Friday, October 29, 2010

What to Bring?

Ok, this week has been (and will continue to be) treat heaven for A & B. It started last Friday night with Night Eyes at Blank Park Zoo, followed up last night by Trick or Treat night for the Altoona businesses. And Saturday brings Beggar’s Night (which is the Iowa term for trick or treating – hosted the night before Halloween. Yes, I am from Illinois and I am still confused by this!) We had debated on going to Family Halloween at Living History Farms tonight, but the weather and wind is giving us a solid “no.”
But the most concerning issue for this mommy is the Halloween party at daycare. Of course, this means bringing treats. The sign-up sheet went up about 2 weeks ago and I have been pondering what to bring ever since. Who knew so many questions could arise from this simple request? I mean, I am faced with more difficult decisions at work every day, and yet what to bring stumps me? But this simple request makes me wonder:

1. What is every other mommy going to bring?

2. Should I bring something healthy?

3. Or should I bring yummy Snickers?

4. Do I need to avoid peanuts (or any other possible allergy)?

5. How many kids am I supposed to bring for?

6. Would juice boxes be considered a “treat”?

7. Could someone put a reminder on my Outlook calendar for this?

8. What input can A & B give me? (by the way, their ideas were already taken!)

9. Maybe Grandma can make something?

10. I wonder if my Aunt Karen can ship out some of her yummy lemon squares?

11. Maybe I should make something?

So question 11 should make you laugh! First, I am definitely not a fantastic cook. Second, I do not have time on Thursday night to bake up a fresh batch of anything AND make it look cute. Especially when my in-laws are arriving on Friday (and that will probably be a post for next week!).

So in the end, I did what most other working mommies do; I headed to Hy-vee. With A & B’s help, this mommy will be supplying Kool-Aid Jammers (aka juice boxes) and cookies for the party. And I was just happy to have something A & B were excited to bring for their friends. Maybe next time A & B can help me make some treats…

Now, back to simpler questions relating to legal documentation and process flows.

Happy Halloween!

Jean Anne

Thursday, October 28, 2010

In-Law Angst

Tonight when I get home from work, I will be greeted with a site many mothers dread: my in laws.
Now, I generally like my in-laws. They are nice, giving people and truly the kind of family you want to marry into. I feel lucky to have them. And they are amazing with the kids. They love our kids as much as any grandparent ever loved a grandkid.

But visits from my in-laws always cause me resentment. Take for example, this visit. It all started with KJ stating that he wanted to see Mimi and Papa G. Not a huge request from a 3 year-old. So, we invited Mimi and Papa up. But things are never that easy. First, Mimi and Papa accept our invitation, leaving us a voice message on a Tuesday that they’ll be up Friday. Umm, not happening. We plan things weeks in advance, not 48 hours. Thankfully, before we are able to respond, Mimi and Papa G had something come up and plans were changed. . . to this weekend.

Mimi and Papa G are finally making their long-awaited visit. And it’s a giant PITA for me. First, despite my invitation being orally presented to only Mimi and Papa G, the e-mail response I received to that offer was “Grandpa G (a different person than Papa G) can’t wait to see the kids.” Resentment begins.

I had a reason for inviting only Mimi and Papa G for this visit. In the first place, we only have one guest bedroom. With one queen bed. No other beds anywhere in the house. We can’t sleep another person. My in-laws know this. We’ve had the you-can’t-bring-the-extended-family-and-assume-you-can-all-sleep-here discussion many, many times (including once when they truly expected me to make sleeping arrangements in my house for six additional people). And I wanted to avoid a hotel because (a) KJ loves having his Mimi and Papa sleep in “blue room” (as he calls it) and (b) this is the last opportunity for them to do so before we change the guest room into Sweet Pea's room. I really just wanted them to have one last nice visit.

Easy solution, right? Put Grandpa G up at a hotel. Not happening, my friends. I’ve been told for the last two years that Grandpa G is “too old” for a hotel. And, after seeing him unable to turn the water on in my house and being unable to figure out how to turn on a lamp in the bedroom (because it was on a switch), I have to agree.

Which means, for the duration of my in-laws visit, I will have nowhere to sleep. Grandpa G will sleep in my bed with Husband (weird, I know, but if Husband won’t stand up to his mommy then he can deal with it), Mimi and Papa G will get the guest room and I will be. . . . Oh yeah, no one cares because they all have beds. Last visit (which also included Grandpa G), they expected I would sleep on the couch. Let me tell you, after supporting my father-in-law’s bottom for approximately 12 hours a day, that couch needed a break just as much as I did. I ended up sleeping on the floor of KJ’s room.

Which brings me to my second point of in-law visit contention: the timing of the visit. As you no doubt noticed, I stated that I’ll come home from work tonight to be greeted by my in-laws. Yes, that’s right. They’ve conveniently timed their visit to arrive in the middle of a working day in the middle of the work week. Husband has to take off a day of work to be there to let them into our house. And I have to plan a dinner that feeds three extra people. And then, I have to sleep on the floor, get ready for work in the kids’ bathroom (which at that point we’ll be sharing with the in-laws too) and GO TO WORK the next day. Why am I, the only person who has to look nice, be on time and do something productive the next day the only person without a place to sleep or get ready?

And finally, there’s the schedule. My in-laws are retired, so they do things on their own schedule. And that’s fine. They worked hard for a lot of years. They’ve certainly earned the right to sleep in if that is what they want to do. But their altered schedule results in a mess for me. Because they sleep in, they eat breakfast late. The kids, of course, want to eat with Mimi and Papa so they eat twice. And by the time second breakfast is finished it’s time for the kids’ lunch and naps. But Mimi and Papa want to play. So everything gets pushed back and the kids get crabby and meals start getting eaten at many different times and . . .well, you see where this is going. It makes for a difficult weekend and a more difficult week at work as we try to undo the habits unwittingly taught by Mimi and Papa and readjust the kids to their regular schedule.

I resent these visits because it feels like no matter the sacrifice I make to ensure a good visit, no one really appreciates it. Mimi and Papa come to visit without any consideration of our jobs, house or schedule. They assume they can stay with us, no matter who they bring with them, and they don’t concern themselves with details like beds or meals or my job. They expect that we’ll adjust for them. And Husband goes right along with it. If Mimi and Papa G want to come on Thursday, than Husband will take the day off. Never mind that just a week earlier he was “too busy” at work to spend an hour at lunch with me. And the kids are just kids. They love seeing their grandparents, but they have no idea the extra work feeding and entertaining the in-laws bring.

I keep telling myself to take a deep breath, it is only for a few days. And my in-laws are wonderful company. They truly are nice people, even if they don’t think beyond themselves in their visits. And I remind myself that our visits to their house are probably welcomed with the same mix of anticipation and dread that I feel today. But mostly I keep reminding myself of the twin-sized comforter I have stashed in the guest bedroom closet. Pretty soon, all of these problems will be a thing of the past.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Field Trip

A couple of weeks ago in H’s cubby at daycare there was a notice that his class was taking a field trip to the local pumpkin patch. The teachers invited the parents to join in on the trip.

The field trip was scheduled for this past Monday. Mondays for me are always crazy, but this one was particular chaotic. I had a mountain of deadlines and my new assistant was starting her first day. Amidst this Manic Monday could I really take a morning off and go with H?

