Monday, February 28, 2011

Sugar Mommas posted an article on Friday advising "sugar mommas" - working women who make more than their husbands - on how to handle comments from colleagues or family members about their non-traditional working roles.

The article was interesting for a lot of reasons: First because there is any discussion about this at all.  Aren't we at a point in society yet where we accept women working and - gasp - excelling?  It really should no longer beyond the pail to think that a woman might be a CEO or vice president or doctor or professor or whatever and be paid the corresponding salary. 

Second, the article was interesting because it was written by a man who gave up his BigLaw job and relies on his wife to bring  home the bacon.  In my opinion, there isn't anything wrong with the wife being the breadwinner. Just because a man doesn't earn more money doesn't make him any less of a man.  To the contrary, in my own personal view, Husband is more of a man because he does more of the child-rearing and unglamourous household tasks.  Where as I have to prioritize work at all times, Husband is left with balancing a job that he loves with all of the kid sicknesses, daycare emergencies and just general day-to-day tasks.  Not an easy task.

Thankfully, I haven't had much need to defend Husband's role as secondary income earner.  While there have been plenty of instances where the question of what my husband does was met with awkward silence, it is what it is and I don't need partners to understand it.  Our relationship works for us. 

But for those women who are less lucky, Friday's article gave some good advice on how to deal with sticky situations with colleagues or friends who don't understand or accept the woman-as-breadwinner-phenomenon.  My personal favorite: "don't sweat these fools."  Pretty much sums it up for me. 


Friday, February 25, 2011

Not quite the trip I had in mind...

Well apparently my children must have gotten the memo that due to my partnership this year we won’t be able to take our annual family vacation. To compensate for this lack of travel, they have been taking me on “trips” of their own this past week…GUILT TRIPS.

Every Mom has to deal with guilt trips. I think children are born with the inherent talent to pluck at their parents’ heartstrings if something doesn’t go their way. Some parents are really good about not letting their children take them on these trips...I on other hand, not only let them take me on these trips... I ride shotgun.

It all started Monday. My daughter went off to pre-school. I had a very busy day of meetings, motion writing, and L’s 9 month doctor appointment. My day was so packed that I didn’t get a chance to check my office messages until 4:00 p.m.. I dialed my voicemail and suddenly heard the last voice I wanted to hear that day… “Mandi this is J’s teacher, she says her eye hurts, she’s been crying saying she wants to come home”. I hung up the phone in a panic, the message came in at 11:00 a.m.. Had they been trying to reach me all day? I grabbed my cell phone…why didn’t they call me on the cell? I called my husband, no they didn’t call there. I was livid. See I’m that kind of Mom that no matter what my child says I will be right there to pick them up. I don’t want my kids to be those kids we all knew in grade school, the ones who sat in the school nurse’s office green from throwing up and clutching a garbage can while they waited forever for their parents to come. I grabbed my keys and ran out of my office. As I drove to the daycare I was so upset, so nervous. Not because I was concerned that J was really hurt, since I knew she was just developing a stye on her eyelid,  but rather I was terrified what J would say when I got there.

J’s nickname in my house is Diva….and for good reason. She is the queen of the guilt trip. The nurse at the doctor’s office who gave her a shot, her swim teacher that made her go under water, her brother who lost a Barbie shoe…all victims to the wrath of the Diva when something does not go her way. My daughter could go toe to toe with the best Hollywood actress. And I can’t blame her for this personality trait…as I am a notorious drama queen.

I ran into the daycare center. As I ran into the room, J didn’t notice me at first. She was sitting in the book corner reading and smiling. She was fine. But the moment she saw me…her lip trembled and the crocodile tears went a flowing: “Mommy, my teachers couldn’t find you”. “Mommy I wanted to go home”. “Mommy my eye is falling out”. I tried to ignore the comments…but then came the interrogation… “Where were you Mommy? Why didn’t you come get me? Why did you make me stay here?”. I didn’t make eye contact with her as I buttoned her coat. I felt horrible. Sure it wasn’t my fault as I didn’t get the call, but she didn't know they didn't call my cell, she just knew I didn’t come.

Tuesday was Mr. H’s turn at taking me on my trip. I got up in the morning and got ready for work. “Mommy, you staying home with me?” H said as I curled my hair. He didn’t even let me answer, ran into his room, and came back carrying two of his favorite Matchbox cars.  “Let’s race Momma…you can have THIS car”. Again without trying to make eye contact like a convicted criminal: “Umm honey, Mommy has to go to work”. And just like his sister the day before him…crocodile tears soon followed. “No Mommy please don’t go. You’re my best friend. Don’t you want to play?” Sure H did not put the Academy Award winning effort his sister did the day before, but let's just say it was worth a Daytime Emmy. The look in his eyes as I went out the door ruined my whole day.

Wednesday it was back to J’s turn. I had to go to Des Moines for a day of depositions. I had to be there by 10:00 a.m. and so I was up before the sun and out the door by 6:30 a.m. My family was fast asleep when I left. As I sang to my I-Pod on my way to Des Moines, my husband called me: “J was upset you didn’t give her a hug this morning before you left”. Thankfully traveling down interstate 80 I missed the crocodile tears and dramatics. But I still felt horrible.

Thursday, even my youngest took a turn at his version of a guilt trip. L at 9 months old is the best baby you will ever meet, but he is developing his separation anxiety. Tonight when I came home from work I was in a mad dash to get dinner on the table, kids fed, and baths done. Every time I set him down and walked out of the room, L would squinch up his face and let out a huge cry. And these were no crocodile tears as I wiped away real tears every time I had to run into the next room to referee a “I had it first” fight or check to make sure I didn’t burn dinner. Every time I walked away and heard the tears…I felt terrible.

