Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Three more days 'til Christmas!

Happy Christmas, everyone!  
I can't think of anything other than spending a long Christmas holiday with these two sweeties. Thank you to anyone who takes the time to read this Post, and to my fellow Blogger-moms.  May your families be blessed and your travel be safe! get through the next two days!  


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Countdown

Well, here we are five days before Christmas.  I don't have everything done because, as I said last week, I don't think "everything" will ever be done before the kids actually wake up on Christmas morning.  But as I promised myself last week, I'm taking it in and enjoying the season.  And it's been everything I imagined it could be and more. 

Maybe it is because the kids are old enough to understand what's going on, or maybe it's because I've made a concentrated effort to focus on my family this season, but I've never felt so blessed to have my kids and husband as I do this season.  Seeing the world through their eyes - even for just this little bit - has brought me so much joy.  From Sweet Pea's terror in sitting on Santa's lap, to KJ's thrill in bringing home handmade presents for his family this season has been filled with reminders of what a blessing it truly is to be a family.  From making a gingerbread house (a first for all of us) to taking Sweet Pea to see her first production of the Nutcracker, I've had the opportunity to really focus on my family and all they bring to my life.  And although I still complain that Husband eats all the dough before I have time to bake it into cookies, and despite Sweet Pea and KJ's constant bickering about who gets to turn on the Christmas tree, I know I am lucky to have them.  And I'm so grateful for everything they've added to my life. 

Wishing you and your family a holiday season filled with joy, magic and family.


Monday, December 19, 2011

Finding Christmas

Let the countdown begin…

The week before Christmas already, can you believe it?

This year I was particularly excited for Christmas. My kids are at an amazing age for Christmas, a truly magical age. Experiencing Christmas again through the eyes of a 5, 4, and a 18 month old is wonderful. So starting in late November I started to get really into the Christmas spirit, I played Christmas music while I decorated the house and started to plan out my “I vow to shop early this year (even though I say this every year and never do it) plan”.  
But then as always happens…reality hit. The sugar plum vision of Christmas started to fade. The fabulous family Christmas picture I love to hang on my wall is not so easy to take with a 18 month old, the “must have” gifts my children are begging for are also being requested by 1.9 million others making Mommy have to rush around town and wait in lines, the presents overflowing my basement all need to be wrapped. So last week, excitement moved out and drama moved in.

Here I sit Monday morning absolutely exhausted after a weekend of Christmas programs, gingerbread houses, wrapping presents, assembling presents for teachers, and trying to figure out how to tackle my to-do list. The Christmas season I couldn’t wait for came alright…and now its kicking my butt!
Yesterday I think I hit my Christmas breaking point….I was up at 6:30 a.m. and finished wrapping presents at around 1:30 a.m. Last night even though I was exhausted I could not sleep. I had 1000 thoughts going through my mind. I realized as I laid there next to my shockingly peacefully sleeping husband (isn’t there some rule that if the wife can’t sleep the husband shouldn’t?) that I was dangerously close to becoming the Grinch that stole my own Christmas. I was letting everything and everyone around me effect my Christmas.

Then I thought about my kids and remembered a time when Christmas was just pure excitement. Christmas dinner miraculously appeared on the table, Christmas presents were all wrapped and placed under the tree.  There was no drama. All you had to do was get caught up in the magic of it all, and perhaps wear an ugly reindeer sweater to please your grandmother. Now its my job to make sure that no matter what is going on in my Christmas, their Christmas is un-phased.
Yesterday at our church was the children’s program. I sat there and watched my daughter sing Away in the Manger. As I sat next to my step-dad, my sons, my husband, and my Mom watching our little J singing her heart out, I truly felt Christmas. The love. The hope. The magic. I have to remember to hold on to that feeling this week.

It reminded me that I need to stop worrying about all the craziness of Christmas and just enjoy it. I don’t have many more years of the magical Christmases that I am blessed with now. Pretty soon the Elf on the Shelf will remain on the shelf, my kids won’t be doing cute sign language peace and love signs in Christmas Programs, they will have figured out why Santa and Mom have very similar handwriting.

So I’m taking a deep breath in on this Monday morning, downing an extra Diet Pepsi for a much needed caffeine boost and realizing that I have in my power the ability to either get caught up in Christmas or to truly feel and enjoy it.

So good luck out there Moms.
To celebrate surviving another holiday I’m taking a week vacation next week, so I will not be blogging next Monday. But I’ll be back in 2012 to start another year of the crazy adventures of the JD Moms.

Have a wonderful Christmas everyone. Enjoy the magic.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Top Five Ways the Holidays Have Changed With Kids

Last week, my group at work had a small get together outside of work. When I returned home (by 8:30 PM, mind you), I still had time to fold a load of laundry, read a story to the kids and watch the evening news. As my hubby asked me if I had a good time at my dinner, I said “yes, but what a change 5 years means.” And I got to thinking about how the holidays have changed.

1. The Definition of Holiday Party
Remember when holiday party meant your office/firm get together outside of work? How you didn’t want to be that drunk girl/guy hitting on your co-worker or getting too wild on the dance floor? Now holiday party means your kids’ school party with cookies/treats for at least 20 kids and juice.

2. The Christmas Tree
When we first got married, hubby and I had a wonderful tree filled with beautiful, breakable ornaments. Now, we have a family ornament from each year since the girls were born, Scooby Doo, Hello Kitty and lots of princess ornaments all on the lower half of the tree.

3. Traveling
Hubby and I would split time with his family and mine, traveling from Iowa to Illinois to Wisconsin, enjoying spending time together in the car, listening to classic songs on the radio and loving the open road. Now we get there as fast as we can, praying that we brought all of the right DVDs and Nintendo DS games.

4. Christmas Shopping
There was a time I would spend hours in the mall, looking for that perfect gift. Now I pray for a short line in Target, hoping I can get out of there without yelling at my girls that not every gift is meant for them.

5. A Christmas Show
When we were first married, we would try and attend a holiday concert or show – just something special as a night out to celebrate the holidays. Now the Winter Show means getting early to the SE Polk High School auditorium to save the best seats to watch A & B dance (and tape the performance!)

Please know that this is meant to just be a humorous look on how my life has changed with kids. Nothing can replace how I feel when A opens her Christmas gift and her smile lights up her face or B searching the house for Eugene (our Elf on the Shelf). And truth be told, I am a little to old to be getting wild on the dance floor. But a few holidays spirits wouldn’t be too bad.

Have a happy holidays!

Jean Anne

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas Schmistmas??

I have one word to describe this Christmas season - BLAH.  So wrong...right?  But for some reason, I just cannot seem to get in the Christmas spirit.  Something shiny and happy is missing this year, and I have absolutely no idea what is it or where its gone.  At our house, the anticipation of Christmas usually begins with the "Countdown to the Countdown to the 24 days of Christmas." You know, the Santa and all things jolly marathon of Christmas shows and made for TV movies on ABC Family That starts basically right after Halloween.  We usually watch that channel and the shows again and again, with the same amount of joy on Christmas Eve as on November 1st.  I usually search the entire ABCFamily listing and plan our nights around my favorites - The Year without a Santa Clause, and Rudolph's Shiny New Year.   I have just been advised that Christmas is in 11 days, and I haven't seen either of them even once!  

At Thanksgiving,  we got out the tree. The other greenery I usually put up just sat in its bags for a few days before they all got shifted back downstairs.  The 10 or so bins I have full of Christmas decorations for the house never even made it up.  All I kept thinking about was the tremendous amount of work it takes to put all that stuff up, put the "usual" stuff away, then repeat.  I was exhausted just thinking about it!

Usually, I LOVE lights.  I have to bully Steve into putting them on the house, and he never puts on as many as I want (Think Clark Griswold).  This year, we have a small string of solar lights on the porch and a single pathetic string of icicle lights on the roof - that aren't even attached to an electrical cord, so can't be lit! Typically, I make the kids go down to the park and drive through the lights there at least a few times a week - we've been there twice... 

