Thursday, September 29, 2011

Happy What?

This week has been a busy week for our house. Yes, it was our 8th wedding anniversary and my hubby’s birthday. And no, I did not plan it that way – September is busy enough as it is! You might be wondering, what exciting things did we do for our anniversary and his birthday? Well, drum roll please….

NOTHING! Yep, I completely botched both the anniversary and birthday this year. Our anniversary was spent with the girls at Sugar Shack, supporting the Centennial Elementary PTA and hubby’s birthday will be spent at soccer practice and Hy-vee. As for gifts…well…Again, epic fail.

In all fairness, we recently purchased a used Dodge Durango (aka they hubby’s hunting vehicle). And he did get a new trailer/hauling thing for it on Saturday. We seem to have succumbed to the mode of “when we need something, we just go buy it.” And he seems ok with it. But I feel horrible. Plus, I even forgot cards from A & B! (Although, they did wish him a happy birthday as soon as they woke up AND sang him happy birthday!)

I just keep wondering, what happened this year? Last year, I was on a roll. We spent our “lucky 7” anniversary in Las Vegas – our 1st big trip away from the girls. And, because it was our 7th anniversary and John Elway (#7) was his favorite football player, he also got an autographed, full-size Elway helmet. It was GREAT!! 
To top it off, hubby got me a beautiful watch this year from Joseph’s for our anniversary. And what did I get him? NOTHING! Not even a card!

So, it makes me wonder…did I go to big last year? And I love giving gifts, so what is stopping me from spoiling hubby this year?  We are currently planning to celebrate our anniversary in October, when we attend his 10 year college reunion without A & B (I know - a weekend away!).  But I just feel that I should have done something a little more special now.

Any ideas to make it up to him?


Jean Anne

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Growing Pains

My entry today is about several things, but I think they all have the same theme: Growing Pains.  My life is having Growing Pains.  I know a lot of people don’t necessarily believe that growing pains are real – I can personally attest that they are.  When I was little, I would get the worst aches in my knees and elbows – constant, throbbing aches which sometime had me in tears.  Unfortunately, none of my siblings ever had them, so they thought I was making it up. SO NOT.  Anyway, right now I am surrounded by growing pains –professionally and domestically.

Earlier this month, my colleague and friend Joel and I became shareholders at our firm.  This has been a long time coming; something that we have planned and waited for in various stages of patience for the last six years.  You would think that with so much time to prepare, so many plans made for positive changes, the transition from associate to shareholder would have been an easy one.  Not so much.  There are a lot of little details that go along with changing the status of a firm – the name change was easy, but after that, it got a little dicey.  The long, long list of people who needed to be notified, of documents that needed to be changed…we are still finding things we’ve missed. 

More difficult, though, is adjusting from my own ideals of how Joel and I becoming shareholders would change our firm – make it run more smoothly, with less staff drama, less attorney drama – to reality.  In reality, people hate change, staff and attorneys alike, even when it will make things better.  They fight it at every turn and make themselves and those around them miserable in the process.  I feel like I should be able to do something to stop it, but I can’t.  I am not diplomatic, am very blunt, and I’m afraid that if I actually said or did what I wanted to to address these problems, we would have no staff!  The currents in this office could drag someone to their death.  I firmly believe that, eventually, we will get things to where they should be according to our plan; in the meantime, however, it is rather painful.

At home, my 8 –soon to be 9 year old son – was told he needed to start bringing deodorant to school as his teacher does not want any stinky boys in her room! I can appreciate that, but I am in complete denial that my son, my BABY, could be old enough to have body odor.  Good grief! After that comes… and after that….and after that…I don’t even want to think about it.  I am incredibly proud of him, and I love him like crazy.  I’ve made lots and lots of plans for him once he’s grown, but I cannot comprehend him actually growing up!  He’s having the time of him life – to me, the reality is becoming painful. 

I have always been the type of person who had to learn things the hard way: for example, I know that if you push a windshield with your feet hard enough (like they do in the movies), it will crack.  I also know that even if a garage door has auto-reverse on it, it doesn’t engage quickly enough not to smash your truck and destroy the door. (Sorry, honey)  I know that these changes all need to happen, that I cannot stop them, and that I would not even if I could.  I know that things will be better in the future; if I can only get through these growing pains.


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Home Improvement

Husband and I have spent a lot of the summer doing home improvement projects.  I've come to believe that home improvement projects will always take double the time you anticipate they'll take.  There's always some unforeseen wiring issue or patching project that pops up in the middle of whatever you are doing that requires yet another run to Home Depot and at least a one day delay. 

For us, that means almost all home improvement projects take about three times longer than they would take a normal family.  First of all, it is hard to get Husband motivated.  I don't really blame him on this one because more often than not he does most of the project.   It is understandable that after a week of work he wouldn't be looking forward to planting or painting or whatever.  But it is also hard because we only can work on home projects on weekends.  Because of our long commutes, we almost never have time to do any home improvement project during the week.  Seriously.  It takes a mountain of planning and perfect execution just for us to get home in time to cut the grass on a weekday during the summer.  There's no way we're going to be able to tackle anything larger. 

As a result, projects move rather slowly around our house. But despite our snail's pace, I'm proud of all we've accomplished this summer. We transformed our side yard from a hodge podge of random plants and wild flowers to a landscaped bed.

We edged and mulched all of our flower beds ourselves. We replaced and stained the sections of our fence that were blown away in this spring's strong storms. We finished the great window replacement project of 2007 (yay!). We fixed damage incurred from a leaking skylight. We transitioned Sweet Pea from a baby room to a big girl room, which required buying furniture for and redecorating two bedrooms. 

And we replaced our wall-mounted microwave (which doesn't sound like a big deal until you learn that we only replaced it because our original one broke - and it took four - yes, four - returns to get a new microwave that worked properly).  And we did all that, on top of working, kid activities, a vacation and just regular house maintenance.  I'm proud of us. 

Of course, home improvement projects are never done. As I type this, we're one coat of primer into repainting our master bedroom.

Bye bye green
 And early next week, we're scheduled to get our skylights replaced.  And I've got big plans for our bathrooms once non-leaky skylights are installed.  Poor Husband.  There's no end in sight for him! 


Monday, September 26, 2011


You can’t turn on the news or open a newspaper without reading or hearing something about the economy. I’ll be honest, I normally tune out anything that deals with this topic, but allow me to discuss a new economic phenomenon I discovered this weekend…


This weekend I asked my husband to pull out some of our old computers, as I am a huge family historian and was curious if I had old pictures, or beloved emails from our dating years sitting on some hard drive tucked in our basement. My husband plugged in our old computer and we strolled down memory lane.

We started with a computer my husband and I had at our apartment together. As we were scrolling through documents, we stumbled upon several budgets. We opened them up…

And discovered Kidflation…

My husband and I moved in together in 2004. We lived in a fairly nice, small, 2 bedroom apartment. I was just a new associate, he had just landed a job at a huge local factory. But yet, our twenty-something selves were so nervous about our first real responsibility of living together that we sat down and wrote (several) budgets for ourselves.

My jaw literally dropped when I looked at the budgets. I couldn’t get over how cheap our expenses were, how much money we had left over. This was especially shocking considering we made significantly less back in our 20’s. But, yet…even though we thought at the time our money was tight we had so much money to spare.

