Tuesday, July 31, 2007

In Your Carry On . . .

So, in honor of our pending trip across country, I decided to look up the TSA Regulations for what we can carry on so that I don't have to throw away a bunch of stuff when we try to pass through the security check-point. Mainly, I wanted to know if I could bring soy milk for Marcie (it's not listed as a permissible liquid in amounts greater than 3 oz., but baby formula and juice are, so I'm going to bring a box of it anyway, and if they may be toss it, so be it).

I was surprised to discover there have been some changes in the TSA regulations.

Most notable is that I am now permitted to bring scissors with metal tips that measure less than 4 inches in length. I used to travel with small scissors pre-children (and pre-9-11, obviously) because I cross-stitched on the plane. My very sharp Fiskars are a fraction or two under the two-inch mark. But man are those things sharp. I wasn't planning to bring scissors, but then when I saw that screwdrivers 7 inches in length or shorter are permitted in carry-on bags, I began to think maybe I should bring my puny scissors for protection. You know, just in case we need them on the plane. (I don't want to be too explicit here for fear I'll trigger some red alert and screw myself out of the trip!)

Then I decided to read what items are not allowed in your carry on. I was pleased to learn that swords and sabers are among the list of prohibited items. Along with cattle prods, throwing stars, and axes or hatchets. Geez. What kinds of items were people bringing on airplanes before?

In any event, I know I'll be safe. As long as I have my trusty Fiskars nearby. Heh heh.

Why I Am Becoming a Lawyer

This post is because Johnny requested it.

The truth is, I did not want to become a lawyer. There. I've said it out loud. Written it anyway. I loved being a teacher. I felt called to be a teacher. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of things that sucked about being a classroom teacher. But for the most part, it was exactly what I expected. I knew I wanted to be a high school teacher before I went off to college, and so that's what I did. More specifically, I wanted to teach high school English and coach high school Speech & Debate. And I did. I also taught first year Spanish, which I did not want to do, but ended up loving. So I'm glad I was forced into it. And were I to go back to the classroom, I think I'd want the Spanish-English split again. First year Spanish is a whole lotta fun and games. And teaching English means, well, a whole lotta paper grading.

Anyway, every year I did a project with my juniors in American Literature to Billy Joel's song River of Dreams, and one of the symbols in the song is the ocean of life-- and I asked students to project where they saw themselves in their individual oceans of life. Now, I never gave an assignment I didn't do myself, and after about 5 years of teaching, I realized I really wanted to get a graduate level degree in something other than Education (I already had my Master of Education). More than that, though, I really wanted to become a parent. And so I put them both on my poster and spoke of them briefly in my "model" presentation. How do these two things fit together? I'm not sure. But this is my story.

After I'd been married for a couple of years, I could tell that continuing to coach debate would mean big trouble for our relationship. I give kudos to those people who spend several days a week apart, or several weeks a month, or several months a year-- you get the point. And my husband and I both grew up in families where our dads were gone. A lot. Mine as an airline pilot-- so he was more of the several days a week type. His dad was in the Navy, so he was gone for much longer stretches. And home for longer stretches, too. Anyway, as it turned out, we are not a couple destined to be apart for long. And the strain of traveling with 30-some-odd high school students for two weekends a month was creating tension. So I made a decision to leave coaching. It was a hard choice in many ways. But to me it felt like it was that or my marriage, so it wasn't that hard, at the same time. Plus, I had more "friends" who were 16 than 27, so that didn't bode well for me.

Once I left coaching, though, I felt restless (me, bored? shocking!). Right around that time, I had received (earned, really) a National Board certification and people were stopping my classroom to observe me more often. Plus I'd become a department chair. (That's what happens when I get bored!) One of the groups that had come to observe me liked what I saw and offered me a job at the County Office of Education (ironically) traveling all over the state and training teacher leaders in a new literacy program. The job also allowed me, well required me, really, to help design professional development for teachers. AND it was a "loan" position, which means I never technically would leave my employment with my school district. The district and the county would have a contract; the district would hold my job and pay me my salary and benefits and the county would reimburse the district. Good deal for me.

So I took the job at the county, a job which was going to last the remainder of the school year plus one additional school year.

And once I was out of the classroom, I got antsy again. I started to think about how I'd really wanted that doctorate or something. So I decided to apply to law school. And we weren't having much luck growing our family the traditional, biological way. And at the same time, we also decided to pursue adoption. And fertility. Oh. And I began to train for a marathon about 6 months after that.

Well, the fertility was slow-going and I wanted a child. Like now. So a year later, there I was having just finished the marathon, holding our son in my arms in the midst of a snow storm in Ohio. And life was good. I didn't really care about law school any more. I was going to go back to teaching, to teach part time, and life would be good. Plus, it didn't look like I was going to get accepted to law school anyway.