It's pathetic! Maybe it's because of the weather - two days of solid rain does not scream Christmas to me.  I NEED some snow.  Maybe it's because the kids don't seem as excited as last year.  B is now 9; I suspect he is on the cusp of losing his ability to hear the Christmas bell...that makes me Really Sad!  Maybe it's because I am so excited about our cruise in January that this Christmas is just "marking time" until we get to do the really fun stuff... who knows. Anyway, this year, I'm a Grinch. I need a Christmas Miracle - if anyone has one to spare! 


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas

Here we are, 12 days before Christmas.  It seems like December has gone so fast.  I really wanted to enjoy the holiday season this year so I did most of my present buying early, hoping that I could coast through December, just enjoying special moments with the kids.  And my plan has kind of worked.  I took Sweet Pea and her cousin to see Pinkalicious last weekend.  And this weekend Sweet Pea and I are going to see the Nutcracker.  While we are watching ballet, Husband and KJ are going to skate with Santa.  All in all, we've done a lot of special things, so that seems to be working out pretty well. 

 Except, I still have a bunch of "little" things to do.  You know, like assemble Sweet Pea's doll house.  Well, that's actually Husband's job, but you get my drift.  We really haven't had much opportunity to focus on things like that - things that didn't have to be done immediately, but are quickly becoming things we can no longer put off.  We've been busy going from daycare Christmas event to work Christmas event to charity Christmas event to family Christmas event.  It seems like there is something "special" every day, which leaves little time for picking up those little things and tying up the loose ends. 

It seems like when you are the mom, Christmas is never really finished.  There's always something more to do - another Christmas card to send, a new kinds of cookie to make.  I think that's why the season is so stressful on so many people.  You're never really done. 

 These last 12 days of December I'm trying my best to slow down and just enjoy my kids enjoying the season.  Yes, I still have to pick up a gift or two.  And yes, there is sure to be at least one late night as we assemble some gifts.  But there are a lot of special moments to come too.  Like making cookies with the kids and counting down to Santa.  I'm promising myself not to lose those special moments in the last minute bustle.  Because whether or not those loose ends get tied up won't determine whether we have an amazing Christmas.  But how I handle these next 12 days will determine how I remember this Christmas.  And I want to remember it the way I've envisioned it: Relaxed, happy and together.  Not running around the mall.  So today, the craziness stops.  I'll pick up a thing or two here and there, but our holiday celebration begins now. 


Monday, December 12, 2011

The Baby

“We need to talk to you about something”.

It’s a phrase that no parent wants to hear from a teacher or daycare provider. But a few weeks ago its exactly what I heard as I sat across the table from a young teacher in my son L’s class.

I braced myself and the attorney in me kicked already working on my rebuttal. Was he biting? Oh H can be rough with him maybe he’s being to rough? Oh he can throw tantrum if he doesn’t get his way…is he screaming? Great, he probably throws his food…but we’re working on that, he has a big brother and sister so he’s used to bigger kids… One by one the thoughts went through my mind and I prepared to defend my baby.

It didn’t make it any easier that I was sitting here regarding L. L is 18 months and is my baby. So I am naturally more protective of him. Plus, he is the sweetest most loving baby in the world so a complaint about him? No way. Not my L.

“He’s really quiet. He doesn’t talk much.”

Wait…what??? Really, that’s it? That’s the exact same news H’s teacher had praised him for about 20 minutes prior. The teacher explained that L didn’t talk as much as the other kids in his class. Wow, if only this girl knew the life L lived. He’s the baby behind two very loud kids. No one can get a word in edge wise with his brother and sister.

Of course being the baby of my family, I knew what the teacher was going to say next… “J and H always talked….he is much quieter than they ever were”. Ahh…the lovely comparisons that all babies of the family must endure. The teacher handed me a paper on working on talking and we left the center.

That conference was a little over a month ago. Since then I have of course had a hyper sensitivity to watching the words L says. It’s like someone that points out a bruise you didn’t know was on your arm…once they say it, you feel it the rest of the day. After the teacher mentioned L’s talking, I made it a point to see what words he does say.

This past month I have noticed a trend… although L is overall fairly quiet, he has figured out the words that he needs to get through his day. He has managed to assemble a “Last Child” Survival Dictionary…

1. “Mine” – the first truly important word that every baby of the family needs to know. This word is repeated at least 1000 times a day!

2. “Uh Oh” – Every little brother needs to know this one, especially when a hot wheel car is launched into a cup of chocolate milk.

3. “No” – Often used when his sister wants to rock him like a baby or dress him up.

4. “Bye Bye” – in this family we are always on the go, so it is no wonder this is his favorite word.

5. “Shoes” – See #1 above. We are always in hurry and in a mad dash to find shoes. The baby never wants to be left behind so he’s the first to look for them!

6. “Chips” – although this health conscious mother hates to admit it, chips are by far L’s favorite food.

7. “Juice” – A milk hater, he always makes sure to tell me to skip the milk and give him his beloved juice.

8. “Zoey” – (Our Dog). For man’s best friend is truly L’s best friend.

9. “Choo Choos” – his favorite toy.

10. “Kitties” – because the animal rights group need to schedule an intervention with L and his obsession with cat tail pulling.

11. “Mama/Dada”- to summon his personal bodyguards.

12. “Thank You” – Although he is a guy of few words – I am proud to say he always remembers to say this.

13. “Hug” – because this kid is a hugger, plain and simple!

14. “Wiggles” because if he has to watch Barbie one more time he may move.

15. “Cheese” – Because L has a camera in his face (thanks to his scrapbooking mother) more times than a Hollywood celebrity.

After about a month of paying extremely close attention to this, I backed off, and chilled out. He’s fine. Okay so he doesn’t talk as much as J did at that age. The first in the family gets tested on the same criteria as the baby even though their situations are completely different. Is that fair? L and I certainly don't think so.

At his 18 month check, I told our doctor about what the teacher had said. My doctor laughed and sighed “I hate those damn tests…he’s only 18 months old!!” She laughed. Then she turned to H and L who were playing on the floor of her office. L was playing happily with his train when his brother ripped the train out of his hand. “No! Mine! Choo Choo!!! Mine!!” L yelled and ripped the train right back. The forcefulness in his voice made his big brother back off. I gave my doctor the typical Mother of boys look of “I’m sorry…Ignore them, we’re working on it…”. But my doctor thought the battle over the choo choo was much more important than brotherly banter. She looked at me: “See, there’s your test. Did you see that?? Problem Communicating?? Umm…in the time he has sat here he just stood up to his 4 year old brother and got what he wanted, if that’s not excelling in communication I don’t know what is!"

So take some advice from a baby of the family...give us babies a little break! Being the caboose to a train is not as easy as it looks! :-) We'll get there, just give us some time!


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Adoption Tuesday

Yesterday I got to attend an adoption! This event was a very long time coming.  I have served as Guardian ad Litem of the child for almost 2 years, in an ugly, heart wrenching Child In Need of Assistance case; known this child for half of it's life.  I watched his parents struggle and fight, deny and deflect responsibility, self-implode and spiral out of control. During that time his now-adoptive mother was there - watching, opining and at times advocating for the parents when it was warranted- but at ALL TIMES she was there to protect the child. To give him love and reassurance that everything was going to be okay.  To fight for him - with me and, sometimes, against me - for what she believed was best for him.

