Monday, October 31, 2011

The Pink Elephants in the Room

In my world it’s never a good day when I get called into trial, a deposition, a hearing, a meeting at 3:30 p.m. Every time I do I swear I can almost hear the loud ticking of the clock. Tick tock, tick tock. I fear the sound of clock striking 5:00 probably as much as Cinderella feared the midnight bell. No, I don’t change into a pumpkin at 5, but I do make a change…I transform back into Mommy.

And just like Cinderella, I have no control over what the clock will do.  Whether I'm knee deep in attorney world, come 5:00 p.m. the briefcase turns into a diaper bag. This is due to my husband’s work schedule. I’ve blogged about this before but about 3-4 days a week I am a tag team parent. My husband leaves for work at 5:00 p.m., so I have to be home to get the kids. We have no nanny, no back up babysitter, no safety net. Just us. So, regardless of what goes on in legal world, I can’t hide from the clock. This is the reason why, while most attorneys at my office are working after hours, I’m running out the door at 4:35 p.m. trying to make it across town to pick up my kids.

But alas, every now and then the attorney side of my life fights back...fights back HARD. I’m a litigator, and the law doesn’t take kindly to personal schedules. So, days happen where depositions go late, travel plans change, a meeting you thought would take 5 minutes takes 50. Last week was no such exception. At 3:30 p.m. while I worked on an appeal brief, my senior partner called. He needed me over at his trial to do the Jury Instruction conference. Now I love jury instructions probably more than any part of trial prep, but I know a jury instruction conference isn’t necessarily fast.

I grabbed my suitcoat and ran out the door, mindful of approaching my Cinderella hour. I called Todd and told him he better be ready to meet me at work with the kids because I might be cutting it close. I walked into the courtroom, outside appearing confident and ready to fight about proximate cause and verdict forms, but inside a nervous wreck with every TICK TOCK I was hearing in my brain. The conference went as expected, we made changes to the jury instructions and the judge encouraged me and opposing counsel to email each other over the evening and get a final draft. Great, a night of work and as my luck had it, Todd was working.

I got out of the courthouse at 5:05 p.m., past my Cinderella hour. I sped to my office, ran down the sidewalk to meet my husband and the kids. I tagged my husband and let him go to work. But instead of heading home to our typical night, I still had a lot of work to do. So, up we went to my office a large briefcase in one hand, L in the other, and J and H close by. 

The problem with working late at my office with the kids is that it always happens when I’m not prepared. It’s over dinner time, so the kids are hungry and generally worn out from a day of daycare and school. And of course, I never have snacks, drinks, or even sometimes a diaper!

The good thing for me is that my kids LOVE my office. For them it’s a playground of post it notes, paper clips, and their favorite the infamous PINCHER (stapler). Plus I store enough toys in my office to keep them entertained in situations like these.

I worked on the instructions. The kids overall did well, with only the occasional shh…or trip to the bathroom. I finished the draft and knew I had to walk it down to my senior partner. Okay, the kids were so busy with the fun around them, I could sneak out right? I mean hell, they hardly notice I’m there when I’m in there. “I’ll be right back J, watch your brother” and out I went, walking swiftly to grab the paper off the printer and take it over.

But apparently post it notes and paper clips only hold attention so long. I was in my partner’s office going over some instructions. We were both dressed in our suits from trial, both in a typical jury instruction discussion. Just two litigators in a typical trial discussion, right? Wrong. While I was listening to his comments and discussing our plan I couldn’t help but hear voices in the hallway “Mom, Mom WHERE ARE YOU?” “Mom, Mom?”. Yep, one thing about my kids is they may not care if you are in the room, but if you leave they certainly want to know if you are doing something more exciting.

“Just a second”. I said a bit embarrassed to my partner, and walked to the door. “I’m right here H, be right there”, I yelled. I went back to the discussion about the trial hoping my call to H would be enough for him to wait a couple of minutes. Yeah right, this is H. As I stood there trying to keep any last bit of professionalism in my voice I couldn't help but hear the sound of little feet sprinting down the hall. In ran H right into my partner's office. Yep, the pink elephant had entered the room.

I gave my tight lipped fake smile and shrugged my shoulders feeling like I was Cinderella standing in the shredded gown after her midnight bell. I walked H back to my office. Okay, a few more changes and I could leave. I felt like I had a ticking time bomb in my office for a couple of reasons: (1) Todd forgot to send a diaper change for L and (2) 3 hungry kids will only respond to “Shh…just one more second” so long. I sat at my computer typing a few more changes. L climbed up on my lap, J and L still decorating my cabinets with post its.

My senior partner came around the doorway on his way out… “I’m all ready with my closing, how are the jury instructions coming?” I picked up L and swayed him in a “please don’t scream your head off for 5 seconds” rhythm. “Here’s what I’m thinking on the jury instructions” I started to say…

And there I stood…talking trial strategy with three albeit small but very noticeable pink elephants in the room. I couldn’t have looked like more of a working Mom if I had it written on my forehead. There I was trying to sound intelligent while L pulled my hair, H and J ran around my office, and my office looked like the Crayola Beaches of Normandy.

My partner smiled and said “See you later guys” and left. He wasn’t phased by my pink elephants, hell they are such a fixture around my firm he probably expected them. It was one of the moments where I realized how truly lucky I am to work in a firm that supports my “pink elephants” and understands situations like these.

I never take for granted the job I have, especially since I’ve heard all the horror stories…from upstart associates who refuse to put pictures of their kids in their office so as to appear more focused on work, to thousands of woman trying to climb the corporate ladder only to be pulled down and Mommytracked. But not me. Not today. I was able to meld my world and my personal life without judgment. In a small way it was a victory for JD Moms.

And the icing on the cake? Not only did I manage to discuss trial strategy with three hungry toddlers in my office, but I got my draft of the jury instructions to opposing counsel (who was holed up in her office alone working on the case all evening) a couple hours before she submitted hers. I’ll take that victory.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Out of the Mouth of Babes

So lately, there has been some craziness going on in my life (more than normal) and I just don’t want to take a “deep dive” into it today. So instead, I am featuring funny quotes from my girls (yes, I keep a running tab). So hopefully, these put a smile on your face.

“I am really smart. I have a lot of stuff up here (pointing to her head).” – A

“I don’t know why he wants to be my boyfriend. I’m not nice to him.” – A

“I think Daddy would like a Scooby balloon for his birthday. Then, he can let me borrow it.” – B

“Mom (in that sing-song voice), I need to go to the bathroom before soccer, so I can run super fast.” – A

“I love you Daddy. Now can I have the Barbie Dreamhouse?” – B

“Mommy, you look like you need to go shopping. I think we should go on vacation on a plane so you can go shopping and I can go with you.” – A

“Does it count to trying something new if I try a French fry dipped in ice cream?” – B

“Mommy, you look like a princess (the first time I wore a fancier dress)” – B

In asking my 5 year olds for advice:
A: ”Mommy, you need something else besides that necklace and shirt.”
Me: “Is this better?” (after adding a jacket.)
A: “Nope, but you still need something.”
Me: “Does this shirt make me look fat?”
A: “No, but it makes you look funny.”
“I did not hmph.” – A
A: “Can we get that?” (regarding a toy in Target)
Me: “No, Mommy doesn’t have enough money.”
A: Where’s Grandpa? He has quarters.”

“Daddy will totally flip out when he sees this.” – B (referring to her new Scooby shirt)

These are just a few of the funny sayings I hear all the time. Now, if only I was able to capture them (and the facial expressions that accompany them) on camera.
Happy Thursday!