And then, three days before orientation, I got a phone call from the dean of the law school offering me a seat. I hesitated. Really hesitated. But with a lot of nudging from Jason, I agreed to try it for a year. We reasoned that litigation is a lot like speech & debate (and it actually is). I like speech and debate. Plus, if I did well, I could earn as an attorney what we make combined. And that would mean Jason could quit his job and stay home. As you can see, there are a lot of contingencies in this plan.

So off to law school I went. I loved being a student. It was a lot of work, but it was interesting. I enjoyed legal skills class and oral arguments. And I did really well my first year. But any time things got tough, I'd say to Jason, "I'm just gonna quit law school. There's no shame in that. I really liked be a teacher-- I don't mind doing that again." And Jason would prod me forward.
At the end of my first year (I was in a four-year parttime program so I could continue to work while in school so we wouldn't have to lose the house to put me through school), I was at the top of my class. So I applied for summer jobs. And got one. And hated it. I won't go into where I worked because that would be rude. But let's just say, there I was half way through law school and thinking I really had wasted two years-- because I didn't like being a lawyer. I asked the career counselor about it. And a professor I respected. And they convinced me it was not lawyering I didn't like, it was the firm. Plus, I was on nearly a full academic scholarship after my first year, so the education was free (well, monetarily, anyway). I had nothing to lose (other than time) by sticking it out. So I did.

At the end of my second year, I was still at the top of my class. I interviewed at all the big firms and got offers from most of them. Then hemmed and hawed about picking one that would be the most family-friendly (if there is such a thing) because I knew I wanted balance. And at the end of my third year, I worked there for the summer. And learned that I really do like litigation work, but the transactional stuff just isn't my cup of tea. And while we were in China to meet Marcie, they called and offered me a post-graduation position, which I promptly accepted on the spot. And that's where I'll be working come October-- and, if I passed the darn bar exam, hopefully my tenure will stretch much longer than that. Otherwise, I just might return to the classroom in 2008!

So that all doesn't answer the why of lawyering; it really talks about the how. Why become a lawyer? I have answered this question many times-- sometimes to convince my teacher friends that I'm not selling out. And sometimes to convince attorneys that this isn't a temporary detour in life. And the bottom line is this: I like researching and writing and arguing. I like thinking quickly on my feet, feeling intellectually challenged. I like feeling like I've made a difference in someone else's life.

Did I get all that from teaching? Pretty much, yeah. Will I get all that from being an attorney? I don't know yet. But I do know that becoming an attorney is a decision that's good not just for me but for my family. Because it means we can maintain our lifestyle and they can have an at-home parent devoted to the kids' needs. If Jason weren't willing to stay home full time, I'm not sure I'd be interested in becoming a lawyer. And I don't think having a parent at home is a necessary thing. But it makes sense for us, and for our kids. And shucks, if we can afford it, why not give it a shot?

Maybe I will hate it and go back to teaching. Who knows. But I don't feel badly about leaving education to pursue more money elsewhere, because it's not just about the money. And besides that, imagine if every semi-talented person who could teach actually did for just five years. Don't you think the quality of education would be better? I can't help but think my 5 1/2 years in the classroom made a difference-- to those students, to other teachers. And I likewise like to believe that in the 5 1/2 years since, while I've been designing professional development programs for teachers, I've still been touching kids in some (very) indirect way. I've done my part. I've paid my dues. And I owe it to my own children to provide for them in the very best way I can.
So there you have it. I may end up hating it. But I know I have to give it a shot. And honestly, I think I'll love it . . .

Friday, July 27, 2007

Whew. Glad that's over.

At least for now. I survived the July 2007 California Bar Exam. My computer didn't crash. There were no earthquakes. My mind did not go utterly blank, so I had plenty to say on the essays. I finished all the tasks in the "performance test" portion of the test. There were no earthquakes and the power functioned properly the entire time. No one sitting near me freaked out or had a break-down. People were relatively friendly and polite. The proctors were pleasant enough.

So the bottom line is that if I didn't pass this test, it's not because of the environment. And we all know it's not because I didn't study enough. I did every single assignment BarBri gave me. Plus some. And then some more. I did not slack. I did everything "right," and if I didn't pass this test, it will truly be because of my performance. And yeah, I don't know if that makes me feel better or worse, but since I won't be getting any results until November, I am willing myself not to worry about it.

I stayed at a hotel downtown for the past three nights, and although I don't think I actually I slept any better, but it sure was luxurious in the mornings to only worry about getting myself up and out the door. . .

So there you have it. Sort of anti-climactic, I suppose. On the one hand, I feel like celebrating just for making it through. On the other hand, I don't feel like I deserve to celebrate unless I actually passed. And then there is that sense of . . . I don't know . . . loss, maybe? I mean, I have spent the past four years and 10 weeks doing this, and now my life is going to be very different again. Just knowing that feels strange . . . Don't get me wrong; I'm looking forward to the next phase. But change is always hard, especially for those of us who are creatures of routine.

