed Naked Dance Party