Tuesday, November 30, 2010


It’s Saturday morning. My kids are running around and playing and I’m getting ready to attack several loads of laundry.

Oh laundry! It’s everywhere in my house. I even “talk” laundry. When I hear people say things it will trigger my thought of “Oh crap, do we have clean laundry”?? Examples: “Honey want to go SNUGGLE” or “No pain, No GAIN”. Yep say that to me and I’m thinking laundry (sorry to my husband on this one). If we are on a beach during a relaxing vacation and someone tells me when the TIDE comes in…well they just ruined my vacation because now I’m thinking of the laundry I’ll have to do once vacation is over! Okay I'm exaggerating a little...but if you are a Mom like me you know laundry is always on our mind!

It doesn’t help that I live with the 4 biggest laundry users in America. My daughter, J, rivals a Cher concert with the amount of “costume” changes she makes in a day. She’s the resident fashionista and has more clothes than you can imagine. My son, L, although he can’t help it of course, is Mr. Drools…he soaks his onesie in about 45 minutes (and he hates to wear bibs). My middle child, H? Well, he is the reason they invented stain stick…I’m amazed at what he does to his clothes during the course of a day. In fact, no matter how cute a shirt is at the store…if its white, off white, or light colored…I won’t buy it for H. Period. And then there’s my husband who works in a hot stinky factory. He is the reason why you will always see me in the store opening the detergent and smelling them to make sure the smell is strong enough to battle the factory smells!

I have three pet peeves in the laundry world: the largest of which is my hatred of towels. My family obviously does not get the concept that when you get out of the shower and bath you are CLEAN…so then why on earth after a shower or a bath do they put the towels either on the floor or in the dirty clothes basket?? This means that when I come around to pick up the laundry I’ll look at the towel in the dirty clothes basket and think “Oh I should just take it out and hang it back up?” But then in the back of my mind I always think “Well wait, maybe there is some reason it is in here” and again I have a load of towels to wash. You will always see me with a scowl on my face when I wash a load of towels…Grrrr…..

#2 Baby socks…I despise baby socks. No matter how attentive I am to them when I put them in the wash they always disappear. I used to think the “sock monster” concept was a joke…well its not, at least not in this house. The sock monster is very real. I will watch myself put two little baby socks in the wash but suddenly when I am folding the laundry there is only one. Grrr….

#3 Leaving the clothes in the washer. Yes I only have myself to blame here. I usually do laundry late at night when the kids are in bed. Often I think to myself as the clock strikes midnight…ooh I can get one more load in. So, I’ll start it but then I’ll get consumed with work or the tv shows I’ve taped on my DVR and forget about it. Next day I’ll come downstairs to find the load has sat there and gotten musty and then damn…I have to wash it again!

To be honest, I actually like doing laundry. I don’t even mind folding clothes. I mean of the list of chores I engage in laundry is the most mindless so it really takes no effort. Except of course trying to figure out how to get H's ketchup/apple sauce/grass/grease/crayon stain off his shirt.  So I don’t mind doing laundry several times a week. But what I do mind…what I hate more than anything in the world…PUTTING THE CLOTHES AWAY.

Now if you are one of those who is blessed with a laundry room on your upper level near your bedrooms…I unfortunately must hate you because I am SO jealous of you!! I am not that lucky…my laundry room is down in my scary basement storage room. 2 flights down from the bedrooms. You would think the amount of loads of laundry I do in the week I would be the skinniest person in the world…but unfortunately not true!

So here’s what always happens…I fold the laundry neatly into a laundry basket thoroughly intending to take it upstairs and put it in our closets. But I’ll get sidetracked and the laundry basket will stay in the room. Now my husband and kids were born with a serious condition: “clean laundry blindness”, i.e. they can’t recognize that the clothes are folded in the basket and therefore clean. They don’t see this. So what do they do? They think it’s a dirty clothes basket and they throw their dirty clothes on top of the clean clothes. So then when its time for me to take the laundry down I eye the basket and see the dirty clothes, I haul it downstairs, pour it into the washer and of course see my perfectly cleaned and folded laundry tumbling into my washer once again. Now you would think that a person with a law school education would not fall for this more than once…you’re wrong. It happens to me all the time!

So here’s what I propose to the smart people of the world. Please invent some sort of computer, robot thing that will wash, dry, and fold my clothes and instantly transport them neatly to my closet. But since I know this isn’t going to happen anytime soon I guess I better stop blogging and get to my laundry!

Anybody else feeling like venting about laundry today????


Monday, November 29, 2010


Every day we make judgments (admit it, we do). These judgments can depend on many things: body type, where a person lives, what kind of car you drive, a tone of voice, etc. As an only child and a girl who accompanied her father to football practice, these judgments started early. In college, a female Chemistry major is (somewhat) of a rarity, so again, more judgments. By the time law school finished, I thought I had accepted most of what people had to say. But then, becoming a mom, and a working mom, no less, the “comments” started coming out of the woodwork. So, maybe because I just feel like venting or am feeling feisty, I am going to “debunk” or explain some of them:

1. “She must not love/care about her children enough to stay at home with them.” This is the one that bothers me the most. I am not here to debate working vs. stay at home mom merits here. However, because I made the choice to work does not mean I do not love my children. Period. End of Discussion.

2. “Since she is a working mom, she gets easier hours at work.” I wish! I realize my schedule is simpler than most, because I work in-house. However, I still have conference calls, meetings, presentations, etc. to attend and bosses to make happy. Now, I am not at work at the crack of dawn because I have to drop my girls off at daycare/school and I leave “early” to pick them up. But I typically eat lunch at my desk and can be seen lugging my laptop home at night. I concede that I am lucky to have “flexible” hours, but that means you may see an email from me at 11 PM.

3. “Because she earns a paycheck, she can afford anything her kids want (or her kids are spoiled).” Yes, both my hubby and I “bring home the bacon.” However, this does not mean A n’ B are wearing Burberry jumpers or have Louis Vuitton backpacks. We budget, pay the mortgage, bills, and save for college and retirement. Yes, A n’ B have the Sketchers Twinkle Toes, but only from Grandma for a birthday present (after gift cards, coupons and the BOGO ½ offer). And Mommy and Daddy continue to drive an 11 year old Honda Civic. Every family makes choices for items they want or need, and I spoil my children when I can.

4. “She won’t be making VP by 33 since she has kids.” Yep, you are probably right – I won’t be climbing the corporate ladder anytime soon. Prior to having my girls, I was ambitious. I could stay late at work and hit up the work networking function after that. I could work all weekend on research or presentations and be ready for Monday morning, asking for more opportunities. Now my priorities have changed. I will leave work with 20 emails in my inbox, in order to make it to swimming lessons. (The emails will get answered, just maybe at 10 PM).

5. “She must be completely organized” HA! I do have lists, bulletin boards and a BlackBerry for personal use, but I am pretty much just winging it. And if you ever see my house…

I am sure there are more stereotypes, both good and bad, for working moms. It’s just that this morning, this is what you get. Sorry – with sick kids and my in-laws coming – this mommy is exhausted and cranky!

Jean Anne

Friday, November 26, 2010


Ahh, Thanksgiving. One of the best holidays of the year, without a doubt. It involves all of the things necessary to make a great holiday without any of the stressors that ruin other holidays. There’s no stressful shopping for impossible gifts, no need to dress up in a costume or perform a trick to get your treat and no religious affiliation that could make for uncomfortable dinner conversations among mixed-religion families. Nope, Thanksgiving is all about family, food, football and counting your blessings. It’s perfect.

Topping off all of this perfection is Black Friday. A day dedicated to shopping. For a girl like me – who likes shopping a WHOLE lot more than football – Black Friday is a great break from reminding myself how thankful I am to be cooped up in an overly warm house with all of my closest relatives shouting at some football game on tv. Plus, it’s a great excuse for an afternoon nap.

So today, one day after stuffing ourselves with the delicious Thanksgiving dinner we put together yesterday, my sister-in-law and I are going to go stuff ourselves with retail therapy and most likely buy a bunch of things we don’t need but can’t pass up because they are such a “deal.” We’re going to get swept up in the current of crazy, and shop ‘til we drop. And we’ll spend another day remembering how blessed we are to spend this time together. 

 I hope that all of your Thanksgivings were filled with all of the same blessings.  Or at least some delicious turkey.  Now if you'll excuse me, I believe I have some shopping to do. . .


Thursday, November 25, 2010

My Thank You's

Happy Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving is a time to look and reflect on all we are thankful for…and boy do I have a lot to be thankful for!!

Of course I am thankful for every day with my happy, healthy, beautiful children and wonderful husband. Of course I am thankful to have a job that allows me to be the Mom I want to be.

So this is not going to be a post about the large things that I am thankful for every minute of my life. Instead, I thought as this is my 32nd Thanksgiving, I would take time to reflect on 32 of the small things in my life…the things I always forget to be thankful for.

So here we go…

1. Thank you to Target for managing to design shoes that look just enough like the designer shoes at Von Maur to fool my 4 year old and allow me to avoid spending $100 on shoes she will out-grow in a month.

2. Thank you to the wonderful caregivers at my kids’ daycare who always remember to hug my kids and tell them “I love you” when they leave at the end of the day.