Yesterday, with the court room filled with well-wishers, they finally became a family. I had never attended an adoption hearing before, and I was so moved by the excitement, love and expectation that was palpable in the courtroom while we waited for the judge.  In CINA cases, the primary goal is always permanency for the child.  DHS talks about "forever families"- it's a catch phrase that I always thought was kind of sappy before. But yesterday, I got to see, on the face of a child, what it means for a kid to have a "forever family."  As stable, engaged parents, most of us probably take it for granted that our kids are secure, confident in who they are and what their life is.  I know I did.  Even practicing in juvenile law for the last seven years, in all the CINA cases I've had and all the families I have been involved with, with the knowledge I have about bonding, structure, etc. being crucial to children, I did not see the concept of permanency through the eyes of the child until yesterday.  Joy.  Pure joy that comes with knowing that you are loved above and beyond all others.  In knowing that no matter what, no one is going to take you away from where you feel safe, secure and happy.

In the realm of juvenile law, there are very rarely truly joyful moments like that one.  The adoptive mother said that she received a gift that day.  The best gift she could ever get.  And while it did not come without a price, the important thing is that that little person was able to sit in the witness stand, spell his new last name and tell the judge that his parents "loved him more than chocolate!" Forever.


Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Before last week, I had been feeling a little down about my job situation.  Overall I like my job and the people I work with, but I couldn't stop myself from thinking about how things would be different this year if I had stayed with my last firm.  Because if I had stayed with my last firm, I would have made partner this month. 

It sounds like a self-aggrandizing thing to say since partnership decisions are never set in stone, but I was certainly on the path to partnership at my last firm and by all indications, I would have been named a partner this December.  Of course, at that firm, "partnership" meant non-equity partner, but still.  I would have had the title.  I knew when I chose to leave that firm that I would not be considered for partnership at my new firm for at least one additional year, and that my current firm's partnership decisions were not made in December, making the process even longer.  But partnership at my current firm means full-on equal ownership of the business, so the decision to add a new partner is taken very, very seriously.  It only made sense that they'd want me around for a while before they decided to own a business with me.  And truthfully, when I was making the decision to move, I pretty much thought I'd want that extra year to make sure I wanted to own a business with them.  So back then, the extra year of associate didn't seem so bad.  Which may be why I was so surprised to be a little down about what could have been this December if only I had stayed. 

Until last Tuesday. 

 Last Tuesday around 9:30 a.m., I got a call from daycare that Sweet Pea was sick.  I'll start by saying she's fine, the worst case scenario that I am about to describe was not the situation.  But at the time I got the call, Sweet Pea's sickness seemed pretty serious.  And, it seemed potentially related to all of the "tummy troubles" she had as a baby.  Sweet Pea needed to see a doctor right away, and hospitalization was not out of the question.

One of the reasons I left my last job was for how they treated me the year Sweet Pea was born.  Sweet Pea had a lot of trouble eating - and thus a lot of trouble growing - her first year of life.  There were all kinds of doctor appointments.  All kinds of tests.  You know the pre-tax dollars you can set aside for medical expenses each year?  We blew through all the money we had set aside for the year by the first week of March.   I only have a few memories from 2009, and sadly the most poignant one is of sitting at my kitchen table at 2 a.m. on my last week of maternity leave crying.  I had been in the hospital for an infection and discharged myself so that I could relieve my parents who had been watching the kids and needed to work the next day.  Sweet Pea had been very sick for my parents.  And despite their best efforts to be reassuring, I knew they were worried.  When they left that night to get some sleep, I sat at the table and cried.  My baby seemed seriously sick.  And I had to go back to work.  And my firm had just laid off over 100 people due to the terrible economic climate.  How was I going to do it? 

Somehow, I managed to make it.  I worked full-time, five days a week, scheduled as many doctor appointments and tests as I could on Saturdays and just generally tried my best to make it work.  But I was so tired.  By the end of July, I knew I couldn't keep at that pace much longer.  So I asked my firm if I could go on the (firm approved) four-day-a-week part-time plan for 6 months.  And was denied. 

They "needed" me full-time, they said.  Never mind the fact that there wasn't a lot of work to go around at that particular time.  That associates were billing less than 100 per month.  Never mind that many of our clients had stopped all unnecessary litigation in order to save capital for their actual business needs.  And never mind that my firm would have saved tens of thousands of dollars in salary that I couldn't make up with billable work if I stayed.  They wanted me there, and that was that.  I had no choice but to continue on full-time.  In December, I resubmitted the part-time paperwork and started looking for a job.  And in May, I left. 

When everything with Sweet Pea had settled down on Tuesday and I had time to reflect on my current firm's response to my emergency, I realized how happy I am to wait a couple more years to be considered for partner. My experiences with my "new" firm have been night-and-day from my old.  My current firm started me with every-other-Friday off, and moved me to a four-day work week within a year.  I've brought my kids to the office more times in the last 18 months than I did during the entire three years I had kids at my last firm.  And, most importantly, they've supported me whenever I've needed to be there for my kids. Whether that's meant handling a routine court call so that I could attend my kid's holiday party, or handing over their car key so that I could get to my sick kid (which actually happened on Tuesday). 

 For all of my complaints, the men I work with now have priorities like mine.  They understand how important family is, and are willing to support me as I try to balance a young family and a demanding profession.  They are willing to work with me, even if that means sacrifice on their part from time to time.  They understand that I only have one chance to be there for my kids when they are small.  But I have my whole career to build a book of business and be named partner.  In other words, they are the kind of people that I would want to be partners with.  Someday. 

And for that,  I'm happy to wait. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Holiday Victories

The holiday season is here. Ugh…here we go again.

I’m not a Scrooge, but Christmas has certainly changed since I became a Mom. Instead of a fun filled holiday, it’s…well HARD WORK. No one ever tells you when you start a family: “Congratulations, now you are entirely in charge of Christmas!" I mean if you are anything like me, you shoulder the load of Christmas. From scheduling Christmas pictures, to baking, to addressing Christmas cards, to making sure to clear up your family’s schedule to make time to visit everyone around the holidays. Sure my husband hangs the outdoor Christmas lights, but still I have to be there to monitor that because if I left it up to him we’d have all colored lights (I’m a white light girl) and a giant blow up Herky Santa in our front yard!

I have made a promise this year to try and stay organized, stay calm, and try to enjoy the holidays a little bit more. After all, my kids are at the perfect age for Christmas. My daughter walks around warning everyone that Santa is watching, my son sounds adorable singing Away in the Manger in Sunday school, and even my 18 month old has had fun watching all the lights around our house.

So instead of writing this blog about everything I still need to accomplish this holiday season, I thought I would take some time to give myself a little pat on the back, to celebrate the things I have manage to survive so far this season!

So, allow me to present Mandi’s Top 10 holiday victories 2011:

10. I survived mailing my holiday cards on a busy Saturday afternoon with a line a mile long at the post office with H and L in tow and 70 christmas cards to stamp and mail. The fact I got out of there without L running out the automatic doors he was fascinated with, or H taking out all the Mickey Mouse Christmas envelopes was a miracle. And I managed to get out while my fellow line waiters were still giving my kids the “Oh they are SOOO cute” look instead of “Get these squealing kids out of here before I have to pop a Xanax!!!!”

9. I have remembered every night to move the Elf on the Shelf, even though one night I had to make a mad dash at 5:45 a.m. to move my daughter’s new best friend.

8. I went back to Toys R Us and fought for $20.00 back after the “Can’t be beat” “Amazing Deal” train table I found was $20.00 less the day after I bought it.

7. I managed to capture a Christmas card picture of the three kids in front of the Christmas tree with all three kids sitting, smiling, and no one blinking. And I am giving myself bonus points for the fact you can’t see the Cheese Its I bribed L with in his clutched hands.

6. I finally nabbed the “Bob Ross” Easel my budding artist daughter asked Santa for after days and days of “Out of Stock” notices. I even managed to get it 20 minutes before having to be in Court for an important hearing. I managed to walk into the Courtroom about 3.2 seconds before the judge.

5. I have completed shopping for my nieces and nephews by December 4th instead of December 24th.

4. I got L to sit on Santa’s lap without screaming.

3. I have managed to teach my kids to get just as excited about lighting the advent wreath they made at church as they are about opening their advent calendar to find their chocolate.

