Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Leave Your Baggage at the Door.

            Right now, I have a case that is taking over my life.  I have trial in two months, terrible facts and a client who is looking at many, many years in prison. Anyone who knows me personally has to wonder about the truthfulness of this next statement, but I am a meticulous (almost OCD) attorney.  I need to know everything and be prepared for every possibility– no winging it for me. (I see eyebrows raising...) It is true, though. I am constantly seeking confirmation from my partner that I'm doing the right thing. No matter how much hand holding or back patting I get, I still feel like I’ve got to be missing something.  This sometimes consumes me. While I don't necessarily adore the idea of somebody getting a new trial because I haven't done my job right, I am still somewhat comforted by the fact that at least they have an Ineffective Assistance of Counsel argument to fall back on.  If I am ineffective, I want to know about it – preferably beforehand!
            To say that I am stressed about this case is an understatement. This is one of those cases that wake me up in the middle of the night, literally wondering “what should I do? have I done everything right? Is there something I’m missing?” Needless to say, this anxiety I have is not always left at the office at the end of the day. When I'm stressed about work, my kids notice. What can I tell them?  “Mommy is trying to make sure that someone doesn't get extremely hurt by mistake and is feeling completely inadequate”?   They know what I do and that I'm trying to help people. They don’t understand or even comprehend the possibility of many of the situations I deal with – which is fine by me – but it makes it difficult to explain time commitment and the level of anxiety that I have. 
            To some extent, that’s okay.  When I’m not home, they know I’m at work.  Funny story: A few years ago, when B was 5 and H was 3, we were at my mother-in-law’s house for the weekend.  Steve had gone fishing very early in the morning, and when I got up at 7ish, I was the first one awake.  The kids were still asleep when I woke up. I thought my mother in law was still in bed, and I ran out to get coffee and to pick up something at WalMart.  I remember thinking, as I left the house, that it was nice that my mother-in-law finally got to sleep in.  Usually, she’s up and about pretty early.  When I got back to the house everyone was awake.  My mother- in-law then advised me that she spent the night at my nephew’s house watching him!  She wasn’t there at all when I left.  When she got home, B and H were playing quietly in the living room. When she asked “Where’s your Mom?”  B piped up “She’s at work!”  Simple, when I’m not at home, I am at work.    
            But when I am home they want me available to them, which means no working on the computer, no client phone calls, no document review.  No work at home.  Period.  Lack of sleep and increased anxiety sure make my job as a mom more difficult. But truly, there is nothing better than the happy shout of “Mommy’s home!” and a giant hug from a pretty girl, along with a very cool “Hey, Mom” from a big kid, to take your mind off things - at least until bed time!


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Lost Toy


Lost: Silver fabric toy sword that accessorizes Groovy Girls Knight Keanan.  Rare, in that it Keanan is sold only in specialty toy stores.  Last seen Friday, August 26, 2010 in KJ's bedroom.  Sentimental value.  Reward offered.  Please email with information.  PLEASE!!!!

For the last two days, I have been driven stark raving mad over a lost purple-and-silver fabric sword that goes with the special knight that KJ's special friend picked out especially for him for his birthday.  The cutest part of the toy is the sword, and since it was unattached, I was aware of the possibility of it getting lost. 
For weeks, KJ has had the knight at school.  But this week, KJ was transitioning from preschool to pre-k, so I had him bring the knight home, so that nothing would get lost.  (Yes, I see the irony here)

And that's where it all went wrong.  KJ slept with the knight for a night or two.  And I remember laying him down for nap one day and hearing him play with it for a while.  But that's the last I've seen of the sword.  For a day or so, I thought it was caught up in his sheets and tens of stuffed animals.  But last night I stripped the bed and no sword.  Uh oh. 

I searched everywhere for that sword. Under couch cushions, in the toy box, in his book bin, in his dresser drawers.  I pulled out the clothes I had put into storage this weekend to see if the sword got stuck in there.  I've looked everywhere.  No sword. 

I've asked KJ repeatedly where he thinks it might be, and every time I get a different answer.  For a kid that can remember events going back to when he was 18 months old, the fact that he can't remember where he left his sword two days ago is maddening.  He has to know where it is. 

Husband has been no help in the sword-finding mission.  Of course he gave a cursory look, but when the sword wasn't immediately visible, Husband wisely declared that KJ had hidden it somewhere where we can't find it.  As if I didn't know that.  He then sat down to watch tv.   

Me?  I'm plagued by the lost sword.  Lost toys are my enemy.  Every night, I clean up the kids' toys and I make sure that each and every piece is there.  I know how many matchbox cars KJ has, where all the doll shoes are, and how many pieces of fruit should be in the play kitchen.  Some nights, I even count the Legos.  And when something is missing, I find it.  I'll turn my house upside down to find a toy piece.  Few pieces have evaded me: I can only think of two that have been missing for more than 48 hours, and only one of those remains at large.  I'm starting to sweat that the sword will make number 3. 

I really, really want to find the sword.  It's a cool toy, and KJ will like it better with the sword.  Plus, it was a special gift from his first crush.  I want to be able to pull it out and show him that when he's older.  But I'm getting worried that it got caught up in some clothes I returned or was put somewhere where we'll never find it.  I guess I should be grateful that I'm the only one sweating it right now, but if any of you moms have stumbled upon some clever hiding spots I should check out, all suggestions are welcome.  I'm just super grateful there's a three-day weekend coming up: more time to look for the sword. 


Monday, August 29, 2011

Curve Balls

Well, if you follow my blog you may be wondering why it is now after 4:00 p.m. and I am now just posting my post for the week. My norm is to post my musings first thing in the morning, but alas, today I was a victim of something that plagues most working Moms…the curve ball.

You of course know the curve ball. You’ll be going along on an idle Tuesday at find out at 2:35 p.m. that you have a brief due at 3:15 p.m. The deposition that you were sure would last 45 minutes ends up taking 4 hours. You’re in a hearing when opposing counsel brings up a brand new case that you never heard of. You wake up on the day of trial to a child with a 102 degree fever. Instantly you are bumped off your smooth course and whacked by the blasted curve ball.

My curve ball day started before the sun. My alarm went off at 6:00 a.m. and after my standard protocol of 2 snooze button pushes, I climbed out of bed. My first stop was to wake up J, get her out of bed, showered, and ready for school. Of course as my luck would have it, it was picture day and so I couldn’t just throw my daughter’s long hair up into a casual ponytail and call it good. Nope, my ever fashionable daughter received a shower and amateur blow out.

This would normally be no big deal, but I was in a hurry as I had to meet the senior partner of my firm down in front of my law firm at 7:45 a.m. to head to a client meeting. He had a hearing and my instructions on Friday were that I was to attend the meeting with him to help him prepare the clients.

