Sunday, September 14, 2014

MILP Roundup #364

The weekly Mothers In the Legal Profession Roundup is hosted on a rotating basis at the Butterflyfish, Grace, BJJ, Law, and Living, Mommy and the Sin City, Magic Cookie, The Reluctant Grownup, and Perspectives of a Hard Boiled Egg blogs.

This edition of the Roundup covers posts from September 8-September 14.

  • Mommy and the Sin City got a ruling in her favor and entered her third trimester. 
  • Lag Liv is shoe shopping and dancing. (Unwanted commentary: "It's not good when you move like that Mommy.") 
  • Kderoll's title says it all: "surfacing from the depths of the first trimester" with baby #3.
  • The Queen of Hats wishes more people would just say they care, instead of asking intrusive questions.
  • Alice's son drew a family portrait: "In this picture you are mad, I am sad, and Noah is confused." (Don't worry, Alice. Bill recently told me I have three moods: happy, disappointed, and grouchy.)
  • In the Full of the Dickens household, the first day of school brings excitement and fear of wedgies. 
  • Izzie is adjusting to a new school year too. 
  • Perfect Yellow Yolk is having a rough transition to preschool.
  • The Reluctant Grownup has a packed kid schedule and teething issues.
  • BJJ, Law, and Living started her first post-JD job.
  • Daisy, JD quit Twitter and Facebook.
  • Here at Magic Cookie, I'm still rehashing my biglaw days.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Getting over biglaw

I've been at the new job for a year now. Not sure when it will cease to be "the new job," but that's still how I think of it.

And I still think about the old job, not constantly like I used to, but more than I expected to after a year.

I had my performance review today and afterwards, I was thinking what a relief it was that at this job, I always feel like I am good enough. What I can do, and what I can give, is good enough. Better. I get a hell of a lot accomplished even with the sick kid days and the snow days and the bring-my-kid-to-work during summer vacation days. And I probably make mistakes sometimes, but meh, we just handle it and move on.

This, of course, triggered thoughts of my time in biglaw. Because I never felt good enough there. No matter how glowing my performance review, I could always be billing more, could always be more available. There were always five things I was supposed to be doing at that very moment, and every screwup was a crisis, no matter how minor. At my exit interview, I told the managing partner that in a firm full of high-anxiety Type As, they should lay off the messaging that everything you do absolutely must be perfect, and a typo in an email was a huge problem, and for first-years especially, since you don't know anything about the law yet, perfection was the only way you could be useful to the firm. I don't know if he understood what I was talking about.

I also started thinking, as I have thought many times before, about boundaries. Back at the firm, everyone kept telling me I needed to set boundaries, and I tried, but it didn't work. And for a long time I blamed myself, for not being effective enough at setting boundaries. Today, for the first time, I think I finally realized that it wasn't my fault.

Because, imagine you're a teenage girl, and you're dating a guy you really like, but he wants to be more physical than you're comfortable with. (Unexpected direction, but go with me here.) And he assures you that he's totally okay with the limits you set, and he would never try to force you to do anything you didn't want to do. But every day, even several times a day, he keeps asking you to do more. And it seems like everybody around you is doing it. You're the only one who wants to be different. And he won't let up, he keeps asking and wheedling and telling you he really needs this and reminding you that everybody else does it. So you probably go a little farther than you would like, because it's just wearing you down to keep saying no, no, no. And you probably get more and more unhappy and conflicted, even though you believe he's sincere when he reassures you that it's your choice and he'll still like you.

That's how it felt to me. And when I think of it that way, it seems a lot more clearcut. If that's not an abusive relationship, then I think we can at least all agree that that dude sucks.

On a more systemic level, I wonder if one reason women leave biglaw at higher rates than men is that, even when they set firm boundaries, their boundaries are being ignored. If partners and senior associates are more likely to push that girl where she's reluctant to go, and farther than they would push a guy.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Summer recap

I got tired of "what I did this weekend" posts, yet still wanted to chronicle what we did with our free time, so here's my recap of our summer.