We were amazed at what “tight” was for our 20 something selves. Our current expenses are about 5 times the amount of what that budget showed. Rent was ½ of our current mortgage payment, our small Saturn Ion didn’t hold a candle to our Grand Caravan’s payment, our $60 power bill probably wouldn’t heat or cool our house for a day yet alone a month.

Then of course there were the “laughables” in the budget…20 year old Todd and Mandi had such “now foreign concepts” entries in their budgets as entertainment and dining out. We had clothing budgets, and money set aside for tickets and trips. I even had an entry in my budget for hair appointments! Yes, 20 something Mandi had standing 8 week appointments to freshen up her blonde hair whereas 30 something Mandi has to dye her hair brown because dropping hundreds of dollars doesn’t sit well in the world of kidflation.

So why do we now pay about 5 times more than our 20 something selves?? Well, its simple kidflation. Since 2004, we entered the money-sucking world of parenting. For every child we added, our budget doubled or tripled itself…and our beloved entries were replaced with such “crowd pleasures” as: Life insurance, Co-Pays, Formula, Diapers, Activity Expenses. Entertainment expenses for Mommy and Daddy? Yeah right.

I love my children to no end, but when you see it in good old black and white, you really see just how much it costs to raise a child. I can remember being 25 sitting at my desk of the first law firm, thinking I was living pay check to pay check, and dreaming of the day when I would be a partner and enter the world of no money problems. I thought “Wow once I’m partner I’ll be swimming in money”….

Well, I didn’t factor in kidflation. Apparently kidflation is governed by one motto: The more money you make, the more money they take.

I really wonder what those two twenty-something year olds would have thought about the fact that their thirty-year old selves are paying for one month of daycare what they paid for their entire month of expenses.

Unfortunately like most expert economists, I don’t hold a great deal of optimism for improvement on kidflation. Seems like every year it grows and grows. One minute you are giddy with excitement that you don’t have to buy pricey formula anymore, only to find yourself five minutes later with $100.00 worth of snack foods in your cart at the grocery store for your hungry toddler. Finally get one out of diapers, only to replace that portion of your expenses with pricey dance classes or soccer teams. If it isn’t one thing its another. It never fails.

One morning my son asked me why I had to go to work….I smiled, chuckled and said “Look around H!” Yes, my three year is oblivious to reality and believes monster trucks and superheroes just grow magically from Wal-Mart bags. But yes, H, Mommy works because of one simple word…kidflation.

So buckle up parents for another fiscal year of inflation. And if you ever think you have it bad, just save your old budgets and checkbooks…I guarantee you in 5 years you will laugh realizing just how cheap you had it.


Friday, September 23, 2011

The (Grand)parent Trap

It's my Friday - what I consider a "free" day to talk about whatever I want. So I want to talk about those lovely, crazy, annoying, loving people - the Relatives, and more specifically, the Grandparents.

Now, let's get one thing straight. I appreciate all of my kids' grandparents - my children are very lucky in that they have two grandmas that love them a LOT.  They seek out time to spend with my kids and they do lots of fun things with them that, frankly, neither I nor Steve would do - two case in point: Adventureland and the Clay County Fair.  Uh-uh, no way, NOT a chance am I taking my kids to either place at this stage in the game.  The kids LOVE, LOVE, LOVE their grandmas - so much so that within the first 30 minutes of B's return from his last trip to Grandma's house, he called ME Grandma seven, 7! times.  So, working on the basis premise that Grandparents are a good, positive thing for my kids, I have some issues...

 Grandparents are NOT "partners in parenting."  There is no sitting down and discussing discipline, behavioral expectations and nutrition and agreeing that "This is our game plan." I guess I should qualify that: there is the sitting down and discussing - with them- the parenting plan.  What is seriously lacking is follow through - our rules go in ear and out the other when it comes to Grandmas.  Best case scenario this is mildly irritating. Worst case scenario this is entirely disrespectful of us as parents.  Unfortunately, Grandparents don't see it this way, and, from my perspective, the transgressions are becoming so serious that, as a parent, I feel like I have to intervene.

I have three examples which immediately spring to mind.  Both Grandmas have been advised that B spends too much time on the computer, that when he does he gets peevish and rude, and that his computer time should be limited; he does not go onto FaceBook or any site not pre-approved by us.  One weekend with G'ma, and I am receiving invitations to Zoo World, Aquarium, and a series of FaceBook generated games...from G'ma. (I don't think so!); Incident Number Two: we try pretty hard to keep the kids' candy and sugar intake under control. Once, at Gma's, I bought one of those 'movie theater' size boxes of Runts candies for B as a reward for something I don't recall.  This was an early morning purchase, and of, course, B wanted the candy immediately.  I, of course, refused, and told him he needed to eat breakfast and then I would give him some. I left the room for a few minutes and when I returned, G'ma had poured the entire box of Runts into a cereal bowl and given it to B! What the...what??! Finally, and most recently, Incident Number Three: my kids are not allowed to drink soda very often. When they do, it is almost always caffeine-free.  Last overnight trip to Gma's, B advised that he was up all night watching movies - literally, ALL NIGHT. He said he went to bed at 6:00 A.M.  Why? Because G'ma gave them caffeine.  LOTS of it - as much as they wanted, whenever they wanted.  H confirmed the truth of these statements.

I understand that Grandmas are supposed to spoil their grandkids, but c'mon - seriously?! Steve and I don't always agree on every parenting issue, but we agree on this: Grandmas are on probation.  They will have supervised visitation with the children, only - no contact without a parent present.  Am I wrong here?! I'd like to hear some other parents' perspectives, as well as some Grandmas'  Have a great weekend everyone!!


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Christmas Wish

Yesterday I posted on my Facebook page that I had already figured out what I wanted for Christmas and it was completely selfish. Now, I didn’t post exactly what it was, so the feedback and comments I received were crazy!

So what is it? What do I want so bad that I actually posted it in September? And is it truly selfish (as most Moms are thinking –HA!)? And, most importantly, how do I have time to think about Christmas presents in September? Well, keep reading (hopefully I am building a little suspense!!)

The thought actually started after lunch on Tuesday with a great friend. She was talking about how she was purchasing Christmas gifts for her kids, 1 gift each month until Christmas so she was not overwhelmed in December and she could get that last minute “I want that” gift without any issues. Genius, I thought! (And truth be told, she is a genius!).

So I started thinking about what to get everyone for Christmas…and then I realized what my husband always complains about – I couldn’t think of anything for me (just me!). I could come up with ideas for A & B, my hubby, even my parents, but nothing just for me. Everything I thought of had something to do with the kids (going to a nice hotel over Christmas break), the house (new bedroom carpeting or living room furniture), or basic necessities (saving for a new air conditioner).

I wish I could say it was something profound (like world peace) or a basic need (like having my family be happy and healthy), but this is just pure selfish. Yes, for the 1st time since my girls were born I am not being practical or thoughtful – just plain selfish!

Drum roll please…..

I want a day with my best friend. Just us – no hubbies, no kids, no text messages or calls asking “where are this kid’s boots or this stuffed animal.” Just a day filled with indulgence – manicures, pedicures, massages, shopping (and not at Children’s Place!) and some adult beverages.

