Saturday, December 14, 2013

Finish, Begin (2)

Let's see. In January, I had Thoughts on what I wanted to accomplish for the year. Got some of it done, but certainly not all of it.

The baby weight issue--It's actually hard to wrap my head around this, but I am down close to 30 pounds form the beginning of the year. So, that's pretty much all the baby weight! This coming year, I want to get rid of the extra weight that I packed on in law school. No specific number in mind, just when I feel healthy, I'll stop.

I had all kinds of goals about books. That was something akin to an epic fail, but it's a goal I want to keep and try again. I really underestimated the amount of time I needed to work in the evening, and how much time it takes to get Lis ready for school the next day, get everything for myself packed, and clean up. By then, it's 9 pm, and if I don't go to bed and start trying to fall asleep, I am useless at work. I got some books read, which is an infinite number more than last year. Onwards!

I struggle with the stepping away from the Internet thing. It's a learning process, so it remains a goal.

The whole "conversations I need to have" thing is hilarious given what happened at work. My coworker left and moved out of state, and I got promoted to her position, which is exactly what I wanted--the research, writing, presentation, speaking, training, and policy end of things. I achieved that goal, by hook or by crook. The conversations about financial planning occurred, and I have been writing our own wills and trusts (I LOVED property law, call me sick). The second baby thing is looking like a definite no, but of course, that is an on going conversation. Haven't had those conversations with/about my parents yet. Need to do that.

So, this coming year:
1. Finish the get Grace healthy campaign
2. Read more
3. Conversations with/about parents
4. Be more present when I am home, and less absorbed in work/cyberspace
5. House stuff--painting, decorating (we've lived here since 2009, and we still have blank walls)
6. Pick family hobby and implement said hobby. I'm struggling with this one--I vote for hiking, Vor votes for legos. I vote for kayaking, Vor votes for age appropriate science projects. Do we see a theme? The one activity he votes for--biking--I loathe. I am so short in the torso/arm department that I am always leaning waaaaaay to far to reach the handlebars and in a matter of ten minutes, my back hurts like the fire of a thousand hells. I hate riding a bike. So, we still need to work on picking a hobby. We may need to pick two hobbies, but I do not see any kind of compromise between inherently active v. inherently sedentary.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Understanding Is A Three Edged Sword*

The one chance I have to blog is at night, after Lis has gone to bed, on nights where Vor needs to work from home and I don't need to work.

Just so you're all clear where you are and where this blog is on the priority list, I am currently engaging in a Babylon 5 marathon. Yes. Yes, I am. I'm 3/4 of the way done with season 1, and then I will have to wait a couple weeks to get season 2 out of the library. It will be a long, tortuous wait, during which time I will have free time in the evening again. For now, I am in the grips of a force greater than me, and that force is REALLY GOOD television.

In case there was any doubt, Vor is sitting next to me, watching.

*Ambassador Kosh, Babylon 5

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


The cranberry sauce is made, and the pumpkin pie is cooling. The bourbon-chocolate-pecan pie is ready to be put in the oven. The apples are just waiting to be peeled and sliced for applesauce. Various items are just waiting to be assembled, or rolled, or placed in the correct pan and cooked.

Lis is up stairs in her crib, talking instead of napping. She had a huge day at the Children's Museum and she be exhausted and dead to the world, but no, she's not and by the way, I don't need to sleep at night anymore either, mama, thank you. The night terrors are back, and ugh. But despite the no napping and no sleeping, she's happy and healthy, and yells MAMA and flings her hands around my neck, then pats my back.

So, there's food on my table and love in my house, and yeah, we're all pretty thankful here.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Yes, Yes, Turkey Before Trees, WE ALL KNOW

My MIL is building a house. Have I mentioned that? Because she is, and she is living with a friend until her house is finished, and she is a woman who likes her own space, especially around the holidays, because she decorates the hell out of everything. Except--right now she has no house of her own, and so she has taken out her decorating frustrations on my house. My house is now fully decked out of Thanksgiving/Christmas, since she likes to put up Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving, so that the house is all pretty for the big event. It's full on holiday season in my house, folks.

This meant, of course, that I just HAD to go to Target and buy shatterproof ornaments because never shall the toddler meet the ornaments that came of my grandmother's tree. No. Not happening. So, I suspect there will be tree decorating in the near future (this weekend) when Vor's sister and her fiancee come into town. I also suspect a certain amount of BAAAALL (ball = ornament) throwing by said toddler.

Thanksgiving is at our house this year (see: MIL has no house), so on the menu:

Turkey--Vor puts some kind of herb butter rub on it and then COMPLETELY WRAPS THE TURKEY IN BACON. I can't even. It's like a dream come true.

Sweet potato casserole--my MIL makes this stuff with some kind of pecan brown sugar topping and droooool.

Green bean casserole--again, made by MIL, with crunchy onions on top. Probably my favorite Thanksgiving dish.

Cranberry sauce--I've never made it before, but I am making it this year, so I have the cranberries and oranges waiting for me in the kitchen.

Stuffing: I've always made a pretty standard stuffing, so this year, I am taking a stab at Smitten Kitchen's stuffing, and bonus, I am adjusting it to make it in the crockpot, because there's no room in the oven.

Other vegetable and salad: My SIL and her fiancee are making this part, but I've no idea what they're planning.