Weekend #1: Birthday party at the cousin's house; Lego Movie; lots of hanging around the house.

In between: First sleepover with Bill's BFF, at our house. The next day we let him play hooky from camp for a day and BFF's mom took them to the beach.

Weekend #2: Visit to my family. We went to a library festival one day (where the kids saw a dog show and Bill discovered the Peyo Smurfs graphic novels) and an aquarium and fish hatchery the next. It was adorable to watch my nephew and Ted together. Baby R followed Ted around and copied everything he did, and Ted kept hugging him and giving him toys. I hoped they would become as close as Bill and my niece, who have the same year-plus age difference, but I thought it would take another year or two.

In between: Ted got sick. Came home on Tuesday with pinkeye and mild fever, and got progressively worse but was still in a good mood between treatments. One day we went to the playground, another day to the Museum of Science. Played a lot of Octonauts.

Weekend #3: Stayed home. Saturday we went on a farm outing, Sunday to the ER.

In between: Ted still sick. I got sick. Ted got potty trained.

Weekend #4: I was sick Saturday and JW took the kids to the Museum of Science. Sunday my parents came and we all went for a walk at the local nature preserve.

In between: Anniversary getaway! Bill had the week off and got to hang out with the grandparents at home.

Weekend #5: Returned from Vermont Saturday. Grandparents left Sunday, and we had dinner at a friend's house. I baked Fiori di Sicilia ricotta cookies and brown butter rice krispy treats. Bill saw a healthy cooking segment on TV and, inspired, made yogurt pops with fruit that he cut up himself using a real knife.

In between: Bill went to a week-long art camp.

Weekend #6: Castle Island.

In between: Bill had the week off and I scrambled to find things for him to do, which included sponging off friends and taking him to work with me. (His imitation of me at work involved me typing, talking on the phone, and scribbling on a piece of paper all at once.)

Weekend #7: Labor Day!

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Conversations with three-year olds

Ted tells everyone they're his best friend (or, pointedly, NOT his best friend), but today his actual best friend from school came over and they had a great time. Meanwhile, Bill also had a friend over. So there was lots of yelling in our house today. But I'm happy that my kids are developing social lives that don't involve me playing with them.

This week Bill lost a tooth. According to his friends, we have a stingy tooth fairy. Does $1 per tooth sound low to you? I remember getting a quarter and being happy about it. I know that was a long time ago, but has there been that much inflation?

Here is a conversation I had with Ted today:
Ted: Let me see your butt.
Me: Why?
Ted: Because I need to. Please show me your butt.
Me: Um, okay. [I turn around, stick it out, even white boys got to shout.]
Ted: No. I need to see your WHOLE butt.
Me: You mean, with no clothes?
Ted: Yes.
Me: No.
Ted: Why not?
Me: Because it's private.
Ted: Your butt needs privacy?
Me: Yes. My butt needs privacy.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Labor Day weekend

The drive up to the in-laws' was better than usual, even though the kids stayed awake for most of it. Ted called the toll booths "toad boots" and kept asking me to turn around by saying, "Mommy, put your face to me, please!" (Which reminded me of how he used to ask, "Who's going to put me to school today?" Also of Russian folk tales: "Little hut, little hut, turn your back to the trees and your face to me, please.")  JW yelled at the boys for punching each other in the back seat. I leaned over and whispered, "Isn't it a time-honored tradition to punch your brother in the back seat?" He replied, "And isn't it a time-honored tradition for Dad to yell at you to knock it off? I didn't even threaten to turn the car around."

Yesterday we went for an idyllic boat ride and spent the afternoon playing trucks in the backyard. I organized my in-laws' junk drawer during Ted's nap. At night we had a bonfire with s'mores: Ted's first fire ever, since he's always been in bed by dark. He took one bite each of a s'more and a toasted marshmallow, and ate almost all the chocolate before we could stop him. 