Now while this may seem pretty reasonable – planning is difficult given our schedules, our kids’ schedules, distance and possibly budget (we would need to find a place with all day happy hour!). Plus, it is not easy to just take a day. Laundry piles up, errands get doubled up and there is the inevitable “Well, you spent the day with your BFF, so I should get to go XXXXX (insert event here)” from the hubby.

So now you know. Nothing too wild and crazy (although I did like this watch at Joseph’s Jewelers too!). Now – what do you want that is completely selfish? Go on – admit it!

Jean Anne

P.S. If we could make this a day for the Fab Four – even better!!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


So, here it is, after 7 p.m. and I'm just now sitting down to write this. This day...this week - have kicked my butt.  As anyone who knows me can tell you, I'm a "fixater" - I get something in my head and I fixate on it until I have driven myself and all those around me completely insane.  Well, this week I have been fixated on the same thing that has held my attention for a while - a B felony criminal matter marching its way toward Jury Trial.  The last two days I have spent in depositions for this case - the five days prior to that were spend freaking out about the depositions.  I have been overly focused to the point of lack of sleep, anxiety and absent-mindedness which is not, in general, a smooth way to run a law practice.

I get so completely worried and concerned about doing everything perfectly, and, when faced with a situation I have never faced before, work myself into such a state of concern - trying to plan for every possible situation, projecting my feelings of inadequacy on those around me, afraid to look or seem like I don't know what I'm doing, that I screech to a halt.  Immobilized and unable to do anything but contemplate the worst case scenario.  I have experienced this cycle of anxiety/stress to crash about four times since this B felony case came into my life.  It is testing every bit of confidence I have in myself and my ability to effectively practice law. 

This level of anxiety and stress, in me, always culminates in a huge crash - once the event that I have obsessed and fretted about fr so long and so thoroughly is over, my body physically shuts down.  I get extremely fatigued- kind of like when all the adrenalin leaves you after a run - you just fall, and it takes a little while to get back up again.  I wish that I did not have to deal with this anxiety issue, and, the good news is that it doesn't happen very often.  The better news is that I have always completed the task I was in such fear or completing and haven't had a single ethics complaint or malpractice suit!  The best news is that, in most cases, once I have met the dreaded challenge and survived, it is much, much easier and less stressful the next time.

Some days I still wonder what the heck I'm doing here - I hate confrontation (I used to get sick to my stomach just to raise my hand and ask a question in law school), I have an almost pathological need to be liked and I am easily over-shadowed by those "loud" ones.  Definitely not your stereotypical TV lawyer.  My law practice has stretched me, pushed and challenged me to do things that I would never have thought I could do. But I am a much stronger, braver and confident (most of the time) person for it!


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tuesday: The New Friday

One of my biggest frustrations as a working parent is kid activities.  Kid activities are disproportionately scheduled during weekday working hours.  Few classes are offered in evenings, and those that are usually begin right at 5.  For someone like me, there is no possible way I can get my kids to a ballet class or hockey lesson by 5 pm.  To be anywhere by 5 I'd have to leave work at 3:30.  That simply is not happening.  So every season, I'm challenged with finding and scheduling all lessons/sports/classes for Saturdays, or my kids miss out. 

I hate the idea of my kids having to miss out on something they'd really like to do because I work. I'm all for setting boundaries and having a child choose one or two activities to pursue, but in many cases, the scheduling of classes makes it so my child can't even try something he or she is interested in.  Ever.  If my kid never gets to try a sport or musical instrument or whatever, how is he going to know if he likes it, let alone commit to it?  I at least want to give my kids a chance to try whatever it is they think they are interested in.  But lately, my efforts have been coming up short. 

This fall, KJ wanted to do soccer and hockey.  Two sports, sounds totally do-able.  Except, Saturday hockey is at the exact same time as Saturday soccer.  We could change hockey rinks, but I had found a program at a new rink that introduced sticks and pucks (you know, the reason kids like hockey) much sooner than the other rink we had been using.   I didn't really want to change out of that program to accommodate soccer.  Plus, we had done park district soccer in the spring and it was mostly a melee of kids running after a ball.  Not a lot of focus on skills or the actual game.  So, I set out to find a different, more time-friendly soccer program.  And I did.  I found a private program that offered (what sounded like) a solid program for pre-k on Friday mornings.  I already had most Fridays off, and I had already signed Sweet Pea up for dance on Fridays.   Perfect. 

Except, it's not perfect.  Because everything I signed my kids up for on Fridays was cancelled for low enrollment.  Apparently, the local pre-school program runs Monday, Wednesday, Friday.  Therefore, there aren't a lot of kids around on those days and the Friday programs get cancelled.  Both the private soccer club and the park district dance programs left messages at our house, offering to enroll my kids in their Tuesday (at 10 am or 1:45 pm) classes instead.  Thanks.  

There's no way I can be out of the office on Tuesdays.  While I think it is now pretty acceptable to be out of the office on Fridays (or even Mondays), clients generally expect to be able to find you at any given time on a Tuesday.  And now it's too late to change hockey rinks or find another dance class for Sweet Pea.  Most classes have already started, and if they haven't, aren't offered at a time we can make anyway. 

I'm frustrated at how unfriendly the world of kid activities is to working parents.  I work so that we can afford things like dance lessons and soccer practice.  But my kids can't go to dance lessons or soccer practice because they aren't offered at a time that accounts for two working parents.  What a ridiculous situation.  There's an entire market of parents with disposable income looking for programs for their kids that start at 6:30 pm.  Why in the world hasn't anyone capitalized on it? 


Monday, September 19, 2011


Yesterday was my birthday. The big 3-3.

I had a great birthday. My parents came up the day before and took me to my favorite restaurant for lunch. At 33, when you are always used to paying for everything, you forget how nice it is when someone else picks up the check! My actual birthday started with a morning sernade of Happy Birthday from my husband and children, followed by my favorite beignets for breakfast. My kids then “treated” me to an afternoon movie (even the refreshment stand clerk laughed when my daughter said “I’ll pay Mom, but can I borrow your [debit] card???!"). I had a low-key dinner with my family followed by cupcakes made by my favorite little chefs. It was truly an amazing day.

Throughout the day, my kids couldn’t wait to tell everyone that it was my birthday. And of course since they are kids and therefore proud to say how old they are, they felt the need to broadcast to the world my age. But, as my luck would have it, they kept telling people I was 43. No matter how many times I corrected them, 43 it was.

After our birthday cupcakes, my daughter and I started to look through old pictures. Of course, as is her norm, she immediately asked to see pictures of my "Ball" (i.e. my wedding).  One by one she laughed at how young her cousin looked, how handsome Daddy was....

Then we came across this picture….a picture of me getting ready.

J is fascinated by this picture…it’s her favorite picture of me. I’m sure it has to do with the fact I’m delicately putting on a lot of makeup (which of course Miss Diva highly approves of and which she doesn't get to see too often in my crazy Mommy morning rush). This time J was extra excited to see her favorite picture. She turned, put her arm around me, and in a consoling tone said…. “See Mom…here you don’t look 43!”.

Gee…thanks J. Yes, dear I've taken enough logic classes to turn that sentence around and get that you are saying that now I I look 43. Happy Birthday to me! 