So after I hugged and kissed my family I headed off to work and arrived in front of my firm with exactly 2 minutes to spare before my 7:45 a.m. meeting time. My partner picked me up and off we went to the meeting.
Now this particular partner and I work together all the time. He’s my mentor and for the past 6 years that I have worked at my firm the one person I work the most with. I work on nearly all his cases and I have always waited for an opportunity to get to try a case together. I love working with him, especially handling the challenges he throws my way.
So there we were at the meeting. My partner asked me to prep the clients about what we needed to prove. After I finished my off the cuff remarks, my partner asked the client: “Is it okay if Amanda tries the case with me?”
The client agreed. Instantly I had a surge of excitement mixed with a side of panic rush over me. This was going to be my opportunity to try a case together and I literally had 2 hour notice it was going to occur.
Now the one thing I have always loved about working with my partner is our “team approach”to cases. We try cases differently. I am extremely organized. I subfolder and binder nearly everything. My partner has always amazed me because he doesn’t need the organization to function, he can sound brillant without the outline and charts I need to function.
So often what happens is what I call “the nod”. We’ll be at a hearing or court appearance…my partner will be talking with the Court:

            “Judge: Now what is your theory of the case counsel?
Partner: Well it’s simple, the theory is well settled in the case of Jones v. Jones…INSERT HEAD NOD TOWARD MANDI HERE.
The head nod means “Mandi, hand that to me” or "Mandi how do we respond". The head nod often comes when I least expect it so I have to be ready.  Now I have worked with my partner long enough to predict his moves, but he is such an excellent litigator that often he’ll start down a path totally unexpected and yep, the nod will come.
As we left the client meeting, my partner said “Well, we finally get to try one together. Get us ready”.  As I walked into my office my pulse started to quicken, I had exactly 2 hours to get everything in line. Now luckily I’ve been working on this case since its inception so I know it front and back, but still I had to make sure I was organized. Lucky for me one of my favorite activities as a litigator is to prepare for trial so I was excited for the challenge.
My first step was simple. I ran to my assistant (who is hyper organized like me) and said “I’m trying a case at 1”. Without me even saying it, my assistant knew we’d have to bring our organization to the file quickly. She took the exhibits and placed them in a binder for me and got the file back into a state I could feel comfortable with.

I spent the next two hours trying to anticipate every argument, every nod. I wanted to make sure that if this was the first time we tried something together I brought my A game.

I called my husband and asked him to bring me my suit coat as I had started my day in my favorite black "sort of a suit coat looking, but not quite", sweater…my go to piece for a day I don’t have to be in court but I might see a client. I didn’t want to head into a trial with my sweater. My husband complied after I had to clarify that I was looking for the khaki, not brown suit coat. I then went into the bathroom stall and in superman fashion came out trial ready.

We went into the trial. It went great. I anticipated the head nods, had every exhibit in front of him before he asked. We hit all the points on the “proof chart” that I always make when I try cases. We did a great job.

So, now here I am 4:12 p.m. back in the office and just happy to have survived the curve ball my Monday took. Finally I get to breathe a little.

My life is full of curve balls and so today is nothing new to me. But I wanted to share my curve ball day to praise us working Moms who have to deal with curve balls being thrown at us not only by our jobs but by our kids as well. Our lives are just big proverbial games of dodge ball...we'll keep on dodging everything coming at us while we pray that we don’t get hit right smack in the forehead when we least expect it!


Friday, August 26, 2011

I Survived!

Yes, this week A & B started kindergarten. What an experience! School supplies went to Miss E’s class last Thursday for Open House, backpacks with matching lunch bag (aka snack bag), were packed and clothes for the 1st day of school were chosen. And I faced these challenges all on my own!

Call it poor timing or a bad coincidence, but my hubby had to be in Minneapolis for work this week. He travels twice a year (once to AZ in January, once to MN in August) and it just so happened that his conference was scheduled for A & B’s first day of school. He (and I) were broken hearted. (But don’t worry – plenty of pictures were taken!) Plus, my normal back-ups/life savers – aka Grandma and Grandpa – decided to take vacation this week too!

So on Tuesday morning, off we went to kindergarten in the Mom mobile - A & B all dressed up with the Ariel and Hello Kitty backpacks and snack bags and Mommy with her camera and a heavy heart. They walked right in to their class, sat at their tables and began working on the coloring pages Miss E had already laid out (she is a GREAT teacher!). And there I was, “bothering” them by snapping pictures.

In all honesty, part of me was very proud of them for their independence, but the other part of me wanted them to cling to me a little/need me a little more. When A asked me for a favor, I thought – YES! But all she wanted me to do was hang up her snack bag before I left.

I do realize that I am very lucky to have such independent and easy going girls. And, so far, they love school! So I am counting my blessings that this continues.

But as Darius Rucker sings in It Won’t Be Like This For Long, “someday soon that little girl is gonna be all grown up and gone.” I would like to hold on for a little longer. (And yes, I did cry at this song and many others this week!).

I hope everyone’s school week was this easy!

Jean Anne

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Back to School!

The school year has officially begun!  H, going into first grade, was SOOO excited.  We laid out two separate outfits for her to pick from in the morning because she couldn't decide. She practically jumped into bed at 8 pm and was out like a light.  In the morning, she was up and ready to go in about 15 minutes.  Of course, she did not wear either of the two outfits she had picked out the night before; instead choosing a well-worn t-shirt and shorts - her old standby.  She got increasingly anxious as the morning passed, but was able to maintain her happy disposition until the walk to school.  By that time, she didn't want to talk, didn't want her picture taken, and was down-right surly.  I know it was nerves.  The children were all waiting outside, sitting according to grade, when we crested the hill of the school - a valley of chattering, giggling, excited energy!  She went immediately down with the admonition "NO more pictures!."  B is in third grade this year.  Back-to-school is old hat for him.  He walked with us up to the school but as soon as he located one of his friends he was off like a shot.  He was excited to be back with his friends, if not for school itself.
As I've already made clear, H is a very forceful personality. At age 6 she wants to choose her own clothing, choose her own hairstyle, brush her own hair (until she is satisfied with it versus Steve or I being satisfied with it). Steve and I struggle with dealing with this particular issue.  His position is that H should wear what he thinks looks nice - hair and/or clothing.  I understand the reasoning behind that - she is a reflection of us, we want her to look good.  But one of my strongest memories as a kid is the fights I had with my mom over clothes.  My mom always wanted me to look nice, 'normal' - I wanted to look nice, too.  But we had very different ideas of what that meant.  To my mom, nice meant "like everyone else."  However, like my daughter, I had my own sense of style.  Many a perfectly good shopping trip was spoiled by the inevitable argument between what I wanted to buy and what she wanted to buy. In my opinion, we both wasted a lot of energy on that fight which, in the grand scheme of things, wasn't really too important.
So, I have taken a different tack with my daughter.  I provide the clothing - she gets to have some say - and once its in her closet, she can wear it any way, and in any strange combination, that she chooses, so long as it is age appropriate.  (My daughter is 6; she is not going to dress like she's 16. Take THAT "Shake It Up" clothes) With respect to her hair, so long as it's brushed, I don't care how she wears it - down, ponytail, 25 mismatched barrettes. I say go crazy!
At some point, her peers will crush her into shape.  They will probably make fun of her, laugh at her and make her feel awful about herself and how she looks.  She doesn't need that from me.  Besides, when she gets raised eyebrows at the grocery store or by the teacher, I just say "H dressed herself today!"  My daughter is a reflection of me - but I care much more about the heart of her than the surface; and much more about what SHE thinks of me than what the other people in the grocery store think.  Anyway, that is my long disclaimer for her clothing and hair choices in her back to school pictures!
On a different note, I'm so excited for Mandi, Karen and Jean getting to experience their first "school" -whether its Kindergarten or Pre-school.  Then, everything is "shiny and happy."  The experience is so new and different for the children that it takes days, sometimes weeks, for the fun of "getting up and going to school" to wear off -the chattering about what they did at school that day, the new fun thing that happened, the shear joy of being the Line Leader.  Not so by 3rd grade.
By 3rd grade, back to school is just a hassle - an intrusion into an otherwise perfect summer.  At the end of the day, there's no burst of excitement about what happened.  On the contrary, it's difficult to drag even a few sentences out of him.  What did you do today? - "Spelling"; what was your favorite thing about today? - "Recess" One word answers, reluctantly given, followed by "Can I go outside?" Yesterday morning (day 2, mind you) B tried to fake being sick so he could stay home; today, Steve had to practically drag him out of bed.  Fake tears on Day Three.  I think it's going to be a long year!