As a Mom I know guilt is just another bitter pill I have to swallow every day. I wish I was the kind of person that could just let the water roll off my back when these things come up. But I’m not. I genuinely want to be the best Mom in the world to my kids. When I fall from their graces, I feel horrible, even though in about 4.2 seconds after they cry to me they have forgotten why they were sad. Hopefully my children’s passport on guilt trips will run out before too long….not sure if I can take anymore this week!


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sing it Sister!

Hello and Happy Thursday!
I would like to say that this post would inspire thought provoking discussion and provide deep insight into one working mom's life.  But, today, that is just not the case.  I need basic help in the form of music - and I am desperate.

For Christmas, I asked for (and received) a Ipod Shuffle, so I could work on accomplishing my goal of running a 5K in October.  How does this help my goal, you ask?  Well, when I workout (or should, I say, when I used to workout?), I like to listen to music.  A good song helps keep you going that extra couple of yards or run just a couple of more minutes.

Unfortunately, when I went to make my playlist, I was at a loss for good workout songs.  Currently, my list looks something like this:
Tim McGraw - but not the slow ones
Nickelback – but not the slow ones
Eminem - Lose yourself (from the 8 Mile movie)
Kenny Chesney
Darius Rucker
Nelly (yes, I am old)
Jason Aldean
Great White – Once Bitten, Twice Shy
Skid Row
Motley Crue
Van Halen – maybe…

While I do favor all kinds of music; when I am working out, I want something upbeat / fast paced.  And it has been a long time since I have listened to anything that didn't feature some kind of cartoon character...

So, does anyone have any favorite songs they like to workout to?  Any advice is greatly appreciated!
Jean Anne

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Greener grass?

I have a pretty good excuse for posting so late today:  I am spending the day as a stay at home mom.  In a rare twist of fate, KJ got sick on a day where I actually could stay home.  So I did.  And because I am home so rarely (and I know I won't see them tomorrow night due to a marketing event), I let Sweet Pea stay home too. And while we've had our fun this morning, I am very, very happy that right now is nap time. 

Three loads of laundry, two million false alarm trips to the potty (Sweet Pea is still training) and one broken thermometer later, I'm ready for a break.  I've never thought that being a full-time stay at home mom would be easy, and now - after just a few hours of experiencing it - I'm sure. 

To all you stay at home moms who do it every day - you're amazing.  And to my work, don't worry.  I'll be in tomorrow. 


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

I'm Tired

I wanted to come up with something witty or interesting to talk about in today’s blog….but I don’t have the energy.

So all I can tell you today is…I’m tired.

Since the beginning of the year I have been on a mission to improve my billable hours. I’m trying to “fit in” amongst my partners, partners who while I leave at 4:30 every day to pick up my kids, are working until 6 or 7. I want to show them that yes, I have chosen to always put my family first no matter what cost, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to hold my own in our firm.

But the problem is, just as determined as I am to prove myself at work, I am even more determined to be an excellent mother and wife. Because of this I have had to work nearly every night since the beginning of the year. After I put my kids to bed I sit down and work until midnight or 1:00 a.m. and then head off to sleep for a few hours.

Working hard is nothing new to me, so yes I have been tired before, but my circumstances now make being tired much harder. I remember the days in law school before finals. Sure I would have to pull all- nighters to study for my tests, but after I turned in my test I’d head for my apartment, climb under my blanket, and sleep till Tuesday. I laugh now thinking that getting up early on the weekends meant getting up at 10. Now Saturday mornings start with Mickey Mouse Clubhouse at 7:00 a.m., and by 10 we’ve already been to the Children’s Museum for two hours and are heading to do something else fun.

As a Mom, we are not given the luxury of being tired. When I come home from work, I am drained from a hard day and the drama that goes along with a law firm. But when I come in instead of meeting my pillow, I meet 2 kids at the door jumping up and down and one baby squealing, ready to see me. Three kids who expect me to share the same excitement they have that now I am home and we can play.

So I shelve my tiredness and play with my kids. Honestly, I love it so much that I really don’t notice how tired I am until after they go to bed. Then as I yawn, I pull out my work and start working.

And as most Moms know who have very young children, the problem with staying up late is that by the time we do go to bed, one of the kids is bound to get up. Luckily I am blessed that L sleeps through the night consistently, but I have had plenty of occasions of hitting the pillow only to get up a minute later with a bad dream or potty break.

Surprisingly Mondays are the day I am the most tired. This may seem backward, but my weekends are anything but relaxing. I spend my weekend doing all the things I did not have time to accomplish during the week. I think I actually run more during the weekend than I do during the week.

The problem is there really is no cure for my exhaustion. I usually try and sleep in on the weekends, but even if my husband agrees to let me sleep in, my children will find their way up to me by 7:30 a.m. I hear the sound of size 8 toddler feet running across my wood floor and hear H (my usual alarm clock) yell… “Mommy, its wake up time…look the sun is up (as he pulls up my blinds)!”. See I’m the activity planner for my children on the weekends and so they expect me to wake up with a fabulous adventure cooked up. Sleeping in apparently is not part of that adventure. My husband tells me to ignore my “alarm clocks” but how can you ignore a cute little boy saying: “Come on Mom, don’t-cha wanna eat Lucky Charms with me!”