Tonight we're going to have dinner with the extended family. My MIL mentioned that she had been asked to bring mac and cheese, and I immediately offered to make it. I spent several hours boiling two pounds of pasta, grating two pounds of cheese, making a roux, whisking in the milk, making the cheese sauce, mixing in the pasta... only to realize at the end that the scorched smell I had started to notice halfway through had permeated the entire double batch, even though I had been careful not to scrape up the bottom of the pan. I had wasted half the day and probably $30 of ingredients. And I had a huge kitchen failure in front of my MIL, who is the sweetest person and would never say anything but still... you know? I drove half an hour to the nearest store and stood there staring at the boxes of pasta, then went straight to the frozen aisle and grabbed two boxes of Stouffer's. I drove home listening to "My Tears Dry On Their Own" by Amy Winehouse and repeating to myself, "This is funny. I can laugh about this."

Tomorrow... hopefully the rain will dry up and we'll have more lake time, then home again.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Technological advances

Bill likes to tell his friends how I was around at the dawn of the personal computer. He cannot believe that there was a time, when I was alive, that people did not have computers in their homes.

Bill has also been amazed and appalled at my other tales of technology that we acquired for the first time at some point during my childhood:
  • Garage door opener
  • Microwave
  • Cassette tapes (and later, CDs)
  • Transition from black and white TV with a dial to a color TV with a remote
  • VCR (and much later, DVD player and eventually TiVo)
Here's a new one from this week: a friend who was sleeping over said, while we were inflating the Aerobed, that he would NEVER sleep on the floor. I remarked that I used to sleep on the floor a lot as a kid, when we traveled or had guests (who would invariably get MY bed). Bill whispered to his friend, "Her parents were not so nice." "But there were no air mattresses when I was a kid." Both of their jaws dropped.

Bill has a hard time with the concept of radio, or any entertainment that is not on demand. He cannot imagine life without handheld devices. Earlier today he asked me if he could have our old first-generation iPhone. I said maybe, but he wouldn't be able to use it as a phone. "What do you mean?" I explained the concept of a phone plan, and said that phone didn't have one. "So I can't play games on it?" "No, you can play games, but you can't use it as a phone." "What do you mean, use it as a phone? So I can't get to the Internet on it?" We went around and around like this several times before I finally realized -- to him, a phone is a mini-computer. He does not think of a phone as something on which you make and receive voice calls.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Kitty-cat, math walks, and first-time teaching

Ted is always asking, "Can I be a kitty-cat?" Then he spends the next half hour meowing plaintively.

Ted also wants to be picked up and carried all the time, which is nothing new. The relatively new part is that I've been discouraging this for months (and JW, who is much less of a softie, has been refusing). He's getting too heavy. ("But I'm a kitty-cat. Kitty-cats are very small.") Yesterday he kept whining on the way home from school that his foot hurt. He's been whining a lot about minor physical discomfort lately (like, he runs up and tries to hug me while I'm carrying a big stack of library books, and then complains, "OW!! You POKED me!") so I ignored it at first. But he kept insisting that it hurt, and that he was having trouble walking. After ten minutes of this, during which time we had walked half a block, I finally gave in and picked him up. Told you I was a softie. I kept thinking, what if we get home and he takes off his shoes and his foot is all red, then I'll feel terrible that I didn't listen to him. I carried him the rest of the block, then after we crossed the street he ran the rest of the way home.

Bill and I have been taking long walks after dinner this week. When we get outside, he says, "Are you ready to talk about m...", "a..." I supply, "t...", "h...", "exclamation point!" And then he wants to keep walking and walking while I give him math problems and try to get him to figure out rules (like, if a*b=c, then c/a=b and c/b=a, or if you want to multiply something by 10, just add a 0 at the end). He likes it! And when we get home, I write down the rules we learned in his notebook while he gets ready for bed. Last year he kept saying he hated math (even though he never really seemed to) so this is a positive development, even though I don't expect it to last.