It’s the classic moment working Moms find themselves in all the time. Work obligations v. time with our kids. It’s a struggle that haunts many of us…especially me. I have always been that Mom that shows up to everything I’m invited to at school, even though I am often the only Mom there. But this field trip was plain bad timing.

That morning I woke up and thought to myself “Mandi, its okay to miss this one field trip…he won’t know, he won’t care”. I started to get ready for work. But then H woke up excited for his field trip. “Mommy I want you to come” he said to me. I looked in his blue eyes and then looked at my briefcase...

An hour later instead of climbing into my car and heading off to work, I climbed on a school bus with H and his class. Although I kept my Blackberry in my purse so I could focus on time with H, I couldn’t help but hear constant vibrations reminding me that this was in fact a working day and I should be sitting at my desk. H was in his glory that I was there. He kept telling his friends… “This is my Mommy”. His smile seemed to deafen the obnoxious vibration of my Blackberry.

After H’s class met all the farm animals and picked out a pumpkin, we climbed back onto the bus and started back to Davenport. I quickly checked my Blackberry and noticed I already had 16 emails waiting for me. For a moment, I felt a twinge of guilt…did I do the right thing by coming with H? Sure I had the best time…but was it worth it?

Just then I got my answer. As we started down the gravel road back to town, H out of the blue turned to me and softly said:

“Thanks for going on my field trip Mom. You’re my best friend”.

I hugged him close to me and tousled his short blonde hair, trying to hold back my classic tears at any Hallmark moment like this. I smiled and told him there was no where else I’d rather be.

Would he have been okay if I didn’t go? Of course he would have been. I was one of only two Moms that went on the trip that day. The other two dozen parentless children enjoyed the trip just as much as H. But I realized I didn’t really go for H, I went for me. I went so I could see H’s little smile as we visited the farm animals, could hear him excitedly call to me on the bus…”Sit by me Mommy! Sit by me!”. I went to get one on one time with him.

I know H will not remember this field trip. He won’t remember the beautiful fall breeze, singing “Wheels on the bus” with me, or the fact that he named his new pumpkin “Patty”. But…I will.

I did the right thing. True by doing this I surely billed half the hours my colleagues did that day. But for me, the goal of time with my children is much more important than any billable hour goal. Sure this means I will never be top biller at my firm, I may never be inducted into the Iowa Trial Academy, I will not be a famous litigator. But I’ll settle for the title I earned that morning on the field trip: H’s “best friend”. Being that means more to me than any legal accolade I could ever receive. The world has a zillion fabulous attorneys…but H only has one best friend.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

How Do You Do It?

Ever since I “announced” to the world that I was having twins over 4 years ago, I have been asked that question. (If I had a nickel for every time someone asked me that, I might be able to send both girls to Notre Dame for college!) The frequency of this question increased dramatically after they were born and peaked about 2 years old.
My answer to the question is pretty much the same: “I just do.” (Variations may include: “I don’t know – I just do” or “We just do.”) I don’t have a magic wand or the perfect solution. I am not hiding a confidential document just for moms of multiples that gives us the all the secrets of motherhood.

In fact, most of the time I am not sure what I am doing! If you were to take a peek inside my world, you would probably notice a very messy house, girls who do not eat veggies, mismatched outfits and late nights. During the 1st 18 months (when they didn’t sleep through the night), all I could think about was making it through the day without a major disaster at home or work. It has gotten easier (or maybe I am just getting more sleep!), but as we often say “every day is an adventure!” And I have the dark circles under my eyes to prove it.

Often, you will catch me looking at other moms and thinking the same question. The main difference is that these moms have children of various ages. I remember a particular time where my cousin’s wife was feeding her little girl a bottle, while her 4 year old boy kept wanting her attention desperately. And all I could think of was “how do you balance a 4 year old boy with a newborn girl?”

At age 4, my girls typically enjoy the same games, activities, and movies. They take swimming, dance and horseback riding lessons together and play soccer on the same team. While there is the normal squabble about the ownership of a particular toy, they actually play pretty well together. Our worst moment came this summer when A was just tall enough to ride on a certain ride at Adventureland and B was not. Oh, the tears!!

I am not sure what will happen when each girl develops separate interests and the hubby and I start running opposite directions for band practices and basketball lessons. For now, I will just cherish that I can watch both girls beat each other up on the soccer field. LOL!

Now to go steal the secret rule book from a mom of a 4 year old boy and 1 ½ year old triplets!
Jean Anne

Monday, October 25, 2010

Blue & White: Love, Hope Light

Fifteen years ago, I was sitting in high school French class on a day not unlike today. It being first period (and French), I remember looking out the window a lot, and noticing an abundance of emergency vehicles passing by – all with their lights flashing but none with the sirens sounding.

As the period neared a close, someone knocked on the door and asked my teacher to step into the hallway. When she came back, my teacher was visibly shaken. “I’m not supposed to say anything yet,” she said. “But I can’t keep this to myself.” One of our school buses had been hit by a commuter train.

My high school was located in a small community. Case in point, the high school was actually conglomeration of kids from two small towns. Most of the kids had grown up together. We’d played on the same soccer teams and been in the same girl scout troops. It was one of those communities where everyone knew everyone else.

And we were also a community that was familiar with the train. The Metra runs right through both towns. Literally hundreds of people from those towns used it every day to commute to and from work. In fact, that same Metra line is the one I take to get to work today. So when we were told that the bus was hit by a train, we knew that the train had won.

Seven kids died in that school bus accident. Five died on scene. Two others died later from their injuries. Over twenty other kids were injured.

For fifteen years, I’ve looked at that accident through the eyes of a student. I’ve thought about how horrible it must have been for the kids on that bus. And I’ve known that because I wasn’t on that bus, I was lucky. But now, as a parent, I am more struck by the accident than I was even back then.

There was nothing the parents of the kids on the school bus could have done to shield their kids from the horror of that day. The parents of those kids did what they were supposed to: they got their kids on their way to school on time. They probably didn’t think twice about it. I know I don’t. Every day I get my kids ready for school, get them in the van with their dad, and then go get ready for work myself. Once the kids are in the van, I assume they are okay. But the accident is a reminder that I can’t really take my kids’ safety for granted.

It’s a fact of life that our ability to protect our kids is inversely related to the kids’ age: the older they get the less we can do to control their experiences. In some cases, this is a good thing. Our kids need to grow and experience life. They need to be able to solve their own problems and handle disappointment. But there are some things we as parents are always going to want to try to protect our children from. The anniversary of the bus accident is a reminder that we as parents, can only do the best we can. It is our job to love our kids, provide them with a good example and hope for the best. We must trust in God’s plan.

Fifteen years later, the community has not forgotten the bus accident. My church held a memorial blood drive this weekend, and the site was decorated with flowers today. And while there aren’t as many blue and white ribbons as there were fifteen years ago, there are still people who remember. And people who are praying for the people affected by that day. Fifteen years later, blue and white still means love, hope, light.

Friday, October 22, 2010

My Secret

I have a secret. Shh…it’s a big one.