Jean Anne

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Reality Check

Yesterday at court I ran into a good friend of mine, M, from law school.  I hadn't seen him since right after graduation, so it was a real surprise. He was like a little brother to me, and when I saw him, the first thing I thought and said was "You're all grown up!" And he was.  In law school, because I waited 10 years to go back, I was a lot older than most of my class mates and friends.  At that time, though, the distinction didn't seem so great - we were all in the same boat: clueless & scared, I was married but so were some of the others, and there were no kids in the picture.  I could actually go out to Wellman's on a weeknight and not worry about getting up with the kids early in the morning!

Anyway, M just got married and recently returned from his honeymoon. He looks young, but matured, and fit. M was present at one of the baby showers held for B, who will be 9 in 4 days! Talk about a reality check.  I wasn't young in law school, I was young-ish - fit, energetic and fun - I think I fit in with my peers for the most part.  NOW a mere 8 years later, I am old-ish - the mother of two, NOT fit, not a lot of excess energy, with a bad hip. My kids still think I'm fun, but I have no real idea what "fun" is outside of board games, bike rides and Pixar movies.

When you are living your life - day by day making sure that everything that needs getting done gets done - the time passes so quickly you forget what life was like before, who you WERE before. It's a happy and sad feeling, all at once.  I love my kids and I love my life, I'm happy making lunches and applying band-aids - I would not trade that part for anything.  But I'm afraid that Steve and I got so caught up in being parents that we forgot how to be people - individuals.  When other people are talking about the sit-coms they watch, the movies they've seen, the trips they have taken or are going to take, I am thinking about the student council meeting that B missed today because we forgot, the number of times I have actually seen Tangled, whether I have enough snacks for H to take for birthday treat to school... On some level, I can't relate to other people. People that are not consumed by their children.

Before I had kids, I always wondered why people with kids talked about them all the time. They would seek out others with kids and then just trade stories like crazy - to me, it was a little boring. I couldn't relate.  Now, I know that it is because stories about kids and what they do is about the only thing that I, personally, can provide to a conversation of adults! I don't watch or play sports. I don't have access to the theater or live music or network TV (thanks to the Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon).  I hate politics... my topics of conversation are basically nil.  I do know about the law and about kids. Talking about the law with non-lawyers is boring for them, so that leaves kids.  If the conversation is not about what "Johnny said or did yesterday" I feel I have nothing to contribute.  So, when us one-dimensional parents find each other, we latch on for dear life - adult conversation on a subject we can speak knowledgeably about.  Bringing to mind one of my favorite lines from a movie ever "That's social....demented and sad, but social."

Yipes! this was not how I intended this entry to go...I have thoroughly depressed myself! Anyway, all of you non-parents out there...when you see me, take pity and ask me about my kids - they are my favorite (and apparently only) topic of conversation.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011


This weekend we are traveling to see my in-laws.  For over a month, the plan has been for my in-laws to come visit us, but they called this week and asked if we could come see them instead of them coming to us.  I pretty much expected this call as I know they hate driving "in the city" and it's a long drive for them.  This also isn't the first time they've called and either cancelled a trip or asked us to come their way instead of them coming ours.  In fact, that's exactly what happened last time.  So we weren't exactly unprepared when they called to make the request.  Husband and I had already discussed it, and agreed that we'd simply go down and see them.  And, now we are. 

Traveling to visit my in-laws means a hotel for us.  My in-laws recently moved in with my mother-in-law's father (Husband's grandfather) to help him out a bit.  As a result, the house is a bit crowded.  There are two households' worth of furniture squeezed into the house already.  Another four people with all the stuff two preschoolers "need" to make it through a weekend just aren't going to fit.  So, we get a hotel.  As I noted, plans with my in-laws are often fluid, so we are often making hotel reservations last minute.  And because I have bad luck, there is almost always some kind of giant event going on that makes getting a hotel room difficult or impossible.  And this time is no exception. 

As we were discussing the hotel difficulty to my in-laws, my father-in-law made us a tempting offer: he offered to keep the kids overnight at the house, so Husband and I could have a night to ourselves.  Husband and I haven't had many nights to ourselves.  The only time both of us have been away from the kids overnight was when Husband's grandmother passed away in 2010.  I've been away on business a few times by myself, and Husband has gone camping or out with the guys, but that pretty much sums up our nights out since 2007.  We don't even go out for dates.  About twice a year, my parents will watch the kids and we go out for dinner.  And once (that's right, one single time), we hired a babysitter to go see a play.  But that sums up all of our nights out.  No exaggeration. 

The idea of having my in-laws is a tempting one.  I would love to sleep one whole night through without having to get up to chase away monsters or console someone after a bad dream.  I'd love to sleep past 6:57.  It's not that I dislike these parts of motherhood.  It's just that the idea of having one day of a break sounds wonderful.  But Husband and I agree that we can't let them do it. 

There's no question my in-laws love my kids.  They'd never purposefully hurt them. But they aren't used to having kids around.  And they do things at their own pace.  I think I've written before about how they like to sleep in.  When we visited when the kids were babies, it was not uncommon for the baby to be up and back to sleep for a morning nap before my in-laws got up for the day.  And they leave their medicines around.  Once, when they were visiting our house, one of them left a collection of pills on the night stand table - perfect KJ height.  Thankfully, I caught KJ before he ate any of them.  And once, when KJ was a baby, we left him with my in-laws for dinner while we went out with Husband's brother and sister-in-law.  Honest to God, mother-in-law had a roast in the oven when we left.  At 2 am, KJ woke up screaming in hunger.  Turns out, mother-in-law never fed him the roast: she gave him green jello (and only green jello) for dinner instead. When I finally figured out he was screaming for hunger and asked what he ate, mother-in-law truly had no idea why jello for dinner was a bad idea. 

Of course, none of these things make my in-laws bad parents or bad grandparents.  They're just evidence that my in-laws are out of practice.  They aren't used to having little hands around, and they've earned the right to sleep in (although the dinner things I still can't explain).  But as a result, Husband and I just don't feel comfortable leaving the kids with them.  Truthfully, the kids would probably be a little scared.  Although they've been to the house before, the house they'd be staying at isn't the one they know and grandma and grandpa's.  And the house is in no shape for small kids.  Husband's grandma liked stuff, and the house is full of all kinds of hidden treasures.  And really, even grandma and grandpa are kind of strangers at this point.  It's been 6 months since we've seen them.  All things considered, it the risks don't outweigh the (very tempting) benefits. 

So now we're left with the problem of how to let them down gracefully.  We don't want them to feel like we don't think they are good grandparents.  We know they love the kids and would never purposefully harm them.  But we also aren't convinced that they can handle a night (or probably more accurately, the early morning hours) with the kids.  They certainly won't say "no" to anything the kids ask for.  And I don't really want to deal with them watching tv all night long and eating cookies for breakfast.   Any suggestions on how to decline gracefully? 


Monday, October 24, 2011

25 Things - 2011 Edition

Remember about 2-3 years ago when everyone was getting started on Facebook and the “25 Things” craze started? You had to list the 25 things that people wouldn’t know about you…quirks, things you like, etc.

Well, this weekend I happened to come across my list of 25 things. It was drafted January 25, 2009. So allow me to present 2009 Mandi (drum roll please):
1. I am a Mom before anything else in my life...maybe that's why my house is always a mess, I'm always disorganized, and the mail pile on my desk never grows shorter!

2. When I first became a lawyer (at my first job) I seriously considered finding another profession...thank God I stuck it out!