Last night I had a dream that I was teaching my first (probably law school) class on intellectual property licensing. It was a disaster. I was in a huge auditorium that had sections of seats all over the place, in front of me, behind me, up in a balcony that was tucked into a corner. I kept turning around and discovering more students. I couldn't possibly see them all at once. The students kept talking and giggling, and trying to make each other laugh. I had absolutely nothing planned. After a long time, I managed to get the room over control and start talking about licensing, and that part went pretty well. But then when I was trying to walk over to another section of students, I ended up leaving and that was the end of class. Afterwards, I thought, um, I probably should have had a lesson plan, and given some homework, and what's that thing called, a syllabus. What kind of school is this where they don't give a first-time professor any resources or advice about teaching? When I woke up, I thought it was funny that instead of the traditional "final exam, never went to class" anxiety dream, I had a dream where I was the professor. And instead of feeling anxious about failing, I felt annoyed that the school hadn't given me what I needed. But now that I type this all out, it doesn't seem so strange because it pretty much mirrors my experience teaching at an academic summer program back when I was in college, and I was just thinking about that yesterday. That was the experience that convinced me I should not be a teacher.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Books with awesome girls

To balance out yesterday's post about the appallingly sexist Smurfette origin story, here are some series we've enjoyed that feature girls as the main characters -- and not just any girls, but girls who are adventurous, outspoken, and independent. All of these books feature kids around the same age as Bill, who is starting second grade.

Ramona Quimby by Beverly Cleary. These classic books cover Ramona's life from around ages four through ten. While they are a lot of fun, they also deal with a lot of "real life" issues like sibling relationships and changes in the family.

Clementine by Sara Pennypacker. Clementine is irrepressible. She means well, but she's always getting into trouble. Luckily, she has understanding parents, even though her teachers and neighbors aren't always so thrilled with her.

Ivy + Bean by Annie Barrows. Ivy and Bean are quirky, and they're the only team in this group of books about solo girls. In one of my favorites, they decide to go on an archaeological dig in Bean's backyard and are so confident about their results that they invite their entire class to see the assembled dinosaur.

Gooney Bird by Lois Lowry. We've only read one of these so far, but I can't wait to read more! Gooney Bird wears whatever she wants, says whatever she wants, and never EVER gets embarrassed. She is the coolest.

Junie B. Jones by Barbara Park. Junie B. can be kind of obnoxious, but that makes these books a lot more relatable than books about kids who are naturally angelic. She has a grammar all her own and cares about things that kids this age actually care about, like losing a tooth and acquiring enough money to buy the best gift at the holiday fair.

Happy reading!

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Smurfette

I know Bill is my child because he loves libraries and, when he walks into an unfamiliar one, heads straight for the shelves and starts looking for hidden treasures.

I noticed he had parked himself on the library couch with a thick book, and was surprised to see that it was an anthology of the original Smurfs comics from the 1960s. I didn't even know the cartoon was based on comics.

We requested the Smurfs books from our home library, and Bill spent several happy days with his nose buried in them. He asked me to read one to him at bedtime. We finished a silly story about the Smurfs finding a magic wish-granting egg, and the next story was "The Smurfette."

The Smurfette was created by Gargamel, who wanted to wreak havoc on the Smurf village. She looked like an ordinary Smurf, except with stringy black hair. When she arrived at the Smurf village, she immediately began terrorizing all the Smurfs with her womanly ways. She nagged them, exploded at them, burst into tears with little provocation, insisted she knew the right ways to do things, and generally got in the way and ruined everything. The Smurfs hated Smurfette and hatched a plot to get rid of her: they talked behind her back (but making sure she could hear) about how fat and ugly she was. She went to Papa Smurf in tears. He spent hours in his hut with her, working his magic, until she emerged as the familiar cartoon Smurfette: blond, curvy, and teetering on high heels. Her personality was exactly the same, except that her blond hair had made her stupid. All the Smurfs fell instantly in love with her, and fell over each other trying to do everything she said. Just as Gargamel had hoped, there was chaos in the Smurf village. The Smurfs fought over the Smurfette and spent their time painting the dam pink to please her instead of gathering food and doing chores. Eventually, the Smurfette actually did something useful: she sneaked out of the village, leaving a note saying that she was leaving because there could be no peace among the Smurfs while she was there. The story ends with Papa Smurf getting his revenge on Gargamel -- he fashions a human woman out of clay, and the last panel shows Gargamel's horrified face upon seeing her.