3. Thank you to Wal-Mart for restructuring your store so I don’t have to take my kids over by the toys when I just need soap or toothpaste.

4. Thank you to the Baby Einstein company for “Baby Beethoven” which keeps L entertained in his bouncy seat just long enough so I can take a shower.

5. Thank you to my Mom who always remembers to call me and ask me how I am…instead of simply inquiring about the kids.

6. Thank you Twizzlers for being the only treat my 3 year old son will go potty for.

7. Thank you makers of the DVR who allow me to watch my favorite TV shows at midnight when I finally have time to sit down and watch a show.

8. Thank you Strawberry Shortcake for making a comeback while my daughter is young so I can relive my childhood everyday.

9. Thank you to my best friends for loving my children and proving that you don’t have to be related by blood to be family.

10. Thank you to L for sucking his thumb instead of being dependent on a pacifier so I never have to have another moment of “Oh crap we forgot the binky and he’s tired!” in a crowded restaurant.

11. Thank you to Facebook for allowing me to reconnect with old friends and see pictures of my permed hair and plaid shirts posted for the world to see.

12. Thank you Crock Pot for making my dinners taste like I’ve slaved all day, even though it only took me 2 minutes to throw everything inside and turn it on high..

13. Thank you Glee for doing Rocky Horror Picture Show so I can teach my kids how to do the Time Warp!

14. Thank you Dodge company for putting automatic doors on my mini-van so I can open the doors while juggling groceries.

15. Thank you Gymboree for coming out with Gymbucks so that every now and then my bills at your store can be less than $200.00.

16. Thank you makers of spray in shampoo so I don’t feel gross if I don’t get to wash my hair every day.

17. Thank you General Mills for putting WHOLE GRAIN and VITAMIN D in large print on your boxes of cereal so I feel a little better as I pour a bowl of sugary Lucky Charms for my kids.

18. Thank you for multi-colored post it notes ( No reason really…I just love them).

19. Thank you Barenaked Ladies for coming out with “Snacktime!” So I don’t have to listen to Barney and Dora and can actually enjoy my kids’ music.

20. Thank you Nickelodeon for coming out with Team Umizoomi (a kids show about math) so I can work on my math skills while my kids enjoy their favorite tv show.

21. Thank you to Garmin for my GPS so I never have to juggle Mapquest directions while I look for a courthouse in some small county in Iowa.

22. Thank you for court reporters who can keep up with fast talking attorneys like me and after I am done make me feel better by saying “Oh, you don’t talk THAT fast”.

23. Thank you creators of “Just Dance” for the Wii, for coming up with a fun game where I can get in some exercise while I “Walk like an Egyptian”.

24. Thank you for briefs I have saved on my computer, so when a partner emails me at 10:00 p.m. saying they need a brief done by the next day I can simply copy and paste.

25. Thank you makers of the Bounce Dryer Bar so I never have to pull out another dryer sheet that got stuck in my pant leg as I sit in court.

26. Thank you online bill pay for allowing me to pay my bills without having to find the stamps I never have anyway.

27. Thank you for dark colored suits, which hide spit up stains beautifully.

28. Thank you Blackberry for allowing me to answer emails while I sit at a dance class.

29. Thank you Spaghetti Sauce for being the only “vegetables” my daughter will actually eat.

30. Thank you for the Tasks option on Microsoft Outlook which gives me my reminders that I have the appeal brief I totally forgot about due in a week.

31. Thank you Caffeine Free Diet Pepsi for making your pop taste just like the caffeinated one so I don’t feel so guilty about my 6 plus cans a day.

32. Thank you to the JD Moms blog…for giving me an avenue to vent and allowing me that chance to formally thank Post-it Notes!

Of course you know that this list is not exhaustive. A working Mom has so much to be thankful for in her life. But always remember to be thankful for the little things too…and if you’d like to share your “Thank You’s” feel free to leave me a comment!

On behalf of all the JD Moms Happy Thanksgiving everyone! We are so thankful for your support. Now go stuff yourself with turkey and stuffing and enjoy the extra days off with your kids!!


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What I Am Thankful For...

Yes folks, it is that time of year when we take time out to list out what we are thankful for.  Granted, we should do this more often (similar to the count your blessings theme) but, as we all know, kids, work, dishes, errands, etc. get in the way.  To give you a little idea, here is what A &B are thankful for:

A: My grandma and grandpa, mama and Jetta
B: My mommy and daddy and Jetta dog

It really is that simple for them.  Although, I do know that hubby will be a little hurt that A did not include him (he is off deer hunting, and she is a little unhappy she didn't get to go).  As for me, well, this took a little more thought:
  1. My children - I honestly don't know what I would do without them.  They make me crazy some times, but when they laugh, smile and tell me that I am their best friend and they love me, it makes me realize I am the luckiest person in the world.
  2. My hubby - yes, he makes me crazy most of the time too, but I he is my constant.  Things may get crazy for us, but we are a team.
  3. My parents - I am a spoiled rotten only child, so you know they are included :)!  They still take care of me AND spoil A & B rotten now!
  4. My family - without them, I would not be the person I am today.  I just wish we could all be together more often!
  5. My best friend - she knows me better than anyone else.  And still loves me!  I know that when we are 60 and still looking fabulous, we will still be laughing about our dancing skills!
  6. The Fab Four - best friends forever!  Now, if we could all be in the same state again.
  7. My job - in current times, I know how lucky I am to have a job.  And one where my boss appreciates my hard work AND understands the need for family time.  Amazing!
  8. A house over my head. 
  9. Health (for everyone close to me)
  10. A positive attitude
  11. Caring friends
  12. Great teachers at daycare and preschool
  13. Good neighbors
  14. My guardian angels
  15. Second chances
Ok - I am sure there are more, but for now, I am lost in happy memories.  Please take the time out to reflect on what you are thankful for.  I hope everyone has a very Happy Thanksgiving! 

Jean Anne

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Girl Law

I’ve been having a little bit of a career freak out lately. You see, lately I realized that I’m now over 30. And a woman. And a litigator. That means sometime in the next ten years my life will dramatically change. I don’t exactly know how and I don’t exactly know why. But if you look around, you’ll notice that there simply aren’t any women litigators over 40. So the clock is ticking.

Okay, so I exaggerate a little bit. But only a little bit. The truth is, women litigators over 40 are few and far between. Look around your own firm. At my current firm, there are only two women lawyers, and we’re both associates (and one is a transactional attorney). My last firm – an Am Law 100 firm in a big city – had one woman partner in litigation. And she was non-equity. In our entire office of 100 lawyers we had in total only three women partners. Considering that since about 2001 law school classes have been made of up 50% women, these percentages of women partners are down right embarrassing. At a minimum, the ranks of junior partners should be a lot more made-up. Which begs the question, where have all the women lawyers gone?

The Wall Street Journal’s The Juggle asked this question not long ago. But it didn’t really come up with any real answers. The article noted that despite making up 34.4% of all lawyers last year, women made up only 15% of equity partners - “a level that hasn’t budged in the past five years.” It then attempted to rationalize these numbers by blaming a gender-bias in pay and firm’s use of contract attorneys. http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2010/11/09/study-where-have-all-the-women-lawyers-gone/

While I don’t doubt that unequal pay and the use of contract attorneys accounts for some of the problem, I found the comments to the article to be much more in tune with the problems of real life law firms. Aside from a few comments posted (hopefully) solely to inflame, the majority of the comments indicated that women leave the law because women aren’t valued in the law.

In my opinion, one commenter got it exactly right: “The reality is that law firms are unfriendly to women. They are run by (largely white) men who like to be surrounded by cute young women mentees while the learning curve is still high, but not experienced talented women to work with as equals.” In my own experience, I’ve seen how it goes. Smart, talented women with the best credentials get the jobs. Within the first year or two, they experience some incident of sexual harassment – often by the lawyer directly overseeing them. Whether the woman lawyer reports the incident or handles it herself the result is the same – nothing happens to the equity partner. The fact is any harassment lawsuit brought by a second-year associate is cheaper to settle than the loss of a rainmaker’s multi-million dollar book of business. And the message is clear: you’re valuable, but not that valuable.

Usually two or three years later, this message is repeated -- most usually when the woman associate announces she’s pregnant. For some reason, the minute a woman lawyer announces she’s expecting a baby, law firm partners go into crisis mode. To law firm partners, baby means maternity leave and maternity leave means a vacation and everyone knows that any lawyer who takes a vacation isn’t really dedicated to her work. So the associate is written off. Of course, maternity leave isn’t a vacation, and the woman has six (or nine, or in my case, 3) months left of time that she needs to bill, but work immediately stops flowing her way. She’s left to scramble to find work to bill time before the baby arrives, and plagued by doubts about how she’ll get any work once she returns from 8 or 12 weeks away. No words may be exchanged, but the lack of work speaks volumes: you’re valuable, until you have a baby.

