Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Books

Bill is on a Roald Dahl kick. JW read "Danny, Champion of the World" with him as a bedtime book. (He's old enough now that he can read just about anything on his own, but we still like reading together at bedtime.) We just finished "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," which he loved.  It's been a long time for me, and reading aloud forced me to pay attention to every word. Bill's favorite part was the "square candies that look round." My favorites were little things that I had forgotten about, like how Mike Teavee keeps asking inconvenient questions which Willy Wonka pretends not to hear, and Mr. Wonka's explanation of why he has a room full of whips: "Whipped cream isn't whipped cream unless it's been whipped with whips, just as poached eggs isn't poached eggs unless it's stolen in the dead of night."

Now we're on "James and the Giant Peach," which is just starting to get good. "Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator" is on its way to us, and he's already read "Danny, Champion of the World."

Before that, we read "The Abominables" by Eva Ibbotson, about a family of Yeti. We both enjoyed it, but I had borrowed it from the library on my Kindle and the loan expired before we finished it. That was our first experiment with Kindle bedtime reading and my first experiment with online borrowing. I think we'll stick with regular books for bedtime.

On my own, I'm currently reading "The Post-Birthday World" by Lionel Shriver. It held my attention for the first hundred pages or so, but then started to feel like a slog. It's about a woman who is in a long-term relationship, but is attracted to another man. She has an affair with him in one storyline, but in alternating chapters we also see her resisting and sticking with her current relationship. The book recounts her every thought in such minute detail that it's fascinating at first and dull after a while. Which maybe is meant to be a metaphor for relationships! I'm a little more than halfway through now and while I first found it painful that she was in these two alternate but equally terrible relationships, eventually I decided that this book isn't really about relationships or adultery. It's about self-determination, determining the course of your own life. This woman is doomed because she sees her life as choosing between two men, when she should be saying to herself, "Self, both these men suck and we're better off on our own."

I kept seeing a woman on the bus and one day I struck up a conversation after noticing the book she was reading. It turns out we have similar tastes. We saw each other a few times after that and talked mostly about books, and I was so excited to have someone to talk books with. I realized that I was starved for a good book conversation, and that it had been years since I was part of a book club. She recommended "The Post-Birthday World" to me. I keep hoping that I'll run into her on the bus again and I'll say, "Hey, I'm reading that book you told me about!" Also, I kind of hoped we could be friends. In our one non-book conversation, we figured out that she had put an offer on the house we currently live in, but she was too late because we had snapped it up. So we must have something in common. But alas, I have not seen her since then.

I just finished "The Silkworm" by Robert Galbraith, a.k.a. J.K. Rowling. It's the second novel in a series about private detective Cormoran Strike. The first was "Cuckoo's Calling," which I loved. This one was enjoyable, but not as good as the first one. The mystery has to do with an author who writes a scandalous book, slandering everyone in sight, and then disappears. I thought the fictional book sounded ridiculous and all the scandal it caused was a bunch of self-important people being overly sensitive. But I do like how she develops the characters of the detective and his assistant, and has ongoing storylines for each of them that carried over from the first book. That kept me going even when the mystery didn't.

Before that was "When You Reach Me" by Rebecca Stead, a Newbery medal winner that wasn't what I expected at all. All I had heard was that it was good, and it was a YA novel with a young girl as the protagonist. It had a sci-fi twist that surprised me. I really liked it.

And before that was Elizabeth Gilbert's "The Signature of All Things," about a family of botanists and their personal dramas. I loved the first half, which chronicled the life of the ruthless Henry Whittaker and the childhood of his daughter Alma. But everything was going along too smoothly, so you knew something had to happen to make everyone miserable, and once it did I didn't like the rest of the book as much. Actually, there were several somethings that happened and at least one of them was stupid.

Next up is probably "The Goldfinch" by Donna Tartt. Everyone else has read it, I might as well.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Garlands

I've been cleaning out the garage, a little at a time, because the kids are running around outside with the neighbor kids and somebody needs to be outside with them to supervise the 3-year old. In the small section I've cleared out so far, I have found: a cardboard box containing a live mouse; a small key, which may be the key to the file cabinets that JW and his dad jimmied open; our ancient Rollerblades, which I feel confident we will never again wear; and, tied inauspiciously in a plastic grocery bag, a crystal bowl containing our dried wedding garlands.