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tuition Paid for Success

A few months ago, Mandi posted about a mistake she made at work, and how she was fretting over it until her very wise daughter reminded her that mistakes are a part of life.  I believe J's sound advice was something along the lines of "Don't worry, Mommy, just say you're sorry."  Because that's all you can do. 

I'm no stranger to mistakes made at work or at home.  I think of my biggest work mistake almost daily.  About five years ago, in the course of producing literally tens of thousands of pages of documents in discovery, I produced one single-page privileged document.  To the immense credit of the partner with whom I was working, he did not freak out.  Instead, he had me draft the clawback letter.  But because nothing ever goes the way the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure say they should go, the other side did not just turn over the single page like they were supposed to.  Instead, we became engaged in a bunch of expensive motion practice all to get that one piece of paper back.  The partner for whom I was working made me research, draft and argue all the motions and (rightfully) didn't bill my time to the client.  I felt terrible about that mistake.  I still do.  And he knew it.  As bad and as stressful as all that work trying to get that document back was, the partner saved me from the worst of it: he told client about my mistake.  And I know he took some heat for it. 

I absolutely hate thinking about that mistake.  I hate that I made it, and I hate that it hurt the partner for whom I worked and our client.  But I learned a lot from it.  I learned to double-check my document productions three or four times, on different days and with fresh eyes.  I learned a lot about the clawback provisions in the law.  And I learned a very good way to handle mistakes made at work.  The partner with whom I worked was an amazing example of the kind of lawyer I want to be: he helped me learn from my mistake without throwing me under the bus or writing me off as an attorney.   I told him a million, billion times how sorry I was, and we worked together to fix it the best we could.  He recognized that mistakes are a part of life, as opposed to the end of the world.  And we ended up working together until I left the firm. 

This week on The Juggle, there is an article about a company that rewards its employees for making mistakes at work.   "The point 'is to remind employees that mistakes are usually a part of trying to be innovative,'SurePayroll president Michael Alter told Inc. Employees need to be encouraged to take risks and 'mistakes are the tuition you pay for success,' he adds."  The writer of the article embraces this view, and comments that he wishes he had stressed to kids more that mistakes are simply a part of life. 

Of course in my case, my mistake was just a mistake, not the cost of trying to be innovative. I never should have made it.  But the point is still the same.  I'm a better lawyer because of that mistake.  I have better practices with respect to document production, I know a lot about that area of the law and I know how to handle difficult situations with a client.  That mistake - and all of the subsequent worry and work - is tuition paid for me to be a more successful lawyer today. 

I hope that my kids never make a mistake like I made, but I know that that hope is not practical.  We all make mistakes.  It's what we make of those mistakes that make the difference.  I hope that I am able to impart upon my kids the importance of taking risks, and learning from our losses.  And I hope they work for people like the company mentioned in The Juggle article, or the partner that I worked with.  People who understand that mistakes happen, and value of the lessons that can be learned from them. 


Monday, August 22, 2011

The Season of Change

This weekend I played with my kids at a local splash park. It was a beautiful afternoon, the sun was shining, humidity was low and the kids were having a blast playing in the sprays. I sat and watched them laughing and playing as I enjoyed a relaxing Saturday in the beautiful weather. But the fact that I wasn’t dripping in sweat from a 100 degree heat index, high humidity day reminded me summer is winding to a close.

Yes, like it or not, summer will soon be leaving us and autumn the so-called "season of change" will be upon us. But ironically, this summer has brought more changes for my family than I ever could have imagined. This summer has truly been our "season of change" this year.

L started this summer crawling around and scooting along furniture. He needed me to carry him everywhere and was clearly frustrated with his brother and sister running far ahead of him. Now, not only has L learned to walk, but he runs toe to toe with J and H. He hardly ever wants to be held and gets annoyed with me if I try and slow him down.  At the start of the summer, L never talked. Now he beckons “Ma Mah” to me across the room, asks for snacks, gets me a diaper when I ask him for one, and nods yes and no to indicate his preferences. At the start of the summer, L sat in his high chair throwing a bottle of formula around. Now, he sits at the table in a booster seat with his Toy Story sippy cup proudly in hand. L truly grew from a baby to a toddler in the glow of the summer sun.

For H, his changes were not so much about starting new things as they were about stopping certain behaviors. H started the summer a rambunctious toddler in the midst of the terrible 2-3’s, complete with tantrums, and a "no one can tell me what to do" attitude. But this summer H came out of the "terrible" times and grew into a fun loving, free spirited little boy. He now listens and although he has maintained his signature spunky attitude, he reigns it in to a "I'm not going to get a time out for this" level. H started to love playing sports and playing at the pool. He truly just became a joy to be with and the person I laugh the hardest with. The summer breeze blew away the trying toddler times and welcomed in the fun!

The biggest “changer” this summer was clearly Miss J. Before my eyes she grew up and far surpassed my expectations. This summer J said goodbye to her shy, awkward, scaredy cat stage and became a confident, centered  little girl. When we started the summer she absolutely refused to ride a bike without training wheels or swim due to her fear of both. Now she flies down the sidewalk on her bike and swims like a fish. Earlier this summer at Kindergarten round-up J cried when I left her with the teacher and held tight onto my hand as we walked into school. Now, she absolutely loves school, had zero tears even on the first day, begs me to drop her off at the car, and is eager to meet new friends. The summer heat burnt away all the fear and uncertainty and allowed the confident, excited, independent Miss J to shine through.

Even I have been a victim of summer change. My husband’s job cracked down on overtime forcing him to work 5-6 days a week. At the start of the summer, I’ll admit this was overwhelming to me. I couldn’t imagine how I would be able to be a “single parent” and handle my ever-growing case load. By the end of the summer I found my “stride” getting a comfortable routine with the kids and becoming less overwhelmed by work commitments. I simply got more "chill" as the temperatures raised.

Although I have no idea what caused the dramatic changes in my children, for me I think my changes came from simply coming to grips with the fact I'm not superwoman. I noticed the longer I am a working mother, the more humble I have become. As time passes, balls are dropped, mistakes are made, and lessons are learned I see that admist the chaos my life is staying exactly where I want it to be.

Okay, so maybe this post is turning a little too deep for a Monday morning post about summer. But honestly I think the longer you are a Mom the more you see that your kids are growing to be confident, happy people in spite of your time constraints, your imperfections, your quirks, your challenges. The longer you do it, the more you start to see that it’s going to be okay.