Assuming that the woman lawyer puts up with these games, and makes it to her ninth year (and skipping some other convincing examples along the way), the woman associate is again reminded of her wayward value when she finally goes up for partner. In that process, every vacation, sick day and maternity leave will be used against her. There will be talk of how her 8 or 12 week maternity leave left her less experienced than a male who didn’t take a break. There will be talk of how she sometimes works from home to care for her sick kid. And there will be talk about whether the other partners think she’ll have any more kids -- as if having more children could render someone less partnership material. In the end, the woman will probably make junior partner. After all, most law firms need to promote women for their reporting statistics. But when the woman is promoted, she’ll be reminded of all of her “time off” and “special accommodations.” The message from the firm is that she’s valuable because she’s a woman, not because she’s a good lawyer.

I realize that this example relates only to women lawyers who have kids. (I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t have any idea what happens to the women lawyers without kids). But I’ve seen it happen so many times to so many different women with so many different talents that I believe it to be the true nature of the law firm experience.  Women lawyers don't ever expereince "real law", but instead are subjected to a career of “girl law" in which they are repeatedly told that they will never succeed on their merits.  So they leave.  That's where all the lawyers go -- anywhere else. 

The legal profession needs something more than women's iniatives and work/life balance programs to fix the wrong that is "girl law."  But until men who truly value women as professional equals start running law firms, women will keep leaving. 


Monday, November 22, 2010


“The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blind side you at 4 PM on some idle Tuesday”. Mary Schmich, Chicago Tribune.

I’ve known this quote for several years.  I can recite it word for word.  I experienced the true nature of what this quote means this past week at work. I made a mistake, and yes it blind sided me Thursday morning.

I’m a perfectionist…call it my personality, call it the fact I’m a Virgo, but its something I’ve always been. I also care a great deal of what others think of me. I worry about how I portray myself to others. My reputation means everything to me. I want to be the best Mom, the best wife, the best lawyer. Because of my insatiable need to please others and do everything perfect, I get sidelined by mistakes in my life. When I make a mistake, I internalize it, beat myself up about it, worry about it. You know those people that make a mistake and blow it off like nothing happened??  Yeah that’s not me…not even close. I’m the one that will be thinking about my mistake for years to come.

The facts of this particular mistake are not important so I won’t spend this blog telling you the long drawn out story of what happened. Frankly, I’m tired of hearing myself talk about it and you want to read a blog, not a novel. Let’s just say I made a bad judgment call and this was brought to the attention of the partners at my firm. My poor judgment, my mistake, was made known to the people I fully respect and admire in my profession. When this happened, I felt horrible. Imagine a perfectionist people pleaser having to deal with making a stupid mistake in front of people she most wants to please! Yeah....not good at all.

I apologized for my mistake, cried, became angry with myself, felt embarrassed, hopeless, alone, and misunderstood. I went over the week’s events in my mind constantly. I worried about my job and my future at the firm. I dreaded going to work and when I did , I hid out in my office and buried myself in work. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that I am also a notorious drama queen (although I’m sure you can guess it from reading this so far). Trust me, give a Drama Queen actual drama to deal with in her life…and it is never pretty!

My mistake carried over into my home life. I came home stressed out, teary, and just plain worn out. I couldn’t sleep. I could hardly eat. My husband did the best he could to keep my spirits up, make me laugh, and give me pep talks. And I did the best I could to keep my same sunny personality in front of my kids. But, with all the stress I was under it is no wonder that my mood caught the attention of my daughter.

J: “Mommy, what’s wrong? Why are you sad?”

Me: “Oh honey, Mommy made a mistake at work and I’m just sad about it”

J cocked her head to the side as if she was analyzing my situation. Then without skipping a beat my little Diva dispensed her advice:

J: “Don’t worry Mommy, just say you’re sorry.”

I sighed and smiled through my tears. Even though I had asked my most trusted friends for advice about how to handle my mistake…I never knew the best advice I would get would come from my 4 year old!

It’s funny but when we’re 4 we’re allowed to make mistakes over and over. And as long as we say the magic words “I’m sorry”…our mistakes are instantly erased like chalk on a chalkboard. Presto – the mistake vanishes without a trace!! Mistakes don’t haunt kids…they never play the shoulda-woulda-coulda game. Nope they forget about their mistake before their apology even hits your ear.

But somehow as we grow “I’m sorry” loses its magic. Sure it helps…but unlike the “chalk” that our mistakes are when we are younger…our mistakes somehow turn into “permanent marker” as we grow. Although an apology might fade the mistake it still never seems to go away.

I realized that maybe I need to take the advice of my daughter. I need to move on and stop letting my mistake consume my life. I made my mistake. I had apologized numerous times. Now, I just needed to forget about it.

And just like that I started to turn my “permanent marker mistake” back into a “chalk mistake”.  I took the weekend to think about my mistake and vent with friends...now it was over...I erased my mistake and put it behind me.

Maybe I should listen to my 4 year old more often!


Friday, November 19, 2010

Too Many Thoughts

As I sat down tonight to write my blog post, so many thoughts were running through my head.  My hubby is up north for almost a week, my daughter told my hubby last night that "Mommy works too much," I can't sleep lately, why does a networking dinner have to be 3 hours long, etc.  As you can tell, this has been a busy week for me.  So which topic to choose? 

Well, as Thanksgiving quickly approaches I am going to take the night off from all of my above stressful thoughts and think about a day off with my family.  No, I am not going to go into the standard "what I am thankful for" post - that I am saving for next Wednesday - HA!  But I do want to talk (write?) about Thanksgiving, because I think it is a very important holiday. 

Why is it important?  Because it is the only holiday where the focus is solely food!  Everyone has the day off, I don't have to worry about traveling, nor do I have to worry about which Christmas gifts should I get for which person.  This day is just about football, sleeping in and my mom cooking way too much food.  (yes, Grandma goes way overboard!). 

We always have the basics for turkey dinner: turkey, stuffing, potatoes, yams and pie.  Oh and don't forget the rolls.  Plus, Grandma always makes a favorite dish for everyone.
Grandpa: Stuffing (he is pretty easy since he can't eat green vegetables)
Hubby: Potatoes (yep!)
Me: Yams and apple/snicker salad
A: cheese
B: heart chocolate

So you may see a little variety in the last 2 answers.  Yep, my children are EXTREMELY picky eaters.  (And this is where you should be able to hear the laughter from my aunt and cousin - as I am also very picky!).   So I need tips on how to get my girls to try new foods.  Any suggestions?  At this point, I am willing to try anything. 

Thanks for the tips!  And look forward to my "what I am thankful for" post next week :)!!

Jean Anne

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Bridal Bliss

On Friday night, my best friend got engaged! Engagements are always exciting, but for my best friend, this engagement was especially sweet. BF (as I’ll call her) has had an especially rough time the past few years. Since about 2006 everything that could go wrong for her pretty much has. Around 2006, BF’s mom was diagnosed with cancer for a second time. It was a difficult kind of cancer and survival rates were not good. Upon learning this news BF packed up her life in Florida and moved to Wisconsin to help her family. And for a long time, BF did whatever she needed to do to help her mom and family. She took her mom to doctor appointments and handled at-home medical procedures. She did the family grocery shopping. She helped her youngest brother with his homework. She did whatever it took. That’s the kind of person she is.

And then, her mother died. A couple of weeks after her mother’s services, while BF was still living at home (and carrying out her mother’s request that she look after her youngest brother until he graduated high school), BF learned that her father had a girlfriend – as in, two weeks after her mother’s death her dad and the girlfriend took a trip out of the country together. BF is a smart girl, she knew what this meant. Her relationship with her father quickly deteriorated, and over the course of the next two years, BF essentially lost contact with her father, a once-favorite aunt, and (to a lesser extent) her three brothers. Essentially, in losing her mother, BF lost her entire family.

But BF persevered, holding a good job and eventually buying her own condo. BF developed an amazing network of friends that I’ve come to view as her family. BF truly made a new life for herself and made a go of things. But she remained unlucky in love. Until now.

This summer, a few friends of ours from high school got together. All of us except for BF were married, and all of us except BF had a kid. BF endured what had to be a painfully long get-together talking about marriage, kids and all of the things BF wished she had but was convinced would never be hers. Being high school friends, however, we used the age-old tactic of peer pressure and convinced BF to try an on-line dating service. BF had tried these before, but with mixed results. We encouraged her to try again, and promised to get back together in a month to hear the outcome.

And here we are, five months later headed for bridal bliss! I’m so happy for her that I can’t even put it into words. After all that she’s been through, she deserves to be happy. I’m so excited to help her plan her big day, look for dresses, taste cake, whatever she wants me to do. And, as icing on the proverbial cake, last night, she culminated our sixth-grade pact and asked if I would be her maid of honor. There is nothing I would love to do more!

In the natural course of thinking about what an exciting part of her life BF is about to start, however, I started thinking about how far my own relationship with Husband has changed since our own super-exciting engagement. Like many couples, Husband and I have peaks and valleys in our marriage. There are times when we click and everything seems to be perfect and there are times when I wonder how we got here. To say that things haven’t been great lately would be putting it nicely. We’ve both been under a lot of pressure at work – with his job laying off hundreds of people every quarter and my insane trial schedule quickly closing in. Add to that two toddlers, extended families, outside obligations, the inanities of every day life and now the holidays and you’ve got a lot of things to argue about.

The truth is, Husband and I have been doing a terrible job of putting effort into our marriage lately. We’ve let a million things distract us, and “us” hasn’t even made the radar screen. We’ve let work and kids and a bunch of other things override the amazing joy of sharing our lives together. We’ve lost the forest for the trees.