3. The hardest thing I ever had to do in my life is be a working Mom - and its a struggle everyday!

4. I consider my inner strength my best attribute - but I'm only strong because my strength is tested so much!!

5. One thing I definitely need to learn is forgiveness!

6. I scrapbook everything and my kids will probably hate me when I die because already J has 12 volumes of scrapbooks and H has 7!! But I am determined to keep going even if they have to buy a bigger house to hold all the books!

7. I have somehow managed to remain a hopeless romantic for 30 years.

8. I believe Sweetest Day is a REAL holiday

9. I never thought it would take me 29 years to find the man of my dreams and when he came on November 5th I had to change his diapers, rock him to sleep, hold him when he cries, and constantly keep my eye on him as he is usually up to no good! (he even is wrestling the dog at my feet right now as I am writing this)

10. I LOVE that when I look at J I see myself as a little girl

11. My favorite person in the world to make laugh is my brother Brian, he is also one of the first I cry to as well!

12. I could not live without my Mom and that scares me

13. Instead of a diary I make (almost) monthly playlists on my IPOD and when I listen to old ones I can remember the times. I've done this long before I-POD's and started this in 1994 on blank "tapes".

14. I love cherry flavor but hate cherries

15. I cannot for some stupid reason put my own earrings in!

16. I will never understand how my two chaotic children put me so at peace!

17. My dream job would be a stay at home Mom

18. Although some people don't think I do...I actually can cook and do it quite often!!

19. I truly don't know my natural haircolor as I have colored it dozens of colors starting at Age 15!

20. I was very excited to turn 30 to close the chapter of my "emotional roller coaster" 20's.

21. For four generations, every woman on my Mom's side of the family (related by blood) has hazel eyes with a dot in the eye. J has it too!

22. I love musicals - and am trying to convert my husband to them as well!

23. I love decorating my house - and I won't be satisfied with it until I make it look like a Pottery Barn catalog!

24. My Mom was my maid of honor at my wedding - because she has been the one person in my life to never leave my side!

25. I love that my husband still holds my hand when we walk!

Nearly two years later I thought it was time to update my 25 things list, because oh how times have changed. My husband can't hold my hand when we walk as I have three kids fighting for a coveted spot. And decorating my house? That has taken a back seat to the never ending battle to pick it up!

So I think its time to do a new 25 things…. (drum roll again):

1.          I'm pretty sure I have enough crap in my mini-van to keep my family sustained, entertained, fed, and clothed for about 3 days!
2.         There are not many things I hate more than sippy cups.

3.         Although I buy cheap store brand wipes, I have learned the hard way to never buy cheap diapers…trust me, you are better off being poor than cleaning up a blow out in a cheap diaper!

4.         I learned to truly respect my Mom when my daughter was born and learned to truly respect my Mother in Law when my sons were born.
5.         I believe Altoids can cure anything.

6.         I secretly embrace and like my dance Mom-ness (shh! Don’t tell my husband)
7.         I am a song writer. I write songs for my kids all the time…my most famous is our phone number song. “555-5552 That’s my phone number what about you?” and “555-5553 That’s how I call my Daddy”. Look for my album soon! J Ha!
8.         I believe it is impossible to screw up Mexican food, so it is my standby. I mean what doesn’t taste good smothered in cheese?
9.         I’d rather be seen (or have my kids seen) in wrinkly clothes than iron.
10.       I cannot get “Third and Bird” and the “Pillow Pets” song out of my mind. EVER.
11.       I only buy shampoo for my kids after learning a valuable tip from my best friend several years ago that body wash and shampoo are for the most part the same…they just charge you more for the body wash.
12.       Although I am a huge diet pepsi addict, I don’t allow my kids to drink pop. (Oh come on, I wouldn’t be a true parent if I wasn’t a hypocrite).
13.       I find myself listening to some of my kids’ songs even when they aren’t in the car.
14.       It’s not a birthday party in my house until I move the furniture out.
15.       I have a mission to take my kids to see each of the 50 states, which means while you are vacationing at some beach resort, my family is happily driving through Podunk, Arkansas.
16.       I sort of feel guilty when people give me credit for my daughter learning to read at such a young age because I know a frog taught her (Letter Factory series = best DVD out there).
17.       I spring clean with an industrial size dumpster (oh how I wish I was kidding).
18.       I make one hell of a  Skippyjon Jones, but a horrible Pinkalicious.
19.       I still have yet to find the black hole in my house where all the socks and gloves go...but I'm determined to find it.
20.       I have learned to follow the fashion advice of my 5 year old. 
21.       I buy parenting magazines for the recipes and craft project ideas, but skip over the parenting advice.
22.       I am so afraid of spiders that I call my three year old to kill them for me.
23.       The iPad has saved my sanity.
24.       Since my daughter has been born I have called my Mom at least a dozen times to apologize.
25.       My proudest acheivement this year was finally learning how to “surf” on the matchbox cars left on my steps instead of falling constantly!

Friday, October 21, 2011


A few weeks ago, I mentioned in one of my posts that we had enrolled KJ in a new hockey program for the fall.  I had the best of intentions in making the switch.  KJ had already done a (long) session of learn to skate, and was antsy to play real hockey, with a stick.  The original program through which KJ skated was run through the United State Figure Skating Association and had a l-o-n-g learn to skate program.  He was going to have to pass 5 levels of learn to skate before he was ever given a puck.  That's over a year of learn to skate.  Because I skated through the USFSA growing up, I knew the program was a good one and KJ would be a good skater if he completed all 5 levels.  But KJ is 4.  I had some serious doubts that he would even be interested in hockey if he didn't touch a stick or a puck for another year. 

So, I sought out and found another rink that taught learn to skate through the USA hockey program, as opposed to the USFSA.  While it still had a learn to skate component, the program was much more compact and introduced stick handling and pucks much, much earlier.  I figured that if KJ passed the fall and winter sessions of learn to skate in this new program, he would be using sticks and pucks around Christmas.  I knew the boy wanted a stick.  So, I signed him up. 

 But I did not anticipate how KJ would react to the new hockey program.  The old hockey program was taught at a new, modern rink that actually had several sheets of ice.  There was always something going on, and he almost always got to watch a game either before or after his lesson.  The old hockey program divided kids by age and ability.  So most of the kids in KJ's class were around his age.  And the old hockey program was taught by women.  In fact, my old figure skating pro taught KJ's Sunday night lesson.  The new rink is none of those things.  It's a bare bones operation run by a bunch of men who are hockey coaches or retired professional hockey players who coach kids by ability, not age.  It's true hockey. 

 KJ, as it turns out, was not ready for true hockey.  The very first week of learn to skate he cried.  He didn't want to go out onto the ice.  He didn't like the teachers.  He didn't like the whistles.  And he certainly didn't like the mascot of our local professional team skating out there with him.  It wasn't a complete metldown, but it wasn't what we expected either.  I had taken KJ skating just 24 hours earlier and he had loved it.  In my opinion, there was nothing so different at this rink so as to warrant tears.  I tried to reason with KJ, tell him that this hockey would let him play with sticks sooner, but he was still upset.  Eventually, I handed him - still crying - to the one woman coach and asked her to get him started.  I hoped that once he started skating he'd get over the whistles and everything would be fine.  She got him on the ice, saw that he could skate and sent him over to the advanced section of the learn to skate class.  KJ, still crying, was on his own. 