I look at my family now in pure amazement at how just three months could bring so much change in so little time. Now as the temps mellow, the Halloween costume catalogs start filling my mailbox, and sweatshirts start filling my diaper bag, I’m excited for what lies ahead. Bring it on fall...we're ready for yet another "season of change"!


Friday, August 19, 2011

Size Wise

So here we are heading into fall, and I have the same problem as last year: I have no fall clothes for my kids.  I'm actually happy to have this problem as it means (1) the kids are growing and (2) I get to go shopping.  Plus, last year KJ didn't need any new clothes so I'm super tired of his t-shirts and am ready to refresh his look.  But as I look online and try to figure out how to make both my kids and my wallet happy, I'm faced with a problem: sizing. 

With my schedule, I do almost all of my shopping online.  I am almost never able to get to a store before 9 p.m. (when the stores close), and our weekends so are packed with kid activities and grocery shopping and laundry and all that other fun must-do stuff that we almost never make it to the mall.  Online is the perfect remedy.  Except, sizing for kid's clothes is just crazy. 

KJ is exactly at the 50 percentile on the height and weight charts for his age, 4.  One would think, therefore, that most  size 4T items would fit him.  Not so, my friend.  In my experience, most Gymboree and Carters items run big.  Anything purchased from Target runs small.  And I haven't figured out any consistency at all with respect to Old Navy.  Yes, all of these stores provide size charts.  And most of them have weight and height recommendations on the label.  But it still seems like every single item is a crap shoot.  Maybe it'll fit and maybe it won't. 

And KJ is the easy child.  At least I can get in the right realm of sizes for him.  Sweet Pea is a whole different ball game.  After all of her early growing struggles, Sweet Pea seems to have come into her own.  She's not big for her age or anything, but she seems less tiny.  And that alone is something.  Knock on wood, we haven't taken Sweet Pea to the doctor for months, so I have no idea what she actually weighs or how she compares to other two-and-a-half-year olds, but she's bigger than she was last year and that's all that really matters.  But what size to buy her?  Sweet Pea will turn three in January.  I only want to buy one set of winter clothes for her, so whatever I buy now I want to last into spring.  So the question becomes, how big will she get? 

The other day when I was in Penny's getting KJ's (late) 4-year-old-pictures taken, I bought Sweet Pea a cute 2T top.  When I brought it home, it was much too little for her.  So I had to return it.  Then, I bought Sweet Pea some dresses from Mini Boden.  The 2Ts were a little large, but probably the best choice.  And once, I picked up a single outfit from Carters.  She's swimming in the 24 month size outfit I bought her.  It seems like she wears a different size for each and every manufacturer. 

As I write this, I have a virtual cart full of adorable things from Gymboree, just waiting for me to purchase.  But I'm so worried about how in the world I'll return all that stuff if it's the wrong size that I can't just seem to click the "buy" button.  Maybe KJ's tired t-shirts aren't so bad after all . . .


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Open House

Tonight, we head to kindergarten open house for A & B. This is our chance to ask questions, meet their teacher, bring school supplies, and generally provide A & B a chance to check out the “lay of the land” before they start next Tuesday.

To be perfectly honest, I think I am definitely less prepared then the girls are. We have all the school supplies (thank you Target and my credit card thanks you as well) and our Ariel and Hello Kitty backpacks are totally stylin’. Plus, we have driven by multiple times, stopped at the playground and even had softball practice at the school. Each time, we prep A & B for the change, explaining that as of next week, this will be there new school. And, to their credit, they are excited.

I, however, am nervous. As Mandi discussed earlier this week, I share many similar concerns. What if some kid bullies them? What if some one doesn’t want to share with them? What about cliques? What about getting teased for what they are wearing? And yes, I know that these things will happen…but it just breaks my heart. And how do I prepare them for this?

Right now, A & B have no fear of making new friends or going to a new school. As a comfort, they do have each other and they are in the same class. So I need to continue to follow their lead and put on a brave face. My girls definitely have a lot to teach me about the world.

Have a great day!

Jean Anne

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Curb Your Enthusiasm

I don’t know about you, but my enthusiasm for my job cycles.  Right now, I’m really in a down cycle.  I made the decision to stay put and will be made partner next month.  I feel like I should be more excited about that.  But I’m not.  Maybe I’m just having a delayed reaction, maybe its my allergies, maybe I’m just being pessimistic, but instead of being excited, right now I just feel stuck. 

I do love what I do, but recently I’d just really rather be doing something else – anything else.  Sitting at home reading a book – watching bad TV – doing laundry…  It’s affecting my work.  It’s not the first time that I have felt this way, it seems to hit about once per year.  But this year, it’s worse.  Maybe it’s my version of a midlife crisis.  The prospect of looking around and taking stock of my life and knowing “This is it” is pretty daunting.  I mean, it’s not like I ever had really big dreams for myself…no delusions that I would get on the Supreme Court or become a Senator, but I wanted something.  Something to make me feel like I was doing some good, like I made a difference.  I’m pretty sure I have that.  

What I am struggling with is where I have it.  I grew up in a small town, left after High School and never looked back.  In college I traveled to Japan and Korea, spending a year abroad.  After college it was St. Louis, MO, then Missoula, Montana.  I spent three weeks in the UK… What I am struggling with is how I got here.  Back in Iowa, in a town smaller than the one I left in the first place. 

I blame this latest episode on Sirius XM.  Last week, they replaced BBC Radio 1 with another standard channel.  I loved BBC Radio 1; I could listen to it and it reminded me that there is a big world out there – beyond the ultra-conservative farm community I am surrounded by.  I could imagine that I was somewhere else, somewhere cool and progressive.  Not only did it help me “get away,” but it also anchored me – in the UK, they have problems with drugs, abuse, politics just like here.  Things are not that different.  I wasn’t really missing anything, ‘cause in general, the same things happened there as here… dumb, I know. But true.  I had a window to the world and now it’s gone; I’m back in small-town Iowa with no prospects of ever getting out… Geesh, I’m a whiner today. Sorry.  That’s what you get from stream of consciousness writing I guess.

If anyone out there has had the same crisis of the soul as I seem to be having, I’d love to hear your advice, your war-stories, your sympathy J.  For now, I am, unenthusiastically, yours,


Tuesday, August 16, 2011


I'm not sure what happened with my post last week. I was on vacation with my family, but I brought along my laptop and on Monday night scheduled a post to be published Tuesday.  As you know, that post was never published. And that is ironic, because my entire post was about how I felt like no one was listening to me.  I guess not publishing the post was the universe's confirmation that, indeed, no one is listening to me and that's the way it should be. 

So, on to a new topic: family vacation.  Last week, for the first time ever, we took a family vacation.  We didn't go far - only about two and a half hours - and we didn't plan a lot to do.  And that was perfect.  I was a little nervous about vacationing with my kids.  We had trouble deciding what to do or where to go: Husband doesn't want to travel with the kids on a plane and I was not willing to put them through another long car ride.  By my way of thinking, they spend at least two hours every day in the car already, there was no way I wanted them to spend a chunk of their vacation stuck in the back of the van.  So we went somewhere relatively close and rented a house and just took things from there. 