BF’s engagement was a wonderful chance to share in someone else’s love. And it was great to remember when we once felt that way too. In celebrating with BF, I realized that nothing with Husband and I has changed except our priorities. And our marriage needs to be a little further up the list. Like BF and her fiancé, Husband and I once felt like we could conquer the world, simply because we had each other. And like BF and fiancé, we still can. Thank you, BF for such a great reminder. We look forward to sharing in your love for years and years to come!


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Day of Rest??????

Whatever happened to Sunday being a day of rest? I can remember all the years where Sunday meant lying around, enjoying a movie, or just kicking back. Now, Sundays are anything BUT relaxing.
Want to see how far I have come from the days of the relaxing Sunday?? Well, allow me to share with you my past Sunday:

4:00 a.m. – L wakes up for a bottle. L is the greatest baby in the world so really when he does wake up for a bottle it usually is only 10 minutes max and then he returns to his peaceful slumber.

7:00 a.m. – Woken up by H’s excited voice: “Mommy its morning!!”. Kids and I travel downstairs to start our day.

7:15 a.m – Feeding time – Feed the baby, feed the kids, feed the dog…notice who was forgotten from this list??? Oh well, there’s always lunch.

8:00 a.m. – Time to get dressed. In a tornado of jeans, shirts, a onesie, socks, underwear, and diapers I manage to get them all put together! Have my typical Sunday “argument” with J: “Honey, its Sunday and we’re not doing anything…you don’t need to wear a fancy dress”.

8:15 a.m. – Realize that it is after 8:00 a.m. and we have so much to do so I run upstairs…time for a shower? Not really. So I settle for a quick jump in for blast of water and soap and deal with the fact I didn’t get to wash my hair. No time for makeup really, so brush the hair and teeth, put on jeans and a long-sleeve shirt and give myself the “This will have to due” look in the mirror.

8:30 a.m. – Server down at work, which means I was not able to work during my normal “evening shift” i.e. after the kids go to bed. So we have to go down to the office. Bundle up the kids in a slew of coats and hats and load up the mini-van. Park in the deck and juggle L in his car seat, hold J and H’s hands and try not to drop the large bag of toys I have packed to try and keep the kids entertained.

8:40 – 11:00 a.m. – Office time with the 3 Muskateers. For me, it was a time that I could work on a motion I had due…for them they got to litter/decorate my office with post-it notes, tape, and my business cards. Again L sealed the deal as best baby in the world because he sat on my floor playing with the same 3 rattles this entire time.

11:15 a.m. – Back home and time for lunch. J wants a “Turkey sandwich with cheese”, H wants “Turkey sandwich…no turkey”, L may not want it but he’s getting peas and apples. And finally I get a chance to grab something to eat…although after trying to remember who wanted their sandwich cut, who didn’t, who wanted apple juice, who wanted chocolate milk, and refereeing the battle over who got more Goldfish on their plate I settle for some turkey and cheese thrown haphazardly on some bread.

12:00 p.m. – Wake the husband up (who was sleeping from being up all night working the night before) and deliver to him the boys. They all lie down for a nap, while J and I head to cheerleading practice.

12:15 p.m. – Watch my little cheerleader enjoying her class!

1:00 p.m. – Weekly grocery shopping trip. I always like going alone because when the kids are with me my cart ends up having 90% snacks, 10% food. But, due to the time constraints I have to take J. We manage to get out alive during a Sunday rush at the store! Of course we had time for another “argument” regarding why she couldn’t get a happy birthday balloon bouquet because her birthday is not until July.

2:00 p.m. – Home to put groceries away, i.e. the game to find the bags of frozen/cold food first so several hours later I don’t come across a container of butter that was left out with the cereal and chips.

2:15 p.m. – Realize that I forgot the eggs I need for the meatloaf. J and I jump in the van and head to the store AGAIN. Of course J needs something for her so we settle on reddish purple lip gloss.

2:30 p.m. – Start dinner so that it is ready by the time Todd goes to work. Meatloaf put in the oven.

2:45 p.m. – Wake up Todd so I can get some time to work on the motion I didn’t finish this morning. Kids wake up from nap and play with Daddy while I work.

4:30 p.m. – Finish Motion and email it to the assigning partner. Check the meatloaf and make mashed potatoes (thankfully talked the hubby into peeling the potatoes!). Rolls in the oven, corn in the microwave. Try to explain to H why he can’t have Toy Story fruit snacks with his dinner, but give up and decide to pick my battles. I toss a Toy Story fruit snack next to his plate...do fruit snacks count as a serving of fruit?

5:00 p.m. – Dinner on the table. Sit down with the family even though Todd has to leave home by 5:15 to get to work. Dinner interrupted by a call from the senior partner who tries to talk loud enough over J as she demands justice after her brother looked at her wrong. The partner tells me he needs a set of jury instructions for a trial he has in the morning. Start to panic a little bit knowing the server was still down and I’d have to go back down to work.

5:45 p.m. – Bundle up the kids and head down the office again. Get to work to find out that the senior partner doesn’t need the jury instructions. Head back home.

6:00 p.m. - Clean up the kitchen and start a load of laundry.

6:30 p.m. – Bath time. 3 kids washed and scrubbed…I change my shirt since L recently discovered how much fun it is to splash in the big boy tub!

7:15 p.m. – Back down stairs after bath -three cleaned and jammied up kids in tow. Give L his bottle while J and H play Toy Story!

7:30 p.m. – Good night little L. A quick Lullabye and snuggle and off to dream land. Say a little thank you prayer to God for such a great baby.

7:45 p.m. – Snuggle up on the couch with J and H and watch Toy Story 3 for the 1000th time. Laugh when they seemed surprised about something that happens!

8:00 p.m. – Snack time…cheese and crackers plated and served! And yes I actually remembered myself here too!

8:30 p.m. – Upstairs to get ready for bed. Brush teeth, potty time, story time, H’s “Goodnight” song, J’s “lay with me for 9 minutes Mommy”. Kisses, hugs, I love you’s, one more hug, one more kiss, "close my closet", "turn my night light on", "Mommy does Santa live in heaven?"... and finally… Good night J and H!

9:00 p.m. – Return downstairs and change out laundry.

9:15 p.m. – Sit down to prepare for a trial the next day.

11:30 p.m. – Finish work and text with Todd for awhile to vent on my day.

12:00 a.m. (Monday)– Let the dog out, fold laundry, and start to watch Brothers and Sisters – desperate for some downtime with the Walker clan. Could wait until tomorrow but know I have to watch it now before someone ruins it for me the next day!

1:00 a.m. – Hit the pillow and sigh knowing that tomorrow is already Monday again!

So again I have to ask…what happened to relaxing Sundays? Maybe they will make their appearance again in about 20 years???


Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Maybe the title of this post should be "I don't understand men," but that may be too much of a topic to tackle in one night, so I think I will stick with my first thought. 

My frustration stems mostly from my hubby, who I lately just don't understand.  He is leaving this week to head up to northern Wisconsin to have his yearly deer hunting time with his grandfather, father, mother and this year, even his sister and his nephew.  Now, I love that he has this tradition with his family (and I am especially glad that the girls and I do not have to go!!), so please don't think that I am a horrible wife on this point.  This makes his grandfather's year and you can see from the family photos that this is a happy time for them.  And it doesn't even bother me that he will be gone for 6 days.

What bothers me is that he hasn't spent any time with his kids (and me) in the past week.  In fact, this weekend, we did not have any plans at all, yet he managed to find something else to do.  And if you ask him, these things had to be done.  On Saturday, he had to go set out feed for deer hunting in Iowa, then head to his friend B's to be supportive.  And on Sunday, he went out goose hunting in the morning, then spent all afternoon hanging Christmas lights.  And yes, I love Christmas lights and being supportive of friends, but he is going to be gone next week.  Isn't family more important?  He couldn't even sit through Toy Story 3 (yes, for the 4th time) with the girls.

When I know that travel plans are coming up for me, I like to spend every waking moment with the girls.  If things come up, I postpone them (especially laundry and the dishes!).  I even tried to talk with him about it this weekend, but I think all he heard from me was "nagging."  It's not that I don't want him to go and have fun on the weekend or deer hunting, but I would like to feel like we are important too. 

Am I just being too much of a nag?  I really do think his family is the most important thing in his life, I just wish he would express it.  Am I not seeing his side? 

Thanks for the advice/thoughts!

Jean Anne

Monday, November 15, 2010

Hungry, Hungry Hippos

Dinner is the most stressful time of day in my house. Husband and the kids often get home from school between 5:30 and 6. I am almost never home before 6:45. By that point, everybody is tired, hungry and at least a little bit crabby. Nobody has had any time to his or herself, and everybody is already thinking about what they have to do to get ready for tomorrow. The last thing anyone wants to do is tackle dinner. So, in an (apparently vain) effort to make this part of the day less stressful, I meal plan.

Every weekend I figure out all of the meals we are going to eat for the week. On Thursday, I look at what is on sale at Jewel and find recipes (preferably make-ahead or slow cooker recipes) that incorporate sale items or what we already have in the house. Then I make a grocery list. On Friday or Saturday, I go shopping and buy all of the items we need for the week. And on Sunday, I put together (to the extent I can) all of the dinners we are going to have that week.