My first instinct was to plead my case. Well of course I don't look 43 in that picture! I had no mortgage, few responsibilities, full nights of sleep, no kids to "share" my debit card, no cares in the world. I was simply living in the present, basking in the glow of knowing I was about to marry my soulmate. Yep, I was in my 20's so my thoughts didn't go past the reception at that point.

Now? Well I'm sure I do look 43 with all the weight I carry on my shoulders. Now I constantly have to think ahead, whether its insuring my life or just worrying about what to cook this week. In addition to myself, I am responsible for their future. I juggle more now than that 27 year old in that picture ever could have imagined. So, yes if it wasn't for expensive Aveda moisturizers or the "anti-aging" foundation I broke down and switched to this past year, I'd probably look 63 considering all I carry on my plate!

But alas, I didn't defend myself to my 5 year old. I just rolled my eyes playfully at her and chuckled. Alright, she's right...I don't look much like the 20 something Mandi in J's favorite picture.  But for me, that isn’t a bad thing. The truth is I love my 30’s and embrace each passing year. The Mandi in J's picture may have been getting herself together for her big day, but in many ways she wasn't even close to feeling as "put together" as I do today. At 33, I’m finally starting to hit my stride. I’m setting aside insecurities, finally becoming comfortable in my skin, truly loving my life.

About 10 years ago I heard a sermon in church. I was in my early-mid 20's and going through what I hope will be the darkest time in my life. I had no clue where my life was leading, no path was laid before me. That day a guest pastor gave the sermon. This sermon has touched my life in such a way that not only did I buy an audio tape version from the church, I have the video. During one part of what will forever be my favorite sermon, the pastor looked out at the young crowd:

“…and if you are under 30, just shut up, raise your hand, and others will help you…you honestly have no clue. I know you think you do...but you don't. YOU HAVE NO CLUE.”

Of course laughter soon followed out of the congregation. But as I sit here entering my mid 30’s I wish I could find that pastor and tell him how dead on he was. I look back on my 20-something self and just laugh…that girl in J's favorite picture may have thought she knew it all, but she had no clue.

So even though I must admit it’s a little off-putting to have your 3 and 5 year old telling everyone in  Lion King 3D "Hey my Mom is 43 today!!" I guess it's okay. I’d rather be 33 with a little age on my face, than 23 and no clue who I was or where I was going. Now at 33, one small town Iowa boy and three beautiful children later, I have found the true serenity that comes when you finally find happiness.

So welcome 33…[yes Quad Cities, even though you may have heard otherwise its actually 33, not 43]…let’s have a great year.


Friday, September 16, 2011

The Soccer/Dance Mom

As a working Mom I encounter lots of challenges from both my work life and my home life. One of the most enjoyable of these challenges for me is dealing with my kids activities.

If you are a working Mom you certainly have experienced that the people who set up classes, sports, and activities do not gear these toward working Moms. I’ll never forget the first time I opened up a book from our local Y to find only about 3 Saturday or evening classes compared to the hundreds of weekday activities. And if they do schedule an evening class, the class tends to be set either right at 5:00, making it nearly impossible to beat traffic to get there after a work day, or 7:00 at night when the last thing a toddler wants to do is sit and listen. And if you do manage to find a class at a time that works for you, you have to sign up so early otherwise it is full in a blink of an eye.

Until this year, I have only had to balance the activities of one child, J. When J was three, she got really excited about different activities and before I knew it we were doing ice skating, gymnastics, cheerleading, dance, and swimming all in one fall. If I didn’t work, I might have been able to spread these classes out to make them more manageable, but with my schedule my kids are limited to taking classes in the evenings and on weekends. But this schedule was simply not working with our busy life, so I sat down J and limited her to 2 classes per session. Ever since then, our life has been more manageable.

J's main and favorite activity is dance. She loves dance class. J started dance when she was 2 years old and so for the past 3 years we spend one evening a week twirling at the dance studio. Classes started at ½ hour, moved to 45 minutes, an hour, and now our sessions are 1 ½ hours every Tuesday night. Last year, this would have been absolutely no problem, but now we have school. So Tuesday nights I rush home from work, eat whatever I threw in the crock pot that morning, get to the dance studio at 6:45 and entertain the boys for 1 ½ hours while trying to watch J execute her “first position” or a new jazz turn. Then we rush home, take a quick shower, snack, and try to get to bed before 9:00. Tuesday nights certainly go by in a whirlwind.

Even though the schedule is crazy, I must admit I love being a Dance Mom. No, I’m not a crazy dance mom like you may have seen on one of my new favorite shows, Dance Moms, but yes I'm a proud dance Mom. I love watching J get excited every time she learns a new move, or the look in her eyes when she is on stage. I’m the kind of Dance Mom that watches closely in the window, smiles and “air claps” when she does something great and of course snaps a picture or two. This year is J’s last year of non-competitive dancing. After this, we move into the world of competitive dancing, which I can only imagine will be an adventure.

But now, my world has changed in that there is a new participant in the world of activities…my son H. H has a November birthday and so we have had to wait a long time for him to hit the age where he can start sports. Of course my sports-loving husband, who was thrown for a loop when his first child was the girliest of girly girls and refused to play sports has been waiting for H to start a sport. So now that he is 3 this summer we have started soccer and I have joined the world of the Soccer Mom.

H is a shy little guy, and so when we started soccer, I was sure that he would hide behind me and not participate. Boy was I wrong. H LOVES soccer and is really good at it. From the moment we hit the field, its “Bye Mommy” and off he goes scoring goals and running all around.

I knew I would love to watch H play sports as I grew up watching my two brothers play every sport under the sun. But I had absolutely no idea how much fun it would be to watch my son play. Unlike my Dance Mom persona who is calm collected and “air claps”, my Soccer Mom persona is the complete opposite. I stand on the sidelines yelling “GO H!!” and jump out of my chair with every goal. I’m having a blast watching my little guy join the world of sports.

However, a part of me knows as I watch H run the field, that life is about to get much more difficult now that he is up and running (literally) on activities. Now in addition to managing the schedule of Diva J, I have to manage sports loving H. And then I keep staring at L tottering around the sidelines and I realize in a few years I’ll have three kids with who knows how many activities. My schedule now is nothing compared to what I'll have in just three short years!

So my plan is to just enjoy my time as a Dance Mom, Soccer Mom, and whatever else Mom I become. The schedules will all work themselves out, and if they don’t…I’ll just trade in our mini-van for an RV and live on the road!!


Thursday, September 15, 2011

What Not to Wear?

Ok – I know that we have touched on this before, but I am again stuck on what to wear (or maybe what not to wear?). As most of you know, I work in the corporate office setting (think Office Space cube world) and would have no idea what to wear to court. My attire is dictated by a company-wide dress code (no flip flops, no torn denim, no vulgar sayings on shirts) aka business casual. But what does business casual actually mean?

At first glance, it means you can easily rule out wearing suits to work (with the exception of important meetings, clients, auditors, or interviews!). Thank goodness, because I haven’t worn truly worn a suit since I graduated from law school. (This, of course, means I need to give these suits away to the Career Closet at the Young Women’s Resource Center…but I hate to part with my fabulous gray Victoria’s Secret suit with the great pencil skirt…and it would match my new shoes…but I digress). And yes, it means no jeans (unless it is a special day/charity drive). So now that I have defined the ends of the spectrum, this leaves a large area for error.