In the meantime, I'm going to be keeping plenty busy. Casey and I are going to Seaworld today. We have a bridal shower tomorrow (kids invited!), and Sunday my sister comes into town just for a few days. Then we are off to Ohio to visit with Casey's birth family, and on to North Carolina to visit with my parents and my childhood best friend.

And in the immediate future, I hear Harry Potter calling my name. I'm re-reading Half Blood Prince before I start Deathly Hallows-- and I must say, keeping away from all media and potential spoilers regarding this last book in the series has been a bit tricky. Even in the midst of the bar exam. But somehow, I've managed. So don't spoil it for me!

Monday, July 23, 2007

And Life Goes On

Even in the midst of the dreaded Bar Exam studying, my life has had its moments of complete normalcy. On the first day of the bar review course, they make a point to those of us with kids that we should essentially ignore them, let whomever is watching them know not to contact us unless they are bleeding. I don't know. Perhaps I'll regret not heeding this advice, particularly if I don't pass the test, but I just couldn't bring myself to ignore them. I've certainly neglected them to some degree, but I've tried to maintain the tiniest amount of, well, normalcy, too.

Here is some evidence:

Um, guess who found my lipstick?

Last night at Red Robin with Joey, helping celebrate his third birthday (which is today):

Footprint on the Wall

We re-painted our living space about 3 1/2 years ago, after the house flooded from a slab leak and we had to replace dry wall, retexture, and repaint. I say we but actually our homeowner's insurance paid for professionals. The family room, which the kids and I call the TV room has a long wall, painted beige. It's pretty gross, even after just three years. There are food stains and drink stains, mainly. But a few days after Fourth of July I noticed something new: a footprint. At first, I thought it was a handprint. But upon further investigation, Jason and I realized it's a footprint. A little, muddy footprint.

This made me laugh. Hard. And out loud. I mean, how did a tiny, dirty footprint end up twelve inches up the wall? Did someone bounce off of it?

It reminds me of that one party I threw back some time around 1997. The one where my friend fell off the edge of the spa and ended up with a concussion, but we all thought it was so funny she fell backwards and hit the pavement, we laughed. We were too intoxicated to realize she was hurt. She was too intoxicated to realize she was hurt, too. We got lucky she wasn't more injured. And then I discovered the broken toilet seat. Who breaks a toilet seat and doesn't mention it to the hostess? The point is that it was a crazy party. The only crazy party I've ever thrown. Maybe the only crazy party I've ever been to. We talk about our adult lives as before that party and after that party. And we had fun, despite our complete irresponsibility (this was before spouses and children of course). Or maybe because of it, I don't know. But I remember it fondly nonetheless.

Well, the footprint makes me feel like that. Like I threw one of those cool, crazy parties that everyone talks about for years afterward. Except it was a toddler party. And the evidence of it isn't a great story about drunken concussions or broken toilet seats, or beer replacing the water in the spa. The only evidence is a single, tiny, muddy footprint. Makes me not want to paint over the thing. . .

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Cheerios Parade

No, it's not some cool activity to do with your kids (though feel free to figure out how to create a Cheerios parade with them and share with us!), it's the arrival of summertime ants.

The other day, while I was showering and combing my hair (I've actually pretty much given up on make-up and blow-drying these days, though I plan to resume those activities this week when I take the Bar), Marcie was snacking away on her dry Cheerios in the bathroom. Somehow she lost her balance, and the Cheerios spilled all over the floor. Next to the laundry basket filled with clothes to wash. She pulled herself up, but apparently as she did so, she crushed some of the Cheerios. The rest, she and I cleaned up together.

I didn't think to look for hidden Cheerio dust. Or crumbs. Though I knew we'd been seeing occasional ants in the bathroom seeking water. And off I went to school.

When I got home around 10:30pm that night, there was a trail of ants on a Cheerios parade. They entered through our bathroom window-- which is over five feet off the ground. They paraded down the wall, across our clothes, and then scattered on the floor. Despite feeling pretty grossed out by the view of ants in my pants (literally), I was intrigued by the series of ants on the wall passing pieces of Cheerios bigger than they were up the wall. It was pretty amazing. I complain about carrying almost-40-pound Casey on my shoulders during walks up hills (I feel like he bares down on my chest and it's hard to breathe), and these ants were carrying crumbs twice their size!

Anyway, I couldn't go to bed knowing there were ants all over my clothes, and the floor, and the wall, and the window. So, of course I had to clean it up, shake out my pants and shirts, vacuum the Cheerio crumbs and dust, suck the ants off the wall, and Windex the window (to kill the ants). It took me about 30-45 minutes. But the ants have stayed away since.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Giant Vat of Pepto Bismal

When I was in high school, competing in speech & debate, I used to carry around those chewable Pepto Bismal tablets at tournaments and pop them every four hours or so. They turned my tongue black, but they kept my stomach in check.