And I hate it. I get very little pleasure from trying to figure out what we’ll want to eat in four days. Or from trying to adapt a recipe to work in a slow cooker. And I certainly could find better things to do with my time than chopping, cooking and assembling four meals every Sunday. I do it because it is the only way my family isn’t going to be eating cold cereal for dinner every night.

But sometimes I wonder if it is worth it. Many nights the kids eat only a few bites of dinner or push it away entirely. Certainly Husband doesn’t care. If left to his own, Husband would eat cold cereal for dinner without complaint. But Husband is also the guy I caught eating Chef Boyardee ravioli straight out of the can. And as a mom, I believe I have an obligation to provide my kids with a warm, nutritious dinner no matter how good their other two (daycare-provided) meals were.

And so I feel stuck. I can’t not pre-make dinners (this is how I know husband will feed them cold cereal), but I’d like an easier process. Do any of you moms out there have any dinner secrets they want to share? Any super-easy recipes Husband can whip together while managing two cranky children?  We've started a collection under the discussion tab of our Facebook page.  Please add your own family favorites!

Friday, November 12, 2010

L's Case

In early 2009, I was assigned a new file from a partner at my firm. He came in with a couple pieces of paper and said “Here you go, a new construction case for you.” I glanced down at it. It seemed like a simple case, an apartment complex was built badly. A bunch of construction defects. We were retained to represent the concrete installer on the project. No problem, I’ve been there, I’ve done that. I had my assistant open the file and went on to address my other cases.

Little did I know when I was handing my assistant those papers what this seemingly simple case was about to do to my life. The case started as a simple state court case with about 8 parties. It soon EXPLODED into a federal litigation with 20 plus parties. When it started, I thought my client was just named because it had worked on the project…months later I found out we are a major player.

This case is by far the largest case of my career. Pretty much every large law firm in the state of Iowa is involved in this case. The federal judge mandated that we set aside 1 week every month, and 2 weeks every other month for depositions in this case. That is not an easy task when you have 100’s of other files waiting for your attention. Early on, I had to bring aboard another associate here to help me handle this case. With Todd’s schedule and the kids there was just no way I could saddle this load all by myself. But even with the excellent help, it’s a major load to haul!

I lovingly call this case “L’s case”. No, my nearly 6 month old son has nothing to do with the facts of this case and is not involved in anyway, but he has become sort of the mascot to this case. When I look at him I am reminded how long this case has consumed my life.

The case was assigned to me when L was just a twinkle in my eye. I was a few months away from being pregnant with him when the case hit my desk. This case has progressed through his creation and life and so when I think of this case I always think of him.

In September I found out I was pregnant with L. I can remember the depositions early on in my pregnancy when I would sit there and think “I wish they would hurry up” as my morning sickness was bad with L. I can remember the depositions later on in my pregnancy when a boring construction expert’s deposition would be interrupted by countless kicks from L. And I’ll never forget the depositions 1 week before L was born when I started feeling contractions and was sure L was going to be born in the Marriott conference room!

And while my pregnancy daily updates informed me that L was growing from a poppy seed, to a grape, kiwi, lemon, eggplant, and eventually a cantaloupe, L’s case was growing too. First it was one expandable file, then a drawer, then an entire file cabinet, until it finally had to be moved from my office and given its own home out by my assistant. The file became massive which thousands of blueprints, specifications, and photos.

Towards the end of my pregnancy, it even became a longstanding joke amongst the attorneys. One attorney started a game during one of the depositions to count how many times I left to go to the bathroom!! They would “take bets” as to the number early on in the day. And yes, because L was a big baby that always seemed to want to rest right on my bladder the person who picked 10 plus was usually right!

L was born and after I returned from my leave L’s case still continued. L is now about to turn 6 months old and when I look at him I am reminded how long and drawn out this case has been. L gives “age” to the case in a unique way.

This week I traveled to the mediation in L’s case. I was crossing fingers and toes that the case would get settled and I could start to get my life back. This case as you can imagine has been a main focus of my work life. L’s case has a lot of unique challenges ahead of me, challenges I have never had to face in my career to date. The largest challenge? The trial is scheduled for 4 weeks, 2 ½ hours away from my house. I can’t even imagine how I am going to try a month long trial and commute back and forth across state.

L’s case didn’t settle this week and the madness lives on. On one hand I am upset it didn’t settle because my life would be much easier with that case behind me. But, on the other hand, just as L is my baby, this case has also become my baby in many respects. Although I complain about it all the time, I will miss this case when it is wrapped up. This case has challenged me on all fronts of my career, it has taught me how to manage a huge file, and has me going toe to toe with several great attorneys in our state and across the midwest. Any litigator who is passionate about trial work would love this case…I’m one of those litigators.

L will be about a year old when his case is finally tried. From a twinkle in my eye to a 1 year old …its amazing the progression of a case when you look at it through the eyes of your child. And when L’s much older if he ever has self-doubts about something, I’ll remind him how good he really is. I mean come on, he’s tried a major federal construction litigation case with me before he was 1 year old!


Thursday, November 11, 2010

My Elusive Day Off

So many of you know that today was supposed to be a "day off" for me today.  I used quotations marks around "day off" because it really wasn't a "day off" in terms of relaxing, sipping some overpriced coffee, reading a book with more than 100 words, and basically, not doing anything productive. 

The plans for today included taking the girls in late to pre-school, enjoying a nice breakfast, hanging up pictures on the wall (long overdue and somewhat relaxing), watching some TV from my DVR, having a nice lunch with my BFF, then heading out to do some shopping and the consignment stores to hopefully get some $$.  And let's see, what have I done today?  One of the above?  (And yes, the rant begins!)

So what am I doing today?  Working!  And not housework or errand running.  And to be honest, I had a fear that this would happen.  The projects I have been on are expanding exponentially and not showing any signs of stopping.  Additionally, I am somewhat new in my position and want to show everyone that I can do this.  But when a meeting was called today (over the lunch hour, no less) I was angry and thought "NO!!  This is my only free "me" day!!"  Plus, it wasn't even a conference call, so I am all dressed to impress!

As many working parents know, there is no such thing as day off.  PTO/sick days/time off work is used for sick kids, school functions, or holidays (or, actually sick days for a parent!).  Free time is almost unheard of, because if we are not at work, we are running errands, going to school/sporting events and just basically being with our kids.  And a whole free day is a myth (similar to the lost city of Atlantis (unless you watch Phineas and Ferb) or my husband cooking a meal for the kids!).  So I had marked this day on my calendar since May! 

I do realize I am very lucky to have a job, especially in today's market.  And yes, my wonderful manager is letting me take time off on another day.  But I just wanted today, because that other time will be when a child is ill or we need to travel for the holidays. 

Sorry about that rant...It could be worse.  But I just wanted to be in my pjs :)

Jean Anne

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Language Star

Today my family lived the inevitable leg of a situation that pretty much sums up how out of control my life feels. A few months ago, KJ’s preschool sent out a notice that they would be offering a language program. For some fee, we could sign our kids up to go to a once-a-week, one hour program where our kids would be immersed in the language of our choice. Having struggled through French in high school, and hearing stories of Husband’s experience with college Spanish, I knew foreign languages would not come easily to our kids. So I asked Husband to look into the cost and get back to me.

Husband is a great guy, but follow through is not his strong suit. I repeatedly nagged followed-up with him about the details of the program. I talked about it with him over dinner. Sent him e-mails. I even called him on his way to pick the kids up from daycare to remind him to pick up the information sheet conveniently located in the daycare’s main office. But every night he came home empty handed.

Then, one day, Husband finally did ask someone about the language program. As it turns out, it was not only out of our price range, but it had also started four weeks earlier (See? I wasn’t kidding about the lack of follow through). We thought that was the end of the language program.

But then weird things started happening. One night, while I was at Walmart with KJ and Sweet Pea, KJ started shouting things in Spanish. Keep in mind that I took French. I had no idea what he was saying. I asked him where he learned Spanish, but being a typical three-year-old, he didn’t answer. So, I started thinking about where he could have learned some Spanish. KJ attends a very diverse preschool. A good portion of the kids speak a second language at home. It was possible he picked up some words from a kid there. Plus his “special friend” (read: girlfriend) comes from a bi-lingual home, and using my best guess, her other language is most likely Spanish.  It would make sense if he picked up words from her – they spend tons of time together. Finally, the man who delivers the meals at daycare (and thus enjoys celebrity status) speaks Spanish. I had actually seen him greet the kids in Spanish and tell them the Spanish names for the foods they were eating. In light of all that, it didn’t seem all that weird that KJ knew some Spanish.

Then, one night at dinner I asked KJ how his day was. KJ responded by telling us that he went to the language program that day. “Are you sure?” we asked. Because really, the program was very expensive. It wasn’t likely that they mistakenly took an extra kid. So we asked him who else was in the class, and he named two kids that were actually in his preschool class. We asked him what he learned and he said some word in Spanish. But then we asked him if he left his preschool classroom to go to the language program. And there his story fell apart. KJ said no, he didn’t leave his classroom. Husband and I knew full well that the program took place in a different part of the school. He wasn’t going to the language program if he wasn’t leaving his classroom. It seemed way more likely that KJ mentioned the program because his two friends went to it that day. I suggested to Husband that he talk to KJ’s teacher about it, and didn’t think about it again.