As is traditional in Indian weddings, we each wore a garland of flowers, which we exchanged during our ceremony. We were instructed to keep the garlands, or to throw them into the Ganges. We kept them for years, and in our old house they had pride of place in the bowl that was one of our wedding gifts. (One of many crystal bowls we received, most of which we sold at a yard sale before we moved. Since then, I have always advised brides to have ample registries.) In the move, somehow they ended up in the garage. After finding the mouse, we weren't eager to bring anything from the garage back into the house.

So today after dinner, we took the kids for a walk by the river. We went to the highest point on the bridge and, when no one was looking, we threw the garlands in. (The Charles River is our Ganges. It's the lifeline of our homeland and is horribly polluted.) Actually, Bill and Ted each threw one in. Bill managed to hit a duck.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Ten years

I wrote my first post on this blog ten years ago today. At the time, blogs were relatively new and law school bloggers were few and far between. Now blogs are for old fogeys (and dogs).

I started this blog because I was obsessed with the idea of switching careers and going to law school, and wanted to spare my friends and family from having to hear about it endlessly. In the last ten years, this blog has seen me through not only law school, but also two homes, two kids, and two jobs. This has been my creative outlet, baby book, recipe binder, virtual book club, and journal.

And support group, of course. At first I felt like I was shouting into the wilderness, but now I feel firmly ensconced in a community. The wise words and commiseration of my fellow law bloggers, especially the Moms in the Legal Profession (a.k.a. MILPs), have often kept me going. I love that I have a personal and professional network of people who live all over the place, who have entirely different specialties and practice in all kinds of settings, and who care about helping and encouraging each other even though many of us have never met in person.

My blog posts have dwindled since I left my big firm job. I'm in such a small niche now that I feel like anything I write can be directly linked to me. As a result, lately this has become more of a mommy blog, which I never intended and don't really want. I'm not ready to give it up, but I may experiment with different formats or topics.

And after ten years, a whole lot of information about my personal life has accumulated here, more than I'm comfortable with. I'll be deleting many of my old posts, and probably won't be posting pictures here anymore. My kids shall henceforth be known as "Bill" (the older one) and "Ted" (the younger one).

Many of you have stuck with me for a long time... thanks for checking in, for your comments, and for being part of my community!

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Nantucket

JW's great-aunt and uncle invited us to their Nantucket rental for a few days. It was... challenging. The four of us were stuck in a tiny bedroom with room for two twin beds and not much else. I have recounted before how X cannot sleep in the same room with another human being. We heard a crash at around 10 p.m. and it was X, who had leaped up, clawed K awake, knocked over the lamps, and run out into the hallway yelling "TIME TO PLAY!" I don't think he ever fell asleep.

Other than the sleeping arrangements, we had fun seeing the extended family, riding on the ferry, building sandcastles at the beach (K started pre-emptively knocking his down to deny X the pleasure), and splashing in the kiddie pool.

Now we're home for one night only before heading out again for the 4th of July.

During K's bath tonight, we discussed religion. I told K about Hinduism, and about reincarnation and the idea that all religions are different paths to the same God. K told me he believes in God, and he thinks God is very kind, loving, and generous. This surprised me a little because we are not a religious household. JW never seems to mention religion, although he is the believer of the two of us, and I usually talk about it in the context of "Some people believe..." I asked him a few questions about his beliefs, and also suggested that he talk to various people in our family who are more religious than I am. But he wanted to go back to being silly and I didn't press him after that.

When I was K's age, I thought incessantly about two topics: religion and money. I was surrounded by Christians, Jews, Hindus, and Muslims, and troubled by inequality. I concluded that religion was a bunch of stories people told to make themselves feel better. My understanding of religion has grown more nuanced over time, but that core skepticism is still there. As for money, I decided that money was a totally arbitrary measure of value. It's backed up by gold, but gold is a rock with no inherent value. Currency is useful because in a strict barter system, you'd have to find people who wanted specific goods and services, and currency basically allows everyone to barter on a much larger scale. But on a global level, the value of money is divorced from that barter system and has little meaning. I still more or less believe that too, although now I find it pretty weird that I spent so much time developing my own theory of economics when I was eight.