When I was in college, if I procrastinated on a paper or assignment, a couple days before it was due, I'd break out in hives, or the palms of my hand and my eyes would swell up. It didn't take me long to figure out the cause-- and the solution. Get things done efficiently and in advance. Interestingly, I no longer needed Pepto Bismal for the speech & debate tournaments.

Today my stomach is killing me. I know it's not something I've eaten. I know it's nerves. I know the pending Bar Exam is the cause. It's in three days. Three. Days. That's a long time to have a tummy ache. I finally left the library and came home to study-- I'm hoping being away from all the tension in the air will help my stomach feel better. But I know the truth. It'll only feel better after the exam is over on Thursday. A part of me is irritated by this new development. I have enough to worry about without needing Pepto Bismal on top of it all. And a part of me thinks this is a good thing. It means there is a level of anxiety in me-- a sort of adrenaline, so to speak. And I think if I didn't feel the anxiety, I'd be in big trouble. This is, after all the test. The one that is the key to the profession.

It won't be the end of the world if I don't pass it. But what a waste of a summer. And I know I'll feel embarrassed. I don't know which is more motivating. . .

I don't feel ready, if you're wondering. But another two weeks of studying wouldn't change that. I'm not going to be able to retain any additional information in my brain. Some moments I feel like I'm actually getting stupider-- I realize something new only to forget something I'd already learned. I just have to trust that I know a sufficient amount to get me through, and that's got to be good enough. How zen of me, don't you think?

So that's where I am. Still studying. Still worried. And ever more grateful it's almost over. At least for now.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Oh, Happy Adoption Day

When both parents travel to China together for an adoption, you take the oath of parenthood (I don't know if that's the official name of it, but it describes what you say) and promise you didn't lie on your paperwork in front of the consular at the American Consulate in China. If both parents don't go, you have to re-adopt the child in the U.S. to make it official and final. We both traveled to China, so our adoption was legal and final in China. And Marcie became a citizen when we all crossed back into the U.S. together through customs. But we decided to re-adopt Marcie in California anyway. Just a formality since she was already legally and permanently ours (unlike in Casey's adoption), but this will allow her to get a birth certificate here in the U.S.

We arrived at the courthouse about 15 minutes early, and Marcie hung out with Casey and with Grandma. Jason and I were there, too, of course.

We didn't wait long-- less than 30 minutes. The judge was running ahead of schedule, so he called us about 10 minutes before our scheduled hearing time.

Now, I know exactly one judge in the California courts personally. He was my criminal procedure professor for a full year of law school. I only had two professors for a full year of studies in law school, and the judge, Justice H., was one of them. He is an appellate court judge in California, and he prosecuted a very famous local case here when I was growing up. So imagine my surprise when we entered the court room and it was Justice H. who was all set up to formalize our adoption! Pretty neat, if you ask me. . .

I vaguely remember taking that parent oath when we adopted Casey. The courthouse was also much busier that day in September, but this time, things went very quickly. We signed the adoption decree, and we received our certificate. But we didn't have to make any new promises (though we were, of course, prepared to do so). This photo above is me signing my name. I forgot how long my name is to sign, being that I have two last names. And my brain is so jello-y lately, with the Bar exam a mere four days away.

I included this photo just so you could see what they do here in the jury box-- they fill it with giant, happy, stuffed children. Pretty neat.

After we signed the forms, Justice H took photos with us. We actually have a much better Polaroid version of this, but it gives you the idea.
Outside the court room we met another family there to readopt their daughter, Elizabeth. Elizabeth is from the Jangxi (did I spell that right?) province. She is 14 months old and they've been back in the U.S. for 4 months. We exchanged information so the girls can maybe get together . . .

Outside the courthouse, we took a family picture. Ann, Casey's godmother, also came to show her support for the adoption, and she was our photographer for the afternoon (thanks, Ann!). There is another picture with us all looking at the camera, but Marcie is actually smiling in this one, so I'm sharing this one instead.

The whole thing was over by 3pm. We'd planned to go to Emerald, a yummy local Chinese restaurant for a meal, but 3pm was too early. So we went to Cheesecake Factory for cake instead. Ann came with us, and despite missing out on half their naps, the kids were relatively well behaved.

Marcie's been part of our family for almost a year now. We don't even remember what life was like before her. We are so lucky . . .

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Dear Wedding Guests

No, I'm not getting married again. But I have several friends (and a sister) who are. And watching them go through it brings it all back . . . quite vividly. My wedding planning actually pretty smoothly. My parents (bless their hearts) insisted on hiring a wedding coordinator to help me because they lived on the other side of the country. And so from Nina I learned everything I needed to know about proper wedding etiquette.