For the most part I think I handle my crazy schedule quite well. I am a night person by nature so late nights don’t really bother me. And I’m pretty good at hiding my tiredness from the world. But every now and then I just get tired. Then, much to my dismay, I have to hang up my SuperMom cape and just accept that I am human. I hate this feeling because it’s yet another reminder that no matter how hard I try, I can’t do it all.

So, for all you tired Mommies out there…hang in there, learn to like the taste of energy drinks, and pray that our kids will quickly learn that there is nothing fun to do until about 9:00 a.m.! For me, I guess I only have 18 more years before the kids are out of the house and I can finally get some sleep. But I guess by then I’ll miss them so much I probably won’t want to sleep!


Friday, February 18, 2011

Happy Times

Today is one of those rare February days people in the Midwest cherish.  Just a few weeks after digging our way out from under feet of snow, we have a bight, sunshiny day that reminds us that spring isn't too far off.  Even better than the weather, is the mood of this blog lately.  I'm sure we've all been struggling along as usual, but amidst our struggles, we've found some bright spots.  Jean's kicked it back and channeling her inner kid.  Mandi is rocking a girls' night tonight.  And I'm just soaking up the rays of happiness emanating from my family and closest friends, all of which are celebrating life events this week (welcome babies!  happy weddings!).  Pretty rocking. 

 Keeping with the happy theme, I ran across this article about seven delicious deserts you can eat without guilt -- including Frosties!  

So soak it up, my Midwestern friends.  It's Friday.  It's gorgeous outside.  And now you can indulge in chocolate guilt free.  I don't think it can get much better than this!


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Girls Night

This week in my life I have something really special to look forward to. Tomorrow night a rarity in my life is going to occur…I’m going out for Girls Night. Yes, I’m going to head out for a few hours with my friends and enjoy being Mandi instead of Mommy. I’m so excited.

A couple years ago, I joined Facebook. When I did I came back in touch with people from my hometown of Princeton, Illinois. It was amazing finding people that I hadn’t seen or heard from in years.

In the midst of all the Friend Requests and Wall Posts, a small group started to form. Several girls I knew when I was younger started talking. We planned girls’ nights, play-dates, and kept actively involved in each other’s lives on Facebook. What amazed me the most is these are not the girls that I hung out with the most when I was in school. These are not those friends who vowed to me in yearbook entries “Best Friends Forever” or “We’ll always be together”. Yet here we are.

And what is even more amazing is when I’m with them, I feel like the years we spent apart never happened. We’re becoming closer now than we ever were, we are supporting each other, and we are making the decision to form a little crew amidst our crazy lives. A motley crew maybe…but a crew none the less!

So we set apart times to get together and just be us…to almost step back in time and just be silly girls from a small town together. When I’m with them I don’t have to worry about billable hour requirements, if I’m doing all I can for my kids, the stress I’ve been under as a partner, the grind of the day to day life of being a working Mom. I check all that at the door and just catch up and laugh.

I have a few circles of friends. My best friends (who I shouldn’t even call my friends as they are my sisters), my work friends, my daycare friends…but there is something really special about this new circle that has formed. I am learning from these girls that it is 100% true what they say about the older you get the more you need people who knew you when you were younger. The people I meet in my life now just know me as J, H, and L’s Mom, Todd’s wife, or a partner at my law firm. But when I’m with these girls…I’m Mandi. Period. They knew me when I was young, they know my history, they know the beginning of my story. I think that is what makes them so able to understand and support the chapter I am in my life now. It’s hard to pick up a book in the middle of a story and really grasp the storyline…but the people who have read the entire story appreciate where you are now, because they saw where you started out. And because they have read the entire book so far (even though they have to catch up on some parts they missed), they are more apt to want to stick with you and see how the story ends.

So to my Princeton girls: I hope you all know how much our new circle means to me. I’m not sure how we all made it back to each other, but I am certainly glad we did. I love that we are raising our kids to know each other, I love that we can vent to each other, I am so happy we are making our friendship a priority. And perhaps most of all, I am SO happy we are going to LaGrotto’s tomorrow…oh how I have missed that pizza!!


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Feeling Like a Kid Again

I just have to share a recent experience that really made me feel like a kid again. Last Sunday, my family went sledding/tubing and had a GREAT time! And, selfishly, I got to feel like a kid with no worries, not a 32 year old stressed out, working mommy.

My hubby had won free tubing passes through work and we had been waiting for good weather to hit the “slopes.” So when the weather forecast showed a high of 48 degrees on Sunday, we broke out the snow pants and boots and climbed in the van with excitement and trepidation. (As you may recall, last time I went sledding, I ended up with a pulled back muscle and a broken sled. And I continued to have that worry that my kids were going to get hurt and probably should be in helmets and full body armor!)

But Sunday turned out to be fantastic! And, boy, is it a lot easier for kids now to go “tubing.” There was a rope tow to pull them up the hill, so they just plopped down in the tube and glided up the hill. Who remembers tromping up hills, slipping and sliding, just trying to get to the top before your friends? How many broken bones (and trees) did we just barely avoid? And did we ever think about safety helmets?

On our very first trip down the hill, we were able to connect all of our tubes and slide down as a family. What fun! After that, A & B wanted to go on their own (independent little girls!). And then Mommy’s worry began. But after seeing how much fun they had (and how bundled they were), my fears went away. There weren’t any trees to run into, the staff made sure no one would run into each other, and A & B showed no signs of killing themselves.

So after a slight push, there I was, on my way down the hill with the moon shining above, relishing in the fact that I was on this wild ride by myself. And I started to laugh.