It's interesting to see K developing in his own direction. I wonder what he puzzles over.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

I have good blogging intentions, but I don't get around to blogging as much as I think I will.

Here are some things I've been thinking about or doing:

1. Imagine if we weren't all so obsessed with the shape of our bodies. I'm not even talking about dieting or body image in general. I mean, imagine if we all wore whatever we liked without trying to create the illusion that our body has a certain shape. How much mental energy would that free up? I bet if you added up all the time I've spent reading about apples and pears and how I shouldn't wear capris because I need to elongate my legs, it would be at least a 24-hour day. Probably more.

2. I like reading about minimalism, but I'm not really a minimalist. I like having spare toothpaste and I don't want to live in a spare home. I notice that extreme minimalists rely a lot on others who don't share their lifestyle, when they need to roast a turkey or go camping. Anyway, I do like the idea of knowing exactly what I own and where it all is, and only having things that are useful or beautiful. Lately I've been on a (slow) mission, going room-by-room through the house and removing things that don't need to be there.

3. Strawberry picking! Saturday we went to the strawberry festival and Sunday I made strawberry shortcake. We ate up our three quarts pretty quickly, so we may go again.

4. Weekend timing. Not only did we go strawberry picking on Saturday, we did all sorts of grocery shopping and had a date night. By the end of the day we were all exhausted. Sunday we didn't go farther than the backyard and stayed in our pajamas for most of the day. It was pretty perfect.

Monday, June 16, 2014

No on #3

Early Father's Day morning, JW asked what was wrong. "Nothing's wrong," I said, blowing my nose. "Just... everything seems so hard lately. But I don't know why. Everything's fine."

"I understand," he said. "X just got better, and you've been sick on and off for a while now."

"I'm not sick," I said, still sniffling. "I'm--" and then he stared at me in pure horror.

I laughed, realizing how that sentence might end. "Happy Father's Day!" I joked. Then I abruptly stopped laughing. For days, I had been feeling nauseated, headachey, and tired, with an uncharacteristic aversion to chocolate, coffee, and alcohol. I had just had an emotional outburst for no apparent reason. My symptoms were a lot more consistent with pregnancy than with the mild form of X's stomach virus that I was sure I had contracted.

(For the record, I planned to end that sentence, "just a little under the weather.")

I sympathize with childfree people because how they feel about kid #1, I feel about kid #3. I saw four years of my life flash before my eyes, four years of coveted freedom consumed by sleeplessness, tantrums, and butt-wiping. And how the hell would we pay for another kid? Would I have to go back to biglaw (no!) or become a SAHM (nooooo!!!!)?

JW took my hand and gazed into my eyes. He said softly, "I cannot change diapers when I am forty."

Hallelujah, the pregnancy test this morning was negative. But let me tell you, I did some serious Googling yesterday and learned that 8 out of every 1,000 women will get pregnant on Mirena. Those odds are not good enough for me. Today I informed JW that it's time for him to take one for the team and move the vasectomy up from "someday" to "ASAP."

Monday, June 09, 2014

MILP roundup #350

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 Monday, June 2 to Sunday, June 8 and features the MILPs in their own words.

On having kids and not having them: 

Nonsense and Frippery:   [I]t's really sinking in that I have kids, plural. "I have to go get the kids!" and "oh, the boys will love that bunk bed in a few years." So crazy. I'm also so damned glad to be done with childbearing, holy crap. As soon as A gets a new job and insurance he's getting The Procedure and we're solid DONE. I am so, so excited.

Alice in Wonderland:  Sometimes I like to play a twisted little game called "What if I didn't have kids?" I would still be working. But I wouldn't just be working, I would be KILLING it at the office. High heels, pencil skirt, lipstick...okay, maybe I just mean my outfit would be killer. But seriously, I really loved the attorney job I left.  