What about khakis? Or black dress pants? Should I pair the khakis with the button down dress shirt? And what shoes? Are those dressy sandals really that dressy? Can I get away with a skirt and no pantyhose?

As a working mom, I also have additional issues of can you really notice this stain or do I need to change my shirt before I go to work (if I catch it)? Will I be able to wear these heels on the soccer field? Will I be the only mom at dance practice in work clothes (this is a yes and I really missed the Package at this!)? Will I be changing in the van before I head to a PTA meeting?

I do realize I am lucky in the fact that I work with 2 men who could really care less what I wear to work (no chance of them noticing my new cute flats or kitten heels!). But I still want to look stylish and professional.

So thoughts? And how do you look cute at work without looking like you are headed out on a hot date, especially with skinny jeans and cute heels?

Have a GREAT day!

Jean Anne

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ode to Fall

I'm so excited about Fall finally getting here. I hate, hate, hate the heat, so any reprieve from the summer is appreciated, but only in the Fall is it the real deal.  I know it is officially Fall by two things: the end of "Cheap-Pop Summer" pricing at QT and Kum and Go, and the appearance of "APPY TAPPLES" at the grocery store! Yesterday, it was officially FALL!
I love weather that lets me wear sweatshirts but still wear shorts; makes me wear a jacket, but still lets me play outside with the kids without freezing; and especially do most of the summer activities I love without sweating! I also love Fall because Halloween is the best holiday in the WORLD. Kids in costumes begging for candy while adults try to scare the bejeezus out of them...genius!
Finally, I love the fall because in my house it is the season for birthdays. B's birthday is the day before Halloween; H's the day after. (which may have something to do with my love for the holiday)  They are exactly two years and two days apart.  Up to this point, I have been very lucky - getting away with having one giant Birthday/Halloween party for the kids.  I LOVE throwing Halloween parties! The decorations, the fun, creative foods, the games...there is nothing I don't love about it. The more witches, superheros, cowboys and monsters running around the house the better in my book. Up to last year, as the kids transitioned from "family and family friends only" parties to "family, family friends and school friend" parties, the event got bigger and bigger - to the point that there were so many birthday presents (thanks, in most part, to my family) that it took almost an hour to open them all! So last year we decided to skip the presents and just have the party. It worked for the most part, but the families still went overboard.
This year, I am sad to say, the children have rebelled against my one-big-halloween-birthday-party Party and have demanded their own separate parties.  B opting for Phineas and Ferb; H choosing a Butterfly theme.  I'm okay with the separate parties - I can do that, and, honestly, a traditional cake and ice cream party is a heck of a lot easier than the Halloween shindigs we've thrown in the past. 5 guests, cake, ice cream, pizza - done.  But I'm sad about loosing Halloween as my special holiday - as OUR special holiday.  I plan for this party all year - finding fun food recipes, ideas for decorations, etc.  So I am ready - with nowhere to go! Maybe I'll just throw a Halloween party, too! -have B's on Friday, Halloween party on Sunday,  move H's party to the following weekend.... hmmm....that deserves some thought.  Now, just have to schedule in the Brandt's Race, Fall Festival at the Orchard, Pumpkin picking... I wish Fall had a few more months in it!! Happy Fall, everyone! and wish me luck.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011


My kids have been talking about things they want for Christmas lately.  It's true that I like to start my Christmas shopping early, but September is a little early even for me (although I do have a few gifts already purchased even as I write this).  It started because KJ started hockey lessons again this week.  And all these weeks later, he still wants a stick. 

KJ has always wanted a hockey stick.  The boy loves equipment.  The more equipment, the more he likes a sport.  Hockey was perfect for that.  Pounds and pounds of equipment, for all parts of one's body.  But he's never had a stick.  Learn-to-skate doesn't incorporate sticks until the kids have the basics down, and I just generally didn't think it was a good idea to give a three-year-old a three foot stick.  So we told KJ he couldn't have a stick until he learned to skate.  KJ did pass the first level of learn to skate this spring, so when he started lessons again this fall, the question inevitably came up:  "can I please may have a hockey stick?"  (I don't know why he always incorporates the "can" and "may" in questions but he does and it's cute).  I responded, "Maybe Santa will bring you a hockey stick." (because really, he needs more practice before incorporating a stick).  And the Santa door was opened. 

As it turns out, my kids have lots of ideas already of what they would like Santa to bring.  Sweet Pea wants "two babies" and "two pink ones."  (Which, I think, means two pink babies.)  KJ wants the aforementioned hockey stick, a police car and a Blackhawks jersey.  And then, KJ asked for something that took me by surprise:

"I want Santa Clause to bring [Sweet Pea] a Bears jersey and helmet and pants like mine."  KJ said. 

"Why do you want Santa to bring that to [Sweet Pea]?"  I asked him. 

"Because" KJ answered, "then [Sweet Pea] could be on my team."

As many of you know, KJ and Sweet Pea are eighteen months apart.  To the day.  It wasn't something we planned, it was just something we were blessed with.  But I've often wondered if my children would be disadvantaged being so close in age.  Whether they'd feel like they always had to compete with each other to get our attention, or to feel special.  Especially now, when they are older.  The developmental differences between a weeks-old baby and an eighteen month old baby are significant.  The developmental differences between a 4 year old and a 2 and a half year old are much less.  They like the same toys, the same stories and just generally the same things.  I worry that they feel like they are always competing with one another for the same things, including our attention. 

But KJ's comment made me see that I was looking at their closeness in age all wrong.  My kids don't see themselves as competing with one another, they see themselves as teammates.  And they act like teammates.  Just last week KJ helped Sweet Pea climb all those bouncy things at a birthday party and saved her a seat - with cake - at the lunch table.  When he was scared at hockey, he came off the ice crying, saying that he wished Sweet Pea was there.  And Sweet Pea helps KJ.  When he fell last week and hit his head, she brought him his bunny and laid with her head on the rocking chair, rubbed his back and asked him again and again if he was okay.  Sure, my kids fight from time to time.  But their actions demonstrate that they already know - at the ages of 2 and 4 - that when they need someone to help them, or comfort them when they are down or face a fear, they have someone they can rely on: each other. 

I'm so proud of my kids, for so many reasons.  But especially for how they treat one another.  I hope that this Christmas Santa brings me a Bears helmet and jersey and pants, just like KJ's.  Because I definitely want to be on their team.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Peanut Gallery

Last Monday, I told you about my monster 8 week trial. I wrote that blog two days before the case was set to mediate. It did not settle.

So, alas, I am embarking on what seems to be an impossible task for me, trying to get myself and my family ready for the horrible fall that awaits us.
Of course, after my announcement that the case did not settle to my family and friends, I have been met with a ton of comments from everyone…my “peanut gallery” if you will. Everyone seems to be weighing in on my recent news.  

However, I am finding that in addition to the allergy I have to actual peanuts, I am apparently allergic to peanut galleries as well, because all the chatter has driven me crazy. I thought talking about this trial with people would help me cope…well….nope.
Oh the peanut gallery. Now don’t get me wrong, some people have been amazing throughout this process, and I am certainly not intending to be ungrateful for the countless people who have listened to me complain about my work life lately. But still, I’m finding through this process that silence is golden.