Of course, you know what happens next. Today, weeks after our dinner discussion and over two months since KJ originally broke out the Espanol, daycare approaches Husband and informs him that KJ refused to go to the language class today. Confused, Husband responds that KJ isn’t enrolled in the language program. Turns out, KJ has been going to the program for over two months by mistake. Apparently, someone noted Husband’s tardy inquiry and put KJ on a list to get him in the program ASAP – so ASAP that they didn’t wait for enrollment papers or payment. And while I get this is a sign of a great daycare – after all, it means they understand we working parents might from time to time forget things like enrollment papers or payments for extra-curriculars and still let the kids participate– in this case, it also probably meant we were stuck with KJ in a year-long Spanish program we hadn’t budgeted for (and he apparently didn't like). And, more importantly, it meant that for over two months our kid had been attending a weekly Spanish class and we really had no idea it was happening. I mean, we had some idea, but we didn’t really believe he was going to Spanish class any more than we believe he has “Spiderman eyes.” And we've heard A LOT more about "Spiderman eyes" than we ever heard about Spanish class. 

KJ’s brief flirt with Spanish class seems par for the course for me right now.  I'm swamped at work and feeling like there is no way I can manage my career and the myriad deadlines that go with being a litigator and the extra-curricular activities for my kids.  I already barely make it through the week -- as the kids get more involved in school and sports, I have no idea what I'm going to do. 

I'm further daunted by the fact that I'm challenged to do this from afar.  As the parent that doesn't work at the company associated with daycare, my direct contact is limited, and I have to account and accommodate for my husband's inability to remember anything relating to the kids in everything that needs to be done.  This means texting my husband on the way in to work to remind him to carry the show and tell item from the van to the school, or repeatedly ask him to pick up the papers in the kids' mailboxes. 

On days like today, it seems to be an overwhelming task.  I already feel spread pretty thin, and I don't know how I'm going to handle things as they get more complex, which they are bound to do.  I guess my only hope is that I somehow get better at balancing my work and life.  And pray that the unintended outcomes of my shortcomings are always as good as a few Spanish lessons. 


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Cheeseburger Microcosm

I am all about rewarding my children. Clean up the toy room… earn a trip to the park; Use the potty….get a sticker; Stay quiet in the store, get a lollypop, etc. etc. etc. So when H managed to get a haircut without a single tear a few weeks back, I had to reward him.

Todd was working and so I had the Three Muskateers all by myself. We ended up at the McDonald’s Play-zone for dinner, a perfect reward for us all on a Friday night. I didn’t have to cook after a long work week, J could continue to collect her Strawberry Shortcake Happy Meal toys, H could simply run around, and L would get my undivided attention while the other two were off in the tunnels.

After my children finished their Chicken Nuggets and Apple Dippers and abandoned me to climb up the crazy tunnels I always fear they’ll get stuck in, I sat with L and “people watched”.

Around me were 6 different parents, who like me were juggling their kids and the Friday night McDonald’s crowd…

In the corner was a Mom with expensive high heeled shoes and a suit...she was so put together and professional she looked out of place sipping on a strawberry shake. Her face was glued to her I-Phone with the occasional glance up to check to see where her son was. A total multi-tasker, she called three people in a span of 5 minutes to schedule a play date, a business meeting, and an oil change. She could “sense” her son was nearby and without even looking up from her dayplanner she would reach over and wipe ketchup off his face as he ran by.

In the booth next to her were a husband and wife laughing and enjoying each other’s company. They appeared to be taking their date night to a more convenient location and as their children screamed and fought over a slide…they seemed oblivious to their surroundings and munched on their fries. Apparently, the Hamburglar was their babysitter tonight.

Next to them in the corner booth was a single Dad who appeared extremely stressed out at the prospect of taking his kids to the playzone. His children had disregarded his instruction that they were to eat before playing and this bothered him to no end. You could tell he was trying to figure out how to punish his kids without making a scene. He would pull them aside harshly and whisper in their ears, but then quickly look up and talk to me with a happy face, almost so I wouldn’t think he was a “mean parent”.

On the other side of L and I was the “Paranoid Mom”…the Mom with the hand sanitizer that kept making her daughter come over every few minutes for a few more drops. She didn’t have any reading materials, phone, etc…her eyes were constantly glued on the playzone, almost as if she was standing guard. Her teammate was her husband who remained standing the entire time near the outside entrance door, like a soldier assigned to prevent any stow-a-ways from escaping.

And then there was me, in my blue jeans and worn t-shirt, making bee sounds with a rattle trying to entertain L, slipping into character every so often to play the “Grumpy Old Troll” in my daughter’s game of Dora the Explorer, and laughing as H played peek-a-boo with the Ronald McDonald statue.

This little microcosm of parents all reminded me that we all parent differently. No two parents are the same. Although I will admit I can be quite judgmental, I never judge how someone parents…because I would never want someone to judge my parenting skills. It seems like we are all just trying to survive, to enjoy our children, and hang on to our identity…how we get to this point is entirely up to us.

So I try not be too hard on myself as a parent. Sure others can do it better, sure I do it better than others. I try not to worry about if my parenting is "working" for my kids, although let's face it, I'm a Mom so I'm always going to be worried about screwing this up. Sometimes I watch other Moms and wonder how they do it...why are their kids sitting perfectly still in a restaurant while mine are peering over the booth and climbing under the tables? I sometimes wonder if that Mom is looking at me thinking..."I am a much better Mom than she is!".

But then I remind myself that I am just another parent...it doesn't matter how I am viewed to the outside world, just as long as in the end I am looked at as a wonderful Mom by my three children. I don't buy parenting books, I don't worry about what the new trends of parenting are, I just go with the flow and parent based on the needs of my children.  And after being a part of the "Cheeseburger Microcosm" for an hour, I'm starting to see that that's okay.


Monday, November 8, 2010

My Bucket List

First off, I want to say that this is post will not be morbid at all. I am a very positive person and try to “live for the day.” However, I do think a person can/should have goals he/she wants to accomplish in this life. What is the saying – Life is a journey? Well, I am in it for the long haul!

Second, some of these items on the list are already things that I am planning. My hubby laughs at some of them, because they are pretty basic vacation ideas and just need budgeting and scheduling, but I still think they should be included. (Yes, I like to cross stuff off a list!).

Third, some of you who know me well will laugh at some of them – but that’s ok. As I become more and more comfortable being “me” I think I can expand my “horizons” a little more. Now, I am not going completely wild and crazy, but I maybe I can get out of my “Mommy” role a little more.

So here it is – my bucket list:

1. Go to Disney World with my family (and yes, all my FAMILY!)

2. Take A & B snorkeling in the Turks & Caicos

3. Visit the pyramids of Egypt (I think I can talk someone into this)

4. Head back to Hawaii with my family

5. Figure out how to download pictures from my camera to the computer (don’t laugh – I still can’t do this)

6. Have a girls only trip with my besties from Drake

7. See a show on Broadway

8. Go parasailing

9. Learn to surf

10. Establish a scholarship at my high school in honor of my parents (this is going to take a lot of budgeting!)

11. Go to a Jimmy Buffett concert at Alpine Valley

12. Go skiing (this has been a while, so hopefully I can check this one off soon!)

13. Learn how to water ski

14. Run a 5K

15. Go to the MVC championships in St. Louis, MO. Go BU!

16. Go to the Olympics

As a disclaimer, this list is constantly evolving! For example, approximately 15 years ago, it included meeting Grant Hill, being in the audience of the Rosie O’Donnell show and playing golf with Tiger Woods! However, it did include items #3 and #16. And you know I love to travel, so there is kind of a theme (as you can probably see!)

So, what about you? Anything new and exciting that is a must? And why? I love to hear about other Moms’ plans and dreams, so please share. And I know I am missing some cool events.

Jean Anne

P.S. The budget is set for #1 for September 2013 AND I will be running a 5K for Knox’s Homecoming in October 2011. Mark your calendars and meet me at the finish line!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Baby Blessings

On Wednesday, my nephew experienced a miracle. At 10:17 a.m. he and his girlfriend welcomed a beautiful baby girl. And she is perfect in every way. She has gorgeous clear skin, blue eyes and just a ring of light fuzzy hair. She’s a good size and she has ten tiny fingers and ten tiny toes. The only problem is, she isn’t perfectly healthy.

Little LA (her initials) was born with a two chambered heart. My nephew (B) and his girlfriend (J) knew that LA would be born with a heart defect. They did not know, however, how severe the heart defect would be. They were told there was a possibility that LA would have to be rushed into surgery immediately upon birth and that she would need a series of open heart surgeries throughout her life. And B and J were presented with the decision of whether they wanted to keep the baby.

The decision to abort a baby is a huge one, no matter the circumstance. I personally am pro-life and believe that abortion is never a choice no matter the circumstances. But I also know that my view is not universally shared. And B and J were in a tough position. B and J had only known each other a few weeks when J got pregnant. They are young (in their mid-twenties) and both have respectable but low paying jobs. B was far away from family, and their support group was small. Having a baby was going to be hard enough. Having a baby with heart problems requiring multiple surgeries over the course of years. . . .well, you could see how someone who doesn’t share my view on abortion might have a decision to make.