 By all accounts, it should have been a disaster.  Approximately 15 inches of rain fell on the area a week before we arrived.  As a result, there were mud slides and floods and all kinds of problems.  The outdoor pool at the resort we were staying at was damaged and closed.  The waterfall we had promised to take KJ to had taken on Niagara Falls-like qualities and was closed to visitors.  Even some of the roads had washed away entirely.  But despite all that we made it work.  We swam in the indoor pool.  We went to the coolest park ever. We visited horses.  We went down a giant slide, and back up on a ski lift.  But most of all, we just enjoyed each other. 

Not planning a super-packed, scheduled vacation was just the thing we needed.  We were able to wake up every day and talk about how we wanted to spend the day over breakfast together.  We were able to do things we didn't ordinarily do, and go at the kid's pace.  We got to come back to the house for nap time every day, and the kids were able to sleep as long as they wanted to.  We didn't have to drive anywhere far, and I made every single meal at the house.  It was ideal for us. 

This week, we're back to reality.  But it isn't so bad.  I'm so glad we took a week to just spend some time together without a lot of things planned or scheduled to do.  It was great to reconnect with the family and really focus only on the kids for a while.  I'm already looking forward to next year's vacation.


Monday, August 15, 2011


As you know from my post on Friday, we now officially have a school-aged kid in the house. This means in addition to dealing with J starting school we have to embark on a new journey, starting a new bedtime schedule.

As a working Mom, my kids have a much different bedtime schedule than what is recommended by doctors and parenting magazines. While other kids are heading to bed at 7:30 or 8, my kids are often up past 9. When I come home from work I try to make up for a day away from my kids and therefore we are often up late spending the time together I missed all afternoon. The prospect of only getting 1 or 2 hours with them a day is just something I’m not willing to do.

But about a month ago, when I was sitting on the couch with my kids at 9:45 p.m. in the middle of a movie night, I realized that our current schedule is not going to work. There is just no way the kids can go to bed at 9:30-10:00 p.m. and then turn around and get up early for school. So I decided then and there we needed to overhaul our bedtime routine.

Of course thinking about doing something and actually doing it are two entirely different things. Two weeks ago I intended to start working us into this schedule with slightly earlier bedtimes, but then the weather was beautiful and J started to learn to ride her bike, so that didn’t happen. Last week I said to myself, “okay, let’s start this now”, but then all the to-do’s of getting ready for school had me running to Wal-Mart late in the evening. So now, here we are…starting school tomorrow, no more excuses, we’ve got to do this.

The new mission seems simple enough: L in bed at 8:00 p.m. and J and H in bed at 8:30 p.m.. I figure this is the perfect compromise as it allows them to have sufficient rest but gives me a chance to be with them.

However, this new schedule is anything but easy. Rather, it seems actually impossible to me. I get home at 5:00 p.m.. I then make dinner which is usually on the table by 5:30 or 6:00 p.m. Then we often head outside for bike riding, park trips, or just hanging out on our trampoline. Then come baths and showers, snack time, story time, teeth brushing, lullabyes and finally good-nights. How am I going to fit everything in in just 3 ½ hours?

The answer of course is something I don’t want to hear: I just have to do less with them. I’m going to have sacrifice some of our play time and outdoor fun in order for this to work. No more riding bikes on our driveway until we can't see anymore. No more trips for ice cream or movie nights. No more cuddling on the couch with J watching Project Runway. But how am I going to do this? How am I going to get the quality time I want with them on a short quantity of time?

Then I have to add in all the additional challenges. Monday night we are at the dance studio for J until 8:00 p.m.. H starts soccer later this month and therefore we’ll have practices and games to work in as well.

Then there is the “L” factor. Right now, L is like a well-oiled machine when it comes to bedtime. He goes up for bath at 7:00 p.m., comes down and plays a bit, then at 8:00 p.m. we listen to his favorite Pajanimal Lullabye song, and off he goes to sleep. No fuss, nothing. But L is about to be 15 months old so before I know it, his easy bedtimes are going to get more difficult. Soon we’ll be transitioning from a crib to a bed, soon he’ll be able to ask for one more story, or one more song. Soon we’ll say goodbye to easy bedtime baby and hello to stubborn determined toddler.

Last night was our first night on the schedule. I’ll admit it went much easier than expected. We explained to J and H what we were doing and like champs, they went off to bed at 8:30 as instructed. But I didn’t congratulate myself too much on the easy bedtime because this “trial” took place on a Sunday, after I had the whole day to accomplish what I wanted to with my kids. Tonight we’ll see how it goes after a day of work.

All this talk of bedtime routines, perfect schedules, and how to be the Mom I want to be on a short time table makes me…well tired! I’ll keep you posted as we embark on the adventure. Please wish me luck and peaceful goodnights!


Friday, August 12, 2011

Ready or not...

5...4...3...2...1...ready or not here it comes. By it, I mean school, kindergarten to be exact. Yes, this year I am experiencing the world of the first day of school as my daughter J is heading to kindergarten.

I’ll admit I never thought I would be one of those Moms that got all worked up over starting kindergarten. Sure I knew I’d tear up, take a ton of pictures, and have flashbacks to the day J was born, but I never knew that I’d feel like this.

However, alas here I am the Friday before my daughter becomes a “school-aged kid” and I’m finding that this transition has been much harder on me than putting away the high chair, watching the last of the baby dresses get sold at garage sale, or packing up the crib.

I’m not sure why I’ve been so down about J starting school. After all, J has been “away” from me her whole life due to the fact I have to work. But somehow, dropping my daughter off at daycare is a whole different ball game than dropping her at school.

It doesn’t help that my daughter is the first in our family to start school. You mothers of girls will understand what I mean, it would be so much easier if H or L were going first. With boys, they get shy, grippy to their Moms, and maybe even nervous, but they don’t get “dramatic” about changes like this. They don’t sweat the small stuff. A girl? Well, that’s a whole different story. Each night when I tuck J to bed I am interrogated with countless questions like: “What if they don’t like me?”, “What if they don’t like my Hello Kitty backpack??”, “Mommy you bought me yellow pencils, what if everyone else has colors??”, “What if they make fun of me??”

With each question a piece of my heart flakes away and I get this pit in my stomach. Even though I know from experience how amazing school is and how much fun lies a head of her, I also know that starting school means the start of so much drama for J. So although I would love to tell J that all kids are good and no one will ever be mean to her, I know that’s just not true.

And suddenly I flash forward way past kindergarten to the bad parts of school…hurt feelings, broken hearts, mean teachers that should retire but won’t retire, awkward moments, pop quizzes you aren’t prepared for, first crushes that don’t know you exist, etc. etc. etc. I know these are funny things to think about when you kid is just starting kindergarten, but still the thoughts are there.

The truth of the matter is that starting school means starting reality. To date J only knows that good guys always win, a princess is always saved, and everyone lives happily ever after. Now, she’s about to hear “the other side of the story”.

I think what makes this extra hard on me is, unlike J, I am the baby of my family. I never had to do anything first. I could watch my brothers go through things before I had to do something. Before I started a school, everyone already knew me and I had been to the school dozens of times. I’m used to going last. So to me the idea of going first seems impossible. Nobody is giving her a preview of what’s in store for her. She has to blaze this trail for herself and ultimately for her brothers.