I felt like a terrible parent.  I was that mom, living through her child, making him do something he clearly didn't want to do.  Except, I'm not that mom.  I couldn't care less if KJ plays hockey.  In fact, from a financial perspective, I sort of hope he doesn't.  I pushed KJ out on the ice because I know he loves hockey.  Every Saturday morning since last February he has woken up, donned all of his equipment and played me in floor hockey until Sweet Pea wakes up or he gets so hungry he remembers to ask for breakfast.  Believe me, there were plenty of mornings where I would have preferred to nap quietly on the couch while he played matchbox cars in the playroom.  But KJ wanted to play hockey, so I did it.  KJ wasn't crying because he didn't want to learn to skate, he was crying because it was different.  And different is sometimes scary.  But as I sat on my side of the plexi-glass watching my little guy cry through a facemask and hockey gloves, I knew that he had to get through this little bit of scary to reach his goals.  That someday the salt of these tears would be replaced by the excitement of a stick.  That I was doing my job as a parent in helping him face a fear. 

Thankfully, KJ didn't cry on the ice for too long.  A high school kid who was assisting the learn to skate program took pity on KJ and helped him calm down.  He also held KJ close whenever the scary mascot skated by.  He was kind to KJ.  Kind in a way that he didn't have to be.  Kind in a way that makes a mother grateful.  By the time KJ got off the ice, he was - once again - all smiles. 

Happy hockey didn't last long, however.  The very next week KJ cried that he didn't want to go on the ice again.  And the third week, KJ cried when he found out that his special high school friend wasn't there.  Each week I'd talk to KJ, tell him that he had to finish out this session, but then he never had to play hockey again, and then I'd put him on the ice crying.  And each week, I'd feel like all of the other parents were looking at me, judging.  Each week, I felt like a bad mom. 

Somewhere around the 4th week the crying stopped.  KJ did his lesson and had a good time.  And with the exception of weeks were there's a mascot on the ice or when KJ gets run over by an 8 year old, there's no more crying.  But it wasn't until this last week that I knew for sure that I'd done the right thing sending KJ out on the ice all of those weeks.  Last Saturday, after a learn to skate with a horse mascot that even I found disconcerting, KJ's coach told me KJ passed learn to skate entirely, and was ready to begin real hockey.  With sticks and pucks. 

I will never forget KJ's face when I told him the news.  It was like Christmas had come early, and everything Santa brought had Bauer written on it.  To say KJ was excited was an understatement.  KJ wanted to skate with sticks and pucks right that very second.  He was so proud of himself.  And so excited to get back on the ice.  It was as if those weeks of crying had never happened.  My little guy was happy.  He had done it. 

Tomorrow, we start "real" hockey with sticks and pucks.  This afternoon, we are going to the store to get his suspenders and his first real stick.  I had planned on asking Santa to bring KJ a stick for Christmas, but I'm happy to be buying one for him now.  KJ has truly earned this stick. 


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

peace, quiet, and consistency

Staring at this blank page this morning is daunting.  I can't think of anything profound or life-changing to talk, let's turn lemons into lemonade and discuss the joy of peace, quiet and consistency.

Up to about last week, things were pretty chaotic both at home and at work.  We are still struggling through the transition from sole ownership to partnership, changes in procedures, etc. and it really puts the PAINS in growing pains.  Personalities in the office are seriously clashing and it sometimes feels like a war zone.  At home, we have been struggling daily with the completely frustrating, yet I am told completely normal, behavior of my son.  He will be 9 in 21 days (as he is happy to tell you) and is pushing his boundaries - HARD.  He has acquired the habit of mouthing words with a scrunchy face when he is being disciplined and muttering to himself that is so completely disrespectful and just infuriating.  I know that this is boundary-pushing because he is perfectly pleasant to everyone but me and his dad.  So I least I have the consolation that he is a good boy 75% of the time!

Anyway, this behavior and attitude have become almost common-place at home which means that while at first I was questioning whether I needed to find him a therapist, now I just do my best to contain it, and B is spending a lot of time alone in his room! Peace and Quiet.  We still have "The Incident" and then he goes to his room; he knows it, we know it....consistency. At work, things have quieted down, but mostly because the clashing personalities have clashed so hard (thank goodness I wasn't present for that one!) that they are no longer speaking to each other or to the rest of us except when absolutely necessary.  It's quiet. In my office, secluded from most of the drama, it is peaceful.  Even though I know it is a temporary situation, I'll take it.

As a result, with things at work running along, simmering below the surface, and with things pretty status quo at home, the last week has been quiet, peaceful (relatively speaking) and consistent.  On the plus side, all but TWO of the party invitations for the kids' parties have been delivered, and i was able to give the mom of the last two kids a heads-up on the dates and times.  Last weekend, I finally found what I needed to decorate B's Phineas and Ferb case, so did a trial run on Saturday. It looked awesome and tasted even better! So no worries, there. H has decided on a Butterfly constructed out of cupcakes. That's totally doable, so I'm set there.  I have everything ready for their parties, we've done two of our regular fall activities, another one tonight, then it's waiting patiently for the parties and Halloween and the countdown to Christmas!  I am keeping optimistic that things will continue as peacefully as they have been for the last week or so, and hope that I have to struggle next week for a topic, too, unless I have a brilliant revelation about something.  Because that means things are running smoothly - and there's peace, quiet, and consistency.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


It seems like so many of my friends and family have been faced with challenges lately.  Thankfully, none of the challenges that come to mind are life threatening or truly devestating, they are just obstacles that must be overcome or difficult times through which they must persevere.  Because I am blessed with amazing friends and family, I know that each one will triumph over their stuggles.  And someday, they will look back at this time and instead of remembering how difficult things were, they will appreciate this time as a time for growth or opportunity.  

But in the meantime, as all of us struggle to get past whatever the obstacle is that we are personally facing, I'm trying to focus not only on my challenges, but also the many, many blessings I have in my life.  For the things I take for granted that people close to me have to worry about daily.  For small things, like having food in my refrigerator, to big things like my children's health.  For my family and friends.  For my "needs" really being "wants."  Sometimes I get so wrapped up in myself and my little world that I forget how lucky I really am.  The picture is always so much bigger than I imagine it.  I'm grateful I have only the stuggles I have, and not anything more serious.  I'm grateful my family is healthy and that we are together.  If there is a silver lining to times like these, it's that we notice the things we so often take for granted, and we feel blessed all over again. 


Monday, October 17, 2011

J's Dream

This weekend I found myself having to console my daughter yet again about the topic she is the most dramatic about…death. Now luckily the subject we were dealing with was my childhood cat, Rajah, who at a amazing 20 years old passed away this weekend. I broke the news to J soon after my Mom called to tell me. After I told her, J as usual got overly dramatic. Even though Rajah lived with my parents who live an hour away J cried many “How will I live without a cat I hardly see??” tears.

I'm finding that death is really hard for a young child to understand and accept, even if it's just a carnival goldfish, or in this case a family cat. Although my children know what heaven is, I don't think they have truly grasped the concept. They know its "up", they know its where you go when you die, they know its nice, but since they are kids and haven't had any bad things really happen to them they don't understand how it can be any nicer than the world we live in. And they still seem confused when the God they hear is the greatest and "all good", "all loving", is the one who "takes" their beloved pet.  

So, as is our normal “death therapy”, I sat with J answering her questions and giving her my "Hallmark" responses…”It’s for the best.”, “She lived a great kitty life”, "She's off to catch all the mice in heaven"... etc. etc. I was certain it was going to be a typical long drawn out, tear drying, evening... but to my surprise our conversation didn’t last longer than 2 minutes.

It’s okay Mommy, she’ll be fine…she has Adam to take care of her. Right Mom?”

Suddenly I got the same goose bumps I had gotten a month earlier, when my daughter had first told me about an amazing experience she had. If you have read the book “Heaven is for Real”, you will love this story, for we found out through J that it is VERY true.