I only managed to get through about half of this story with Bill at bedtime. Then I closed the book and explained how incredibly sexist it was, and why that was a problem. We moved on to the next story.

Sunday, August 17, 2014


Every year for our anniversary, we go away for an overnight trip, just the two of us. This year my parents came up for the week to watch the kids, and we were gone for a blissful four days and three nights.

Wednesday we drove in the pouring rain to Burlington, Vermont. But first, we made our pilgrimage to the King Arthur Flour cafe and retail store in Norwich, VT. As a baking nerd, I had been looking forward to this forever. We ate delicious sandwiches on their homemade bread. I spent at least an hour looking at every single thing in the store, and watched the bakers shaping loaves. I bought a new half-sheet pan, which I've been needing for a while; some flat sheets of precut parchment paper; Fiori di Sicilia, which is sort of like a floral/Creamsicle-flavored version of vanilla extract; and Swedish pearl sugar. Today I made these ricotta cookies with the Fiori di Sicilia and everyone went crazy over them. (Of course, being me, I will tinker with them next time, and I will be the only one who prefers my version.)

We stayed at a cute B&B, the Sinclair Inn, about half an hour from Burlington. As we soon discovered, one of the owners of the inn grew up in the restaurant business and was an amazing cook and baker. He was taking his first batch of cookies out of the oven when we arrived.

Over the next few days, we developed a pattern: eat an enormous three-course breakfast at the inn; go for a long hike; wander around the city. Our first hike, recommended by a fellow traveler at the inn, was two miles straight up Mount Mansfield, through mud and across streams. I hadn't packed appropriately for all the hiking we did, and in fact had forgotten my hiking boots at home. The only shoes I had were sandals and my leather ankle boots that I wear to work. So most of my hiking was done in a blouse, jeans, and my trusty Clarks boots. One hiker who we passed commented that I looked like I was ready to go to a club. My shoes are now in need of repair, but they did the job.

We drank a lot of beer on our trip. Vermont is big on craft beer. We toured the Magic Hat and Switchback breweries, had a few drinks at the Farmhouse Tap & Grill, and got to try the elusive Heady Topper (beloved by beer snobs, but nearly impossible to find outside Vermont).

We also got to take a tour of Lake Champlain Chocolates. Around here in Massachusetts, I see these chocolates everywhere. It turns out they're all produced in one little factory, where we saw workers decorating the chocolates by hand, and in the rest of the country you can pretty much only find them at Whole Foods.

We ate an amazing, perfect anniversary dinner at Hen of the Wood in Burlington. We also ate at A Single Pebble, a Chinese place that I didn't think lived up to the hype, even though it was interesting -- they had this weird "mock eel" dish made out of shiitake mushrooms that reminded me of the Indian dessert jelabi, and some special dumplings that were basically deep-fried slices of stuffed bread. We had crepes at the Skinny Pancake, which was great, and small plates at Misery Loves Company, which I didn't like.

The one thing we did that wasn't hyper-local was seeing "Guardians of the Galaxy." Since going out to the movies is ordinarily a luxury, we made sure to include it in our child-free itinerary.

By the end of our trip, I was ready to head home and see the kids again. And then about an hour after returning home, with both kids jumping on me and MOMMY MOMMYing me and LOOK AT ME and I HAVE TO GO TO THE POTTY and HE HIT ME and PLAY WITH ME, I was already nostalgic for our vacation. I was feeling pretty happy and content with my life before we left. That taste of freedom was dangerous.