Unfortunately, I am apparently in the minority on that. And I really don't get it. I mean, if you've ever hosted a wedding or been involved in planning one (or a friend to someone who is), how could you not know how to properly read a wedding invitation? Is that snobbery on my part? Perhaps. So here is my letter to those of you who may be invited to a wedding in the near future:

Dear Wedding Guests,

If you have recently been invited to the wedding, please follow these simple rules to aid the Bride and Groom and having a happy wedding day:

  1. Please RSVP to the wedding on time. Thousands of dollars and months (or even years) have gone into planning this event. Your response is necessary for determining seating arrangements, expenses, and just so the bride and groom don't go crazy. If you can't go, let them know. If you plan to go, let them know. The key: let them know.
  2. If do RSVP that you plan to attend the event, and then something happens which is preventing you from attending, please contact the bride or groom. It doesn't matter that it's the night before. Or the morning of the wedding. Leave a message if no one answers. Even though it's common for a certain percentage of people who have RSVPd to not attend the wedding in the end, it's just polite to let the bride or groom know you won't be there. Life happens. They will understand, but they still care that you aren't there even on the day of their wedding. They invited you after all.
  3. Please don't RSVP to bring more people than listed on the invitation. What am I talking about? Check the envelope and see who it's addressed to. If it's addressed to Mr. and Mrs. S, please don't RSVP for Mr. & Mrs. S and your three kids and your kids' friends. Often time space (and budgets) are limited, and those invitations are carefully crafted. If "and family" is not on the invitation, your kids are not invited. Similarly, if you're single and your invitation does not include the phrase and guest it's because the bride and groom are expecting you there solo.
  4. If you don't like that your invitation is just to you and your spouse (and not your kids) or just to you (and not your boyfriend or girlfriend), don't bother the bride or groom. It was not accidental. Nothing about wedding invitations are accidental. If you're pissed, don't go. But don't harass the bride or groom into letting you bring a date (didn't we learn this from How I Met Your Mother?).
  5. If the invitation or response card actually specifies that children are not included, do not call the bride or the groom (or their parents) and ask if you can bring your kids because they are so well behaved. Or breast-feeding. Or because your babysitter is out of town. It's rude. Your kids are still kids. They aren't invited. If you're in doubt about whether or not your kids are invited, they probably are not.

Oh. One more thing. If you found out that someone you know just got engaged, please don't assume you'll be invited to the wedding. Weddings are expensive affairs, and funds are limited-- this means that if you aren't invited, it's not that the bride and groom don't like you. They just don't like you enough. Just kidding. Seriously, though, don't take it personally-- I like to think of it as an honor when I'm invited, but I'm still happy for friends and colleagues and classmates when they get married and I'm not there to help them celebrate!



P.S. All this wedding invitation etiquette talk was prompted by my friend, I'll call her Bride. She is getting married in September and currently studying for the Bar. She's finally turned off her cell phone because she keeps getting calls about the wedding invitations, sent out a week or two ago. This is a rough rendition of the initial exchange between Mother of the Bride (MOB) and Woman (W) after W received Bride's invitation,which says on the response card that children are not permitted at the wedding venue (in this case, it' s liability issue):

W: Hi MOB, I just got Bride's invitation, and I noticed it says children are not included.

MOB: Yes.

W: I don’t understand what this means. My girls are 12 and 13.

MOB: Mmm. Hmm. What don’t you understand?

W: Well, the invitation says no children, but we don't really consider them children.

MOB: Hmm. Well, Bride and Groom haven't included any children under the age of 15 because the venue liability insurance won't permit it.

W: Well, okay.

Now, let's flash forward three days. W calls my friend, Bride. And repeats the exchange. All the while, my friend Bride is thinking: What do you mean you don't consider them children? What are they? Can they vote? Do you let them drive? Can they enter a contract legally? Do you let them gamble? Smoke? Drink? Last time I checked, 12 and 13 year olds were children!

Over-reaction? Maybe. She is studying for the bar. But there's a lesson in here-- don't keep harassing people until you get the answer you want. Seriously. Just be happy you were invited!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Marcie's First Brush Fire

Yeah, what a nice first, eh? In other parts of the country, people have first hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, thunderstorms. Here in Southern California we have brush fires and earthquakes. I'm not a big fan of either, of course. But I'm not much for tornadoes and hurricanes either.

Casey's first brush fire was in October 2003. It was huge. It burned for days. It took out entire neighborhoods and shut the city down. Casey was 9 months old. I was in my first semester of law school. No one left their homes without masks on, and even that was rare.

We voluntarily evacuated to Jason's parents house when the fire started blowing in our direction. No one told us to, we just did. I remember being amused by the items we loaded up on our car: laptops, photo albums, TIVO. We returned home that night, but the brightness of the fire shone out on neighborhood streets. And there was soot everywhere. I never felt afraid, just irritated by Nature's rage and interruption into my otherwise pretty serene world.