But despite their personal struggles, B and J never waivered on their decision to have little LA. To my knowledge, they never considered abortion and they publicly put their trust in God to help them through this challenge. And God responded. Upon learning of B’s situation, B’s employer gave him a raise – and health insurance coverage. J found a place for the three of them to live, and got it all prepared for baby. Friends threw them a baby shower and B and J received all sorts of things that will make welcoming LA home a little bit easier.

And then, LA was born. Thankfully, things were not worst case scenario for LA. She did not need to be rushed into surgery upon birth, and B and J got to hold her. But she was not fine either. A few hours after she was born, B and J were informed that LA was going to be life-flighted from the hospital in Austin where she was born to a hospital in Dallas for surgery. B called home to Michigan, told his parents, and asked his mom to help him.

B’s request for support was both understandable and heart breaking. I know how much I rely on my parents just to get through my every day life. I can’t imagine how much I would lean on them in a truly life-or-death situation with a newborn baby. But B’s parents – my husband’s brother and sister-in-law – have had their own share of struggles in recent years. They truthfully could not afford to go support B or see their baby granddaughter, even if that meant they might not ever see her alive.

But God answered. When we learned about the seriousness of LA’s situation, my other sister-in-law K and I started planning. K offered up her car and some serious cash so that B’s parents could drive to Texas and see LA. Given the timing of things, however, there was no way that B’s parents could make it to Texas before the surgery. Unwilling to take the chance that something bad happen in surgery and have B’s parent miss their opportunity forever, I reached out to my friends and asked for help. And the shower of support was nothing less than miraculous.

A partner at my firm told a friend about LA, and the friend immediately offered a buddy pass on American Airlines to get B’s mom to Texas. My friend from college’s partner who works for Southwest (and travels extensively on his buddy passes) offered a buddy pass on Southwest. And my dear friend from sixth grade pulled out all the stops and offered me four buddy passes on Frontier – enough to get B’s mom, dad, brother and sister to Texas all before LA’s surgery on Thursday morning. And when she ran into a technical difficulty getting the tickets at 10 pm last night, she called one of her friends, who gave us his buddy passes, no questions asked.

To say I am touched by this outpouring of generosity from friends and strangers alike is an understatement. Even thinking about it now almost brings me to tears. None of the people who offered to help had ever met B or his parents, or in some cases, even me. They gave openly and without hesitation because they wanted to help. They did something amazing just because they could. They were the kind of people I hope I can someday be for someone else.
I believe that every baby is a blessing. LA’s birth was a reminder of that. She, of course, is a blessing in and of herself. But her birth was also a reminder that baby blessings grow up. And they aren’t any less special just because they become big blessings. Thank you to all of the friends, family and strangers to who volunteered to help bring my brother in law’s family together this week. Your generous giving brought light into a dark situation and truly was a blessing.


Thursday, November 4, 2010

From my Toy Box to the Soapbox...

I know that by now, two days after election day, you are (like me) extremely tired of hearing the political banter, comments, and stories. You are probably still recovering from spending two days seeing nothing but red and blue! And you are probably thankful (like me) that you can now listen to the radio and watch TV without being subjected to the ads and smear campaigns.

So, the last thing I wanted to do was blog today about politics. BUT…

When we started this blog, I promised myself that I would blog about whatever is on my mind for that day or week, no matter how important or insignificant the topic is. I realize that because my kids are always at the forefront of my thoughts you normally get such “riveting” topics from me such as Wal-Mart complaints, what is brewing in my crock pot, and tales of Blackberry bandits. But, today I have something much larger on my mind. So if you will please allow me for a moment to step off my toy box and onto a soapbox...

I am normally not one to get into politics. I mean let’s face it the only “donkey” and “elephant” in my life are Eeyore and Dumbo! Although I am a proud Democrat and keep up the best I can on political issues, I don’t really participate in the political process (outside of voting of course). But, every now and then an issue comes up that I really get behind or upset about and that happened this year.

I live in Iowa and practice law in both Iowa and Illinois. In Iowa, our Supreme Court Justices are appointed through “merit selection”. Briefly, for my out of state readers, merit selection begins with a nominating commission of fifteen citizens, a chair who is the senior associate justice, seven of whom are non-attorneys appointed by the governor, and seven of whom are attorneys elected by attorneys. Iowans for Fair and Impartial Courts, website. When there is a vacancy on the court, judicial applicants submit their applications to this nominating commission, the commission reviews the applications, and then nominates the top two or three most qualified individuals. Iowans for Fair and Impartial Courts, website. The governor makes the final decision on who to appoint. Once a judge is on the bench, regularly they are placed the general election ballot for a retention election where the citizens decide whether that judge should retain their seat. Iowans for Fair and Impartial Courts, website.

The merit selection process is designed to keep politics out of our courtrooms. Essentially, the judges don’t have to fear about the decisions they make because they are not elected officials. They can simply apply the law and Constitution without the giant elephant (or donkey) in the room. In my opinion, this is how justice should be. They say “justice is blind” right? So this “blindness” should mean we will not stand for politics invading our justice system.

But Tuesday, I sadly learned my opinion is in the minority in my state. This election, three Iowa Supreme Court justices lost their seats in the retention election. The justices’ removal marked the first time an Iowa Supreme Court justice has not been retained since 1962, when the merit selection and retention system for judges was adopted. Des Moines Register, 11/3/10. This decision was “a historic upset fueled by [the Iowa Supreme Court’s] 2009 decision that allowed same-sex couples to marry”. Des Moines Register, 11/3/10. In 2009, the Iowa Supreme Court declared that the law banning same sex-marriages violated the constitution’s equal protection rights of gay and lesbian couples that wish to marry. Des Moines Register, 11/3/10.

Now, although I respect them, I don’t care about your opinions on same-sex marriage. I understand it is a hot topic in our time and there are adamant voices on both sides of the fence. So, I’m not here to argue the merits of the 2009 decision by the Court or whether same-sex marriage should be allowed. But I want a justice system that ignores the political banter and makes decisions based on the law, not the beliefs of Americans. To boot three justices off of the Iowa Supreme Court because they interpreted the Constitution and ruled the same-sex marriage ban was unconstitutional makes no sense to me.

What this vote means is that now instead of ensuring their opinions and rulings are based on the law and Constitution the justices are always going to think in the back of their heads: “Wait, what is the public going to think of this? Am I going to lose my job if I affirm or reverse this decision?”

I think what angers me the most about this decision is the fact that as a lawyer I am subject all the time to lawyer jokes, comments about how our justice system is flawed, etc. Yes, our justice system is not perfect, but its decisions like this that allow it to become this way. Being a Supreme Court Justice should not be a popularity contest…its about following the letter of the law and not worrying about what others think.

I wonder how many Iowans really knew the effect of this vote when they filled in those circles on their ballot. I wonder if they knew that what they were doing was going to damage our judicial system. They are taking our fair and impartial courts and turning them into just another political playground. And in case you are curious just how much politics played a role in this decision: Groups that wanted the justices out poured more than $650,000 into their efforts with heavy support from out-of-state conservative and religious groups. Des Moines Register, 11/3/10.

When I found out about this historic decision, I looked at my kids and wondered what the face of the judicial system will look like when they are adults. I don’t want them growing up with a judicial system that is more concerned with what is popular than what fits the letter of the law.

Thanks for letting me vent…now down off my soapbox and back on my toy box I’ll go. I know this blog post was much more serious than I normally post, so just so you know it is actually me that is writing this…the crayons that replaced the pens in my briefcase today were peach!

And I hope this goes without saying, but this post contains my thoughts and feelings on this subject alone...no thought here is meant to convey the thought of any other JD Mom but myself!


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

What Do You Want For Christmas?

Yes, I realize that it is November and Christmas is right around the corner (less than 47 days!) but I am not ready. My in-laws were in town this weekend and my mother-in-law (MIL) asked me what the girls wanted for Christmas. (I thought about blogging on the in-laws' visit, but I am still too traumatized to re-live it!)
If you were to ask A & B what they want for Christmas, they each would have a list a mile long, with little duplication. And every time they see a new toy on TV or we walk through the Barbie aisle at Target, another item is added to the list. But do they really want all of that stuff? Or do they even remember what they wanted the day before? No, with the exception of a Scooby Doo game or a trip to the Caribbean (yes, Mommy wants that too!).

So, of course, I couldn’t answer my MIL. And then she asked what the girls needed. Now I was definitely not an English major, but I do know the difference between want and need. And I am one of those spoiled children who received fun Christmas gifts when I was younger, not socks or underwear. (Thanks Mom!) However, my MIL is not on the same wavelength. So with a heavy heart, I mentioned that the girls needed winter dresses, heavy tights and cute winter shoes and boots.

And surprisingly, she seemed excited at the prospect at this answer. However, I soon realized that this excitement was merely at having a concrete answer, rather than an “I have no idea.” Yep, as soon as she looked at the girls’ closet, she noted that it was jam packed with clothes. And that is true – it is stuffed. However, you must know that A & B share a closet that no wider than a closet door (not a double door closet/closet with sliding doors) nor is it deeper than 3 feet. Pretty much it is your typical hall closet (or maybe smaller). And 2 girls share it! The closet currently holds fall outfits, skirts, jackets, and 3 (yes 3) long sleeve dresses.