Man, it felt good to be a kid again.

Jean Anne

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Pitter Patter

Yesterday my brother's family got the best Valentine's Day gift ever - a healthy baby girl.  We were all pretty excited for Baby J.'s arrival.  My brother already has a son and a daughter, so there were absolutely no comments about, "I bet you hope this one is a boy/girl" or any of those other things people say when you have two kids of the same sex and assume you want one of each.  And my brother and his wife didn't know what they were having so there were no comments about how it would be terrible for a girl to be born on Valentine's Day or anything like that.  The baby was simply coming, and everyone focused on that.  And we as a family got to celebrate the day dedicated to love by welcoming a new little person to love into our lives.  Perfect. 

But for me, the birth of my niece was also a little bittersweet.  Every other time my brother had a child, I was either pregnant or had *just* had a baby myself.  Our boys are six months apart and our girls three weeks apart.  And while I'm glad that my brother and his wife got to enjoy a pregnancy where the focus was on them and them alone, I'm a little sad that I don't have another baby on the way. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm beyond thrilled that I have two healthy children.  Really, that's more than I ever could have asked for.  And I'm thrilled to have both a boy and and girl.  I honestly always thought I'd have all boys - and I was okay with that.  So to have Sweet Pea in my life is an unexpected joy that I cherish every day.  But I also love large families.  I always have.  I blame it on my Catholic upbringing.  I can vividly remember sitting in church watching the families with kids sitting like stepping stones in the pews.  One right after the other, cute as can be.  It's something I always wanted. 

But juggling work and a large family seems pretty much impossible.  Daycare costs alone make having a large family unworkable.  I don't want my kids spaced so far apart that they don't really know each other (which we'd have to do to afford daycare) and we can't afford to have more than two in daycare at a time.  And even if daycare was affordable, there's still the problems of juggling activities, homework, laundry and -oh yeah - college costs.  I just don't know how we could do all of that with both of us working. 

The Juggle addressed this issue the other day.  In the article, the author talks about how she had to make both personal and professional sacrifices to make her situation work - despite having a stay at home husband.  And while there were plenty of comments talking about the amount of love in large families, there weren't a whole lot of specifics on how to make it work.

But a lack of suggestions has never stopped me before.  I have no idea how I'm going to handle the juggle once KJ hits school, but that didn't stop me from having him.  And we didn't plan Sweet Pea at all.  But we still managed to figure out how to raise two kids, one year apart and keep our jobs during a recession.  I have faith that we'll figure it out. 

As much faith as I have, I know right now is not the time to add to our family.  For as much as I would like another baby, we are just hitting our stride.  We're balancing the juggle and working well as a family.  It feels right.  But I'm gathering suggestions for the future.  Just in case.  Because if my kids have taught me anything, it's that I still love big families. 


Monday, February 14, 2011

My Favorite Misunderstood Holiday!

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! I was so happy that my blog day fell today as Valentine’s Day is by far my favorite holiday. And over the years I have always been on a mission to gain support for my favorite day.

I LOVE everything about Valentine’s Day, well except those chalky conversation hearts. And oh how I celebrate the day! My house is decked out in hearts, my children and I are decked in red (well had to compromise with H and let him wear his blue Spiderman shirt: "It has red on it Mommy"), and yes I still send out Valentines each and every year to my cherished friends and family.

So I guess you can say I fly my red and pink flag proudly! But when I tell people Valentine’s Day is my favorite holiday, I am usually met with two standard responses: “Really, over CHRISTMAS?” or “Oh I hate that holiday, its SUCH a Hallmark holiday”.

I have never understood the problem so many people have with Valentine's Day. I mean what’s not to like about a day that celebrates the loved ones in our lives? I mean come on…people love celebrating Halloween, a day in honor of ghouls and goblins…but roll their eyes on Valentine’s Day????

Single people often hate Valentine’s Day because it reminds them they are not coupled. I have never bought into that. I have spent many more of my Valentine’s days single than coupled, and had my fair share of un-requited Valentines. But I never really equated Valentine’s Day with just romantic love…its about LOVE in general. If you look at it this way, we are never without a Valentine.

But what amazes me is that it isn’t just single people that reject the holiday, couples do as well. Often I hear coupled people explain their position by saying: “It’s such a Hallmark holiday” or “I don’t need a day to tell someone I love them”.

Well first, for those who think it’s a Hallmark holiday, created merely to sell cards and candy, let me give you a short history lesson. Valentine’s Day actually dates back to 4th century B.C., and I’m pretty sure there was no Hallmark back then. So, yes non-believers people have been celebrating Valentine’s Day for centuries.

Second, even though you think you may not need a day to tell someone you love them, in our society we really do. Our society is so fast paced, there is so much stress put upon us, so it is important to step away from all the drama in our lives and just focus on our loved ones. Put away the work, don’t worry about the bills, just focus on showing people you love them. We all need that.

Maybe some couples don’t like Valentine’s Day because it certainly changes over the course of a relationship. Mine certainly has. When we were dating, Todd always went overboard with dinner reservations, flowers, and presents. I was swept off my feet in pure romantic gestures. Candlelight dinners, special cards, special gifts. But now, with three children and two busy jobs, we don’t have the luxury of a romantic celebration on Valentine’s. So we’ve had to improvise and focus more on celebrating our love than romance. This year, since Todd really wanted to take me out for my special holiday, we took the kids to Happy Joe’s for Pizza and fun in their play zone. There laughing in that booth over pizza meant more to me than the countless romantic dinners we have had. I think it was because Todd didn’t have the option of romancing me, but yet wanted to show me how much he loved me…and he certainly did.