If you are a working Mom and or know a working Mom; if you follow JD Moms or other working mother blogs, websites, or magazines you will hear one phrase over and over:

“Working Mom Guilt”.

Ahh, yes “Working Mom Guilt”. Our society mandates that every working Mom have it. We all must feel painfully guilty because we have to work. The second you have a baby and finish maternity leave you are handed the guilt. Have a good day at work…and here don’t forget your guilt!

Working Mom guilt is all around us. A Google search of “Working Mom Guilt” came up with 1,820,000 hits! There are countless websites and support groups which are designed solely to teach working Moms how to cope with the guilt that plagues them.

But I have a secret. Okay here it goes…

“My name is Mandi and I do NOT have working Mommy guilt”.

Yes it is true, I am an anomaly…a working Mom living without the Working Mom guilt society says I must have. This shocks a lot of people when I say this, because most people who know me know my kids are my entire world, they are everything to me. I am the kind of Mom that has no social life because I am always with my kids. So how is it possible that I feel this strong bond to my children but yet don’t feel guilty when I leave them and head to work?

Well the answer is quite simple: I am realistic and humble enough to realize my kids are actually thriving MORE because I work.

My children go to an excellent daycare center. Contrary to public opinion, daycare is not just a place where kids are forced to go, get every disease known to man, and miss their Mommies. Rather, it is truly a school environment. I am amazed how smart my children are because they go to daycare. J can read, write, and color in the lines at the age of 4. H can speak Spanish, count to 100, and knows every animal under the sun, even animals I had no clue even existed…I mean what is a Tapir?

But daycare goes far beyond the educational benefits. My kids do well in a social and group environment. They have learned to function without the protective barrier of Mommy and Daddy. They know how to play well with others and function in the world around them. They’re getting a head start learning to function in our society. And if you think about it… isn’t this what we are actually trying to raise them to do?

I’ve gotten to put the stay at home kids v. daycare kids theory to test three times in my life, during each of my three maternity leaves. Although I loved every minute of being home with my kids, I actually found we’re better off when I work. I think what surprised me the most is that I actually do more with my kids when I work than when I was home on leave. When I was home I would say “Should we go to the park today? No, there’s stuff to do around the house we have plenty of time to do that tomorrow”. So we’d wait and wait until we forgot we even wanted to go. But, when I work I treasure every minute with my kids…if we want to go to the park we’re going to go right now because I don’t know how insane the rest of the week is going to be.

And I’m actually better because I work. When I was home, I would “sweat the small stuff”: the house always had to be clean and organized, laundry had to be done right now etc. I found that I spent more time cleaning and organizing than I did playing with the kids! I was more stressed out about everything in my life. In my working life, I am so short on time that I don’t worry about if I have dusted every picture frame or steam cleaned my counters. Nope it’s a quick Clorox wipe of crumbs at the end of the day and a good dusting whenever company comes by! I simply don’t have the time to stress out about the little things.

I also appreciate the power of the lesson I am teaching my kids. My daughter will be raised to know that a woman can be just as successful as a man and still have an amazing family life. She CAN have it all. My sons are learning that a marriage and parenthood should be a team effort. They don’t have to shoulder the entire load of financially supporting a family and they shouldn’t expect their wives to shoulder the entire load of caring for the children and the house. It’s an equal partnership.

So society, I’m sorry but it is possible to be a working Mom and not feel guilty about it. I’m living proof of that. I don’t think my kids and I are missing out because I work. Sure I have to work harder and shoulder more responsibility. It’s not easy. But the smooth straight road and the bumpy windy road all lead to the same place…and sometimes the windy road can even be more fun!


Thursday, October 21, 2010

I Asked a Question!

Last week I traveled to a senior leadership conference for work for my new position. It was extremely interesting to get to meet new people, learn new processes, talk about work-related issues with knowledgeable people and eat too much food. Not to mention it was nice being recognized as “Jean the worker” instead of “Jean the Mommy.” (Now, of course, there was the always present Mommy guilt of being away, but that is just a given!).

At one point in the conference, there was a panel discussion section, where members of the audience could ask questions. Of course, there were the kiss-up questions and the where do we go from here questions. And there I sat, really wanting to know how these people balance their workloads with family time. I mean, they are much more important than me and have been at this much longer than I have, they should have some great advice. Plus, I am always interested to hear other opinions and insights.

So, with great courage (because all I could think of was “man, this new girl really doesn’t care about work, she is more concerned with her family. Why did we hire her?”) I asked this:

“With Blackberrys, laptops, heavy workloads and travel, how do you balance your work and family lives?”

Most responses I received were similar – find some “me” time, shut the Blackberry off, make sure to set a date night with your wife/spouse. All stuff we hear all of the time. But one comment I found extremely interesting. One panelist actually said to look at your boss and his time commitments. Do you want to be him/her? The panelist said that at some point you just have to make a choice, whether you want to go further with your career (thus, becoming consumed with it) or are you content with your position, both professionally and personally.

At first, I stubbornly thought “why can’t I have it all?” And then I realized, he made a lot of sense. We (aka working moms) make choices every day about our work/life balance. Do we attend this networking function to meet the “right” people or head home to read to our kids for an extra hour? Should we volunteer for that special project, knowing that we will have to work late at the office for a few weeks? Do I miss a soccer practice to finish up some required documentation?

Maybe I won’t be VP by 33. But I will be “World’s Coolest Mommy” for tonight (well, at least until I tell them to go to bed!). And I am happy with that choice.

Jean Anne

P.S. I received great feedback from other moms at the conference for asking that question. So a little pat on the back for me.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Free Gift with Purchase

One of the “perks” of my kids’ particular daycare is that upon enrollment of your teeny, tiny infant you get a free one-year subscription to Working Mother magazine. While a free magazine seems nice as a general proposition, the fact that the daycare located on-site at my husband’s employer gives out Working Mother magazine really says a lot about how far society has come in viewing women as equals in the workplace: not very far at all.

Why does my husband’s employer give out Working Mother magazine? Obviously, my husband is working and has kids. Why not give out a publication dedicated to helping him balance his personal and professional obligations? A quick Google search answers that one: there is no Working Father magazine. And there’s a good reason why. Dads wouldn’t read that garbage. Dads who work outside of the home know that they don’t have time to sweat the small stuff. If you gave a dad a Working Father magazine he’d toss that thing straight into the “later” file (read: trash) and move on with his day. And if you asked him about it, he’s say something like, “I’ve got a job, kids, a wife and a house. I don’t have time to read that.” And he’d be right.

So why do we working moms need this magazine? It isn’t like Working Mother reveals the secret to work/life balance or magically makes dinner for four appear on your table five nights a week. Instead, it’s full of articles on DIY Halloween costumes and dressing your child in designer clothes. Maybe it’s just me, but I work so that I don’t have to do things like make my kids’ Halloween costumes. And if anyone in my household is getting designer clothes it certainly isn’t going to be someone who might throw up on it at any moment.

And don’t even get me started on the “this is how she does it” stories. Very often “she does it” by using one (or more) nannies, working for an uncommonly progressive large company or working a job as opposed to a profession. In the two (consecutive) years I received my free copy of Working Mother, I never once saw a story of a daycare mother making in a male-dominated, glass-ceilinged profession. Come on, Working Mother. How does she do it?