The worst member of the Peanut Gallery is the lawyer himself/herself. When I tell a lawyer about the fall that lies ahead of me I am usually met with: “Oh, I have to do that all the time…(usually followed by a story or two of some great trial)”, “You’re a litigator, so this happens” or “Yeah, that stinks, but you’re used to it right?”  What I’m dying to say to these people when they say this to me (and in all honesty have actually said to a few) is…this may happen to YOU, this may be something YOU deal with as a litigator, but it doesn’t happen to ME.
See, it’s no surprise to you if you are a follower of my blog that I’m not a typical litigator. I love litigating, don’t get me wrong. My favorite place to be in my career is in front a jury…but my love for litigating doesn’t hold a candle to the love for my kids. I see myself first as Mom, and then as a litigator. So this means, that an 8 week out-of-town trial might be old hat for some litigators, but not me. I’m the litigator that’s out the door by 4:30 most days, the litigator who never misses a school event or time with her kids. I’m a Mom first, then attorney.  

In fact, contrary to what some members of the gallery may believe, I’ve never had to do what I am about to do before. Sure I’ve had out of town trials, but anything that lasts more than 1 night, I bring my kids with me. They have been to the smallest counties in Iowa, sitting with their Dad or my Mom waiting for me to finish up a deposition or try a case. In fact, when I say “trial” they say “What hotel are we staying at? Does it have a pool?”.
But, times have changed. J is in school. If this was last year, I would without hesitation move my kids with me for 8 weeks and find a way to hire child care out there. But alas I’m without that option.

What’s that saying… “There are a thousand ways to skin a cat” or something like that?? Well, there are a thousand ways to be a litigator, and so I wish our profession could see that just because you are a litigator does not mean litigating 2 month long trials away from home is something you are used to or want to do.
Then there are the “Why don’t you…” members of the gallery, the problem solvers of the group. “Why don’t you just commute each day to the trial?”, “Why don’t you just settle the case?” “Why don’t you just send another attorney to cover?”. These people come from the right place…but still I wish they could see it is simply not that easy. Although I would love to commute to this trial everyday, it simply isn’t possible. I live 2 ½ hours from the courthouse. The trial will most likely start promptly at 8:00 a.m. A trial is not like a deposition, there is no leeway for being late. Not only do you have to be there on time, you have to be there early to get things set up. And then you have to factor in possible construction, traffic jams, accidents. It’s just not possible. Sending someone else to do my duty also won’t work. I’ve lived and breathed this case for 2 years. Having someone come in at the 11th hour simply would not work in a case of this magnitude. And settle the case? Well, I tried so hard at mediation I was barging into rooms with counsel trying to get it done. I’m apparently forefronting a new attitude in attorneys: “professionally desperate”.

Finally there are the “look on the bright side” members of the crowd; the ones trying to get me to find some sort of silver lining to this. “Think of the experience of it all Mandi….”; “You’ll finally get some alone time…”; “You can come home on the weekends”, etc. Well, although I wish I could see the glass as half-full in this situation, not only is it half-empty…its bone dry. This experience is not one I want at the expense of family time. I have never missed anything for my kids. Now with this trial I will miss out on fall field trips, bedtime lullabyes, dance classes, parent teacher conferences, Halloween parties, and the hardest to bear, Halloween itself. Alone time? Well, I’ve never been away from my kids for more than a night in their lives. I don’t like alone time. In fact, I always laugh how when Todd and I do get a way for the night, I look forward to actually being able to sleep in only to find myself wide awake at 6:00 a.m. anxious and excited to go back and get them. And yes, it is true I will be able to come home throughout the trial, but this just means I’ll have to endure 20 goodbye crying sessions instead of 1. A couple days with my kids is not enough for me, especially when I think about what chores will lie ahead of me after a week of leaving my kids with my husband!!

I’m finding through this experience, that the best thing I can do is to silence the peanut gallery, no matter how well intentioned they may be. The truth is, I’m the only one that is going to go through this. I’m the one that has to find a way. I know I’ll do it, I’ll come out of this, I’ll survive, and before too long this will be a distant memory. So peanut gallery…I think I’m “nutty” enough for all of us, so thank you so much, but I’ll take it here….


Friday, September 9, 2011

It's My (Pity) Party

I can't remember if this is my Friday to blog or not, and it is so late at night that I can't really call or text anyone to ask, so I'm just going to write it.  My apologies to the other JD Moms if I've just hijacked the blog for the day: I promise to trade one of my days for this one.  Because I just have to let out some steam. 

It's 10:48 p.m. on Thursday night and I am still sitting at my desk.  I haven't been home.  I haven't seen my kids.  I haven't even left my office - including to use the bathroom - since I grabbed a salad at lunch time (which, by the way, I ate at my desk).  All of these things would be okay if I had a big trial or mediation coming up.  Or if I had an important brief due.  Or even if I had screwed around all day and now had to put in my eight hours at night.  But none of that happened.  I started out today with a court appearance on my schedule and needing to finish a pre-trial brief for a matter that starts on Monday.  No big deal.  I was in good shape. 

Until 3:45 when a partner stopped by my office and dropped off a stack of UCC liens and litigation that needed to be reviewed for his closing on Monday.  If you haven't done due diligence before you  haven't lived.  My job was to review all of the litigation the company is engaged in  (thankfully, someone else did the UCC liens) and summarize it - what's happened, what's going to happen, where it is now - and estimate the exposure so that the buyer or lender knows what it's getting into before it closes.  It's an important job, but very time intensive, and time was not on my side. 

I was an hour-and-a-half away from being gone for the weekend, and I got a much-longer-than-an-hour-and-a-half project dumped on me.  Not to mention, I still had to finish my brief and get ready to prep my client for a Monday deposition for which I received notice today (how does that even happen, by the way?).  And I hadn't planned to be in on Friday.  How was I going to do it all? 

Of course, I stayed late.  That's what I needed to do, so that's what I did.  But staying late didn't get me anywhere.  A mediation was going on in my office and around 9:17 it settled.  The partner handling the mediation popped by my office and asked me to draft up a "quick" settlement agreement for the parties to sign before they left for the night.  Riiigghhttt.  Because I was sitting here at 9:15 p.m. waiting for someone to stop by with a project.  There were two other partners roaming around the office talking strategy.  He could have asked either of them to pull it together.  But he didn't.  He asked me.  The person tethered to her computer and sweating out every minute.  Also, the only woman. 

To make matters worse, I figured out that my due diligence project will require me to come in tomorrow.  I have to physically pull some files from the courthouse and review them.  And no one can do it for me.  Not because it is hard or takes any special knowledge, but because the partner who dumped the project on me is taking the day off.  Because his day off is more important than mine. 

I won't lie - this situation makes me angry.  Not just because it means I'll have to break promises to my kids (again) or because we'll miss mom-tot hockey.  Not even because I bargained for this day off and should be able to take it.  I'm mad because the only reason this fire drill project even exists is because some partner was too lazy to do his due diligence more than two days before his closing.  Because he had no problem leaving me in the lurch to try to find a babysitter at 11 pm, and if I left him in that same lurch I'd be fired.  But no one is going to say anything to him. 