For me, it’s the little things that always warm my heart on Valentine’s Day. My college friend that I haven’t seen in years but yet always remembers to send me a handmade Valentine, my father who after 32 years has never missed a year of sending me flowers on Valentine’s Day, my friends who send me countless emails and greetings to tell me how much they value our friendship, my husband who battles countless floral shops in search of places that carry Valentine’s bouquets with no red roses (as I despise red roses), my daughter who spent about 45 minutes at the museum this weekend crafting a handmade Valentine for her Daddy. That is what Valentine’s Day is to me.

And this year, I had my favorite Valentine’s moment of all time. Yesterday, my husband and son, H, went out to the hardware store. While they were out, my son asked my husband to take him to buy me and his brother and sister a Valentine. There in the store, H picked out three special cards and candy. He then came home, worked hard to sign his name, and handed out his prizes. He walked over to me and in his precious voice said: “Happy Valentine’s Day Mommy”. He then handed me his present (Peeps candy hearts) and card with a sense of pride on his face. I truly felt loved in that moment, and yes of course I cried!

So all you non-believers do me a favor today and spend less time rolling your eyes and complaining about Valentine’s Day and more time focusing on doing special things for your friends and family. If you do this, I promise you will love this holiday as much as I do.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!! Now go out and love on the world!


Friday, February 11, 2011

Just Try a Bite

Picky, picky, picky. Those words are very accurate descriptions of my daughters. From shoes and games, to books and dresses, A & B are very particular in their choices. Their “picky-ness,” however, shines at the dinner table.

Full disclosure here, I am also a very picky eater. I know as my aunt and cousin are reading this post, they are laughing and nodding their heads in agreement. Growing up, I ate a lot of bread and butter, PB&J and pasta. If I didn’t like what my mom was making, I always had a second choice of PB&J or cereal. In fact, I was so picky, I would only eat the lasagna my aunt made and mac n’ cheese at my Grandma Fields (it was just Kraft). To this day, I don’t like salad or cottage cheese, and I despise mayo.

So when A & B were old enough to start trying new foods, I was prepared. One night I sat at the dinner table in an attempt to make B try a veggie of some sort. After 15 minutes, my hubby was ready to toss in the towel, but I just sat there as calm as can be. (I remember a similar situation when I was growing up: I was left in my Grandma’s kitchen for over an hour over 3 green beans. And I was victorious). After 30 minutes with B, she took 3 bites! Woo-hoo!

So hubby and I have continued to try this method. But, honestly, we don’t have time every night to spend 30 minutes on 3 bites. They need to eat something, otherwise, at 9 PM, they will be hungry again. Sadly (or positively), at preschool, they eat pretty much everything (well, except peas.)

I read the articles on childhood obesity and healthy kids. I limit the amount of candy (well, except for Grandpa’s spoiling), chips, and other junk. Plus, the girls are active in swimming, dance, and soon soccer and tee ball. So, I am not too worried. But I would really like them to eat more fruits and veggies.

So does anyone have any tips or tricks to get their kids to try new foods? Or any methods that did not work? Or has heredity already kicked in?


Jean Anne

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Staying Sonia

Last week, before snowpocalypse blanketed the ground and dominated all news, I had the opportunity to attend a speech given by Justice Sotomayor.  I've been lucky in my life to see quite a few United States Supreme Court justices speak.  Since I started college, I've seen a sitting Supreme Court Justice speak at least every other year.  And, in law school, I had the opportunity to (but did not win the lottery to) attend a class taught by Justice Thomas.  While hearing a speech certainly doesn't mean I know or understand a person, hearing our Supreme Court Justices speak - about their interpretation of the Constitution, their struggles balancing work and life, their dedication to their job - has given me an immense respect for each and every one of them,  no matter what I think about their politics. 

Justice Sotomayor was no different.  Before the speech I honestly didn't know much about her.  Of course, I knew the same things everyone knew, but I didn't watch her confirmation hearings with the rapt attention so many of my colleagues did.  (I did think she won the "Who Wore It Best" challenge posted by Above the Law when she wore an outfit almost identical to one worn by Justice Kagan in her confirmation hearings).  After the speech, I knew a few more things about Justice Sotomayor (and I knew that I never, ever, never want to be a Supreme Court justice).  But one of the things that stuck with me was when she was asked about the legacy she wanted to leave.  I'll never do her words justice, but Justice Sotomayor said something along the lines of if she knew what she wanted her legacy to be, she wouldn't be growing, and she wanted to grow in her position as a Supreme Court Justice.  And then she said that she would consider her time on the Court a success if she "stayed Sonia." 

What an inspiring comment.  It only makes sense that as our lives grow and change we grow and change too.  That's a good thing.  But so often in life I find myself caught up in being an attorney, being a mom, being a wife, being thinner or being whatever, that I forget at the core of it all, I'm still Karen.   I forget that at one point in my life there was a Karen who liked reading and aerobics and walking and cooking. There was a Karen who made time to hang out with her friends.  A Karen who didn't spend all weekend running between gymnastics and Walmart and hockey and Target.  A Karen who believed that by giving her best to everything she did, she could make a better world for herself. 