I understand that Working Mother can’t profile every single type of job a working mom might encounter. But it also can’t really convince itself that it is advancing the plight of working moms by profiling only women with extraordinary situations. While the women (and the employers) profiled in the magazine may be inspirational, they don’t represent what the majority of us working women face day in and day out. And therefore, it doesn’t really matter how they do it.

Society has convinced the working mom that her children are disadvantaged due to her decision to work. Magazines like Working Mother prey on that theme, constantly barraging working moms with articles “reminding” her that nothing says love like homemade holiday cards or showcasing someone else doing work/life balance better. And employers (or, at least my husband’s) have bought it. They believe we working women need this magazine to manage our lives.

This isn’t working woman empowerment. This is an insult. We don’t need Working Mother magazine any more than a man. Our kids don’t need homemade Halloween costumes to feel special and they won’t end up in therapy because they ate dinner from a crock pot three nights a week. I’m the first to agree that working women need a forum to talk and swap ideas and generally promote each other in the workplace. But magazines like Working Mother distract from this cause. If Working Mother truly wants to promote women in the workforce and if they really want to help me balance my work/life, then have some articles on the tough issues, like negotiating the four day work week in a family-hostile environment or pulling off baby spit-up as a fashion-forward accessory.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

5 Years

My husband and I recently celebrated our five year wedding anniversary (applause please). As October 8th hit my calendar, I realized to myself what a whirlwind my life has been in the past 5 years both personally and professionally. When I look in the mirror I am a totally different person from the day I said “I do”. Sure physically I have changed (the 3 kids helped of course) and can notice age hitting my face, but it’s the personality changes I notice the most. I started my marriage not self-confident, totally dependent and nervous of what faced me both in my personal life and professional life. Now, 5 years later I am happier than I ever imagined and an independent confident JD Mom.

But the path to this point has been a rollercoaster….

October 8, 2005 – Our wedding day. I was 27 years old. That year I started my new job at my firm. I was a fairly new attorney, having only graduated two years prior. I was still learning the ropes and not confident in my abilities. Okay, let’s be honest…I had no clue what I was doing! I had never been in front of a jury, never handled my own case. I was new both to the world of being a wife and an attorney.  Todd and I lived in a small two bedroom apartment so our responsibilities were low. It’s funny how I had all the time in the world, but I can’t remember what I did with that time!! Little did I know my life was about to dramatically change. What is this?

October 8, 2006 – One year anniversary. This year was probably the biggest year of change in my entire life. I received my first raise and became a homeowner. J was born in July that year and a few months before she born I had my very first jury trial. Let me tell you, court appearances at 8 months pregnant in courthouses with no air conditioning are interesting! By the time of our one year anniversary I had only a few months practice with being a working Mom. I had no clue how to do it. I called my Mom constantly for advice. I had to experience the heartbreak of leaving J at daycare for the first time. By this time I hadn’t quite learned how to juggle my life so I was always overwhelmed by work. I doubted that I could be a working Mom and seriously considered leaving the profession, but our new home and mountain of debt from law school kept me in the game. I can’t do this.

October 8, 2007 – Two year anniversary. I started to find my stride, both personally and professionally. But it wasn’t easy. I started to get really busy at work, piles of memos from partners, dozens of motions due in a week…things I had never experienced. My firm was essentially removing my training wheels for good and setting me free to navigate a large caseload on my own. I had 2 jury trials so I was starting to get more comfortable in that world. I started to love the thrill of getting in front of a jury. In the midst of starting to find my stride professionally I found out I was pregnant with H, which was quite a surprise! J was only 8 months old when I found out I was pregnant again. I was terrified…I had just started to learn how to be a Mom to J and keep up to speed on my files…now what? How could I bill over 2000 hours a year and have two kids under 2? By the time of my 2nd anniversary I was a month away from H’s birth and terrified about how my life would change with 2 kids. Can I do this?

October 8, 2008 – Three year anniversary. My hardest year yet. J was such an easy baby that she had me spoiled, she slept through the night, hardly cried, and went to bed at 6:00 p.m. allowing me plenty of time to get organized and keep up to speed at work. But when H arrived, I faced a whole new set of challenges. H was colicky and never slept. I learned how to function at work on only an hour of sleep. J was still very much a baby herself so I had to learn to attend to 2 instead of 1. I was scared to take them out alone and so we hardly went to parks or museums. I didn’t think I could be pulled in two directions. In the midst of learning how to handle 2 kids, I started to get my own clients and had several more jury trials, including my first large federal litigation. I had to struggle to keep up with everything. But in the midst of the chaos…a strange thing started to happen: I noticed I could actually keep up. Okay, so maybe I can do this.

October 8, 2009 – Four year anniversary. My comfortable year. I found my stride, started to learn how to balance 2 small children and still bill a ton of hours. I started to become very organized. I started to get involved in legal organizations and gave a presentation to colleagues on thinking outside the box in litigation. I got to the point where I was so comfortable with my balance I was ready to complete our family and try for Baby 3. I got pregnant with L in August. I started to feel like I knew what I was doing professionally. I made the decision to focus almost entirely on civil litigation. I started to really love my life…I was doing what I wanted professionally, at a firm I love, my children were thriving and I didn’t feel like I was drowning anymore. I can do this!

October 8, 2010 – Fifth year anniversary. So now here we are. 32 years old. 5 years, 3 kids, 2 cats, and 1 dog later. I am a totally different person both professionally and personally. I’m stronger than I thought. I balance more than I ever dreamed. Now taking 3 kids out for a night of errands by myself is something normal to me. I am now in addition to handling a large caseload, handling the lives of 3 children and my husband! I feel like I have found a good balance with both work and family life. My children are happy, my marriage is strong…life is good. Sure it’s not always easy and I’d like do more…but I know that’s not possible. But after 5 years of marriage and 7 years into my career, I’m ready for the challenges that face me. So now what?


Monday, October 18, 2010

The "L" Word...Laundry

As you know, I have twin 4 year old daughters. Having twins means double of everything: toys, shoes, books. But when it comes to laundry, I swear I have 4 sets of twins or they must change at least 10 times a day (which is a possibility). How does their laundry basket accumulate so many dirty clothes?
Typically, I do not have to travel for work, however, last week I was in North Carolina from Tuesday to Friday (and don’t even get me started on that 6 AM flight out of Des Moines!). I actually had most of the laundry finished up before I left, with only the girls’ clothes left in the dryer for the hubby to fold on Tuesday. And I realized that I would have numerous loads to do when I returned.

So Sunday morning, I was at it again (yes, I took Saturday off! It was Pumpkin Patch time!!). Two loads of clothes for the girls, with another one to go. 1 load of hubby’s clothes, with 2 more of ours to go. Plus, jeans and towels. How does this all add up? Are we the dirtiest family in America?

Most of the time, I try to do a load of laundry a night, as the weekends are just too busy. But I am gone for 4 days and this happens? And now that it is fall, no more flip flops, so I have all of these little socks (and yes, the sock monster does exist!!). Plus, we may start out the day in a sweatshirt and end up wearing a t-shirt and shorts!