Now don’t get me wrong, I have full confidence in J’s abilities. I have no doubt in my mind that she is ready. I mean if anyone can blaze trails it’s J. She has walked to the beat of her own drum since before she could walk! She is incredibly social, smart, and adaptable. But, still there I am sitting at Unpack your Backpack and wondering why all the kids in J’s class seem so much bigger than her.

But ready or not, come Tuesday my daughter will be a kindergartner. And like it or not, I have to just sit back and watch it from “a far”. I can’t do it with her. I can’t tell all the kids in her class about her true nature and awesome personality, I can’t make friends for her, I can’t hold her hand.

So ready or not we go. It’s tough and unfortunately no one can really understand the feelings you feel except those who have been through it. You are going to find (well at least I am finding) that your feelings will be all over the place and won’t make sense: You’ll go from worrying about if they know how to get a lunch tray to being excited for them to learn to read, all in the same minute! So good luck out there. Yes, they’ll get through it, and we’ll get through it with some prayers, hope, love, and loads of Kleenex.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Technical Difficulties

You maybe be wondering why this posting is so late...well let's just say I had a few technical glitches.  Last night, no wireless at home.  No problem, I can just do it tomorrow (aka Thursday).  Except, still no computer at work (yep, day 4 still no computer).  So here it goes...seems a little anti-climatic.

On Monday, I started my new job.  So far, with the exception of the computer snafu, so good.  I like the new team I will be working with, having a gym at work is great, my stress level has greatly decreased, and I think I can make an immediate impact.  And while I miss my wonderful team and the Best Boss Ever, I haven't felt that gnawing in my stomach about making a wrong decision.

However, I am a little nervous about one thing - making new friends at work.  And yes, I wasn't kidding when I posted on Facebook earlier this week about having the Fab Four walking me to work!  Truly, I am not bragging about myself, but I do think I am pretty friendly, nice and (as a co-worker once told me) I could "make chat with a houseplant."  So why worry, you ask?  Because my team is extremely small, with only 2 people in my office (both male).  And we are somewhat isolated from the rest of the company (which is great for getting work done, but not so much for socializing).  As for going to the gym, well, it's hard to make chat when you are huffing and puffing on the treadmill! 

But, as I was huffing and puffing today (because my 5K is coming up quickly!), I wondered if this is what A & B feel like going into kindergarten.  They are pretty outgoing, are nice to everyone and just want to make friends.  But it will be a totally new situation for them, with bigger kids and new challenges.  Will they have the courage to go up to someone and say "hi"?  And what if someone is mean to them?

Maybe this was good timing to start my new more ways than one :)

Have a great night!
Jean Anne

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Back to School

The official back-to-school countdown has begun at our house!  School starts on August 22.  We have our 8 dozen pencils (yes-4 dozen each), we have our Washable Markers, our colored pencils, our 24packs of crayons.  Our Clorox wipes, tissues, our three primary color folders (no pictures, please) and, new this year - a steno pad for B.  He's in 3rd grade, now, so they need those sophisticated things! 

Last weekend, we did our shoe shopping.  We walked into Famous Footwear; it was packed.  Every other family in the Metro had the same idea.  Walking back to the kids' section, I spy a pair of insanely multicolored tennies for girls.  I say to my daughter - "Geez, those shoes would give me a headache!" BUT they have a little kitty charm hanging from the laces.  She tries on a few pairs and, along with the other 100 kids in the store, zooms around the room (has to make sure they make her run fast) and guess which ones we ultimately buy?! YES - headache-causing, kitty charm shoes. She was ecstatic. Hopping around with a huge grin, like she'd won the lottery! 

Steve helped B get set. From the short time it took, I'm guessing it was not nearly as eventful or entertaining as my experience.  But B was equally happy and excited about his shoes.  They both wanted to put them on RIGHT NOW.  But me, being my mother's child, made them wait.  We had to price shop - go to Kohls and see if we could get them cheaper.  Shoes, by the way, are REALLY expensive!  So, after an agonizing, gut-wrenching 1/2hour, the kids got to put their new shoes (and socks!) on.  They have worn those tennis shoes every day since!  

Also in our Back-to-School routine, I have started making the kids go to bed at their 'regular' time.  H is supposed to be in bed by 8:30; B by 9; he is very proud of his extra half-hour.  So far, it isn't working out too well! H goes to bed alright at 8:30, but the last two days I've left for work around 8:15 and she's still sawing logs.  That kid is pure energy - like a jumping bean on overdrive. She needs her sleep.  So I think tonight we'll have to put her to bed at 8.  I can already hear the rebellion... "It's not even dark out!" "B gets to stay up late!" "It's not FAIR!" 

Every once in a while, I worry - are we good parents? Am I a good mom? Is 8:00 pm. the "right" bedtime? When B was a baby, Steve and I would be mortified when he would start crying at a restaurant, or throw a tantrum in the store.  "What must the people around us be thinking?" "We're ruining their evening!"  Surely, no other child throws their toys around the room and refuses to pick them up?  No other child says he's brushing his teeth when he isn't; says he didn't do something when he did; bugs his sister just to hear her yell... it's endless. And maddening, and sometimes humorous - the laugh out loud kind.  The more we are out in the community, with Cub Scouts, soccer, Brownies, buying school shoes... the more I see that kids are kids. They ALL do the same annoying things with their siblings and their parents.  They all push the boundaries, and love to yell, and run where there's no room.  

The good news (and the important thing) is that my children are nice to OTHERS; they are generous and giving with their friends, they are courteous and kind with kids they don't know.  They listen to adults (adults does NOT mean Mom or Dad, just so you know) with respect and generally follow the rules.  H becomes indignant for other people she sees as having been mistreated and they both care for animals. 

When I leave for work, they want a hug. When I get home from work, they run to see me.  When I answer "No" to "do you have to go to work today?"  they beam. So, I've decided that, whether society thinks I am, or whether I even think I am, the important thing - the MOST important thing- is that THEY think I am.  I am a good Mom.  And so are YOU! 


Monday, August 8, 2011

The Juggler

Cue the circus music….

Okay, so no I don’t live in a big top, and I don’t have a fancy costume. Yet day in and day out I live the life of a juggler, trying to keep all my responsibilities in the air without any falling to the ground.

Now most of the time, I love to juggle. Not to sound conceited but I feel I do it fairly well. During my 8 years as an attorney, 6 years as a wife, and 5 years as a mother I think I have found a good balance to my life. I somehow have found a way to be the Mom I want to be on the schedule of the attorney I have to be.

However, every now and then life throws in too many balls for me to keep my nice pace and I fall behind, drop a few balls, and just feel incredibly overwhelmed. It is these times I hate to juggle.

My current “struggle to juggle” has been caused by work throwing way to many balls into the mix. This does not sit well with a juggler who usually ensures the balls coming from the work side of life stay at a certain manageable number (and far less in number than my personal side).

But alas, over the last month ball after ball has been thrown in. I have a trial every month from now until November, including a month long trial in Des Moines, 2 ½ hours away from my home (yeah haven’t quite figured out the logistics of how on earth I’m going to pull that off yet). I am feeling so lost, overwhelmed, and just plain baffled by the amount of work that has piled up.