2. Somehow thanks to the Christmas light Gods, I managed to stretch a 150 strand of lights to miraculously end at the bottom of my garage so I didn’t have to hide extra lights in a planter or behind a rock.

1. I am still excited (instead of tired and overwhelmed) about Christmas!

Okay, so I know its still very early, but still I think in order for us Mommies to stay sane this season, we need to celebrate our little victories when we can. Buckle up Mommies, its going to be a long month.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Selling Yourself

Lately I've been doing a lot of the thing I dislike most about being a lawyer: marketing.  I understand that marketing is part of the job, and I know how important networking is. I know that the most successful lawyers have large networks of people referring business to them.  But I still greatly dislike marketing anyway.  I hate the bar meetings and rubber-chicken dinners.  I hate making small talk with strangers about what I do and hoping that maybe we'll forge a relationship and someday, many, many years from now, this stranger will send me business.  But most of all, I hate missing out on time with my kids so that I can hob nob with a bunch of strangers. 

So far, for me, none of the traditional marketing strategies have worked.  I've been to plenty of dinners, joined plenty of professional organizations and I sit on the junior board of a great not-for-profit.  But I've never gotten business from these sources.  Instead, my client base has come from my past.  I took my largest client with me from my last firm.  I had worked for them for about a year, knew their business inside and out, and when I left, they came with me.  My other work I get from my friends.  People who knew me in law school or my last firm.  Former opposing counsel, or friends whose firms are conflicted out of a certain representation.  These are my business sources.  I, therefore, am marketing to my friends. 

 I find this uncomfortable.  My friends are smart people who know that I'm not taking them out to lunch just because.  They know I need to build a book of business and that my interest in their work extends beyond how they are spending 8 hours at work every day.  They know that I'm listening to learn if there is a way I can help them.  And they know that if they give me a legal matter, it will help me.  Because lawyers, after all, eat what they kill.  If I don't have any cases to work on, I have nothing to eat.  So, I take a direct approach with my friends.  When I call up in-house counsel to go to breakfast or lunch, I flat out tell them I'm doing some marketing.  And then I take them out, we talk about our work a bit and then just generally catch up.  I've found it to be a frank way to handle things that allows us to get business done and still enjoy our time together.  It works for me. 

At my last breakfast meeting, my good friend indicated that my approach was unique.  In fact, he thanked me for my candor and told me that he found my approach to marketing refreshing.  Apparently he too, felt uncomfortable suffering through lunches with friends where the real purpose of the lunch boiled gently beneath the surface. 

Which got me wondering, how do other lawyers approach marketing?  Do the bar meetings and not-for-profit-boards work for you?  Do you write a lot of articles?  Speak?  Where does your client base come from?  Maybe if we swap some ideas, we can all learn something that will help us grow our own practices. 


Monday, November 28, 2011

The Evolution of the Modern Mom

I know I’m going to date myself by saying this, but I grew up watching old black and white sitcoms on Nick at Nite when I was a kid. Remember in the mid eighties when Nick at Nite used to show old shows like Donna Reed, Leave it to Beaver, Mr. Ed? The shows our parents used to watch? To this day I still can’t turn on Nick at night now as seeing that Friends now qualifies as an old show just depresses me.

What did each of those old shows in common? A very traditional stay at home Mom, slaving all day over a dinner, dusting her already immaculate house, with all the time in the world to care for her children. The traditional Mom.

I am about as different from these Moms as they come. My “slaving” over dinner means throwing some sort of meat in the crock pot and heading off for a day at work hoping the meal will be great when I return. Dusting? Yeah I’m pretty sure I have not done that this decade. Time? I’m not sure what that word is anymore!

This weekend I got to thinking about how Moms have changed over the years. The evolution from Traditional Moms to Modern Moms. This thought actually came to me in a strange way. I was raised by the Cadillac of mothers. I also was (and still am) extremely close to my Grandma. So you can say I’ve had excellent role models on how to mother. My Grandma is the vision of a traditional Mom to me. When I was a kid, my Grandma would pull out some old ragged recipe and make pierogi and tell me how the recipe had been passed down to her by the generation above her. The recipes were always extremely challenging. I used to sit with her in her kitchen and watch her make pierogi all day. From the homemade dough, to the homemade filling, the recipes had no shortcuts, no time savers. But I can remember sitting down for the meals and just feeling warm and loved. And that’s what my Grandma is to me: warm, peaceful, traditional.

Then there is my Mom. My Mom was a part of the “changing” generation…half traditional Mom, half Modern Mom. She was for many years a busy single Mom and so sure we had our Pizza Hut nights…but she still would make pierogi like my Grandma taught her, she still made meals from scratch. She still always seemed to have all the time in the world. Sure when technology stepped in she loved the help, but still she kept many of the traditional ways.

And now there is me. I don’t just appreciate technology and the shortcuts it brings, I require it for survival. Complicated recipes? No way. I follow blogs and shows with the fewest ingredients and the fastest cook times. I’m night and day from the way my Grandma parented all those years ago.

The problem is when you were raised with women who were fairly traditional, you can’t help but want to be that kind of Mom to your children, even though there are not enough hours in the day. I want to be that warmth, peace, constant, to my kids. I want my kids when they are older to just crave Mom’s famous potatoes, or just know that a weekend at Mom’s would fix a stressful situation. So yep, I guess you can say this Modern Mom is a Traditional Mom wannabe.

But there is just one problem…REALITY. I simply don’t have the time. So of course this has lead to tons of improvising. The pierogi recipe passed down for decades? Yeah, although this would probably cause some eye rolling from the Polish women branches above me on my family tree…sorry ladies I don’t have time for that. Instead, I found a recipe I could tweak and improvise to turn the flavors into a quick pierogi casserole using lasagna noodles instead of homemade dough.

But you know what? My modern take on a traditional recipe, tasted just the same as I could remember. It invoked the same traditional comfort food feelings even though it was prepared in a fraction of the time.

The fact that my Pierogi Cheat lead to the same result, made me start to think that maybe even though our Modern Mom ways would shock the Traditional Moms maybe we still can have the same legacy. In our quest to stay afloat amidst all the balls being thrown at us, can we still be a constant, peaceful figure to our kids? And the traditional Moms of past, would they be jealous of the way we live our modern lives, or would they pity us knowing their bonds with their kids in that slow paced world were so much stronger?

Well, I think I know the answer. Over the weekend, I visited my family in my hometown, and went to see my Grandma. It’s funny how deep down I always expect to see my Grandma through Norman Rockwell glasses…you know, sitting by a warm fire, rocking in an old rocking chair with a creak as she tips back, knitting some sweater by hand. But you know what? I can throw away those glasses, because she’s nothing like that. Sure, she sits by a fire, but it is a computerized “fake” fire that she controls by a remote to set the temperature and exact flame height and time. Her rocking chair has long been traded in for a state of the art chair with all the gadgets. Homecooked meals? Nah, she lets others do that. When her traditional ways couldn’t be done anymore due to lack of time and energy, well she did what we do…she evolved, she improvised. And yet still she radiates more warmth and comfort then her modern mechanical fire.

So yes, Modern Mommies, it’s official…even though we live extremely modern lives, we can still be good Moms, with all the nostalgia, warmth and love that goes along with that title. Even though my kids’ dinners often come from take out or a microwave, maybe they’ll just remember that we sat down together to eat it. So my kids download books on an iPad that can read to them, maybe they will remember the feeling of sitting on my lap and snuggling while listening to the story. So don’t beat yourself up if you take some shortcuts, use technology to make your life easier. Go ahead and eat your pierogi cheat with pride! I’m quite certain that if June Cleaver lived in the world we have today, she’d throw some corn dogs in the microwave for the Beaver, kick her feet up on the couch, let her automatic vacuum clean her carpet, and enjoy a very large glass of wine. Yes, Modern Mommies, there is still hope for us after all.