So, as soon as she saw the closet, I knew my hopes of having the girls receive cute dresses from their Grandma C were long gone. So, I really hope she finds cute underwear and socks for them! And I hope that A & B have learned my fake smile!

Jean Anne

P.S. I still have no idea what Mommy and Daddy are getting A & B for Christmas. Can’t I just make it through Thanksgiving first? Although, I really like the Caribbean trip idea!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Election Day!

If I had been a truly coordinated working mother, I would have realized before today that I would have the privilege of posting on Election Day and saved my post about the weary working mother and midterm elections for today. But I’m not that coordinated and didn’t figure that out until just now. So I’ve already exhausted the most relevant topic and am faced with the impossible task of following Mandi’s gut wrenching tale of emergency room horrors. Dear readers, please set your expectations low.

Today’s election isn’t really a big deal in my house. Overall, I don’t care very much about midterm elections. I understand that they are an important part of the political process and that the results of the election will shift the balance of power and shape the future of our country, blah, blah, blah. But on an everyday scale, I’m right there with the weary working mother: I want things to change, but don’t believe any of the candidates can actually effectuate that change. Every time I think there is a viable candidate that I *might* actually be able to get behind, I learn something about the candidate or his or her platform that leaves me unable to offer my full support and pushes me back into voter apathy.

The main thing I care about this election is a referendum for the local school district. The school district is asking voters to agree to raise their property taxes to help cover an approximately $3 million deficit in the school budget. And I’m itching to go vote no.

Much of my local school district’s budget problem is the result poor negotiations with the local teacher’s union. Years ago, the district (once one of the best in the state) entered into a contract it couldn’t afford with the teachers in order to avoid a strike. That contract called for increased salaries, guaranteed raises and pensions the district simply could not afford. A bunch of educators should not be surprised that the result was a deficit.

The school district has done everything in its power to try to honor its contract with the union. It closed a school. Cut all kinds of language and art programs. It even instituted a pay-to-play (dangerous words in Illinois) program for sports and music. It was only as a last resort last fall that they asked the teachers to take a pay cut and save the job of their colleagues (and the programs for the kids). And that’s where the true side of our local teachers shone through. Those very same people who are out on the streets politicking today telling us to vote yes “for the kids” are the very same people who were unwilling to take a pay cut “for the kids” three months ago.

I’m sure any teacher reading this right now is screaming out in protest. Teachers are already underpaid! And they bear so much responsibility for our children! The future is in their hands, we should value that and pay them accordingly. Sounds familiar right? The plight of the teacher is repeated often and loudly. But I’m calling b.s.

The teachers in my local school district aren’t suffering any “plight.” They are some of the highest paid teachers in the state, often making over six figures. Heck, it was published in our local paper that the local kindergarten teachers make $60,000. Kindergarten is half day, people. On top of adequate salaries, the teachers enjoy guaranteed raises, pensions upon retirement, job security (in the form of tenure), “planning periods” and 100 days off per year. Tell me any other profession that offers these perks. There isn’t one.

The truth is, teachers have it made. No amount of whining about having to grade papers or monitor recess will convince me otherwise. I drag home a laptop and work for hours each night, and this work takes me away from my family – same as grading homework takes away from a teacher’s family. And handling the squabbles of school kids isn’t any different than handling clients: both usually involve negotiating a solution between stubborn people with unreasonable positions. When you get right down to it, our jobs really aren’t all that different – except teachers get a boat load of time off and go home at 4 pm.

The recent (current?) recession has hit my community hard. Many people have taken pay cuts, been forced to take furrow days or lost their jobs all together. The number of foreclosures is astounding. And yet, while families in our community struggle, the teachers – people who claim to be dedicated to helping our children – are demanding more money for themselves.

I think we owe it to our community to stand up for what’s right. The answer to our school district’s problem isn’t a lack of money, it’s a failure to use money wisely. And if our teachers can’t understand that paying pensions and ensuring job security isn’t the best use of a limited pool of money, then maybe the problem is the teachers. We need to be an example of fiscal responsibility, and if that means challenging our teachers to face the realities of real-world professionals, than so be it. Teachers are important to our children’s future, but throwing good money after bad won’t solve any problems. We truly need our local school district – and teachers – to do something for the kids. And I hope today, we as a community stand strong and tell them so.


Monday, November 1, 2010

A Not-So-Happy Halloween

If you would have asked me this past Saturday at 7:00 p.m. how my Halloween was I would have told you it was the best ever. Now, I’d tell you it was the worst.

It all started on Friday with the kids’ Halloween party and parade at daycare. It was so much fun to be with them and see them parade around in their costumes. This year my crew dressed as the Toy Story gang of Woody (H), Jesse (J), and Buzz Lightyear (L). Friday night we carved pumpkins and Saturday we celebrated Halloween with a trip to Boo at the Zoo, where the kids got to trick or treat with the animals.

Saturday night Todd had to work so I took the kids trick or treating. Watching J and H run off to each house was so much fun! We spent the rest of the evening handing out candy. The kids were having a ball, even L who seemed to be loving his first Halloween! I was in one of those moments where I was so happy, so grateful to be a Mom and experiencing this with my kids.

But soon my perfect holiday came to a crashing halt…literally. Around 7:30 p.m. the trick or treaters started to die down, which was good because my little Buzz Lightyear really needed a bottle. I sat on our family room couch feeding L a bottle. J and H were chasing each other around our couch. They have done this activity probably 1000 times in their lives. To me…it was harmless…they were burning off the sugar they had eaten and laughing all the while.

Suddenly behind me I heard a sound I fear will haunt me for many years to come. It sounded like a loud crash, followed by a scream from H. I quickly turned to see H standing up after hitting head first into our closed glass fireplace doors. His face and t-shirt soon were covered in a blood. It was the scariest moment of my life. The blood was everywhere. So much that I couldn’t tell where it was coming from. I glanced over at the fireplace doors…thankfully the glass was in tact. He must have hit the handles that open the doors.

The next 5 minutes was so chaotic it is almost a blur to me now. I had H screaming in pain, J screaming in fear, and L screaming in hunger. I felt alone, hopeless, and afraid, almost frozen wondering what to do. My motherly instincts however took over in spite of the fear. I quickly grabbed a towel, made J hold it to his head and threw L in his car seat. We ran out the door so fast that I actually didn’t even shut my door.

The 2 minute ride to the hospital seemed like 25. H had stopped crying and I had dabbed the blood enough to know it was coming from a large wound in the middle of the forehead. I was trying to keep calm for my kids, but it was hard. I couldn’t stop my tears or my hands from shaking. I ran into the hospital, carrying H in one arm, L in the other and J was running behind me with my purse. Thankfully the crowd waiting for the ER could tell I was in way over my head and let us go to the front of the line.

I then spent three hours with my three children in the emergency room waiting for H to get stitches. I of course was an emotional wreck but tried appeared as calm as I could. I know stitches are no big deal, I’ve had them many times, I’ve seen my family members get them a million times, but this was the first time one of my babies had ever gotten hurt to this magnitude. Sure we've had our near misses over the years…but now here we were.

Although I was a wreck, surprisingly H was acting like nothing happened. Every now and then he would see a tear on my face and would come to me quickly and give me a hug: “Momma, don’t cry. I’m okay”.

I kept rewinding the night in my head, hearing that sound over and over…what if he had gone through that glass? Why didn’t I stop them from running? Did he trip on a toy I had neglected to pick up? Could I have prevented this?

For about 2 hours we waited for the stitches. The kids watched TV. L sealed his award for the greatest baby in the world as he stayed quiet for me even though he was hungry and tired. The doctor finally came in and I knew it was time for stitches. It was the hardest moment of my life because the doctor pulled me aside and told me that it would probably do more damage to J to be in there with me, than H to be in the room alone. And since I couldn’t be in two places at once, she advised I take L and J out of the room and let them care for H. No mother should ever have to choose which child to help but I was forced into the situation and walked out with J and L. H screamed so loud for me I could feel my heart breaking…but I also couldn’t ignore the fact that J was literally shaking. She was terrified, especially when after a few minutes of screaming for me, H started to scream for her. I knelt down to her and covered her ears the best I could. I had never seen a 4 year old shake like that…I never want to see that again.

Finally, the hospital Chaplain came and took J, L, and I out of the ER and into the waiting room. Unbeknownst to me, the nurses had called her and told her I was by myself with a hurt toddler, a tired baby, and a scared big sister. She said when she heard that combo she ran as fast as she could to the ER! She spent some time with J and made her feel much better. After what felt like a millennium the nurse came to get us and I went in to H. I swooped him up and hugged him close. The first words out of his mouth were: “Mommy, I missed you…can I have a Popsicle?”.

We finally got home at 11:00 p.m. I put the kids to bed. I hardly slept a wink that night.

I realized that no matter how good my life is…I can’t take it for granted. It can change in a heartbeat. H will undoubtedly have a large scar on his forehead from this incident. But his scar in a way is good for me: it will always remind me to cherish every moment, do all I can do for my kids, and of course always stop them from running in the house!