You can catch some photos of the devastation, along with the basic story here. Here's some more information about the conflagrations.

I'm sure Casey doesn't remember it, despite his amazing memory. But it's in his baby book.

And today, there was a brush fire near Jason's parent's house. There are several news stories on it, but this one pretty much explains what happened. Stupid arsonist. I was at school studying all day (shocking, I know-- and I'm still here at school now!), and the street leading to where Marcie and her grandma are was closed off by police all afternoon. It's been opened, and Marcie's grandpa told me she and Grandma are just fine. I got the impression they voluntarily evacuated, but I didn't even ask! Silly me. . .

What an eventful day for Marcie. As if she even knew it was going on . . .

Monday, July 09, 2007

How do you do it all?

Tonight as I was standing at the dryer folding clothes so I could switch over the wash, I was thinking about my cheering squad. No, I'm not talking about imaginary friends that cheer me on (though I wouldn't necessarily put that outside the realm of possibility). I'm talking about family and friends who say to others about me, "That Karen! I just don't know how she does it all!"

I suppose it either sounds impressive to work nearly full time and go to law school and have two small children (who actually know who you are!) at home-- or it sounds wildly insane. And the truth is probably somewhere in between. When people ask me how I do it all, I usually point out that Jason is incredibly involved-- a real partner to me. So he picks up the kids from school and gets them off to bed. And I point out that my in-laws are a huge support-- that the kids and Jason have a family meal most nights because Jason's mom feeds them all at her house. And I point out that I have understanding and flexible colleagues and an incredibly supportive boss.

And all that is true.

But as I stood at the dryer tonight, folding the clothes without even bothering to turn them right-side-out before doing so, I realized that my answer just isn't the full story. The truth is this:

  • I don't dust. Pretty much ever. Maybe once a year. And sometimes I con Casey into using the feather duster to "play" and dust at the same time.
  • I don't worry if the socks aren't matched up-- they all go in the sock drawer. And I don't worry if clothes are folded inside out. I figure whoever took it off inside out and didn't take the time to unflip it can't be all that upset if I treat the item the same way (though honestly it's mostly my stuff that ends up inside out in the wash).
  • If I'm not going to work, wrinkles don't matter on clothes. If the clothes are clean, I'm all good.
  • I have an amazing ability to ignore clutter. When Jason recently cleaned out the closet, he found bill statements from four years ago (when I started law school). Now, in my defense, I pay things online-- but really, that's a lot of mail to store up in a closet, and it was probably a fire hazard.
  • I don't mind pulling clean dishes out of the dishwasher to use instead of putting things away. Okay, I mind a little. But not enough to actually put the stuff away when life gets really busy.
  • I have a really dirty car. Really. Dirty. Inside and out. I try to clean it out every couple weeks, but you'd never know it. Plus, I think I might be able to feed a small army with the amount of cheerios, pieces of chips, and crackers on the floor of my backseat.

Those are just a few of the ways I'm able to "skimp" so that I have time to do other, more fun things. Don't get the wrong idea. I do clean bathrooms with some regularity. I do vacuum. The laundry gets done every week. The sheets on the beds are clean. There is fresh food in the fridge, and I make breakfasts and lunches. But the truth is you really can't have everything in life. And really, if something's gotta give, why not let it be the dusting?

Caught Around Town

Do you know that part of People magazine where they show pictures of celebrities doing "normal" stuff-- like they've been "caught" being regular? Well, these two pictures of Marcie make me think of that:
And here is me looking dastardly tired (that's what happens when I don't wear make-up) with Marcie on her first Fourth of July:
And since I'm showing off Marcie, here she is experiencing her first fudgcicle (thanks to her dad)-- and yeah, I'm thinking that shirt is probably not long for this world . . .
And a photo of the men in my life:

And finally a picture of the kids playing in our back yard:
And that's probably a bit of sensory overload for you-- so that's it for the photos for tonight!

Bread Thief

On Friday when I arrived home from studying, I entered the house letting the garage door slam behind me. I was expecting to hear the patter of feet come blustering down the hallway and the gaggle of "MOMMY'S HOME!" that usually accompany the feet. But no. No such noise.

I crept around the hallway corner to discover Casey, perched up on the arm of the sofa, completely engaged in the movie Hercules and Marcie sitting at their small table, with her back to the TV. In Marcie's arms was a bag of bread. My bread. And spread across the table were somewhere between seven and eleven slices of it. Including the heel. She had taken a bite out of each one. And not on the edge of the bread so that I might still be able to use the pieces to make myself sandwiches. Oh no. Bites out of the center. Almost like she folded it in half, took a small bite, and opened it back up to look at her work. She was digging around in the bag for another piece when I caught her eye. "Hi, Mommy!" she called out happily.