Modern Mom Mandi

Thursday, November 24, 2011

25 Things to Be Thankful For

No, this is not the countdown to the 25 days 'til Christmas (although, that is right around the corner).  And yes, you have seen everyone's list of things they are thankful for (family, friends, etc.).  So, I was trying to be a little creative (while being serious and funny all in the same list) and come up with a list of basic things that I am thankful for that I don't typically think of every day. (Don't get me wrong - I am very thankful for my family, friends, roof over my head, food on my table.  I just wanted to try something a little different this year). 

1. My Honda Civic - we have been together for 11 years and approximately 117,000 miles, and she still gets me to work and doesn't typically bankrupt me at the gas pump.

2. The gym at work - you have helped this very busy mom find time to work out and improve my self esteem.

3. The balloon guy and face painting lady at the craft fair - you always make my children feel very special with your creations.

4. The athletes at the Special Olympics games - you truly understand the meaning of "trying your best" and enthusiasm. 

5. Hershey bars - because B can pretty much be bribed by you!

6. The dollar aisle at Target - because I can "let" A & B get a prize without going overboard.

7. The smell of pine trees - ahh - memories from Dairymen's.

8. A perfume counter - Grandma Zarn, I miss you so much!!

9. My microwave - because it actually makes me a "cook!"

10. The Altoona Campus basketball refs - for giving every little kid playing basketball a chance to make a basket and make each kid feel like a star.

11. Victoria's Secret  -while we do have some issues, thank you for making this mom feel pretty.

12. The portable DVD players - without you, traveling would be horrendous.

13. The Ramada in the QC - for giving us a great place to stay and catch up with friends and family!

14. Merle Norman concealer - thanks for covering up these zits and wrinkles.

15. Raygun - for making hilarious t-shirts.

16. Having the ability to see many musicals when I was young  - Les Miz, Phantom, Joseph  - I still love this music.

17. Diet Moutain Dew - because I finally realized how long a treadmill it takes to burn off the calories from a regular Pepsi.  And, hello, caffeine.

18. My best friend's paparrazzi skills - sometimes, I only have pictures of A & B because of you :)

19. Pie at Village Inn - because you can't balance a budget on an empty stomach.

20. Rest areas on the interstate - because I have a small bladder (and you don't realize you need one until you are on I-88 from Dixon to Rockford!)

21. No tolls in Iowa!!

22. Highlighters - because without you my notes are so confusing!

23. My watch - even if I am always late, you always seem to give me a few more minutes.

24. My DVR - so the shows I watch don't all have to be cartoons or the Disney Channel.

25. Shoes - I just love shoes.

I hope this Thanksgiving brings you many things to be thankful for!

Jean Anne

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving... I'm one of those cynical people who always thinks of the smallpox and the horrific treatment of the Native Americans at the beginning of this country when thinking about Thanksgiving, and the hypocrisy of the holiday’s origins makes it difficult for me.  Thanksgiving is one of those holidays I can take or leave.  So this year, we are "leaving" it.  In fact, since we've moved to GC, I have made it a point to try and avoid all travel on this holiday.  This policy was born I think, more from the need to retain sanity than anything else, truth be told.  When B was little, he was not a good traveler.  If he had to sleep in a bed that wasn't his, he almost inevitably had night terrors.  This went on until he was about 4.  When H came along, there was the issue of traveling with two little ones.  What with sleeping on couches and/or sleeping with two kids kicking me on either side, I decided I was not going to travel anywhere that couldn't be returned from on the same day.  Because our town is definitely NOT a "destination spot" and everyone has just come to see us for the kids' birthdays, no one wants to travel to see us.  What's more, my kids don't like turkey, they don't like stuffing, and they don't like pumpkin pie. (H will probably have a Thanksgiving Ramen, in fact).  And yet...Steve and my sense of tradition have convinced me to have a small Thanksgiving, just for the two of us to eat.  

My personal feelings about the origin and history of Thanksgiving, aside, I do appreciate the sentiment behind it.  And this year, I have a lot to be thankful for.  We actually got through an entire year without having to take one of the kids the emergency room!  This sounds like a joke, but it's really not.  We have been to the ER for the children 4 out of the 7 years that H has been alive.  This year, they have both been healthy and happy.  My husband and I celebrated our 13 year wedding anniversary this year, and our relationship is stronger than ever. We have weathered some pretty hard times, what with work and lack thereof.  Rather than creating tension between us, I think it has brought us closer together and I know that I appreciate him more now than I should have done.  

I finally, finally became a partner at my firm.  While the reality of that situation is that things have not really changed much, I at least feel secure in my job.  I understand that now I have a stake in the business, it's actually more work and more worry than before, but I also feel like it's work and worry with some "value."  I am very thankful to have such wonderful staff and colleagues, who are willing to work with (and through) the craziness that is sometimes ME; that were willing to step up and take care of my practice when I was out with the flu - going above and beyond what was asked of them to make my life easier when I finally got back to work.  To have a business partner with whom I can discuss any question, concern, strategy and fear without thought of recrimination or exasperation.  This is a rare gift and while our styles could not be any different, my business partner and I complement each other like two halves of a whole. For that I am truly thankful. 

I have been challenged and survived (and, dare I say, excelled at) some very new experiences in my practice which I know have made me a better, more compassionate, yet more effective and assertive attorney. This year I feel as if I have come into my own in my profession.  For the first time, I feel that I have the respect of other attorneys and the judges I work with, and that I deserve it.  Anyone who knows me knows that this is a BIG deal for me.  (I mean, I'm the third daughter of a machinist and a homemaker, who grew up in a tiny town.  Who am I to be advising people what to do?!) This year, I learned that who I am and where I came from is what makes me good at my job.   

Finally, I am thankful for my friends who are also working, professional parents, who are there for support, advice and just plain fun. For the understanding and sympathy I get when I am ready to pull my hair out or give up; for the advice, some even professional!, given without judgment, when I ask “What in the H am I supposed to do?!”  Life is hard, keeping a family together is hard.  But with such supports, I know I won’t fail.  So, I will be Thankful tomorrow, and continue to be thankful every day that I get to be me - wife to a wonderful husband, mom to some fantastic kids, attorney with a practice that I love and friends that I love.  Origins of the holiday regardless.   


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Turkey To Go

We're having Thanksgiving at my in-laws this year.  It has become sort of a tradition for us, but mostly because I refuse to have Christmas anywhere other than my own house.  I firmly believe that children should have memories of waking up in their own beds, running down the stairs and finding the presents Santa has left for them under their own tree.  I want my kids to be able to stay in their jammies and play with their new toys as long as they would like.  I want them to be comfortable, and at home, on Christmas.  But my idea of Christmas breaks tradition with my husband's family's idea of Christmas, so I've had to do some negotiating.  The compromise that we've reached results in my getting Christmas at home (with an invite to the inlaws to stay with us), but Thanksgiving with them. 

As I've said many times, I like my inlaws, so spending Thanksgiving with them isn't any big deal.  Plus, my mother-in-law and sister-in-law are amazing cooks.  I do miss my family's Thanksgiving traditions, but marriage is all about compromise.  And to be truthful, when I was little, my family spent every Thanksgiving at my dad's parent's house, so going to my husband's family's for Thanksgiving feels kind of right. 

Going to my inlaws for Thanksgiving, however, has presented some interesting challenges in recent years.  As my mother-in-law has gotten older, she is less physically able to handle making such a big dinner for so many people (but of course insists on hosting anyway).  My sister-in-law and I would therefore help out, each bringing or making several dishes to ease the burden on my mother-in-law.  And I think all three of us would say in years past, it worked out nicely. 

This year presents a new challenge.  My mother-in-law is still hosting Thanksgiving this year, but she's physically unable to cook.  She had foot surgery a few weeks ago, and as someone who had foot surgery a few days before Christmas one year, I know she is in no position to be standing around cooking all day.  Plus, my sister-in-law is no longer technically my sister-in-law, so she understandably won't be spending the holidays with her ex's family.  Which leaves me to cook the entire dinner for my husband's side of the family. 