And I understand that they are going to get dirty. But where does all of this dirt come from? And no matter what stain remover I use, or how much I soak it, that spot is not coming out. And I can not begin to explain how many wood chips they bring home in their shoes from the playground. (On a positive note, I don’t need that additional run to Menards for my flower bed covering.)

I realize this is a small task on the working mom’s to do list, but it seems to be never-ending. And I wish I could write more, but I have some clothes to fold.

Jean Anne

P.S. Can anyone explain how the Downy ball works?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Making the Better Choice

It's quarter to midnight and I got out of bed to write this because I’m so upset thinking about this that I can’t sleep. After an amazingly difficult week at work and barely seeing my kids, I took off early today to pick them up from daycare. Since the kids go to daycare at Husband’s work, I almost never do drop off or pick up, and having mommy at daycare is a big treat for all of us. But today, as I was walking out to the playground to pick up KJ, Husband stopped me and showed me the cubby and picture of a kid I’ll call Jackson.

“See this kid?” Husband asks me. I nod. “KJ said Jackson doesn’t like him. Apparently Jackson told him they weren’t friends.” Immediately, I go into momma bear protection mode. Who the heck is this kid and where does he get off telling KJ he doesn’t like him? KJ is an amazing, easy going little boy who wins over everybody he meets. I ask husband for more details about KJ’s statement, but KJ is three. It’s just one of those things he told Husband on the way into work one day. But my heart sinks.

Within thirty minutes of my daughter’s birth (and therefore while she was still screaming at the top of her little lungs), I apologized to Sweet Pea for one day having to endure junior high. But for some reason, I never considered that my son would face the same mean-spirited immaturity that seems to ooze out of junior high girls. And here he is dealing with it at three.

It’s not fair that at three years old the world is already divided into bullies and everyone else. Kids have their whole lives to learn about (and apparently inflict) hate and hurt. Why can’t they hold onto babyhood for a little while longer?

And it isn’t fair that at three years old my son has to learn that some people will hate just because they can. KJ is a likable, affable guy. I want him to have time to become comfortable with himself so that’s he’s confident in who he is when others start tearing him down.

But KJ is a surprising guy. Later this evening while getting ready for bed KJ brought up Jackson again. Husband asked KJ if he played with Jackson, and KJ responded no. And although the rest of his response wasn’t completely intelligible, KJ expressed something about how Jackson treats others and said “I make the better choice.”

To KJ – I can’t tell you how proud of you I am for making the better choice. At three, you have shown a self-confidence and maturity beyond your years. Treating others with respect and being true to who you are will always lead you on the right path in life. I pray that you will always have the strength and maturity to follow your heart the way you do today.

And to Jackson – Enjoy junior high, buddy. It's all down hill from there. 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Parking Lot

As my fellow JD Moms may remember, we had this professor in law school who introduced us to the the world of the “Parking Lot”.  I remember this like it was only yesterday...There we were trying to pay attention in Contracts class as this Professor taught us about a theory of law when someone, not us of course, would raise his or her hand and ask some off-the-wall question dealing with another part of contract law we hadn’t gotten to yet.  Everytime this would happen our Professor would calmly say to that student:

We’re going to put that question in the parking lot…we’ll get there”.

Our Professor would then ignore the question and move on to the issue at hand.  In law school I feared and hated the "Parking Lot" for the questions still unanswered and parked out in the "Parking Lot" somehow always managed to show up on a final exam!

But recently I've re-evaluated the concept of the "Parking Lot" and come to fully appreciate what a genius idea and coping mechanism it is.

I am notorious for over-thinking and over-analyzing everything in my life. Not only do I make a mountain out of a mole hill, I make an entire mountain range that rivals the Alps. Yes, I sadly must admit my reputation as a drama queen is spot on... I take a tiny problem and magnify it till it consumes my life!

This week I am having one of "those weeks" – I have had a ton of things to accomplish all while commuting  2 1/2 hours most days this week for depositions and high-tailing it home to pick up my kids in time for my husband to go off to work.  This has not been an easy task and I have found myself getting overwhelmed.

During one of my drives through Iowa my mind wandered (since there is nothing exciting about driving Interstate 80 through Iowa) and I remembered the "Parking Lot".  Suddenly I figured out my professor was brilliant. The “Parking Lot” was in reality a place our professor could put the questions he probably had no idea how to answer. By putting the questions in the “Parking Lot” he didn’t have to deal with that issue and could focus on the problem at hand.

My mind is always filled with countless questions and issues. Do I know enough to handle this huge federal construction case? Will H ever be Potty Trained? Has L already learned to sit up and I just haven’t seen it yet? Did I remember to return all my phone calls? Will I ever make partner? Does L wonder where I am when he sits at daycare? Is it bad I had to feed my kids fast food twice this week because of my schedule? Did I actually feed L bugs in the Similac recall? Will I be done with my inspection in time to rush home so Todd can go to work? Did I remember to send J with an item for Show and Share? Will H stop biting and hitting? Did I remember to take the clothes from the washer and put them in the dryer?

All these questions (and more) creep into my life during my day. I’ll be writing a Motion and one of these thoughts will creep into my mind. Suddenly I’m off track on my Motion and down a path toward becoming stressed out.

So maybe I need to create my own “Parking Lot” so that when these thoughts start to creep into my day I’ll just put them in the “Parking Lot” and handle them another time. The only problem is I have so many questions and problems in my life I am sure my “Parking Lot” will soon resemble that of Wal-Mart on the Saturday before Christmas. But considering several decades of established Contract law from our law school class are still sitting in the “Parking Lot” I’m sure there is room for all my concerns…if not maybe I’ll just create a “Parking Deck”!


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Guest Blog from JD Mom Christine!

Hi, everyone. My name is Christine. I have a small general practice in Guthrie County, Iowa, am married and have two kids, a boy and a girl. I went to law school with both Mandi and Jean and have been following JD Moms since the blog started. I love it and am thrilled that they asked me to be a guest blogger. I hope I have something interesting to say…

This year my husband and I celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary. Well, I don’t think you can actually call it “celebrated” as he forgot and I just got him a card allowing him to be the “boss” for the day! In our defense, this is the first year we’ve both blown it off, but October has a different focus for us: my son’s birthday is on Oct. 30th and my daughter’s birthday is on November 1 – we look to the end of the month now, not the beginning!

This October 30, my son will be 8. I still remember decorating his nursery, three houses ago. I was a third year student in law school when he was born, so I knew before my official career as an attorney started that I wanted to focus on my family and not becoming partner after five years. My son took his first steps when I was in Iowa City taking the Bar exam. I bawled when my husband told me. I tried to do the 150 billable hours thing while raising my very young family (my daughter was born my first year as a new associate) and it just didn’t work. I realized that I didn’t become an attorney for the money or the prestige but because I loved the law. I also realized that I did not want my family to suffer because of my job demands.

Luckily I found a job that would allow me to do both successfully – for the most part, and I appreciate every day that I can drive my kids to school (if they’ll let me) and take off a little early for soccer games, field trips, whatever I need. I also appreciate being able to escape the craziness of the house by going to work each day! It’s all about balance and about having it all – just not all at once!