“Adam” is my Grandpa. He passed away from lung cancer in 1995. It was the first true tragedy of my life as I was incredibly close to him. He was always my hero, a man I could truly trust and count on. His character was one that won’t come along again, a true soul. Since his death, he’s my angel. I find myself praying to him nearly every day. I named L after him, giving him Adam as his middle name, because if there is one person I would like him to strive to be like, it’s my Grandpa.

Now J has from time to time been told stories about my Grandpa. But, she's really never "seen" him. The only picture she has seen is this one, a picture of him and I, my favorite picture of all time. Although this picture speaks volumes to me, it really doesn't show J what my Grandpa looked like. So, to her, I think she sees him less like a person and more like an angel, a star in the sky, a glance to heaven, someone I talk about occasionally. She knows his name was Adam because I told her L is named for him, but she always called him "Mommy's Grandpa".

Last month I had to travel for a mediation and had to leave very early in the morning, 5:00 a.m. early. I had made J a promise that I would give her a hug before I left even if she was sleeping. I followed through on my promise and at 4:45 a.m. I tiptoed into her dark room and quickly gave her a light “please don’t wake up” hug. Much to my surprise, she scared the life out of me by jumping up after I hugged her.

MOMMY I HAVE TO TELL YOU SOMETHING!” she said loudly, her eyes trying to open.

After I recovered from my small heart attack, I watched her wipe her eyes and in a groggy sleepy, yet very excited voice she rambled: “Mommy, I saw him! Mommy, I saw Adam, and Mommy! Mommy! He knew my name!! He knows I’m J Lucille Mommy!! Mommy I saw him!”

Now, I’m a huge believer in angels and having just read “Heaven is for Real” 2 months prior I of course wanted details…“You saw him? What happened?”

J: “Yes Mommy, he knows me! Mommy he knows me! And he tried to give me something, but I just said ‘No thank you’.”

Oh damn...he gave her something. See, thanks to my Grandma and Mom who raised me with countless stories about dearly departed coming in dreams to warn of things, I suddenly got scared to death…did this mean something was going to happen to my Grandma?

So I continued… “What did he give you J?”. But she just lightly mumbled “I saw him” and fell back to sleep. Oh I was as mad as I get at a good cliffhanger when the fall season of my favorite show ends. Oh come on...don't fall back to sleep!! But alas, a couple seconds later her calm sleeping breath was all I heard.

My heart was racing, and of course at 4:45 a.m. you can’t pick up the phone and tell anyone about it. I got in my car, nervous, excited, and amazed at what had happened. I couldn’t wait until she woke up so I could ask her more about it. As I drove I seriously think I saw every minute on the clock waiting to call and find out more…

At 6:30 a.m. I called my husband from my car…I told him what happened and asked him to get more details. He texted me back for the next 20 minutes as he conducted the interrogation for me… “Mandi she saw him…he’s really tall…he knows her name…he had blonde hair, a brown coat, and a hat…and really blue eyes”. Okay, getting scarier…as he did have beautiful blue eyes, and blonde hair when he was younger. “What does it mean?” texted my husband who obviously has been around my Polish, Catholic, “Dreams mean everything” family way too long. So of course you know what I asked next? “What did he give her?”. A few minutes later the text came through… “Some sort of candy, but she didn’t take it”.

This moment brought tears to my eyes, what an amazing experience. Over the next week or so I got more details… and surprising for a 5 year old the details were always the same. She’ll always mention his blue eyes, she was so amazed how tall he was. And for some reason she is most happy about the fact he knew her name. What’s even more strange is that after this dream, she only refers to him as Adam. Of course we visited my Grandma soon after to tell her the story. J was super excited to tell my Grandma: “Amma, I met Adam. And he knows I’m J Lucille…he really does”. After J told her story I said “Gram, I’m surprised he would wear a hat and brown coat, I thought he’d be in that blue sweater he always wore”. She smiled. “I know exactly the coat she’s talking about” she said calmly, confident in J’s rendition. She turned to J: “Yes, J, Adam knows you, and now you know him.”

My crazy family has yet to decipher what J’s dream means…was he warning her about something? Not sure. What was the candy for? Who knows. I, for one, don’t think it meant anything, I think he was just coming to meet her.

So, thanks to my Grandpa, J was calmed down about kitty death in about 2 minutes flat. I guess it took her glimpse into heaven to become a little more at ease with the concept. As an adult, who has long passed the fairy tales and make believe world of childhood, J’s dream was something I’ll never forget. I miss my Grandpa every day. I have always wished he could see my kids…I can see him amazed at the fact H has his blue eyes, I know J would have melted his heart, and I know he would be so proud to know I named L after him. Now after J’s dream, I’m at peace knowing my wish came true.


Friday, October 14, 2011

The Political Parent

I’m not a very political person. I’m sort of a “fair weather fan” when it comes to politics. I get really into it when there is an exciting election, or some hot button issue I can debate. But on some idle Wednesday you won’t find me riveted by CNN or reading about the economy.

However, I have learned this week that parents have an awful lot in common with politicians. Yes, thanks to three adorable little children I now know what it feels like to walk in a politician’s polished loafers.   
You always hear about approval ratings with politicians: 51% of Americans happy with the President or 28% of the citizens of Iowa say we need more corn, etc. etc. etc. Well this week, for the first time in my parenting career my approval rating has greatly plummeted.

My constituents, J, H, and L have always been a very calm, well behaved, crew. I admit I have watched many a mother dragging their screaming toddler out of Wal-Mart and secretly thanked God that my kids are not like that. No for the most part, “crime” in the community of “Mandihouse” stays relatively low….
That was until this week.

You know if you are a follower of my blog that J and H are very close in age (J is 15 months older than H). You may remember such loving pictures as the two of them walking hand in hand, or H taking the blame for Pajamagate 2010 (when J cut the sleeve of L’s puppy dog jammies). I was always so proud of the fact that the two of them were sidekicks and best buds.

Again that was until this week.

It all started Monday. We live in a medium size city, with a relatively normal crime rate, but we by no means live in an area like I did growing up where doors can remain unlocked, cars left running up town, kids allowed to roam the streets at all hours. We have a fenced in backyard. My kids are allowed to go out in our backyard whenever they want (even without me) for they know that as long as they stay in the backyard, all is well. So Monday, I sent the kids outside to play while I cooked dinner. Awhile later my husband walked in from the store… “Why are the kids out front?”. My heart dropped…they had left our back yard without permission, or even my knowledge. I ran outside. The second my daughter saw me she knew she was in trouble and tried to cover up the crime “Oh hi Mommy, you said I could come outside right??”. I grabbed her hand, strolled her quickly in the house and right up to her room. Her partner and crime was also brought up (although admittedly not as easily). After a long talk about what they did wrong, my kids had to stay in their room for punishment during the evening. They came down for dinner, and then right back up to their bedrooms. My “prisoners” were not happy with me that night…"You don’t love me Mommy”, “You are mad at us Mommy” etc. It was a long evening of tears and the occasional jail break. Yes, my approval rating dropped about 10 points that night.  

Then began the Great War of JH. Although I am not certain who actually was the first to declare the war, it has been in full swing all week. All week J and H have been at each other throats (nearly literally). “I hate you”. “You’re not my best friend” and of course “He hit me”, “She pushed me” are whisking through our house faster than the autumn breeze. The battles have been short but powerful, The Battle over the Yellow Car; The Battle over the Burger King Happy Meal Toy; The Battle of “He looked at me wrong”; The Battle of "She's trying to make Batman get a makeover". No matter what I try, the fights still continue.