Somewhere in my struggle to balance having a husband, a family, a job and a three hour daily commute, I lost a lot these things.  Or maybe not lost them, but they got pushed aside.  Novels were exchanged for cases and briefs.  Cooking turned into crockpot.  And my circle of friends (with the exception of a few who have hung in there and for whom I am immensely grateful) became my kids and parents.  While I'm grateful for all of the things I've gained, Karen has gotten a little lost. 

 I tell my kids again and again that our differences make us special.  That they should celebrate who they are.  But at the same time, I'm pushing away the very things that make me special and sending the message that some things are more important than staying true to yourself.   I don't want my legacy to be that I sacrificed my individuality just so I could make it through the day.  I want my kids to see that my differences make me special too. 

I'm resolved to relocating Karen and incorporating her into the many hats I already wear day to day.  Thanks to fantastic friends and family, Karen is constantly evolving to a better person.  Hopefully my legacy is too.  It would do me no good to stay Sonia, but I certainly am going to try to "keep Karen." 


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Ladies first...Mommies last

In my house, mornings are often chaotic. We aren't morning people in this house. I usually work really late at night and so the concept of getting up at 6:00 a.m. does not suit me well. My husband works nights so when he is home, he often stays up late simply to keep with his regular schedule. So, our night-owl-ness, makes our mornings harder by nature.

So in the mornings we start the job of getting everyone ready and out the door. It's a mad house of running around: yells from my husband "I can only find one shoe", screeches from my daughter "Mommy, I want to bring my Barbie blanket today"....hugs, kisses, "I love you"s, "Have a great day"s, "Learn Something"s and out the door we go.

But in the midst of the morning craziness, one person is left standing in their jammies after everyone gets dressed...the person who 20 minutes later has to get down to the Courthouse. Me.

Yep, although the others can get dressed at their leisure and take all the time they need...I'm left with no time.  Every morning I am usually woken up by my son H, who always climbs into our bed in the middle of the night. I then get up, change L's diaper, and start getting the kids ready for daycare, one by one. I usually start with my daughter J, because it takes her the longest to get her outfits picked out, hair brushed, and find any accessories she wants to wear. Next comes L usually and with a drooling baby this means putting layers and layers of clothes on him. Finally comes H, who is generally easy, except when I try and talk him into giving his Batman shirt a rest and trying one of his other shirts.

And then since its the dead of winter it takes forever to get everyone bundled up and out the door. Once I manage to do this then I run upstairs and get ready for work. By this time, I hardly have any time to get myself ready.

And this is the routine everywhere we go. If we go on vacation, I am the last one who gets to pack, and so inevitably something is forgotten. At family pictures, I am the last one that gets a chance to get ready so I am always semi-disappointed with my look in some fashion. On road trips, I'm always the last one out the door, so I'm the one to blame if we don't have the GPS or the snack bag is left on the table.

If you think about it, this concept is backwards. Of all the members of my family I am the one that has to dress up the most to leave the house (well, Miss J has me beat in the summer with her ' I only wear dresses' mantra). Yet I am the one with the least amount of time to get ready. The one that has to look professional, gets about 5 minutes to look the part.

I laugh when I look back on my life pre-kids and remember how my "get ready routine" used to take a good hour. A nice long shower, perfectly set curls in my hair, a full face of makeup. Now, my routine has been widdled down to about 20 minutes top (if I'm lucky). I can't imagine if I had 4 kids...I'd probably have to sleep in my clothes to save time.

So the phrase "Ladies first"...well that's only true pre-Mom years I can assure you. If we want to be truly honest, then I vote we change the phrase to "Ladies first....Mommies last". All in favor, say I!


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

Last night and this morning, I was thinking of ideas for my post today. Should I write about new activities for the girls? What about voicing my disdain for fire drills at work? Or maybe I should just admit to lack of technology skills and ask for help?
Well, readers, this time the blog topic hit me straight in the face about 8 AM this morning while we dropped the girls off at daycare.

Ms. Kristina: “Are you putting the girls in kindergarten in the Fall?”

Hubby and I (with actual confidence in our voices): “Yes.”

Ms Kristina: “Really? They just seem so small.”

And in that instance, my confidence crumbled.

I have had this discussion with my hubby, family and friends several times. And each time I end up coming to the same conclusion – A & B are headed to kindergarten in the fall 2011. We have discussed pros and cons, financial implications, social implications, schedules and my basic fears about my babies going to school. But each time, we end up with the same conclusion – kindergarten.

You should know that A & B were born in July and will be 5 years old when then start kindergarten in August. They will not be the youngest in their class, but definitely will not be the oldest. And yes, they are twins, but are not small for their age, as both are tall and healthy. To add flavor to some of our discussions, my hubby’s birthday is in late September and he was one of the oldest kids in his class. On the other side of the coin, Grandpa’s birthday is in early September and he was the youngest in his class. Both agree that the girls are ready for kindergarten.

For some reason, I always thought that there was not a choice to hold your child back an additional year. I thought the deadline/cut-off date from the school board made that choice for parents. Did I miss the boat along the way? When did this become optional? And what reasons for holding a child back?

I am trying to be a realistic parent (not a “my children are the next Doogie Howser M.D” parent), but I believe my girls are smart enough to belong in kindergarten and am unsure of how another year of pre-school would benefit them. And yes, I do think long term (i.e. Notre Dame for college), so I do wonder if being the oldest in their class would be helpful academically?

Some of you I imagine are in the same boat as me and I would appreciate your thoughts. Am I missing something important as I make this decision? Am I just being a worry wart?