Oy vey.  I'm pretty comfortable in the kitchen and would have no problem making Thanksgiving dinner for everyone at my own house.  But my inlaws can't travel (see foot surgery, above), so I'm going to have to make dinner at their house, in their kitchen.  And I'm going to have to do it on the fly.  Both Husband and I work the day before Thanksgiving, so we won't even be leaving to travel to their house - 4 hours away - until Thanksgiving morning.  That doesn't give me a lot of wiggle room. 

I won't lie and say that I'm not sweating the details a little bit.  But, in some strange way I'm looking forward to it.  I'm looking forward to being able to give my mother-in-law a break for a holiday.  I'm looking forward to the kids, playing at grandma's house.  I'm even looking forward to the challenge of putting together a Thanksgiving dinner with only what I remember to bring and what happens to be at my inlaw's house.  Because being together, warm, fed and crazed really sums up so much of what we have to be thankful for:  Thankful for our jobs, even if that means we have to get up at 4 am on the day of Thanksgiving.  Thankful to have food, even if all the ingredients the recipe calls for aren't there.  Thankful for a place to go, even if we are a little squished in that small house.  Thankful to be together, even as we miss those loved ones who couldn't be with us this year. 

Wishing you and your family a happy Thanksgiving. 


Monday, November 21, 2011


It’s that time of year…Thanksgiving has once again snuck up on us. I, thanks to my fabulous sister in law, do not have to worry a thing about Thanksgiving, as she hosts each year. So this time of year I can sit back, relax, and reflect on the blessings in my life.  

I have so many things to be thankful for, not the least of which are my three beautiful, healthy, happy children. But this year, I am especially thankful for the man that gave me those three children, my husband Todd.

Todd is the one person in my life that I probably take the most for granted  (not intentionally of course). Todd is such a constant rock in my life that I often forget to give him a well deserved shout out every now and then.  I liken Todd to the foundation of a house…everyone may compliment the siding, décor, or yard of the home but no one ever comments on the foundation, even though that alone is what is keeping everything together. Todd is the foundation of my life.

So this means that most people see me as a Mom first and foremost and forget many times that I am also one half of a wonderful love story.  My office is filled of dozens of pictures of my children, but just one of Todd and I, my facebook postings are almost entirely about the kids. And if they are about Todd, its most often me doing the typical wife complaining about a honey-do list long forgotten! 

I always find it fascinating that the ones we love the most, we sometimes notice the least. Seems backwards, but completely true.   

But I'm not blind to the fact that if it wasn’t for the love Todd and I share, none of this would be here. I wouldn't have been so happy to hear the words "It's a Girl!", I wouldn't get morning hugs from my 18 month old, I wouldn’t be a member of a working Mom blog, I wouldn’t be woken up by the sound of my son saying “Mom, it’s wake up time!”...I probably even wouldn’t have had the courage to leave my former job where I was miserable and start my career in my wonderful firm.

And although I am grateful for Todd himself, this year I am mostly grateful for the fact that after 8 years together, 6 years of marriage, 3 children, and 2 crazy jobs, our love remains solid. In fact I love him miles more every year. I am a child of divorce, every magazine and newspaper talks about divorce, from Kim K’s 72 day marriage to advice on sharing your children in a divorce. So, yes like most people I have a somewhat cynical view of marriage. I think every married couple would agree that in this day in age, society stacks the odds against you when you say “I do”. A marriage then becomes simply beating those odds everyday.

 I am so grateful to have man in my life that helps me beat those odds everyday.  

Now, you know me, I call it like it is…so I’m not going to sit here and tell you that beating the odds is always easy. My husband, like all husbands is well...a man! So there are always going to be the Mars v. Venus complaints. I still have yet to figure out how he can walk past Capri Sun wrappers dropped on the carpet all day and yet appear shocked when I get a soggy sock from stepping on them when I get home. I still pull out empty boxes of cereal or snacks from the pantry that he neglected to throw away. I still wonder how his socks end up by the side of the bed even though there is a laundry basket several inches away. 

So I guess what I am thankful for is that even though Todd is a victim to the typical Husband actions and stereotypes, I can love him through all of that.

I think the thing I am most grateful for with Todd is that he is one of the few people that sees me as “just Mandi”. After three kids, mountains of responsibility, few hours, and sleepless nights we can still look at each other as “Todd and Mandi”. We still laugh till we cry, we still hold hands, we still try to sneak a kiss in the kitchen before we are busted by “EEWWWs” from our peanut gallery. We somehow can find the way to keep our love sheltered from the stresses of parenthood.

And that my friends, is something to be grateful for.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

ARGH!! First let me apologize for missing my post last Wednesday...I was on day 4 of a lovely flu bug which, incidentally, B brought home from school and passed on to me and H.  Poor H, we had to cancel her birthday party - TWICE - because of the darn flu.  So, the butterfly favors go away for a year..maybe I'll have a 1/2 birthday party for her! 

This week, I have been preparing for contested termination of parental rights hearings and a dissolution trial... today and tomorrow - thus my delay.
However, I do want to take this time to discuss how absolutely wonderful it is to have people that you know you can count on! My partner Joel and my assistant Lana saved my life last week by stepping in literally at the last minute to handle a Compel Hearing on Monday, then followed that up by reviewing opposing party's discovery responses, preparing MY witness and exhibit lists and exhibits, on Tuesday and Wednesday. All I had to do when I got back to the office finally, on Thursday was sort though the pile of mail and phone messages.  At home, my husband handled all "kid" duties once they were well, so I could wallow in my misery in peace.  I was a wreck and would not have been able to get through all of last week without all of them. Finally, when I did have to appear at a hearing last Wednesday, all of the other attorneys and the Judge were more than willing to agree to a continuance so I could recover fully and prepare.  You don't get that kind of camaraderie and understanding everywhere, so I feel really blessed. 

Today I have been preparing for a trial tomorrow. I realized, once again, how much I HATE litigation.  That queasy feeling I get in my gut...that neurotic concern that I'll forget something, miss something, or just completely mess's like giving birth: while you're experiencing it it is the most awful thing you can imagine, but as soon as it's over, you completely forget that until the next time! There's a reason I only have two kids! :)  I'll keep you posted if I decide to give up on trial work, too!


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Crazy Hair Day

Last week was spirit week at the kids' school.  Every day of the week, the kids had to bring in or do something different to show their support for the school.  For example, one day was pajama day, and the kids wore their jammies to school.  Another day was sports day, and everyone wore jerseys in support of their favorite athletic team.  And one day was crazy hair day.  Sounds like fun, right?

 It was.  Despite the fact that the "thing" each kid needed to bring in or do was different each day of spirit week, we had a good time with it.  Sweet Pea wore her Elmo slippers for silly sock day.  KJ brought in his beloved hockey stick on sports day.  And then came crazy hair day. 

On the morning that Sweet Pea's class had crazy hair day, I gave Sweet Pea crazy hair.  She looked great.  She looked so great, in fact, that KJ wanted crazy hair too.  KJ's class had not designated that day as crazy hair day, but in the spirit of sibling harmony (and really, just generally not caring what the other daycare moms think of me), I gave KJ crazy hair too.  He was thrilled with it.  He thought he looked cool and the kids were happy.  So, we went about our days. 

 Fast forward to 7 p.m. When I came home from work that night, the kids had already eaten dinner and were playing in our family room.  Notably, both heads of hair were still crazy. As my usual, I asked the kids how their days were.  And KJ immediately answers me, "today was picture day!" 