And so has been my week…the Mom that usually is seen walking into dance class with a happy excited daughter, a son ready to sit calmly and wait for his big sister, and a adorable happy toddler was seen this week being head butted in the face by that adorable toddler, dragging the son who wanted to go ride bikes, and trying to calm down the daughter who was mad because her brother got the purple Gatorade.

Due to the unexpected and unwelcome influx of “crime” in my normally peaceful household, there has been an increase in punishments. Yes, approval rating down some more.

When I punish H, it's normally not too bad. Take him up to his room and give him a time out. Of course he will scream and cry and remove me from his best friend list. But even when I take away his beloved Transformers, he’ll eventually earn them back, come down, wipe his tears and go on with his day. And yes, each night I still get a hug and a “You are my best friend Mommy”. He’s one that takes his punishment and deals with it.
But J, well that's another story. I am being paid back for the drama queen personality I have had since birth. Punish her and you will hear “You don’t like me”….”You are embarrassing me”…”Oh now no one loves me”, or my new “favorite” “I don’t like when you are the mean Mommy”. Punish her and you can instantly hear her voice sitting in an expensive therapist office in about 10 years.

To make matters worse, in my house I am the “good and bad” cop. My kids see me as the one “in charge” because I am the one that is always there (since my husband works nights). I am the one they listen to first and foremost, and so if I sit back and let things slide...well, they slide, and I’m to blame when they are wearing county colors cleaning trash off the interstate in 10 years. And due to the fact that I have more patience than my husband, I have to hear “You deal with it Mandi” a few times each week. I have to wonder whatever happened to the old black and white sitcoms where the calm mother came in lovingly and said "Well, Wally I know you know I have to tell your father about this?"??  Those days are gone. Now, in the sitcom of my life that has been replaced with "Well, H, I could tell your Daddy about this but he'll probably kill you since he has no patience and so to keep you alive, here we go... (insert Bad Cop Mommy)".
And so has come the birth of “Bad Cop Mandi” the part of my job as a mother I hate the most.  My hatred is probably due to the fact I am a horrible bad cop. I’m the bad cop that will put you behind bars, but then once you look at me with sad eyes and say you’re sorry, I’ll leave the keys dangling in the cell near your grasp. I don’t do tough very well. And when I do, I usually say something that after I hear it come out of my mouth I think…”What the hell was that supposed to mean?" . Not sure how a 3 and 5 year old are supposed to understand me when I don't understand half the things I say when I'm in the role!

The main problem with my bad cop persona is that I internalize it, I feel bad about it. I’ve felt horrible all week…with every time out, with every toy taken away, I felt worse and worse. Luckily I have my Mom, my top “political advisor” who has helped me cope all week. I asked my Mom: “Mom, how did you do it? I seriously have no recollections of you being mean, but you kept control, you kept us in line?”. She laughed and said “What are you talking about? I was mean all the time, you just don’t remember. They won’t either”.
So, I guess like all great politicians I just need to be a duck and let all of this just roll off my back. I can’t be liked all the time, I’m not their friend, I’m their Mom. I have to have these periods when my approval rating plummets. It’s part of my job. The unpleasant part? Sure. But a part none the less.

But like my Mom reminded me, I won’t be remembered for these times. Just like the great politicians, I’ll be remembered for my term as a whole, not the unpleasant parts.  I mean, think about it...during a politician’s time in office,  everyone complains about them, they are always doing something wrong. But over the years the dust clears and either people forget about the bad, or someone comes along who screws up more and overshadows the past.  People remember the impact they made a whole, they don't remember if they got mad on Day 43 in office.
So I guess it's okay if parents are like politicians. Sure, we have approval ratings, we campaign to our kids and others that we are good parents, we say the wrong thing, are misquoted 1000 times, and yes, we are even subject to he occasional “scandal”. But just like politicians, its not what we do on a particular day, its how we shape our children's history.  All we can hope for is that long after our term of service is over our kids will look back with respect, happiness, and most important love. 


Thursday, October 13, 2011

This Weekend

This weekend, my hubby and I are headed back to my hometown (well, 2 miles from my hometown) for his 10 year college reunion. Has it really been 10 years? Looking back, I can’t believe our lives have changed so much, yet, in some ways, not at all. And I can’t believe we are actually spending time together, without the girls!!

This weekend is long overdue for us. It probably comes as no surprise to most of you, but spending time together is not always our #1 priority. (Now I am not saying this is right or wrong, I am just being honest). Between work, soccer and dance practices, grocery shopping, school, daily “chores” and basically just making it through the day, we don’t focus on “us.” Adding in traveling on the weekends, hunting season and upcoming holidays, means I can’t remember the last time we had a date night.

And while I realize this needs to change, realizing it needs to happen and actually making it happen are 2 very different things. I am jealous of those couples who seem to be able to do it all (have a happy marriage AND raise a great family). How do they do it? How can they afford a babysitter every month? And if they do, when is there a break from the “normal” family activities to go out to dinner? If you look at my calendar since July, we have had maybe 2 “free” weekends.

Maybe these are all just excuses. To be completely honest, I don’t feel like I spend enough time with my kids during the week, so any “free” time I have, I want to spend with them. But this puts my marriage at a disadvantage (probably not the correct word, but you get my meaning). I know I need to put more work (I hate to say that – how about more heart?) into my marriage. Luckily, this weekend is a perfect time to get back to “us” meaning the 2 of us, not the whole family. Hopefully we can find something to talk about besides work and the kids. Or maybe we can just go back to being “us” and watching Sportscenter.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Jean Anne

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

the Paradox of life

The birthday countdown has begun, and the clock is going to run me over!  If you will remember, several weeks ago I was discussing my birthday party/Halloween party dilemma.  Back then, I had a plan for both kid's parties - Phineas and Ferb for B, Butterflies for H.  Within about one week I was able to gather almost everything needed for the parties: theme plates, cups, decorations, invitations - the only thing I don't have is the balloons and I know where I am going to get them.  I am READY!  Unfortunately, though, I haven't been able to find the time to actually sit down and fill out the invitations- so now I have two great parties planned for nobody!  Since mid-September, I have been telling myself and my kids that "This weekend, we are going to sit down and do these invitations,"... "tomorrow we are going to sit down and do these invitations," ..."THIS weekend we are going to sit down and do these invitations" and last night, at about 9 p.m. driving home from Cub Scouts, again I remember that the invitations are NOT done and "Tomorrow we are sitting down and doing these invitations!"

It seems that my life is a lot of extensive pre-planning followed by a lot of dead time followed by an anxious scramble to get everything ready! That happens often in my practice - right after a hearing, I'm all over it - preparing arguments, documents, etc. for the next time- followed by a lengthy period of other things taking priority - followed by abject panic that I've got a hearing coming up, no subpoenas issued and I've forgotten everything that I prepared before.  Not a great system, but there it is.

I think it has something to do with the fact that I am not intrinsically an ultra-organized person.  Honestly, I'm really more laissez-faire - don't bug me and I'll get to it when I get to it.  At college, my dorm room was atrocious.  I was able to drop everything and do something else, could spend an entire day cleaning a mess that took two weeks to make, could go to class or not...

Once real-life hit (with the kids, really) I had to purposefully change this trait. With kids, you HAVE to be organized - you have to have everything in your diaper bag, there can't be left-over pizza boxes on the floor, you have to be on time to stuff.  I do an okay job I think, but it doesn't come naturally.  In the morning, Steve is up with the alarm, rustling kids out of bed and getting breakfast, while I'm buried under the covers begging for 10 more minutes.  I make the kids' lunches the night before, but then forget to give them to them to take to school...I plan a big party, then forget to send out the invitations!  I am a work in progress, that's for sure.