Jean Anne

Monday, February 7, 2011

"First Thing Monday Morning"

Writing this post on my way into work on Monday morning, I’m already overwhelmed. I know that on my in box are three messages from three separate partners with three different projects all of which need to be done “first thing” Monday morning. None of the messages ask if I’m available to do a project “first thing” Monday morning. None of the messages ask if I have court. All three just assume that I’ll drop whatever I’m doing and make magic happen. Nobody cares how I do it, they just care that I do their work.

I wonder why the partners go through the “first thing Monday morning” song and dance. Why don’t they just send me an email saying “Do this work this weekend.”? After all, that’s what they want. They feel I owe them a day since Snowpocalypse prevented people from working one day last week. And while I have no objection to working for my salary, the truth is we could have a week of snowpocalypses and I still would have more billable hours than the minimum firm requirement. The partners are already getting the benefit of their bargain. But the partners don’t look at it that way. All they see is that they paid me my salary for an entire week last week and the snow gave me a Wednesday off. Therefore, they need to send me at least eight hours of additional work.

I know I could have avoided this Monday morning stress by actually doing the work that was emailed to me over the weekend. But I felt entitled to my weekend. Friday was my Friday off. And, like almost every Friday I schedule off, there was an “emergency” that required me to drive to a client and work for half a day there. I did that, without complaint. I also worked on Snowpocalypse. Yes, the majority of the day I spent with the kids, playing play-doh and sledding outside. Husband has a job that requires him to work no matter the natural disaster - I had to watch the kids. But I still worked. After dinner I turned on a movie for the kids and redlined a brief. And I sent it to a partner. They know I was working. The firm didn’t get any “free day” from me.

So I felt entitled to take my weekend and focus on my family. With the loose definition of “emergency” employed by my firm, there will always be the opportunity to do additional work on the weekend. But there are only a few more weekends that I’ll be able to take my kids ice skating or participate in parent-tot gymnastics. I chose that.

But now I’m paying the price. I have no idea which project I’m going to do first, or how I’m even going to manage to do three “emergency” projects on top of the marketing meeting the firm scheduled for me this morning, the meeting with the chair of the non-profit I volunteer for and – oh yeah – my own caseload. I’m sure if you asked the partners they’d tell you that I’ll figure it out. And they are right.  I will figure it out. But I’d do the work with a lot less resentment if even one of the partners had asked me to do their project rather than assume I would drop everything to make their assumption a reality.

The firm can continue dumping projects on me, trying to squeeze every last billable hour out of me. But they more they take away from my family during the week, the more I’m going to protect my weekend and day off. Push all you want, law firm, but you don’t own me just because you pay me a salary. You claim to be a firm that puts family first, and I’m going to be the one to hold you to that.  Or I'll be fired trying.


Friday, February 4, 2011

A Snow Day

This week I am still recovering from The Blizzard of 2011. Davenport got 16.5 inches of snow which meant not only was it the second largest snow storm in the Quad Cities but it marked the 2nd snow day I've ever gotten at my firm. The snow closed down basically the entire city.

As luck would have it my husband was off work so I couldn’t wait to be snowed in with my family. My firm closed early the day before the snow hit and I headed home to make preparations. I made a big batch of my Cheeseburger Chowder, sent my husband to the store for some treats for the kids and sat back and waited for the storm to hit.

And boy did it hit. That morning we woke up to snow so high, we couldn’t even open our doors.  Our yellow lab Zoey even got stuck in our backyard!

I decided since it was a snow day I would truly enjoy it with my family…no work, just fun. That morning the kids woke up and peered out the window…they were in awe of the all the snow. I went out and helped my husband shovel the snow in our driveway. Even though we were shoveling heavy snow caked at the edge of our driveway we found the fun in the chore. We laughed as we tried to shovel everything into a huge snowpile for the kids. Sometimes 30 minutes with your husband laughing on your driveway can take the place of 1000 date nights you have missed because of the kids!

The day was amazing. We had grilled cheese and warm soup for lunch, snuggled up on the couch and watched a movie together, and of course bundled up and headed outside to explore the winter wonderland. Being snowed in was an amazing feeling, outside the world around us was dead…no one could get out and so it was like time stood still for awhile. No phone calls, my Blackberry was silent, no emails clogged my computer, no bills in the mailbox, no responsibilities.

I experienced the day through my kids’ eyes. The snow mounds on the side of our driveway were taller then they were and became mountains for them to climb. It was too cold for little L to go out and explore but I put him in our bay window and watched him eye the snow with such curiosity.

Unfortunately, the experience couldn’t last forever. That evening after I put the kids to bed I had to go back to reality. A day off is amazing, but it also means getting behind on work and billable time. So while my kids were tucked in dreaming of sliding down the snow mountains, I sat down, re-entered the adult world and worked.

I sometimes forget how truly peaceful the life of a child is, and what true happiness they feel. Everything around them is new. They aren’t jaded, they see the good in everything. They have no responsibilities, so they can truly just play, without a care in the world. Thanks to a snow day I got to experience that again.


Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Man

Last night, as my hubby and I were watching Modern Family on the DVR (love this show!!), a commercial for Extreme Makeover: Home Edition with Ty Pennington came on (I wasn’t quick enough with the fast forward button). And the following conversation ensued:

Me: “That show always makes me cry.”

Hubby (in a falsetto voice meant to mimic me): “Oh, I love you Ty.” (snicker, snicker).

Me: “Yes, I do because he could have built my 3rd car garage for half the price AND put in my new light for the hallway already.”