On frightening pregnancy news:

Full of the Dickens: The day after our scary news, I called my OB's office to talk to my doctor again about doing additional testing. After talking to her again (and doing some Google research of my own), I'm in a much better place. . . . It's funny how the light of day brings a clarity and rationality that does not exist at the time of a 9pm phone call from your doctor with unexpected news.

Perfect Yellow Yolk: At our fetal echocardiogram yesterday, baby hiccuped and didn’t want to cooperate at first but we got a detailed (ok, I just saw blobs but apparently highly trained doctors can see a lot!) look at baby’s heart and everything looks normal. I couldn’t stop crying.We have been on an emotional roller coaster these past few months. My husband wouldn’t discuss baby names because he didn’t want to get too attached to the baby, even more than we already are. But here we are, having made it through all of these tests, very hopeful that everything will be fine.

On thirty-somethingth birthdays:

Grace: I guess thirty has been weird, but not for the usual reasons (oh! I’m old! I shall never be young again! I’m going to die someday!). It’s just realizing how long past some of those most hated and most treasured memories are; it’s seeing how far I have come, yet how far still have to go.

Daisy JD: It was an awesome weekend, filled with little things and moments that all added up to happiness. . . .Whereas my twenties were filled with a lot of grand moments . . . my thirties seem to shaping up to be filled with barbeques with friends, afternoons spent in the sun, family dinners complete with kiddie menus and sippy cups, high chairs in my dining room and wonderful-but-less-frequent date nights with my husband, where we relish the quiet conversation and ability to savor an appetizer. Things are good. Or, as B’s grandfather would say, “They are not just good, they are great.”

On single digit birthdays:

Lag Liv:
  • Oh, baby Landon. He gave us such a tough time as a baby . . . . Even then his sweet personality shone through and oh how we've just gone up from there. From the mellowest and happiest of toddlers to an awesome big kid who couldn't be a better big brother.   
  •  Claire turned four yesterday. Four. That's like a legit big kid age. No more pretending she's in the 2-3 "toddler" range, no more daytime naps, no more "Biscuit" or "Clairebear." She's Claire and she's a big little girl and she is freaking awesome.
Queen of Hats: Oh, child. Oh, my dear, dear, dear child. I realize telling kids about disadvantaged children without toys isn’t helpful at this age. . . . However, I do not bring my parenting a-game to a pre-pre-breakfast opening of gifts, so I may have said something about children in the world who do not have five tubs of Playmobil and for her to get over it. And no, it didn’t work this time, either. pH ended up sent to her room and was told she could stop having a tantrum or I could put the toys in my closet until she was ready to be polite and gracious.

On other life changes and decisions, big and small:

Kderoll: R thinks “it is a great idea” “it will save us money right?” and “I never have to change a diaper again” (because two years ago he said that he would never change a cloth diaper). He still hasn’t changed one. . . . We’ll see how this is going 50 loads of laundry from now.

Mommy and the Sin City: I wasn't yearning for a second dog, I was actually content gestating (14 weeks) this baby and adding a second dog once this kid was about a year old. . . . But there was something about that picture, and something about the circumstances that called to me.

BJJ, Law, and Living: The talks today were on prayer--and the speakers seemed to focus on the types of answers we get (yes, not now, I have something better for you in store). One lady quoted a marquee she had seen in front of another church: Write your plan in pencil. Then, give God the eraser. Stay tuned. I have some thoughts to share on that "eraser," probably later this week.

Meanwhile, back at the Magic Cookie ranch... the past four days have been full of bodily fluids, and not the fun kind.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

A weighty update

For most of my adult life, my weight fluctuated within a pretty narrow range. When I got about five pounds above my normal weight and my pants started to feel tight, I would naturally cut back. Somehow, after X was born, that self-regulating mechanism disappeared.

At first it was easy to say I was still losing the baby weight. Then I blamed biglaw. I'm a comfort/anxiety eater and I was constantly stressed and sleep-deprived. But I continued to gain weight after switching jobs. Whether it was the middle-age metabolism slowdown or my lifelong sugar addiction catching up with me, I became steadily heavier until I hit an all-time high this winter.