So, due to the unwelcomed added load, balls have been dropping all over the place. From the Wednesday morning it took me forever to find something to wear because I hadn’t kept up with the laundry; to the “let’s send it overnight” motion nearly forgotten in the mix; to the realization that summer is pretty much over and I haven’t gotten to do half the things I planned; to the dozens of "What's the status?" memos on my desk; to the fact L's "1 year" pictures were taken at 15 months old. Drop. Drop. Drop.

Now most jugglers would just realize that dropping balls comes with the job and keep going without skipping a beat. But, well, I’m not that kind of juggler due to the perfectionist part of my personality. I thrive best in an environment where everything is going right, and nothing is missed. When something is missed, or the kids disappointed, I take it hard. So you can imagine this tailspin of ball dropping that has been going on lately has hit me hard.

I really have no one to blame for the ball dropping but myself. After all, I’m not the sole performer in my circus of life. In fact, I have tons of people that offer to take a few balls from my hands. But, my stubbornness usually prevents me from letting people step in and help me. I’m a solo act, I want to be the one doing things, especially when it comes to my kids.  I’ve often wondered where this need of mine to “do it all” comes from. My control freak side? My “I think I can do it better” side? Who knows. All I know is that besides someone who wants to come and clean my house, a chore I will happily and without hesitation give to anyone out there (apply herein), I am insistent on doing things myself.

These “struggling with juggling” times are nothing new to me. They come and go. Sometimes I feel like I can do it all, other times I find myself crying as I watch a diaper commercial wondering if I’m doing enough. Sometimes I feel like a great attorney, other times I question how I managed to pass two bar exams. Sometimes I have control over my life, other times I don’t. The ebb and flow…the ups and downs, they simply come with the life of a working Mom.

So yes, before too long Mandi and Magnificent will be back in full swing.  Eventually, I’ll get a grip again and will have all my balls back in the air seamlessly controlled by my own two hands. Until then, well I have no choice but to take it day by day. Moms don’t have the luxury of giving up, breaking down, taking a day off... nope, the show must go on.


Thursday, August 4, 2011

Brave Sure is Hard Sometimes

I stole that line from one of A & B’s stories, but it is definitely true for adults too! As I write this, I only have 2 days left in my current position. I would like to say I won the lottery and will be staying home full time to take care of my family, but in reality, I have taken another position at a different company. Needless to say, this is very difficult.

In these past 2 weeks, I have gone over why I am leaving this position. I weighed the pros and cons, looked at this from all sides, relied heavily on friends and family and finally made this decision. And in all honesty, this is the hardest decision I have ever made.

Why is it so difficult? I finally found a wonderful team that gave me the opportunity to succeed at both my job AND as a Mom. They accepted all of my quirks, around my crazy mom schedule and gave me the confidence to realize that I am good at my job. As, some of you know, finding good co-workers can make all of the difference in the world.

So, why leave? Good question – one I have asked myself many times over the last month. Because I couldn’t be 100% Mom and 100% Jean the worker. I was living at hotels, racking up airline miles, checking my BlackBerry every 5 minutes, MIA for the month of June and basically getting the job done. But I was also saying good night to A & B over the phone, missing softball games, not picking them up from school, and not being Mommy.

I (hopefully) have found a position where I can be both 100% Mommy and 100% Jean the worker. No travel is required, hours are pretty basic, I am no longer a manager, and I give up the BlackBerry. I just hope I am lucky enough to have great co-workers.

My hubby asked me this morning how I was feeling about leaving. I told him that 7 years ago (pre A & B), I would have loved the travel, been thrilled to have the BlackBerry (aka – I am important) and on the path to VP. Now…I am just happy to read bedtime stories and cook up a frozen pizzas.

Have my priorities changed? Yes. Will I regret this decision? Who knows? But while leaving my work family is difficult, so is hearing “Mommy we miss you and don’t forget to get us gifts before you come home.” And knowing that I will continue to rush from work to school to practice, instead of rushing to catch an airplane, makes my decision just a little easier.

Has anyone ever faced a similar decision?  I would be interested to hear about your situation.

Have a great day!

Jean Anne

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

H away!

So, in the interest of getting a whole summer’s worth of fun into the last few weeks, my 6 year old daughter H had her first sleepover last weekend.  She invited one of her “BFF”s (her term, not mine) and we had a Friday night slumber party. 

We picked H’s friend up about 4:00 p.m. and drove straight to the opening night of Smurfs at the movies.  We had time for dinner, so the three of us went to Pizza Ranch before the movie.  After the movie, they wanted to go shopping! I wanted to go to bed.  Luckily, the stores were closed, so it was home we went. 

Once we got home, they were still raring to go, so play, play, play…trash the room it took H all day to clean up…by 10:00 I was beat.  They were still wild, so…in the movie went and they fell asleep, FINALLY, to Tangled at about 11:30. 

The next morning, they were wide awake and wild again. Here I had been hoping for them crashed until 10, having stayed up so late, but NO – 7:30 and homemade chocolate chip muffins. They played, taunting B then running screaming from him for about an hour before we finally took H’s friend home.   H was sad to see her leave.

This was a big eye opener for me.  I had never really seen H in her own element, before.  What I mean by that is, I’ve never seen her being “social” except while playing.  On the hour drives to and from the theater, she and A sat in the back seat and talked the entire time!  I kept thinking – what can two 6 year olds have to talk about?! But they did, they chatted it up just like I would with my girlfriends.  It made me laugh-and kind of made me sad at the same time. 

My baby isn’t just mine anymore.  She has a life – out there in the world – friends and interests beyond me and our family.  She was a “real” person.  I’ve already been through the trauma of realizing that B is a “real” person – with his own personality, thoughts, etc.  But H, I’ve been trying to hold on to, denying that she was grown up enough.  She is…she’s a real person, now.  My baby is really gone.  But I really look forward to getting to know my daughter as she continues to mature. So far, she’s pretty cool!  I think I am in for quite a ride!


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

"I don't know"

As all of you readers know, kid birthdays always lead to the three p's: presents, parties and pediatrician visits.  Jean, Mandi and I have all spent some time blogging about the first two  p's, so today, I'll tackle the third: pediatrician visits. 

I don't know if it is common to all working moms or just me, but I dread taking my kids to the pedi.  I don't dread them for any obvious reason.  Our pedis are nice, they are great with the kids and I think they are very thorough.  I dread the visits because no matter our reason for being there, at some point the doctor will ask me a routine question about my child and I won't know the answer.  I will have to say "I don't know."  In my experience, the doctors have always accepted this answer and moved right on, as if it is completely normal that a mom won't know what her toddler ate for breakfast or when her preschooler first started feeling sick.  They've never pressed me for an answer or worse, left that awkward moment of judgmental silence we working moms know so well.  But to me, admitting I don't know how many ounces of milk KJ has in a day or how many hours he sleeps during nap time is like admitting I don't know my own child.  That I've crammed my brain with useless things like the elements of adverse possession (SPACE HOG anyone?) over important things, like which day it was that KJ got his last breathing treatment.  It makes me feel like an inadequate mom. 