Those are going to be some school pictures I'll never forget! 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Rubber and Glue Lesson

As a Mom, you know it’s a given that you are going to have to teach your children many things…from potty training, to don’t run out in the street, to eat your veggies, to don’t talk to strangers. You are their teacher. You are shaping the way they view right and wrong. If you really sit down and think about it, that’s a huge responsibility. A much bigger responsibility than my Monday morning brain wants to grasp.

Now admittedly I’ve gotten off easy so far in my mother career. I mean the talks I’m having now with my children fail in comparison to the talks their teenage years are going to bring. But still, with each passing year the lessons get more complicated and much more important.

This weekend in the "Mandi Lesson Plan of Parenting" we had the lesson of “What to do when confronted with a name caller”, or the “I am rubber you are glue” lesson. This weekend I was out in my back yard enjoying the nice fall weather with my kids. We decided to rake all the leaves into a giant pile so the kids could do the standard fall tradition of jumping in the leaves. H and I started raking the leaves while Miss Diva J stood and “supervised”.

Our neighbor girls were out in their yard and called J over to the fence. I started to work my way along the fence line, because with these particular kids I keep a close watch considering they’ve done everything from showing my children a lighter to coaxing them into leaving their fenced in back yard without permission. The topic of the day was nothing new…J told them about the Elf on the Shelf that had arrived at her house and the girls wanted to see it. J told them she couldn’t bring him out and is the norm, the girls gave their typical “disobey your Mom” speech. “Come on J, just go get it. She won’t see you.” The battle of go do it-no I can’t went on for about 5 minutes.

Now J is wise beyond her years, and is always mindful of towing the line. She is smart enough to know that one minute of “ooh look at your elf” is not worth the risk of a punishment or disappointment from Mom and Dad. So I was proud to see her not back down.

The girls who obviously were fed up with J’s answer and angry with me for telling her she couldn’t bring him outside decided to turn their attention toward me…. “Well your Mom is fat.”

And there it was, the conversation just got interesting. Trust me, it’s not the fact that I was called a name by 5 year olds that made me extremely interested in this conversation. Yes, girls after three children and a busy working Mom life, I like most Mommies could stand to lose a few pounds….so yes you got me. But, I was really curious to see J’s reaction. This is the first time I was witnessing her being confronted with a name caller. How would she react??? Would she laugh, join in, walk away?

J didn’t seem too phased by the comment, probably because names are no stranger to these particular girls. J has had to listen to them call her brother stupid, her dog mean, and watch them call each other every name under the sun.

J had no clue how to react. She looked at me to see if I had heard the comment and probably secretly hoped she wouldn’t be found guilty by association. She made the typical nervous laugh that most kids make when in a setting like this. She had no clue what to do.

When we came inside I sat J down. It was time for a lesson. I wanted to make sure that if she was put in this situation again, she’d not have the blank stare and laugh reaction. We walked inside. “I didn’t say anything.” she said to me.

I told J I knew she wasn’t the name caller, but I wanted her to know that as the receiver of the information she could hurt people’s feelings as well depending on her reaction. So I started in on the lesson…a lesson in dealing with name callers, bullies, and not-so-nice kids. The look in my daughter’s eyes was a bit heart breaking. It was as if it was sort of her first “life is not a fairy tale” talk. I mean come on…no one told Cinderella she was stupid, or Sleeping Beauty that she should hit the treadmill. I explained to J that it was important not to laugh when someone is called a name, because next time it might be a kid on the playground who would be hurt by the comment.

I’m not sure I truly got through to her…I mean how much can you really get through to a 5 year old that has never been called anything negative before. I gave her all the typical stuff…the “I am rubber you are glue” / “Sticks and stones”/ God made all of us different speech. I’m sure I sounded like I was a defense attorney retained by all the bullied kids in America. The blank look in her protected eyes showed me that this is one lesson she is going to have to learn through experience. I can say anything I want, but until she is on the other side of a name calling, I don’t know if she’ll ever truly understand.

So can I please go back to the years of teaching my kids about sunshine and butterflies? The fact that this lesson was hard for me to teach shows me that I have my work cut out for me in the next 15 plus years. (Sigh).


Friday, November 11, 2011


Happy 11-11-11, November 11, 2011! Can you believe how fast November is speeding through already? It will be time for Christmas before we know it!!

But, alas that topic is for another day. Today, I really don't have many interesting thoughts and of course as my luck would have it, it's my turn for a Friday slot of JD Moms. So I sat down at my computer trying to think of something to share with my fellow Mommies out there. Yeah, I got nothing.

So, since today is a special number day and because it is November, I thought I’d give you 11 things that I am thankful for this 11 -11-11th.

Today I am thankful for…
1.      The crayon scribble drawing from L texted to me this morning.

2.      The fact Diet Pepsi has 0 calories…since I drink enough to drown a village.

3.      FaceTime on my iPad so that at 10:02 a.m. I can check in with my kids while they watch Caillou.

4.      Printing companies that can do rush jobs so I can get  the brief I forgot had to go on Monday out the door.

5.      The fact that instead of a business lunch today, I munched on Chicken Nugget happy meals with my husband and kids.

6.      I wore my dark blue jeans today so the chocolate milk spray from L (See 5 above) is nearly invisible.

7.      The nude lip makeup trend, so that I can look trendy even though I simply did not have time to put lipstick on this morning!

8.      Female partners, so I have someone who understands my pain when I realize I have sat all day with a Transformer sticker on my pants.

9.      Pastel color post it notes. I still have no idea why they invented the dark purple and blue ones anyway. I mean come one can read them no matter how dark of pen you use!

10.  Voicemail – so I can get through a mail pile without being interrupted 1000 times by calls

11.  Fridays…because….well, it’s Friday!
Yes, I know this post is nothing thought-provoking or interesting, but just some random fun thoughts to get you through your Friday afternoon! Have a great 11-11-11 everyone!


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Interview with a Newbie

Sorry for the absence, folks. Last week I had to travel to Columbus for work and it was crazy!

But, I digress, because that trip is more of a “what happens in C-bus, stays in C-bus.” Ok – not really, as it just was work meetings and not exciting, but, hey, I can fantasize, right?

This week had a lot of catching up on emails, deadlines from last week’s trip AND (drum roll please) a request to be interviewed for the quarterly compliance newsletter. Now, I know what you are thinking – really? Hasn’t she only been there for a few months? And what exciting things could she talk about (I mean, Dodd Frank is exciting, right?)? But you can’t say no to a request like that…

So, it started off with your basic questions:
Where are you from?
How long have you worked here?
What is your educational background?
Tell me about your family?

Pretty much your basic questions, which I have stock answers to. Nothing too wild and crazy here. But then we veered off topic a little bit with these questions:
What are your pet peeves?
What are you afraid of?
 Do you have any goals you want to accomplish still?
If you could, would you go back and redo anything in your life?
What is a time you will never forget (good or bad)?
What is something you are proud of?

And yes, those were the questions. Part of me thought I was sitting on a long couch talking to a therapist (not necessarily a bad idea for a stressed out mom, but I digress). Now the pet peeves and afraid of questions were ok (I admit, I do like an interview that asks a couple of off the wall questions), but goals and regrets? How long does this interview need to be?

Possibly, I took the questions a little too much to heart. But they did get me thinking…
Goals? Where do I begin?
Redo/Regrets? Hindsight is 20 – 20.
Times I will never forget? Too many…all that bring a smile or tears

Something I am proud of? This was probably the 2nd most difficult question to answer (behind the redo/regrets question), because I don’t really think of myself as being special. I just live life the best I can. So the answer came out as this:
“I am proud to be a working mom, who does her best to balance her family and job.”
Oh – and I also added “I am proud to have such wonderfully close friends and family, who I know would be here in a heartbeat if I needed anything.”

So what about you? How would you answer these questions?