Now that I'm sleeping regular hours, I've finally managed to establish a regular exercise routine for the first time in years.  Like any normal American woman, I've grown up looking in the mirror and feeling disgusted and ashamed of my flabby, lumpy body. One benefit of exercising regularly, for me, is that it changes my body image. When I look in the mirror these days, I actually feel pretty good. I remember the weights I lifted, the laps I swam, and the miles I ran, and I appreciate the body that did all that. This is a good thing, but it makes it harder to push myself to lose the weight. I experience major cognitive dissonance when I can't fit into the clothes I wore just last year.

JW recently went on a diet and spent several months tracking every calorie he ate. I don't have that kind of discipline. I do really well for a week or two, and then something happens and I get off track. I guess the important thing is that I keep getting back on track. I've been losing weight very gradually, like a pound a month, but creeping down is better than creeping up.

I've become more conscious of the binge eating, and I've been doing it less. As with the weight loss, though, it's hard to push myself to make a real change. I get that it's unhealthy and counterproductive and is actually classified as an eating disorder. And since becoming more aware of it, I can usually stop before it starts feeling awful. But it just... makes me feel better. It's such a deeply ingrained habit.

For now, I'm trying to find clothes that make me feel good (and not like a sausage squeezed into its casing) and keep up the exercise routine. Baby steps.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Comfort zone

I've always been a believer in expanding my comfort zone by pushing myself outside of it. As a former painfully shy and conflict-averse person, who used to dread having to call the cable company and would meekly accept a terrible haircut or botched sandwich order, this often takes the form of learning new social skills. Switching from engineering to law, becoming a mediator, running for public office, and so many other things I've done in recent years have taken me much farther than I thought I would ever go. And becoming comfortable doing things that used to terrify me has opened up so many possibilities.

I never thought, for instance, that I would be the president of a nonprofit, or the leader of any large organization. I have a cousin who's half-joked for many years that I will someday be a CEO, and I'm not sure why she's so attached to the idea because I've always maintained that I'm not the visionary leader type. I can be strategic, I can keep the big picture in mind, and I tend to naturally take the reins when I'm committed to a project. But I'm not a cheerleader, it's hard for me to see myself up on a stage inspiring people, and it's unlikely that I will ever come up with some crazy new idea that's going to revolutionize everything.

And you know, that's okay. I've finally come to an edge of my comfort zone that I have no desire to push. Recently my nonprofit organized a big event, the first time we've done anything like this. We had to do lots of planning, budgeting, and figuring out details. That was fine, and I picked up some useful new skills. We also had to deal with publicity, coordinating lots of people and organizations, finding sponsors, getting funding, and enlisting volunteers. I didn't enjoy that stuff at all, and even though I'm better at doing it now, I'm going to avoid it as much as possible in the future. I won't be able to avoid it entirely while I'm still helping run this organization, but to be honest I'm counting the days until I can step down and hand off the reins to somebody else. And I'm okay with that too. I know now that I can do it, and I know I don't want to do it.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

More swimming

Some thoughts on the end of my beginner swim lessons, before they fade away:

Where I started: Reluctant to go in the water, and scared of water too deep to stand in; unable to float or swim at all; no desire to ever set foot in a pool.

Where I ended after seven weeks of lessons: Pretty comfortable in water I can stand up in, and OK in deep water if there is something I can hold on to. I can float and swim freestyle or backstroke, but I get tired about halfway across the pool and need to rest. Actually like swimming as exercise, even though I think it's a pain to get all wet and covered with stinky chlorine and have to deal with a wet bathing suit.

The kids' lessons are so different from the adult lessons. Both kids were scooping, kicking, and jumping into the pool by the end of their first half hour. In my first lesson, we learned to put our head under and practice floating.

My three keys to getting comfortable in the water: practice (duh); goggles; and developing the instinct to blow water out of my nose and mouth as soon as my head goes underwater.

Another thing that helped was just developing a routine. I get a little anxious when I'm doing something new, even driving someplace I haven't been before. Figuring out all the logistics, like what I needed to bring and how to navigate the locker room, helped me feel more comfortable about going back.

I need to get in the pool at least once a week, preferably twice. The longer I stay out of the pool, the less I want to go back. I'm already dragging my feet on continuing the lessons.