So I learned my lesson. Don't leave my bread on the kitchen table where she can reach it. And destroy it. I don't think Marcie is particular about bread-- and I don't think my bread is particularly tasty, either. I eat that Wonder Lite stuff. But the kids and Jason eat Miltons or Orowheat. So I imagine my bread (much lower in calories) must have tasted like cardboard to poor Marcie, though really she didn't seem to mind.

Then yesterday morning, I decided to go back to bed and sleep in for a while. I shoved Jason out from under the covers with a "gentle" nudge and asked if he would lay on the couch so I could get some rest. And I rolled back out of bed at around 8am when I heard Casey calling out loudly, "MARCIE, WHERE ARE YOU?" From a dead sleep, I bolted wide awake. There aren't really many hiding places for a toddler inside the house, and in the pit of my stomach I worried Marcie had wandered off. Though in retrospect, I don't know how she would have escaped-- she doesn't know how to open the slider, and the front door has a hotel latch that's hard for me to reach. Nonetheless, I raced from our bedroom to the family room.

Jason, too, groggily sat up on the couch. But he took one glance around the room and said, "Casey, she's right here." Sure enough, there was Marcie. Sitting happily at the kitchen table, hidden by the height of the table itself because she'd opted for a chair without a booster seat.

She giggled a little as I approached-- and there in her hands were a knife (gasp!) and a hamburger bun. She was attempted to cut herself pieces of the bun and she'd clearly done a pretty good job up to that point. As if I were talking down a criminal, I said, "Marcie, give Mommy the knife please. Gently." And she did.

And she held up the top of the hamburger bun and called out, "Bread, Mommy."

"Yes, I see, Marcie." I replied.

And that is the end of knives in our silverware drawer. I don't know how she reached into the drawer and got it out, but that won't be happening again.

Whenever I feel slightly exasperated by her ability to problem-solve, I can't help but also feel so proud. She's a girl after my own heart-- I was quite the trouble maker when I was a toddler, or so my mom tells me. Once I climbed up into the bathroom medicine cabinet, took out my mom's nail polish, unscrewed it, and tried to use it as eye liner. During another escape, I located my dad's deodorant-- the roll-on kind-- and licked the entire bottle. At least Marcie's actions aren't quite as gross. Well, not yet anyway.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

A Life More Enriched

This morning Casey was a real pain. I didn't tell him I thought he was being a pain (though I'm sure he sensed my irritation in my tone)-- because lately when I tell him he's being a pain he says, "I not pain. You a pain, Mommy." And that makes me laugh. Which is not the proper response to your child when he's being a pain.

This morning he was being a pain because he wanted to wear his new Cars shirt. The one we bought yesterday at Target. The one that's so big, it hangs down to his knees because the smallest size they had was a boys' small. The one he wore all day yesterday. And sweated in. And rolled around in the dirt in. That one. I told him he couldn't wear it because it was dirty and stinky. And I promised he could wear it tomorrow-- that I'd wash it tonight. But he wasn't having it-- he wanted to wear that shirt. So he told me, "I not talking to you, Mommy. I going to ask Daddy." Now, Daddy was still asleep-- with an hour of sleep to go still remaining on our typical schedule. But far be it from me to keep a boy away from his dad, so off Casey stomped to talk to Jason.

Jason dutifully climbed out of bed-- albeit groggily-- and followed Casey back to Casey's room. Casey explained (as best he could) that he wanted to wear his new Cars shirt. And I added, "the dirty one," for more complete explanation. Jason told him he couldn't wear it, but that we'd wash it and he could wear it tomorrow-- to pick out something different. Casey seemed to accept this. He grabbed the dirty shirt off the floor and race out the door and into the laundry room. We heard the dryer open and close (I didn't even know he knew how to open it). And he came back and announced it was all ready to be washed. Then he opened his shirt drawer and without further complaint selected a (different) Cars shirt and put it on.

Jason and I later chuckled in the kitchen about how funny it was that Casey really thought one of us would undermine the other.

But then, on my drive to school this morning, I started thinking about how difficult Casey had been when he first awoke-- and that led me to thinking about how well-behaved he was yesterday-- and how much fun we had.

Now, I'm the first to admit that kids can sometimes be, well, for lack of a better term, burdensome. They are whiny. They are needy. They are expensive-- and I'm not talking about the cost of adoption, here. So why bother having kids at all? I mean, especially people like us-- people who have gone really far out of the way to have kids. No accidents here. Our family has definitely been planned. The answer is really simple. Kids really do enrich our lives.

And even when I'm irritated by Casey's insistence in not doing what I've asked, I'm equally impressed by his stick-to-it-ness. I'm impressed by his attempt at problem-solving by asking his dad for help. I'm impressed at him having and expressing opinions-- however much I may not like them.