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Helping Hands

I firmly believe that it takes a village to raise a child. As you will see from our posts, none of the three of us JD Moms do it alone. We have an army of spouses, grandparents, day care teachers and friends supporting us emotionally and physically every day. They are the people who move your car from the train parking lot at 2 a.m. when you are stuck at work on a project and your husband can’t leave the kids at home alone. They go with you and your sick kid to the hospital even though your kid has swine flu. They bring dinner to your family when you’ve been on trial for a week and your children are beginning to think that Lucky Charms are a food group. They are amazing.

It is truly these people’s tireless efforts and love for our children that allow a working mom to make it through the day. And they are all deserving of (and will get) their own posts singing their praises for their contributions to our children and our lives. We couldn’t do it without them.

But in the law firm setting, the working mom has few friends. The moment a woman announces she’s expecting work dries up and people treat you like you have the plague. And once you get back from actually having the baby it isn’t any better.

Of course, after you become a working mom there are people at law firms who pretend to understand. Heck, there are even law firms that label themselves “family friendly.” But when it comes right down to it, most partners don’t care if you are missing bedtime for the third night in a row or if you haven’t seen your children awake all week. They care about their clients, and they expect you to do whatever it takes to keep their clients happy. Including working all night long.

At my last firm, 4 o’clock projects with a “first-thing-in-the-morning” deadline were not uncommon. I’ve seen the sun rise from my old office more times that I can remember. That’s a part of Big Law. But when I had kids, spending the night in the office wasn’t a sacrifice I wanted to make anymore. I made every effort to work as much as possible in the office, go home for dinner, and then work like mad from home after the kids went to bed. But as every lawyer knows, there are some things that just can’t be done from home.

It was when I was faced with those projects that I came across the working mom’s most uncommon ally – the twenty something male associate. Unlike other working moms with whom I would commiserate, the twenty-something males would do more than sympathize with me when faced with a 4 p.m. stay-in-the-office project - they would offer to help. They’d offer to review a larger portion of the documents (and from time to time all of the documents) or manage the midnight electronic filing or draft the motion. They’d take on more responsibility so that I could go home and be with my kids.

And I’m not (too) embarrassed to admit I usually took them up on it. I worked at my old firm for seven years. I know that many of the “emergency” projects I was faced with were not true emergencies. I also knew that the associates who offered to help me were all smart, competent attorneys. And they truly “got” it. They understood that I wanted to go home to be with my kids, not to avoid work. Or they wanted more billable hours. Either way, they did more work so that I could be more mom. And I’m so grateful for that.

Brad, Matt and Simon gave me the greatest gift – more time with my kids. And in doing so, they also gave me hope for women in the profession. Women lawyers still have a long way to go to be equals in the profession. But with men like those three moving up the ranks, there’s hope for the next generation of women lawyers. If Sweet Pea grows up to be a lawyer, I hope she works for one of those guys.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

My Assistants

My assistant recently put in her notice (she's off to pursue her dream career).  After I found out, I came home and told Todd I was about to embark on the process I hate: interviewing and finding another perfect assistant. My practice is chaotic. I travel all the time, have a large caseload, and with my lifestyle I have to stay completely organized. So finding a perfect assistant who can help me manage everything is hard.

As Todd and I were talking, J came up to me and said “But Mommy, I’m your Assistant”. H soon piped in, “Me too Momma”. I looked over at L in his saucer who smiled back at me as if to mimic his brother and sister. I smiled and hugged them. They were right…they are truly my assistants. . .

J is my main assistant, the one you most often see if you visit my firm. J loves coming to visit me at work and is well known by my co-workers. She has even set up her own desk next to my assistant. If I have no choice but to work at night J will pull up a chair and “work” with me. She is also chief decorator of my office. She has littered my office with her works of art and discovered that Post-It notes provide needed color for my file cabinets. She loves “answering” my phone and has found our office’s supply closet so she loves to get legal pads and write me “Memos”. She is also my stylist and every morning when I leave for work will tell me what she thinks of my outfits. Most often she disapproves, telling me I need higher heels, sparkly shirts, and darker lipstick. And she still can’t understand why I don’t wear skirts everyday!

Then there is H, my “assistant behind the scenes”. You don’t see him working, but trust me he’s there. My sneaky assistant’s main job is to make sure my briefcase is “stocked” before I go to depositions or trials. This means I will pull out my file to find Thomas the Tank Engine stickers on top. My pens will all be missing from my briefcase and replaced with yellow crayons (a darker color would be too easy and H loves to keep me on my toes). I will pull out a legal pad at trial to find his scribbling on the top page. Occasionally he will place in my briefcase some “backup” to help me, usually Spiderman or his favorite Matchbox car. He also as you know from my previous post, enjoys calling another attorneys in the middle of the night on my Blackberry, so he is known to work late hours.

Now L is my newest assistant and at just 4 months old, I have yet to discover his true potential as my assistant. But as of now, he serves as my legal editor. When he is up during the night and I’m working, his bedtime stories back to sleep are usually my briefs and motions. He loves hearing my briefs! He’ll smile and kick his feet when I read to him such riveting subjects as the “Commerce Clause” or “Personal Jurisdiction”. And he’s actually a good editor. If I read it to him an argument and he stays awake that usually tells me I’m doing good…but if he falls asleep it always reminds me to check to see if I was being too wordy. And often surprisingly it is too wordy and I edit out that part!

I’d be lost without my three assistants, they each help in their own way to brighten my day and keep me on my toes! So, I guess in my interviews with potential new assistants I better warn them that they have some big shoes to fill…umm I mean SMALL shoes!


Friday, October 8, 2010

Hanging Out with the Hubby

As most of you know, I headed to Vegas last week with my hubby for our 7th wedding anniversary (and our 1st time away since the kids were born). After spending quality time with him, I realized that “wow – we really need to do this more often!” Who knew he had no idea what the price range of jewelry was at Tiffany’s? And I think he was driven to find Scooby Doo and Princess stuff for the girls than I was (and that included buying miniature airplanes at the airport!).

On a separate note, I had forgotten how easy it was to hang out with him and just watch a game (although, the Packers did lose!). And that I need to have a plan when I travel with him. As many of you know, my hubby is a planner. And traveling with kids requires planning, which fits him to a T! When we got to Vegas, I had vague plans for an anniversary dinner at a nice restaurant and maybe a show. Note to self, to avoid the constant “what are we going to do next” question, next time, let him plan the itinerary.

Unfortunately, as many of you know, we don’t have the time or the money to go on vacation alone with our spouses. And being working moms, we may feel that any free time we have should be spent with our kids. So I am posing the question to everyone of what you do to spend time with your significant other?

Some ideas I have already gathered include:

1. Date night – This is a great idea, however, finding a time without practice, dance, work functions, etc. is hard. But I am schedule in advance every 4 to 6 weeks. And this includes scheduling a babysitter!!

2. Lunch date – Another excellent idea, especially if you work close to your spouse. I also need to add this to my calendar in advance to block out any meetings/conference calls. And I really should do this since my hubby only works 2 blocks away!! I just need to stop having conference calls with the East Coast!

3. Movie night – One couple suggested that after the kids go to bed – make time to have a movie night (or even a favorite TV show) with your spouse. Maybe include dessert from Cheesecake Factory as a nice surprise.