Life isn't fair, that's true.  And sometimes, we have to do things we don't want to do.  But I'm tired of feeling like no matter how hard I work it will never be enough.  I'm tired of letting down my kids.  I'm really just tired of all of it. 


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Great Debate

               Reading Mandi’s recent blog about preparing her entire life and family for a 2 month trial has got me started thinking… About how lucky I am in my own situation. I can almost be assured that I will be home every night around 5:30p.m.  I have the luxury of declining meetings that start after 5 and the only real work-related night obligation I have occurs once a month on the same day.  There are hardly ever any “Oh my God, what am I going to do?!” moments, which is good, ‘cause I don’t handle that kind of stress well. 
                It also makes it very easy to plan family things at night. But I will be honest, when I'm done with work I just want to be home. So when my children decided they did not want to take piano lessons any more, we cancelled the lessons. I was disappointed because B was pretty good, but if they were not interested in practicing, I figure what was the point?  I got through life without knowing how to play the piano; so can they.  The same is true with soccer this fall. H had such a terrible experience last spring that I’m about ready to boycott soccer altogether.  At B’s age, the teams travel and have games on every Saturday.  We do most of our fun outdoor activities in the fall, and the kids always grouse about having to go to practice anyway…       Neither of them is involved in any other extra-curricular sport right now.  When they are old enough, they can participate in sports offered through the school, and if either of them insists on playing Spring soccer, we will let them. Haley has said she wants to do dance but that is a major time and money investment, neither of which I am willing to make right now, based upon her reluctance to follow through with things.  
                I know that to some parents it may seem like we are encouraging quitting or depriving our kids of opportunities. I know lots of other parents have their kids enrolled in lots of things – dance, tumbling, soccer, T-ball…everything.  One friend of mine had all of her boys enrolled in organized sports – all of them - from the tender age of 4.  She has three boys and often they had overlapping or conflicting schedules.  They were running around from field to field almost every day.  B was only a baby, then, so I had no frame of reference at the time.  She explained to me that if the kids don't have that early exposure, they won't know what they like or what they are good at when they become older. I appreciate the philosophy: “The world is a competitive place: better get that used to it, early.”  I don’t entirely disagree with that philosophy, especially since some parents hold their children back a year so they are the biggest and oldest in their class when they grow up and play sports. (It’s true!)
                I just happen to think that less emphasis should be placed on being great at something, and more emphasis on doing what you enjoy.  Especially when it comes to sports, I think that childhood should be fun and if the kids are not 100% invested, their time is the best spent on other things.  The percentage of children who grow up to get sports scholarships is negligible, so realistically I don’t think we’re destroying any dreams. I also think, in fact I know, that my family’s “family time” is better when the kids are not super-extended.  We don’t function very happily in the car – “He’s touching me!” “She’s lying!” etc.,
                Supporting your children is important, and I go to every game and every practice I can when the kids are on teams. I enjoy it when they enjoy it.  I am not competitive by nature and neither are my children. So if they are not having fun doing organized activities, then our time is better spent having family fun doing something we all enjoy.  They have both decided to participate in Scouts; they are enrolled and I am the Treasurer of the Cub Scouts.  Now, they have an obligation to their groups. They will stay in Scouts, at least through the year, whether they decide they love it or not. Just like they had to stay in soccer last spring: participating in practices and games, even when their interest lagged. If they decide they don't want to do it again next year, it will be there choice. I will support them but I won't force them to continue it if they don’t like it.  Partly because I don't want to go back to the days of running around every night, but mostly because I think they should have the opportunity to explore and decide what they like on their own.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Big Wheel in the Big City

There are a lot of interesting-looking people in Chicago.  People with piercings everywhere you can imagine.  Hair every color of the rainbow.  And don't even get me started on the variety of clothing choices that litter the Loop each day.  But generally, no matter how one is dressed or what their hair looks like, the city is welcoming.  Everyone goes about their own business, without anyone approaching them or making comments on their appearances. 

Unless, apparently, you are carrying this:

 Last week, in my pencil skirt and three- inch heels, I carried a 16 inch, pink, purple and lime green big wheel across the Loop.  And everybody - EVERYBODY - had something to say about it.  From, " I see you drove into work today" to "At least you're prepared for another train delay," everyone had a comment about the big wheel.  It was especially popular at work, as partners would come into my office and stumble upon the trike.  It was a true test of each partner's wit as they came to face to face with the big wheel and were challenged to channel their thoughts from discovery deadlines to funny one-liners. 

But most surprising were the comments I received after I left my office and carted the big wheel across the Loop to the train station.  Honest to God, for most of my walk I walked directly next to a guy with hot pink spiked hair, wearing red pants so ripped I don't know how they stayed on him who was completely covered in blue body glitter.  And yet, at least ten people came up to me to comment on the big wheel.  Yes, people.  I was the odd one. 

Of course this post begs the question of why there was a big wheel in my office.  The answer is simple: price.  Big wheels are expensive.  More expensive than you might imagine.  I'll give you a second to Google it.  Go ahead.  Google "original 16 inch big wheel".  With shipping, most big wheels are about $100.  $100 for a big wheel.  Insane. 

Back in 2008, when KJ got his big wheel, they were available new at Target for about $30.  And in my opinion, that's the perfect price for them.  KJ loves his big wheel, rides it every day, and refers to it as his motorcycle.  But a big wheel isn't a bike.  It's a bunch of plastic formed into a super cool toy.  It is not worth $100.  But Sweet Pea was in desperate need of a riding toy.  Despite how much she has grown, Sweet Pea still cannot reach the pedals of a ten-inch bike.  And she is too big for a traditional tricycle.  The big wheel is the perfect solution.  Except the aforementioned price.

So I went to Craig's List.  There are a number of big wheel knock-offs on Craig's List.  I don't care how any poster describes it, those tiny little Fisher Price toys are not big wheels.  Big wheels are trikes, with the big front wheels and adjustable seats.  Some even have hand brakes.  I wanted Sweet Pea to have that kind of a big wheel: something that she could use now, but that would also last for a while.  The 16 inch big wheel (same size as KJ's) seemed perfect. 

But apparently, 16 inch big wheels are few and far between.  I looked and I looked and I looked until I found one - in a south suburb super far from my house.  But luck was with me, and a colleague of mine (a single, 20-something male colleague, for the record), lived near said big wheel and agreed to pick it up for me and bring it to work.  And so, I came to have a big wheel in the big city. 

Bringing the big wheel home was entertaining.  Overall, people were friendly about it and it made for some good conversation.  (Ahem, except for that incident with Metra where I was kicked off for having a "bike" on the train).  As amused as most people where, I think most understood my predicament.  We parents would do anything for our kids.  And I had a little girl at home with her heart set on a pink and purple big wheel. 

Due to my Metra incident, it was late when I finally made it home with the big wheel.  But Sweet Pea's reaction made everything worthwhile.  She was so happy to get her own "motorcycle" and she was SO happy it was pink.  She rode that thing in the dark in front of our house until we made her go inside.  And she's ridden it every day since.  I made her just as happy with a $10 big wheel as I could have with the $100 one.  But if I had just bought the $100 big wheel, I would have missed out on a pretty great memory as a parent.  Enjoy your big wheel, Sweet Pea.  I'll cherish the memory of bringing it to you. 