Funny story:  I feel like every day I am running at top speed - getting kids to school, working -often driving around- soccer, Cub Scouts, Brownies - laundry, cooking dinners, cleaning... it seems endless and exhausting to me.  The other day, H brought home a picture she drew of our family.  There were three little people standing vertically, and one horizontally.  I asked H who was who. I was the one "laying down" because "I always like to be in bed!"  I was like "what?!"  Because I knew she said the same thing to her teacher.  I feel like I never even get to sit down for 10 minutes at a time, and she says I'm always in bed...WHAT?  She looked at me like "am I wrong, here?" and looked so concerned that she had said or done something wrong that I started thinking... you know, she's right. When I am not running around and doing everything that I have to do, I AM in my bed. Reading, playing with the kids, watching TV, relaxing.  If I'm in the rest of the house, I  feel the need to clean, pick up,etc.  When I'm in my room, even if the kids are there, too, I can relax.  She's right! I LOVE MY BED!!  I want it now, but I have to go to court in one county, then drive an hour to court in another county, then drive to the city to get groceries, THEN get home and do those darn invitations! Have a great day everyone!!


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

What's Worse Than an 80 Hour Work Week?

If you ask a lawyer "how are you?", the answer you are most likely to get is "busy."  Because for most lawyers, "busy" means "good".  In the legal world, "busy" is good because lawyers are paid in six minute increments.  It takes a lot of work to fill up an eight-hour day's worth of six minute increments.  And most lawyers have a billable hour requirement.  In my neck of the woods, that requirement is usually somewhere right around 2000 hours - or eight hours every working day for 50 weeks out of the year.  So, if you are a lawyer here and you aren't busy, you are pretty much screwed. 

Of course, work ebbs and flows.  Often, work is piling up so fast and so high that I could work 24 hours a day and be able to bill most of it.  Of course, I never want to do that.  I would much rather put in an eight hour day and then go home and spend some time with my kids.  But sometimes I have to work those crazy hours to offset times like now - the dreaded slow down. 

It's no secret I worked more than I wanted to last month.  My firm had a crazy busy month with two of our largest sets of cases going to mediation, negotiations being held with regualtors on several matters and a major closing.  All on top of our regular case loads.  All of the lawyers in my office worked a lot last month.  Many of the partners put in more time than I did.  It was a busy, busy month.  And it was a good one.  We settled a bunch of stuff.  We negotiated deals with regualtors.  And, the bank deal closed.  It was a good September. 

But now, thanks to Settlement September, we're into Idle October.  There is not much to do at work right now.  Of course, we all have a few smaller cases floating around that need attention.  And there's always marketing to do.  But every morning I wake up and think of what I have to do today. . . and wonder how I'm going to fill the other 4 hours of my day.  It is not a good feeling. 

I've taken advantage of  my down time, going home early some days to enjoy the Indian summer with the kids.  And I've started my Christmas shopping on-line.  Today, I'm grading briefs for a local law school moot court competition.  And while a little break is welcomed, I can't help worrying about when the next big case is going to come in.  Or how I'm going to get a bunch of little cases to make my billable hour requirement.  Or how my time could be better used cleaning out closests or updating our pictures at home.  I'm grateful for the little break, but I hope that the break stays small.  Because the only thing that's worse than working 80 hours a week is billing less than 6 hours a day. 


Monday, October 10, 2011

Date Night

This weekend I had a date.
For any parent this is a huge accomplishment for date nights are few and far between for most of us. Yes, it seems like from the moment the baby is born, your marriage is often put on a shelf for at least 18 years or so. You go from being pronounced "man and wife" to "Mom and Dad". Marriages often take a back seat to pacifiers, car seats, and diapers.
I have always made it a point to try and not allow too much “dust” to build up on my kid-shelved marriage. This isn’t easy. Between work and the kids I don’t have much time to do anything, and if I do get alone time with my husband often we are both exhausted or need to tackle some  huge project. I’ll be honest that as much as I love my husband, I sometimes I have to remind myself that in addition to being the mother of his children I am also his wife.  So, I have always made sure that we make time for periodic date nights, a time where we can be together without our three sidekicks.

But of course with two crazy schedules, finding time for date nights is not easy. My husband works a rotating 12 hour overnight shift, causing him to work every other weekend. During the week, he stays home with the kids a couple days a week to help us curb the ever rising daycare costs. So, this of course often leads to him being exhausted after a work week. Then of course there are all the realities that we have to deal with on the days he is off. The grass needs to be mowed, the house cleaned, the squeaky door made un-squeaky. Due to his crazy schedule, when he does have a day off we most often choose to spend it as a family, to cash in on all the family time we missed out on due to a busy work week.
But this weekend we made time and had a date night. Earlier in the week my Mom called me and volunteered to watch our crew to allow Todd and I to go out to dinner for our 6th wedding anniversary. We were so excited for the opportunity to get out together.

Because my Mom lives an hour away from us, our date nights are limited in location. We most often have to do our date near my hometown to allow us easy access to our babysitter. And as our luck would have it, it was homecoming weekend, making the few restaurants located in my small town to have long waits.
But we got lucky and got into one of our favorite restaurants. As I walked in with my husband we were seated in between two tables full of young kids on dates for homecoming. I laughed at how different our scene was than what was around us. There around us, all the nervous high school students were sitting awkwardly by their dates. The girls were dressed up, often heading to the bathroom to freshen up their bright makeup.

And there we were. Completely comfortable with each other, no first date butterflies, no “I wonder what he’s really like” thoughts. An “old” married couple, wearing blue jeans, t-shirts, and gym-shoes. In fact, I had been running around with the kids so much that day that I realized only moments before heading into the restaurant that I hadn’t even put on any makeup.
I flashed back to how different this scene was when I first met Todd. I can remember spending hours getting ready for one of our early dates, changing outfits 1000 times, curling my hair, putting on a load of makeup. Like the young girls all around me, I wanted to make sure I looked perfect. Now, 6 years of marriage later, I was just happy I didn’t have stains on my shirt!

I sat there at the restaurant, probably looking way too casual to be drinking the glass of wine I ordered. But I was in heaven. It was so nice to be sitting at a restaurant with my husband, without hearing “Mommy, where’s my food, I’m SOOOOO hungry” or having to push the cups, and plates all to the side of the table to avoid the huge wingspan of my toddler. It was nice to just sit there and be a couple.
Okay so I felt old in comparison to the high school kids around me (but thankfully the waitress did ask to see my ID so I felt a little better). But it actually felt good to be with a man and not have to put on the frills. The longer we are married the more I appreciate being able to just be me.

We finished dinner and headed to a local park. We sat there under the stars and just talked. We talked and talked, and surprisingly the kids hardly came up in conversation. I was so happy to see that after 6 years of marriage we actually had more to talk about than soccer practice, kindergarten, and the price of diapers.
At one point in our night my husband looked at me and said “Wow, what did we do before the kids were here?” Although I laughed back and said “Sleep” I really thought to myself…”We did THIS”. We had each other.  

When you get married all your love is focused on your spouse, they get all of you. With each child, more and more of you is focused into the children you adore. But I encourage you to take the time and sit under the stars with your husband every now and then. Just leave your Mommy self out in the mini-van and remember what its like to be in love. Its so important to get out there and celebrate the love that made those children, and for me the love that truly started my life.



Thursday, October 6, 2011

Pet Peeves

As many of you know, I work in a corporate setting instead of your typical law office. My set up is a little different than most attorneys, as I don’t have my own office. Basically, I am in cube world (picture the movie Office Space). So, as I sat down to write my post for today over my lunch “hour,” I kept hearing this annoying squeaking from the printer.