4. Texting – yes, send your spouse a little note during the day to let him/her know you are thinking about him/her. It makes my day when I receive a text saying “I love you” and not “when are we picking up the kids?”

As I wrote this list, I know that a marriage isn’t easy and takes work, but there are easy things to do to communicate. And I definitely could use some more ideas!

Now, to set up my lunch date….

Jean Anne

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Weary Working Blogger Moms and Midterm Elections

In the last week, I’ve read two separate articles speculating on who will be the “Soccer Moms” of the 2010 midterm elections. According to the Wall Street Journal (blogging about an NPR blog), the key voter group impacting the outcome will be the “weary working women” – women so tired from working and raising their families in these tough economic times that they won’t go out and vote.
According to the Huffington Post, however, blogger mommies “hold the reins of destiny and control the future of our nation.”

The truth is, however, (and as the Huffington Post blog suggests) that these are not two separate groups. The women who will influence the November 2010 midterm elections are the exhausted working moms who leave work early, pick up their kids at day care, bring the squirming, hungry toddlers to vote moments before the polls close and then go home and blog about it. Or, in other words, us.

There is no doubt that I am a weary working woman. I like my job and I like working, but I am SO tired. From the moment I wake up at 5:30 (ok, 5:45) I am on the go. I’m either getting myself or my kids ready to get out the door and on the way to school. And there is no room for error in our morning schedule. I take public transportation so we have to leave on time. Then, I work a day that requires me to account for my time in six-minute increments. With the pressure to bill a full eight-hour day in six-minute increments, we working moms don’t have time to peruse the internet or ponder who wore it best. I work as fast as I can as hard as I can with as few interruptions as possible. And then I go home, where I manage dinner and homework and baths and bedtime. And then, once the kids are finally in bed, I do the dishes, prepare for the next day and collapse.

But I’m also a blogger mom. I read (and now write) about working mom issues, and am at least somewhat in-tune with what’s going on in the world. And I’d like to see the government doing something – anything – to make things just a little bit easier for the working mom. Things like improving the economy. Implementing a health care plan that is better and affordable. Maybe addressing the skyrocketing cost of college.

It is precisely because I am both a weary working mom and a blogger mom that I should go out and vote. Weary working blogger moms are more than tired, stretched-too thin products of the feminist movement. We are intelligent, practical women who will be directly impacted by the results of the election and the subsequent legislation. We understand the issues and take time to consider all of the implications before adopting a position. We are the people whose voices should be heard.

And while exercising our right to vote doesn’t necessarily result in success for our particular candidate, we moms know that “we simultaneously control everything and nothing.” We may not control the state of the economy or the outcome of a particular election, but we can – and should - have a voice. We have an opportunity to demand change, and we should embrace it. We certainly can’t be too tired to ask for some help.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

If Justice Ginsburg can do it...

As an attorney I receive countless periodicals and magazines in my large mail pile. Honestly, 9 times out of 10 I just toss them leisurely to the side and continue to tackle my mountain of correspondence.

Today as I went through my mail, I discovered a copy of the American Bar Association Journal. It was hectic morning and I had to tackle a monster brief, so I started to do what I normally do…picked it up and started to take it to the “circular file” aka the garbage.

But wait! All of the sudden, the cover caught my eye. It was a picture of a mother in an embrace with her daughter. This was odd because normally the ABA Journal covers are full of business suited, serious looking male attorneys.  But what amazed me the most was this wasn’t just any regular Mom. The Cover read: “Family Ties: The Private and Public Lives of Ruth Bader Ginsburg”.

I tipped back in my chair and opened the magazine. The article was fascinating. I guess I always pictured our Supreme Court Justices as machines…they couldn’t possibly be down to earth parents, could they? I was amazed as I read to find out Justice Ginsburg was a mom like me, juggling her children and a busy legal career. The start of the article inspired me, for Justice Ginsburg was quoted when asked about motherhood and the law…

“I think my life was more balanced. . . I was less apprehensive than my classmates because there was something going on that was more important, frankly, than the law”.

 I read through the article, amazed at how a woman in Justice Ginsburg’s position as one of the highest judicial officials, battling the hardest legal issues our country faces, still managed to be a great Mom. She brought her children with her to legal functions, she made sure she was home to have dinner every night with her children.

In fact, Justice Ginsburg believes her children actually helped her career. She states:

“I attribute to my daughter the responsibility for why I was such a good law student. I went home, played with Jane, had dinner and then I was ready to go back to the books. It was the pause that refreshes.”

I couldn’t agree more. My children are the “pauses” that refresh me in my crazy work week…they keep me going. My work is so much better after a quick lunch with my kids, or an evening laughing and playing. It helps to remind me why I do what I do.

I kept reading and was surprised to “hear” Justice Ginsburg sounding like me:

“My initial response to Jane (her daughter) was I wanted to enrich her in every way I could, so I overdid it. I was compensating for my having a job”.

I do the same thing. I am constantly on the go with my children, constantly making sure they experience everything…constantly overdoing it.  I don't want them to suffer because I am forced to work.

Justice Ginsburg truly believes that balancing the working Mom attorney life is not impossible and women should keep trying.

I was so inspired by this article. There are times in my life when I get down…wondering how on earth I am going to be able to keep my worlds in perfect alignment. How do I give me kids the life I want them to have, be there for them for constantly, all while maintaining a very rewarding but stressful career?? Can I do this??

Well… if Justice Ginsburg can do it….I think I’ll be okay.

I’ll post the link to the article on the JD Moms Facebook page. I highly encourage you all to read it.


Monday, October 4, 2010


Hello Fall! Welcome chilly mornings and fresh apple cider! Welcome back sweat pants and fleece pullovers. Let’s grab the football and head outdoors for a quick game and s’mores.

I love the fall! Nothing beats a chilly Friday night at a small town football game, pork chop sandwich at Scenic Drive, or tailgating! To kick off this wonderful season, I headed downstairs this weekend and broke into the “holiday decorations” closet. Yes, I have a whole (kind of) large closet dedicated to holiday decorations. (And if I had my way, the “hunting” closet would be converted to one as well.) Mainly the decorations have a Christmas theme, but my Halloween and Thanksgiving tubs are increasing.

As I was pulling out the window clings and pumpkin lights, the girls noticed their bright orange trick or treat pumpkins. Oh my! We have already started to “practice” trick or treating! Not surprisingly, Grandpa is a willing treat provider. And B will definitely let you know that she likes chocolate, specifically Hersheys!

I love experiencing the holidays with my kids. It is so fun to see their smiles, hear their laughter and steal their candy (HA!). And they have had their costumes planned out for 6 months – yes – 6 months!! So how could I deny them, when they “asked” Mommy and Daddy to dress up too? Yep, coming towards the end of the month – the Scooby Doo gang will be solving mysteries again. Zoinks!

• A is Daphne (because she “really likes the purple dress”)

• B is Velma (because “she is the other girl and always has the clues”)

• Daddy is Fred (because “he is a boy and tall”)

• Jetta is Scooby (because “Jetta is a dog and Scooby is a dog” I swear I heard B mutter “duh Mom)

• Which leaves Mommy as Shaggy (best for last?)