Monday, September 5, 2011

My Labor filled Labor Day!

Happy Labor Day everyone! As much I would love to spend this blog discussing a fun family bbq or this beautiful “fall preview” weather, I only have one thing on my mind today. Yes, like most of you, I normally choose to spend my Labor day thinking about anything BUT labor, but alas work is at the forefront of my thoughts right now.

You may remember from my previous blogs that my work life has been taken over by a huge federal construction case. Although it started several months before I was even pregnant with L, I always think of him when I mention this case. I found out I was pregnant with him the morning before the site inspection, I sat in depositions for months pregnant, swollen, and upset that the 20 plus other attorneys involved in this case worked through lunch while I tried to munch quietly on a Nutri-grain bar to silence my “you’re starving your baby – guilt”. When I got into a heated cross examination, he would kick. Several of my co-counsel had a “How many times will Mandi leave the deposition to pee” count (yes with this subject matter even the attorneys need games to keep us awake). So, I have dubbed this case “L’s case” because everytime I look at L tottering around I am reminded just how long this case has been in my life.

L’s case is one of those “this will never be tried cases”. It’s massive, a dozen plus attorneys, to date over 600 exhibits, 100’s of depositions, 2 weeks of every month for the past year designated for depositions by the judge, legal expenses mounting every minute. It has its own home in my office, taking up a whole large filing cabinet and overflowing everywhere. It’s one of those cases that you think to yourself, there is no way this is going to be tried because people just won’t want to pay the money that goes with trying a case this large…

But the one thing L’s case has taught me is the law is anything but predictable.

Alas the case that “will never be tried” is being tried in just a little over a month. The trial was originally set for 4 weeks. The first time this trial was set (last year) my husband and I planned meticulously. Todd took his 2 week vacation during the scheduled trial to make life easier. We did everything we could to soften the blow of the upheaval of our life. We were ready. But then you know what happened right?? Yes, the case got continued. Todd and I were upset that we had planned our life around the case, and wasted vacation time. So, then came the trial date for October 2011. This time I said “Don’t’ worry about it” when Todd was scheduling his vacation… “There is no way its going to be tried, so we’re not going to do what we did last year”. So instead of planning, Todd took his vacation time this summer and we took a long overdue family getaway.

Yes, the lady of justice is laughing at me behind her blindfold now, because you guessed it…now the case is going to be tried. And we are flying by the seat of our pants on how we’re going to manage it.

And of course it got worse…A week ago we sat down with the judge and had a talk about the trial. The judge talked about the preparation to pull a jury away from their lives for 4 weeks. Suddenly the Plaintiff’s attorney interrupted: “Uhh, you’re honor, it may take 2 months to try this case”. [Cue the instant heart attack for me across the phone…2 months? 8 weeks?]

Now if this was in my local county, I wouldn’t be so nervous, but of course L’s case can’t be that easy. The case is set 2 ½ hours away from where I live. The Mom inside me wanted to speak up: “Excuse me your Honor, 8 weeks? I can’t be away from my kids for 8 weeks.” But of course the lawyer side of me sat in silence.

So now here I sit, with the very real prospect that in just about a month, I am going to have to try to find a way to try a 8 week trial 2 ½ hours away from my home. I have to find a way to prepare a multi-million dollar litigation, and still be Mommy.

After the settlement conference, during yet another deposition in the case, the attorneys sat around discussing the trial. Thankfully I was appearing at this deposition by phone, because my eyes were rolling nearly out of my eyes as the other attorneys laughed about living in a hotel for 2 months, eating nothing but pizza and fast food. It seemed their biggest concern was the mountain of work that would be waiting for them 2 months away from the office. Yes, in a room full of over a dozen attorneys I seemed to be the only one silently worried about being away from HOME, not the office.

My schedule isn’t like most people, I have to be home at night, because my husband works at night. And not just a regular night shift, a 6 pm to 6 am night shift. There is no way I can simply kiss my kids goodbye and live a hotel life for 8 weeks. I have trouble being away from them for 1 night, yet alone 8 weeks.

And of course this has to be happening during the fall, my favorite time of year. I can’t help but think of all the trips to the pumpkin patches, apple orchards, and other fall activities that may be missed.

Of course I am lucky in a lot of regards. I have a great support system. My Mom calmed my fears earlier this week with a “just name the days I have to take off work and I will” attitude. The insurance adjuster actually encouraged me to send an associate during some of the “off days” so as to save costs on the trial. But the problem is, how on earth do I decide what is an “off day” on a trial like this?

But there is one small beacon of hope in this mess of a tale. The case is going for a final mediation Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. Although most cases settle and so I should be excited about this mediation, I’m not. This case is a hard one to settle, and we aren’t even close. I have been crossing every body part I can and praying over and over for a settlement. And of course I have been working late into the night every night this weekend trying to be prepared and hoping for a miracle.

I know deep down, I’ll get through this even if the case doesn’t settle. I’ll make it work. As is most things in my life, the anticipation is always scarier than the actual reality. But still, the fear of the dramatic turns my life is going to take this fall has me completely on edge.

So here’s to hoping I can look back on this blog at the end of this week and laugh, knowing the case is settled, the bullet is dodged, and my fall will be completely normal. And here’s to hoping you are actually enjoying a “labor free” labor day!


Thursday, September 1, 2011

The School Lunch Showdown

We are in week 2 of kindergarten and I thought things were going pretty good. And, they were, until I learned that A & B weren’t really eating their lunch, or breakfast for that matter. It all started in a conversation like this:

Mommy: “So, how was breakfast this morning?”

A: “The fruit roll-up from my snack bag was great!”

B: “Yummy! I love fruit roll-ups!”

Mommy: “But what else did you have for breakfast?” knowing that she had paid for breakfast.

A & B: “Nothing.”

So, at that point, hubby got upset because they were wasting money and it all spiraled out of control. It got to the point of “well, then you won’t take lunch at all.” Yeah…like that’s going to work.

I fully admit my girls are EXTREMELY picky eaters (similar to me!). And one of the exciting items when we picked out school supplies were Hello Kitty and Ariel lunch bags (to match the backpacks!). So they really like to take lunch every day. And I can’t say that I blame them, as school lunch BBQ chicken or turkey and noodles would not be high on my list either. (And no, this is not going into a discussion on how healthy or unhealthy school lunches are...hello, I let the girls drink pop and eat Cheetos all the time!).

So, we have compromised and look at the school menu each day. Some days – the cool lunch bag; other days (mainly pizza and corn dogs) school lunch. Sadly, today I didn’t know the option and they were stuck with an egg sandwich on a bagel for breakfast (which wasn’t looking that great…)

On a nice note, I did get a call from school this morning saying that although they had charged A & B for the full lunch, the girls only had milk, so they would refund my money. And to be honest – at that point in the morning, I was more than happy to let them have the pudding out of their lunch bag for breakfast and pay the full amount for breakfast for just milk!

So what does everyone else do about the lunch dilemma? And please note, this is not a discussion about healthy lunches – I just want my kids to eat something.

Have a great day!

Jean Anne