But that's not all-- I remember how much pure joy Casey and Marcie bring to my small corner of the world. In an otherwise kind of dreary summer (as much as I love school, studying for the Bar really has been no picnic), yesterday was this bright ray of sunshine. . .

It started really quite normally. We left home around 8am with the stroller-- Casey racing ahead of us on the sidewalk, and Marcie strapped in. The sun was already out, sunscreen was appropriately applied, and it was starting to heat up as we made our way to the local Starbucks. We chit-chatted along the way, Casey mostly pointing out the crows-- though Marcie helping with her "caw caw" noises, too.

At Starbucks, we each enjoyed a beverage-- and we took our time. Marcie apparently knows both the words "Starbucks" and the word "coffee" (thanks, Mom), despite the fact that we frequent neither with any real sense of routine. Marcie had been carrying our miniature flag, and Casey wanted a turn, so we decided to stop into Target on the way home to see if they had any (they didn't). Outside the Target, Casey asked Jason what the flag was for. Thinking out loud (trying to come up with a response), Jason's said, "What is the flag for . . ." and before he could finish, Casey cried out, "In de pants!" Jason and I looked at each other in surprise. "What a great answer," Jason commented, and I of course agreed-- Independence!-- much better than what I could have come up with! And heck-- I didn't even know Casey knew any four syllable words!

Even though they didn't have a flag, it didn't stop us from contributing to the economy; we splurged on some pajamas for Marcie and a couple t-shirts-- this is where Casey picked out his new, favorite shirt. Marcie insisted on a shirt just like Casey's, so we got her one, too. And we trekked on home. By then, it was much hotter, and Casey was tired, so we took turns pushing the stroller and carrying Casey on our shoulders (even though it's a double stroller, he sometimes refuses to ride in it).

At home, we played a bit with the kids. Casey called his birth family and got to talk to his brother and his sister and his cousin. He was absolutely gleeful during the conversation. He is so excited that he has a big brother and big sister. Around 11am, Casey got lunch started for the kids. We told them I was going to study, I kissed them good-bye, and I disappeared into the study, in hopes they wouldn't look there for me (they didn't). I studied while they napped.

And after nap time, the real fun began. We played a little in the backyard-- mainly because Marcie discovered the water table full of water and began splashing about. Then we went to our local Fourth of July celebration. In our city, we have a 100 year old steam engine, and on 4th of July, when you ride it, there is an Old Fashioned, staged shoot-out. Casey was terrified of the gunfire. He lept out of my arms and into Jason's. Marcie, on the other hand, couldn't crane her neck far enough to enjoy the show. (Hmm. One daredevil. One not so much. Wonder which one will be riding the roller coasters with me . . .)

When we got home, some friends of ours were there waiting, with their 2 year old. A bit later another couple and their 13 month old arrived (now walking!). And the kids played. And played. Well, with the help of the dads. They got filthy. Filthy! Now this is totally my fault. Our backyard is just a dirt yard at the moment. The trampoline really needs to be washed down. So between kicking the soccer ball, sliding down the slide onto the hard, dirt ground, and rolling around during baseball playing, Casey (and Marcie) got a little grimy. And so did their friend Lucas.

Not to worry, though. After dinner, we tossed the boys into the bathtub, where they dumped water on each others heads and eliminated the grime. They were so dirty, it actually left a ring of dirt in the tub. While Marcie was getting her bath, we let Kate (the 1 year old) chase the naked boys around the living room and play area until they put on their pajamas. Then, once the kids were in their pajamas, we danced to Lollipop and Rockin Robin. Boy, their friend Lucas sure does know some cool dance moves. Three bed time stories later, it was time to say good bye to our friends and put Casey and Marcie down for the night. We had initially planned to go see fireworks, but we were just too tired.

I don't think I've laughed and smiled so much since I started studying for this test. Every once in a while, I wonder what it must be like to be preparing for this exam without a supportive spouse or partner and without children-- to just live alone, to be experiencing it alone. On the one hand, I guess it might be nice to have nothing and no one else to worry about. To not have to try and figure out which days you'll make it home in time for bedtime kisses or (gasp) even a family meal. To not be awoken multiple times throughout the night because someone is scared or thirsty or has to go potty. To not have to make four breakfasts and two lunches each morning before you can leave. To not have six loads of laundry each week (at least!). You know, to just worry about yourself.

But then, on the other hand, I cannot imagine my life without my fabulous children (and Jason, of course-- that goes without saying, really). Especially right now. Because as much as I know I need to spend time studying, I know that it's my family that helps provide me balance. I may have totally disengaged with friends and extended family during the past six weeks or so while I've been intensely focused on the preparing for this exam, but I haven't disengaged from my kids. Not emotionally. And not mentally. They really are such a bright spot in my otherwise kind of drab world-- I am so very lucky to have a family, to have my family-- my kids really have given me a life more enriched.