We were very lucky to locate a “reasonably priced” Daphne costume for girls at Target and the matching Velma costume online. Whew! Also, we located an orange ascot/scrap of material at the fabric store for Fred (now for the blond wig!). And I think a green shirt for Shaggy has been found in my t-shirt drawer 

As we searching for costumes, has anyone noticed how scary/bloody/terrifying some of the costumes and decorations have become? I was probably really naïve, but I didn’t think I would need to explain a bloody skull to my 4 year old. And yes, I am a scaredy cat, but a moving Michael Myers? The hubby and I tried our best to explain the scary stuff, but you could tell it upset the girls. Has any other mom/parent dealt with this? How did you explain it?

And don’t even get me started on the female adult costumes…Jinkies!

Jean Anne


Yesterday I turned 31. As anyone reading this blog is sure to know, birthdays as an adult are just not the same as birthdays when you were a kid. Sure, adult birthdays are still great. They are a day when the people closest to you extend you well-wishes, reminding you of how blessed you are. They are a day for reflecting on who you’ve become and all that you’ve accomplished. And, if you are anything like me, birthdays are a day where for an entire 24 hours you can shirk your household duties and take a nap while your husband washes the dishes.

While all of these things are great, adult birthdays just do not compare to that magical, anything-can-happen feeling birthdays had as a kid. Until, of course, you have kids of your own.

Once you have kids of your own, birthdays take on a renewed importance. All of a sudden, birthday means more than dinner out at a nice restaurant. There must be presents. And cake. With candles. Balloons. “Lots of peoples” (as KJ puts it). In short, birthdays all of a sudden revert back to being a celebration.

And now that I think about it, that’s really a nice thing. I’m not the type of person who typically makes a big deal about my birthday. While I don’t sweat getting older, I don’t embrace the limelight either. I’m just as happy with a homemade dinner and a card from my kids as I could ever be with a surprise shindig in my honor. But keeping things low-key doesn’t mean doesn’t mean not celebrating.

After becoming a mom, I realized that birthday celebrations are not all about the birthday kid at all. As a mom, my kid’s birthday meant celebrating another year of joy for me. It meant immense pride in who my kid was as a person, and the role I played in helping him (or her) become that person. It meant remembering how much we longed for a baby and the heartbreak of repeated disappointment. For one child, the birthday means celebrating the realization of a dream. For another child, it means celebrating the blessing we didn’t expect.

And this celebration of other people’s birthdays isn’t just limited to moms celebrating the birth of their kids.  The birthday of a friend or family member is an opportunity to celebrate that person and their contributions to our life. To celebrate who they are, and who we are because of them. These are celebrations that don’t become any less important simply because we get older.

Thankfully, I have KJ and Sweet Pea to remind of that.  They will ensure that every year I celebrate my friends and family and their amazing contributions to my life.  And they'll make sure I'll do it right - with cake. 
And that’s something worth looking forward to each year!


Friday, October 1, 2010

The Art of "Improv"

A pregnant friend of mine sent me an email the other day expressing fears about her upcoming years as a working Mom. “How do you do it?”, she asked. I promptly replied to her email as follows….

“It’s simple…my trick to being a working Mommy is one word. IMPROV”.
I am very proud of the fact that (so far) I have been able to live two lives. By day, I am passionate civil litigator who loves getting in front of juries and battling cases ranging from medical malpractice to employment law. By night, I leave my briefcase at the door and settle into the role I am most proud of: Mommy. I have been able to, for the most part, live my life without these worlds colliding.

I do not pretend to have all the answers of how to keep these worlds in perfect alignment, but the art of improvisation has made my life much easier. Can I do everything with my kids that I could do if I stayed home? Can I be the world’s best civil litigator? Of course not. There are simply not enough hours in the day, But with the power of “Improv” I can give my kids the benefits of having a  "Stay at Home Mom" and still put my law degree to good use!

Here are some examples of my World of Improv:

(1) I Embrace Technology. I am a big scrapbooker. I have scrapbooked since I was in college and it is the way I like to spend my “Me” time (what little I get). My goal has always been to do three separate sets of scrapbooks for each of my children and scrapbook their adventures as they grow. But, as a working Mom I couldn’t keep up with the paper and scissor scrapbooking. So now I have entered into the world of digital scrapbooking, which means I do all my scrapbooking on computer. This allows me to basically draft biographies of my children’s lives on my short time clock. People are shocked when I tell them that my children have nearly 1000 pages of scrapbooks amongst them and my oldest is only 4! I can do everything that people who have so much more time than I have to scrapbook can do…all with a click of a mouse.

(2) When there is no time for “Vacations” we take “Staycations”. Because Todd and I work we don’t have a lot of time to vacation. So, every now and then we do a staycation where we will take a long weekend and just stay at home with the kids. We even went so far as to buy a fire pit for our back yard so we can “camp” without leaving home. The kids love it and the best part…no packing! When we are craving a little beach time, I set up a “beach” in our house (i.e. beach towels, bright lamps, and a bathtub swimming pool) and the kids and I have a beach day. I seriously have just as many memories with our Staycations as I do on our Vacations. And the cheaper price is nice too!

(3) I am a “lunch dater”. Todd and I have always been good at putting our marriage as a top priority. This means we understand that as a couple we need to go out on dates and take time for us. But that has never been easy. I mean we really haven’t been alone since we got married because I got pregnant with J two weeks after our wedding! Date nights are hard for us to plan because this means we have to impose on my Mom or get a sitter. So, we now do lunch dates. We meet for lunch about once every two weeks. We get to catch up and be together…without distraction.

(4) I have established a strong “Social Network”. As a working Mom, I unfortunately do not have a lot of time for my friends. This is one part of my life that has really taken a back seat and that bothers me to no end. It’s funny, but after you become a Mom you realize how badly you need your friends! Because of my crazy schedule I don’t always have time to call my friends and catch up. So, I embrace my “social network” and keep active on Facebook and emails to keep my bonds strong. My Social Network has opened the door for me to catch up with old friends and rekindle our friendships. Friendships take work and my social network helps me keep my friendships on track!

(5) I teach my own “classes”. My children are involved in a lot of activities and I am constantly trying to expose them to different things. Because most of the museums or park districts around here have classes during the day when my kids can’t attend, I make sure and set up times to do our own “classes”. For example, in our house we have Creative Sundays, where every Sunday (well as often as our schedule allows) I let the kids do something crafty. I look online and try to come up with new projects. We’ve done paper flowers, made puppets, masks, etc. I have even rolled out a roll of paper on our kitchen floor and let them body paint with their feet, hands, etc. (Note: this activity has caused me to basically have stock in Crayola washable paint).

(6) I am a Freezer and Crock Pot Chef. I love to cook. It is something I have always enjoyed. And I love sitting down with my family over a big meal. But as a working Mom who often parents alone at night it is not always possible for me to cook elaborate meals. So one thing that I do is cook or prepare meals in advance and save them for the week. I also have joined several crock pot recipe exchange sites and use my crock pot often. Presto…family meals without the work!

Life handed me a working Mommy’s life. So instead of feeling guilty or sad, I am going to take the time I have and truly make the best of it...with a little help from the Art of Improv.