Now, I was not trying to make my hubby feel bad, but he is just not handy around the house (plus, he deserved a little back talk for trying to make fun of me!). In all honesty, he does mow the lawn, shovel/snowblow, do the majority of the landscaping, take out the garbage, and makes a valiant attempt at most household projects. He just isn’t quite as adept or have the knowledge to tile my bathroom, put my new light in, or fix the drain in our shower. I don’t think it is a lack of motivation, just a lack of knowledge. On the bright side, he is enthusiastic to help my dad and learn from him. But he just doesn’t have that natural handyman ability.

Unfortunately, for him, my family is pretty handy. And I am a daddy’s girl, so if I want something fixed, I still turn to my dad. New light fixture for the guest room – call dad and it is up within the week. Snowblower broken – call dad, he brings over his own and fixes ours. Close to dead battery in the van – Dad goes up to O’Reilly’s Auto Parts and helps hubby put it in. In addition to my dad, my uncle and grandfather are extremely talented too.

I understand I didn’t marry my hubby for his caulking abilities. And he didn’t marry me for my cooking abilities. But sometimes I wish I didn’t have to pay a small fortune for someone to install new carpet for me in my bedroom.

On a positive note, at least A & B can learn with Daddy while watching Grandpa put up my new light!

Jean Anne

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Today is snowpocalypse in Chicago.  Depending on which channel/website you check, 15-24 inches of snow are expected to or are currently blanketing the Chicagoland area.  I like winter generally, so I welcome snow generally.  But today's snowpocalypse has a particularly special place in my heart.  You see, today's storm has resulted in a first in my professional career: a work snow day. 

Yes, my friends, my employer officially closed the office today.  No feat by man or mother nature has ever achieved such a result.  To the contrary, in the course of my professional career, I've been locked inside work ("for my own safety") much more often than I've been let home early.  Snowpocalypse therefore, is a day a great rejoicing. 

I plan to spend to day celebrating snowpocalypse and the unexpected freedom it brought.  I plan to play with my kids and drink hot chocolate.  I plan to do all the things I never get to do during the day with my kids.  I plan to actually enjoy the snow.  And I look forward to the baby boom of November 2011. 


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Mommy Badge

Several months ago a “crime” was committed in our house. Our family room couch suddenly broke and of course my children conveniently had no idea who broke it. The interrogation went like this:

Me: “Did you jump on Mommy’s couch?”

J and H together in perfect harmony: “Noooooooo”.

Of course after encouraging a confession with ice cream…I got:

H: Mommy, J did it!
J: Nuh-uh Mom, H did it!
H: Maybe L did it?

And I’m sure if L could move or talk he would have blamed one of his siblings as well.  The crime was never officially solved.

Regardless of the jumper, the couch springs broke. So for the last couple of months I’ve been living like a college student making due with their parents furniture. My husband took a board from our garage and held it up the best he could. But the “band-aid” didn’t work perfectly. I always felt embarrassed that my husband and I with two good jobs had to say to guests… “Ooh don’t sit there” when they would try and sit down.

So this weekend I had had enough of the broken couch. I told my husband we needed to go look for a new couch. So Saturday we bundled up our three children and headed to the furniture store.

Of course to two seasoned couch jumpers, a furniture store is the playground of their dreams. Why jump on one couch when you can jump on 100 couches? Todd and I tried to keep our kids in tow the best we could, but while we tried to decide what color to put in our room…our two older children were getting impatient. Suddenly between choosing couch colors and matching chairs, H started to have a melt down. [Not the best choice to take them during their scheduled nap time] So there I was, L in one arm, trying to rope in H with the other, and listening to my husband say to me “I can’t handle this, let’s just go”. In a whirlwind we got coats on and tried the best we could to get out alive.

We got into the van and started down the road. Suddenly I looked down… “My purse is gone!” I exclaimed. Understandably in the tornado of getting out of the store, I left my purse behind.

We went back to the store. I wasn’t that nervous…we had only left the purse a few minutes at this point. My husband went in. With a sigh of relief I watched him walk out with my purse. I smiled…but through the windshield as he was crossing the parking lot I could see him shaking his head. He had found the purse…but it was missing my wallet.

The store was searched top to bottom, but the wallet was not found. Some person apparently felt the need to pray on a Mommy in a major hurry and took my wallet. So, two calls to my credit card company and the bank, and three fraud alerts on my credit report later, here I am. I have to now recreate everything, from getting a new license, to ordering new law license cards, to replacing insurance cards. I hate the thought of knowing someone is out there with all my personal information. I carry no cash in my wallet, so all they got away with was a credit card, a bank card, and 2 gift cards to Olive Garden! That night as I ate chicken nuggets and SpongeBob mac and cheese I was especially bitter picturing the taker enjoying the “adult” dinner I was so looking forward to taking with my husband.

I couldn’t help but think, what kind of person would do this? It was no secret to the people in that store that I was dealing with a lot that afternoon between my three children. Didn’t they have children? Didn’t they understand what I was going through? Couldn’t they cut me a break? Does no one feel sorry for a Mommy in need anymore?

Maybe I need to wear a Mommy badge…something to tell the world that “Hey, I’m a Mom, PLEASE give me a break”. Let me move up in line at the DMV when my baby is hungry and reaching high decibels with his screams, shorten the wait at a doctor’s office when the toys I brought in my purse don’t entertain anymore, hold the door for me at a mall so I don’t have to contort like a game of Twister to push my stroller through, stop rolling your eyes at me in a store when my 3 year old throws a fit waiting in line. And most of all…don’t commit a crime against a Mommy…give us a break, we need it!