And yes, I realize I was way over-thinking these questions, but hopefully it makes you think a little too 

Have a great day!
Jean Anne

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Unimaginable

Lately, our local media has been covering a trial that I can't even bear to read about.  The trial is that of a daycare worker, who, frustrated with other kids in the class, threw a boy down on the floor, causing him to hit his head.  I can't bring myself to read the articles, but Husband (who has read some of the coverage) tells me that the little boy picked himself up off of the floor, got his teddy bear and went to his favorite chair to console himself.  And then died. 

I have goose bumps and tears and my eyes just typing those words.  My heart breaks for that little boy.  For his parents.  His sister.  His twin.  There aren't words for me to express the pain I feel for that family. I pray for them every day.  But even mustering all of my faith, I can't see how this family manages to live with the pain of that loss.  It must be unbearable. 

Every day we working parents put our children in the hands of people who we pray have our childrens' best interests at heart.  People who we hope will always do right by our kids.  Who will recognize their own limitations and walk away when necessary.  People who start out as strangers, but end up as extensions of our families.  I've voiced plenty of complaints about daycare on this blog: the kids are always sick, it costs a fortune, everything you send there gets lost.  But the truth is, these things are minor complaints.  Our daycare does the important things right.  Like taking good care of my kids.  That's more than worth the cost of tuition. 

I'm thankful for the teachers who watch out for my two little ones.  As a parent, I know how frustrating two kids can be.  I can only imagine what it is like to handle a room full of two-year-olds day after day.  I admire my kids' teachers.  For being patient.  For being kind.  For knowing when to walk away.  But most of all, for loving my children the way I love my children.  And always putting the kids first.


Monday, November 7, 2011

My House of Cards

The last couple of years, I have started to "hit the stride" of my life. You know, the point in your life when you feel you have a handle on things. A point in your life, when everything just seems to fall in place. A point where you exhale a lot more and finally feel that famous C-word...CONTROL .

From the outside looking in, it may appear as though I'm incredibly independent. My Mom (who due to her role in my life has always been my number one cheerleader), always says to me "I don't know how YOU do it Mandi, YOU do it all". I think this is the typical working Mom stereotype. I fall into it too...I'll see a working Mom, who seems to balance everything perfectly, and I'll think, Wow she's superwoman... SHE can do it all.

But I learned a huge lesson recently...things are NEVER exactly what they seem.

This past month, my bad luck assistant streak continued and I found myself once again starting with a new assistant. My former assistant gave me her notice and told me she was leaving the area, and like an old familiar song, I was back to the drawing board attempting to find another assistant.

My new assistant started. I sat her down and explained to her that I am a super organized person, I like my files organized, and due to my insane schedule of work commitments and personal commitments I need her to step in and diary our files, remind me of deadlines, etc. I basically gave her my typical "Welcome to the craziness" speech.

As she started I assumed it would be a smooth transition. After all, there never seemed to be any problems with my last assistant, and things seemed to be taken care of.  I wasn't far behind on work and in fact because my case had settled my October was wide open to allow for a smooth transition. I was confident that all would be just fine.

So much to my surprise one day while I was in a deposition, I checked my iPhone and found a message from our office manager that she needed to talk to me about something. I walked into my firm and to my surprise, another assistant and my assistant looked very frazzled. I walked passed them into our office manager's office. "Things are bad, did you realize what was waiting there for your assistant?".

I hate to admit it, for it makes me sound absolutely clueless, but I had no idea what she was talking about. I mean come world is organized, controlled...right? I headed back over to my assistant's desk to find it completely destroyed...files everywhere, stacks of papers galore. It seriously looked like a scene straight out of Hoarders.

My assistant explained that as she was making herself at home in her new cubicle, and every time she moved something she found more and more stacks of paper. Filing from earlier in the year, to-do emails that she didn't know if they had been done, etc. etc. Looking around the mess, I suddenly felt like someone ripped me out of a deep sleep and thrust me into reality. What the hell was happening here? How could all of this stuff be here and I never knew?

It's hard to put in words how I felt those next weeks, but it was a mixture of feeling like I had been duped and sheer panic. Emails upon emails of "Do this please" or "Follow up please" that were never done.  I started to literally get sick to my stomach each time my new assistant walked in with another "Here's another pile we have to go through". I felt completely out of control, overwhelmed, and incredibly stressed.

Luckily I have a lot of great friends at my firm that agreed to step in and help clean up the mess. The dust settled and my new assistant got everything taken care of. Suddenly my world started to balance itself again.

Going through this experience reminded me that although my life may seem to be in control, I live in a house of cards. The fact is I rely so heavily upon people, that they support me and make my life appear to be what it is. And because I am so busy, I don't have time to micromanage each of my cards and so my life depends on whether are not they are holding up their end of the bargain.  That's a scary position to be in, but one I think a lot of working Moms deal with.  I, like so many other working Moms, rely on people more than I even realize. And if one of these people fail me, my whole world has a risk of collapsing from underneath me.

So next time you see a "SuperMom" and you wonder how she is able to do it all, remember that there is so much more going on behind the scenes.She isn't doing it on her own...she has support all around her, support she relies on to keep her world in harmony. Support that unfortunately could let her down. And if you are the one trying to be the SuperMom, remember from time to time to thank your "cards" for supporting your world and helping you fool the world that YOU can do it all.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Halloween blues

     Well, I have one birthday party down and two to go!  B's party went off on Sunday without a hitch. Only one of the boys he invited couldn't attend, plus H had a friend, so we had a full house! The party was Phineas and Ferb themed, and I really had fun making his cake. Cake decorating is messy and really time consuming, but for me it's relaxing, too. It's one of the last "homey" type things that I have time for - twice or three times a year.   I have two more times to look forward to in the next two weeks, and then my bags and food coloring go away for another year! Now, I am having Holiday letdown.  You know that mildly grumpy feeling you get once all the excitement is over... this makes me worried that no one will come to H's party on Saturday! We have big plans for her party, and with B's being such a hit, I am terrified that none of her friends will come and it'll be just her and me and a butterfly cupcake cake to drown our sorrows! Seriously...what mother worries that her daughter isn't popular enough in FIRST GRADE???
     The real reason for this holiday letdown is that Halloween this year was a total bust! Halloween is my favorite holiday, and I get all giddy and excited waiting for it - like kids and Christmas.  I LOVE IT.  But my kids... not so much. We have "Trick or Treat State Street" in town, which is basically the local businesses. It's really nice for the younger kids, because they get to trick or treat during the day light hours and everyone gets to see them all dressed up. But I'm a purist when it comes to trick or treating - darkness, flashlights, running from house to house... I have been waiting for my kids to get old enough to enjoy that part.  I thought this year was the year! B is 9; H is 7 - hearty, fit, on an other day, they'd run for miles at the prospect of candy at the other end.  Not on Halloween.... B didn't trick or treat at all...wouldn't even put on his costume.  Bless his heart, he got a new book at the Book Fair that day and only wanted to read. (What mother tells her kid to "put that book down and come get some candy, already!"??)  H did trick or treat on State Street, and I had high hopes for the night.  She wanted to go out - reapplied her blood- and we took off.  About a block and a half from the house, she wanted to stop. Out of desperation, I offered to drive her (Not a Purist thing to do, but I was desperate!) So we went back home, jumped in the car and were pulling out. B then jumps in - no costume, no SHOES- and wants to come too. Whatever, time is ticking and we only have an hour left! First house, H gets out and goes up to the door. Nice little old lady answers, lets her in to pick a candy, and she comes back out.  B promptly tells H she shouldn't have gone into the house (true, but I was watching everything from the big picture window) scares her, and she's done. DONE. after THREE houses.  Despite all my prodding and cajoling, she couldn't be convinced to go to anymore houses. So I was forced to drive them home, past all the running, happy kids, past all the bright front lights and all the free candy!  I was devastated.  Seriously.  I was in a bad mood the entire rest of the night, and promptly started worrying that no one was coming to H's party.  GOOD GRIEF Charlie Brown.  Next year, I will just sit in the pumpkin patch with Linus and wait for the Great Pumpkin!