Of course, I'm not an inadequate mom because I don't know how long KJ naps every day.  The truth of the matter is, he sleeps at school, while I'm at work.  In my day-to-day life, it is much more important that I know SPACE HOG than I know the exact length of KJ's nap.  (Well, that's not quite right in that adverse possession does not come up very often in securities law cases, but you get my point).  I am serving my family better by focusing on what I need to know for my job so that I can provide for them.  These other things, while important, are not of such overwhelming importance that I should be embarrassed that someone else - namely the daycare teacher - knows them better than I do. 

But that objective knowledge doesn't help when you sit there in front of the pedi telling her you don't know things that are directly relevant your child's health.   Most likely, you are sitting in front of that doctor knowing only that daycare called you 3 hours ago saying that you child had a fever and needed to be removed from the facility.  You don't know if he was acting lethargic all day long.  Or whether his appetite seemed suppressed.  You know only that (1) he has a fever and (2) you need that fever to be gone for 24 hours before you can go back to work.  Based on the center-wide emails, you might know that a kid in toddler 3 has pink eye or that someone in pre-k has hand, foot, mouth, but that's about all you got.  And that has to be enough. 

I'm sure my lack of knowledge is just as hard on the doctor as it is on me, the mom.  The doctor is asking the questions because my responses (if I knew anything) would be helpful to her in making a diagnosis.  She isn't trying to make me feel inadequate.  I just do. 

At our most recent visit (a healthy kid visit, thankfully), I had to say I didn't know at least three times.  But I tried not to feel too badly about it.  Because there were lots of things I did know about my guy, and they were all things about who he is as a person, as opposed to how many ounces of milk he drinks in a day.  Next time, instead of counting " I don't know"s, I'm going to count my blessings.  KJ is growing up into a healthy, happy guy.  That's what really matters. 


Monday, August 1, 2011

The Swimmer

Since birth, my daughter J has had a huge fear of water. While most babies couldn’t wait for bath time, J would cry. While I celebrated the fact J moved from the baby tub to the big girl tub, she would scream as I put her in water. Much to my relief, J’s fear of the bath tub was gone by 15 months old. But waiting for her was an even bigger fear….swimming.

I grew up swimming. My brothers and I practically lived at the pool near our house. Swimming was a huge part of my childhood. So I couldn’t wait to start J in swimming lessons. But there I was unable to do diaper dippers because of my screaming infant. Call me a push over parent but watching my first born shake in fear each time she went into water was not something I was willing to endure.

By age 2 we were ready to start J in the parent tot class. While other parents splashed around with their babies and twirled them in the pool, I gritted my teeth in pain while J gripped strong on to my arms.

Next came the invites to hotel pools with friends. While other kids’ eyes lit up as they saw the mushrooms that spurted water or spraying hoses, these were an even bigger nightmare for J. Now in addition to dealing with her fear of water, we had to add in her fear of loud noises. So taking her to pools to practice was now out of the question.

I backed down a bit and gave her some time off of swimming, hoping time would cure the fear. But by age 3 swimming became the large inflatable dolphin in the room…it was there, it couldn’t be ignored, she had to learn. My motherly fears of her drowning took over and I began to force her back into swim class.

So at age 3 I dragged her in her Dora the Explorer swim suit to a new swim class. Added bonus: I couldn’t be in the water with her, so you can imagine how that went over when I explained that in the locker room 5 minutes before class time. J went with the class and sat on the edge of the pool terrified. She didn’t cry, but she was visibly afraid. But to me the fact she was entering the pool without tears was an improvement. I thought we were actually getting somewhere…well until the teacher brought out “The Stick”.

For those of you who have not had to experience this with your kids, “the stick” was obviously invented by a person who’s child had no fear of water. The concept: the teacher takes the kid, has him grab onto the stick and then dunks him down into the water. I hate the stick.

At first J tried to out-smart her way around the stick by conveniently having to take a bathroom break each time the teacher started the exercise. It didn’t take long for the teacher to catch on to this, however. As J closed her eyes ready to go under, I will admit I closed mine too. My eyes were opened by the sound of my daughter screaming and crying. Compliments of the stick, another swim class failed.

I read every article, every website, every tip on getting your kid over a fear of water. I tried to ask other Moms for advice but I was usually met with the same response: “Oh my daughter LOVES the water!!”. I felt like a failure. I was the only Mom sitting at the Y with a kid shaking in fear instead of excitement. My failure led to my standard over-analyzing and I tried to “figure out” the fear. Where is it coming from? I kept rewinding every bath time in my head…did she ever fall in the tub? No. Did I ever pour water in her eyes? Maybe. Did I do this?

For another year, J avoided having to take swimming lessons this time solely due to the sheer time constraints of her busy schedule. With ice skating, gymnastics, cheerleading, and dance, she simply did not have time to do swimming…much to her relief of course.

But then age 4 came around, and suddenly all her friends and cousins LOVED to swim. Suddenly the fear of water was infringing upon her social life, something a 4 year old Diva was not pleased with.

So we started back. We’d take her to pools at hotels, swim when we could. While I was still trying to blame genetics or newborn bath time, J did something better…she started to figure out how to change it. It started small: she’d lean back in the bath tub a little farther, then suddenly she was laying completely down in the water. Next, I’d watch her go into a baby pool and cover only one ear as she neared a loud splashing mushroom. If she was alone in the pool I’d watch as she would dip her chin down into the water. Baby step by baby step she improved.

So now here we are: age 5. She now loves splashing mushrooms and rainbows spurting water. This time she asked me to get back into lessons. I happily agreed, placing her in private lessons with her brother H.

This came with a new challenge. Unlike J, H was not born with a gene for fear. By the 1st lesson he was off swimming on a noodle by himself. J hated that her baby brother could do something she could not. But each lesson she started to do a little more. Instead of holding the instructor’s arms, it became her hands, then it became her thumbs, and then she did it alone just for a second or two before grabbing for safety. She started to get the concept of kicking her feet. She was still a bit scared, but instead of letting that stop her, she swam right through it. And that was the biggest improvement of all.

So this weekend my husband and I took the kids to the local pool. J loves this place as she can touch at pretty much the entire pool. I was so happy that we spent our first weekend with kids begging to go to the pool.

And yesterday, July 31, 2011, I am happy to report Miss J conquered her fear. As my husband and I sat in the pool, we watched in awe as our once fear stricken little girl started swimming UNDERWATER between us. There was no instructor telling her how to do it, but over the course of a couple hours she taught herself. I even laughed as a Mom of a girl from J’s daycare looked at her swimming underwater and said “Wow, J, you must take lessons”. I of course thought silently “Oh if you only knew…”

My daughter showed me today that she is such a strong person. I’ve always feared that J would be like me in the sense that I unfortunately have let fear control parts of my life. My parents paid for me to go to Germany in high school and I spent the time counting down the days till I got to go home. I transferred from an amazing university to a small college because I was afraid to be there alone. I have given into fear a lot in my life and for the first few years of her life I thought J was the same. But, as I watched J though the pool water only coming up for a brief second to take a breath, my fear was completely silenced. She’s not like me. She took a fear, a fear that crippled her for several years, and shattered it. And amazingly she did it by herself. Now if that is not one of those moments where you can say “That’s MY child” I don’t know what is!