And no, this is not my personal printer at my desk, but the communal printer which several departments use. So pretty much not more than 2 minutes go by and I hear “squeak, squeak, squeak.” Given tough economic times and the make the best use of your resources ideals, this means you do not call the tech department unless something explodes or in on fire. So the squeaking will continue…

So there are no profound thoughts for this post, as I am like the hamster with the squeaky wheel (literally) today. But it did get me thinking about different office pet peeves:

1. Squeaky printers that everyone complains about, but no one can fix

2. People that stand at your desk while you are on the phone (and continue to stand there even when you give them the “this is going to be a while look.”)

3. People that keep talking to you even when you have a ton of work to do, and to make your point, you turn away from them and begin typing an email.

4. Loud talkers

5. Calling the “help desk” for your computer/phone issues, but receiving no help at all, except “why don’t you try restarting your computer.”

6. People who schedule meetings over the lunch hour

7. People who schedule meetings when the topic could have been covered in an email

I am sure that there are more pet peeves, and I am quite sure that I have committed some of these offenses. But until someone fixes that squeak, I’ve got nothing.

Feel free to add to this list. I can’t wait to see what other office pet peeves there are out there. And for all of you Office Space fans “why does it say paper jam, when there is no paper?”

Happy Squeak-Free Thursday!

Jean Anne

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Pete and Repeat

As my children grow older, I find myself repeating everything I say to them...again and again and again.  For example, my almost 9 year old son is sitting on my lap as I write this, despite my (multiple) requests that he "please leave me alone".   While I secretly love it that he still wants to sit in my lap, I don't love the fact that he seemingly doesn't listen to a word I say! 

All of the parenting books, magazines, etc. prepare you for the fact that children have to be reminded of things over and over. They tell you that if you react a certain way to their tantrums, they'll stop.  What they DON'T tell you, and what I am just now coming to realize, is that the time frame they are anticipating is not one or two years, or even three or four...but more like TEN.  Because my personal experience has been that, despite NINE years of "we get up, we brush our teeth" and "we brush our teeth before we go to bed" EVERY MORNING and EVERY NIGHT these are completely foreign concepts to my son.  My daughter looks at me in complete shock and horror every Wednesday - shower night-like she can't believe that I could betray her that way; it makes me want to scream... or do that hysterical laughter that turns into hysterical crying.  

It's humorous as I sit here thinking about the moment, it is frustrating as the H word.

My son is the worst right now.  It seems like he won't take the simplest instruction or direction without a flat out denial, completely ignoring me or a mouthy comeback.  He only responds to loud, angry voices...what is that?! I've tried reasoning with him - "I'm losing my patience, please do XYZ" I've tried threatening him - "If you don't do XYZ, you're grounded from the computer, the Wii, the DS..." I've tried every method I can think of to get through to him without getting angry.  Once I asked "Do you want me to yell at you?" To my surprise, his purely sincere answer was "Yes" - Huh?!

I was very recently told that he is at the age where boys are their most "testing" of limits.  Great...I assume that means that SOME time, he will be done with this testing of limits. I hope that is what it means...I pray that is what it means... For now, I will continue with my Pete and Repeat comedy/tragedy; continue to think to myself "He is sure lucky he's cute," and wait for the day that everything actually "sticks."


Monday, October 3, 2011


It is with a great weight lifted off my shoulders that I announce that my infamous trial, the trial that was to keep me away from my family for 8 weeks settled last week….[insert long exhale here]!

It was no big surprise to me that I would feel relieved at the sound of the plaintiff’s attorney uttering the now engraved words in my memory… “Your honor we have reached a settlement….”. In fact I was so happy about this my hands literally shooked. I shot out of my chair and raised my hands in the air in almost a touchdown like pose (I was in my office alone by the way in case you were wondering). The happiness that came over me was like none other I have felt in my career. After all, this trial tested me to my core. It made me question everything about…well EVERYTHING. It overwhelmed me, terrified me, depressed me. It was like the big elephant in the room the entire month of September…except this elephant was no Dumbo…he was mean, evil, and ready to crush me at any minute.

I’ve been a trial attorney for several years, so trials are nothing new to me. In fact, I love jury trials. But a trial, 2 ½ hours away from home, with 15 parties, over 1000 exhibits, hundreds of witnesses certainly was a new experience.

After our failed second mediation it began to hit me that like it or not I was about to try this case. Yes, the case that everyone said would never be tried was about to be tried. That's when my world came tumbling down...

It was a mixture of panic, fear, exhaustion, sadness….you name an emotion I had it. From how on earth can I be away from my kids that long, to have I done everything I need to do to properly defend my client??? Did I miss an important document, did I fail to do something, wait…how long do I have to be away from my kids???? The emotions were like 1000 voices in my head the whole month. I hadn’t felt this level of stress in nearly a decade.

It mounted from colleagues and friends around me…the “Oh, this is the life of a litigator Mandi, get used to it” voices turned my stomach in knots. It made me think…really? This is what I signed up for? This is going to be my life? And why are these people okay with this? Is there something wrong with me? I’m a working Mom attorney, am I just supposed to grin and bear this???

But the stress came hardest from the home front. My daughter starting telling everyone that I was “leaving her”. My son with his big blue eyes said “Mom, but you have to go to the pumpkin patch with me and my friends [field trip]'re coming to that right???”. I couldn’t get the sound of L's voice and his typical “Mah” yell across the room whenever he needed me out of my head…what will he do when I’m not on the other end of that yell? I started to get very emotional about the fact I was leaving my family. I was incredibly anxious…I can’t be a night away from my family, how was I going to make this work? Sure I’ll drive back and forth, but the idea of dozens of tearful goodbyes and long car rides missing my kids made me as emotional as a Hallmark commercial.

Then the stress multiplied as the trial itself entered the equation…I had to figure out how to draft jury instructions, motions in limine, trial briefs, and comb through 1000’s of exhibits. I looked around at the 15 other parties…they all had teams of 2-4 attorneys working on this, but I was just me. I worked pretty much until 2:00 – 3:00 a.m. every night…well what did it matter, I couldn’t sleep anyway.

With the stress coming from everywhere so hard, I started to melt down. I found myself questioning myself, my career, everything. Did I really want a job that put me through this agony? Could I really be the Mom I am in this world? Should I throw in the towel? Could I really make it through this?

But then it happened…through all the stress I found myself actually doing what I didn’t think possible. I was doing what my emotional side was telling me couldn't be done. Before the trial settled I actually completed the infamous pre-trial order, drafted the jury instructions, figured out what exhibits I was objecting to. I did it, and didn’t miss a beat in my Mom life…well maybe half a step or two, but certainly not a beat.

So, like I said I wasn’t surprised at how ecstatic and excited I was when I heard we settled the case. But what did surprise me was a feeling I never thought I’d feel about the trial that was essentially evicting me from my life. Deep down, there was actually a part of myself a twinge disappointed. Now it was microscopic compared to the feeling that I didn’t have to leave my family, but it was there none the less.

And that feeling, that twinge… was exactly what I needed. It showed me that somewhere amidst all the lullabyes, boo boo kisses, dance Mom-ness, play dates, and bike rides, somewhere in me is an attorney. Even on the days I don’t think its there…it MUST be there. I saw that somewhere in me, buried under Mandi the Mom, was Mandi the attorney, and she must have been starting to get a little excited about tackling this case. And even though this feeling was small in comparison to my feelings of excitement and relief, it actually had a bigger effect on me. This feeling silenced all my questions about my career, all the “can I do this?” thoughts in my brain. I must be where I want to be. I am doing what I want to do. It made me feel…content, at peace, and well SETTLED.