I've got frozen rolls waiting in the freezer, and I think I would like to make a fun breakfast of cranberry orange cinnamon buns, also compliments of Smitten Kitchen, though I will be making a few adjustments.

Really, my Thanksgiving specialty is pies, so I make three: (1) apple; (2) pumpkin; and (3) chocolate bourbon pecan pie. Yeah, you read that right. You get drunk on the pie and fall into the sea of chocolate and then grab a pecan as a life raft. Plus, I know pumpkin pie is a love/hate thing, and honestly, I've always been on the hate side, because it's bitter and not really that tasty. But, with the help of Cooks Illustrated, I've come up with a pumpkin pie that is delicious and even I, the pumpkin pie hater, will eat it and happily. The secret is maple syrup and yams. The apple pie always gets eaten the fastest, so this year, I am thinking about making the apple pie as a slab pie, again, ala Smitten Kitchen.

This just happened, and I think I'm just going to end that this completely unrelated note:

You're welcome.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Craniosynostosis: Before and After

Consider this part the finis, with pictures! (for other parts, see the craniosynostosis label or go to this post, which has links to all the parts, I swear, I will go back and link them all together someday)


The last one is her waiting to go into surgery. You can see, in all of them, the indents on the side of the head, the obviously too long head, the way the forehead bugles out like a bubble. Her head was kind of shaped like a bullet, and pointy at the back, and it was getting worse week by week.


Round head, indents no longer noticeable, forehead not bulging.

One of my biggest fears in this whole thing (other than death or brain damage, obviously) was that Lis would not look like Lis anymore. Well, that obviously didn't happen; she is very obviously the toddler version of the baby self.

However, it would not be honest to say it didn't affect her looks at all. It did--and probably for the better. Her condition would only have worsened, and her skull would have been seriously deformed. Let's not even talk about the risk of seizures, blindness, and brain damage. From the bridge of the nose down, it still looks exactly like Lis. Her eyes and her forehead are different. Obviously, the forehead doesn't bulge anymore, so there's that. But her eye position is also different--they had to move the eye sockets. She is still very recognizable, very much herself, but it is significant enough for me to notice when I look through pictures. 

So, to any parents who find this with the same fear that I had--that your child won't look like himself or herself--I say, yes. Yes to all of it. Yes, they might look a bit different, and yes you will always recognize them. Yes, they will be the same, and yes, they will be different.

Yes, you're doing the right thing. Yes, I did it too.

Done and done.

Each Night I Fall Alseep

I’ve had a headache since last Wednesday. I have had a headache for more than a week now. Nothing seems to make it go away, except sleep, but sleep seems to be rare here.

I don’t know why I thought this was a good idea, but I checked out World War Z from the library, and I made the fatal mistake of reading it before going to sleep. Therefore, I dreamt about zombies and running all over castles and schools to hide. It actually wasn’t a scary dream, probably because it isn’t a very scary or gory book. It was just an exhausting dream, because I was running everywhere in it. I woke up exhausted, and here I am absolutely dragging.

Vor was out of town for the weekend, and I was a solo parent. I always have a harder time sleeping without him there next to me. I also have a harder time sleeping, because it’s me to protect and listen for Lis. When Vor’s there, I can sleep through her small sighs and shifts that we hear over the monitor; without him, I pretty much never fall asleep. For some reason, I woke up at 1:15 am, and proceeding to have a two hour anxiety fest. My brain would not shut down, and it came up with all kinds of creative scenarios wherein I lost everyone and everything I hold dear. No amount of singing songs to myself, reciting childhood prayers, trying to day dream counter scenarios, or just steady breathing and counting would make them stop or put me back to sleep. When I finally asleep from exhaustion around 4 am, I slept uneasily, halfway dreaming of being surrounded by silky black curtains of which that I could not punch way out.

We have close friends—the friends who introduced us to each other, albeit unwittingly. We were pregnant at the same time, but they lost the baby when she was seven months pregnant. The baby, a little girl, was going to be only two months younger than Lis. They miscarried again just under a year later. They found out they were pregnant when they came to visit us in September, and there was much rejoicing—and then they found out there were two—twins! Today, they discovered that one of twins has a terminal genetic disorder. They don’t know if the healthy twin will be able to survive if and when she starts to miscarry the other baby.

I think about a nursery and I picture curly heads / and one by one I count them / as they slumber in their beds.

I showed Lis a little snippet of White Christmas. She loved the big dance numbers, but I was surprised at how much the scene where Rosemary Clooney and Bing Crosby meet over liverwurst and sing to each other. She just swayed back and forth to the song, holding her lambie next to her face, and my breath caught, seeing every blessing I have ever had or wanted right there in front of me.

If you’re worried, and you can’t sleep / just count your blessings instead of sheep / and you’ll fall asleep, counting your blessings.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Project Playroom: The Narnia Closet

We spent every weeknight and all our free time during the October weekends (during naps and after Lis went to bed) building the Narnia closet door. Here’s the closet:

My initial thought when we decided to do something fun with the playroom closet was to just put in a hidden bookshelf door. Vor began browsing pictures of hidden doors in playrooms, and kept coming across a ubiquitous one of a straight up Narnia style wardrobe, leading to a secret room. It was a really impressive wardrobe, complete with false back wall that would swing open. For about two seconds we toyed with the idea that we would put one in, but put it onto the playroom door, basically making the playroom a secret. We tossed that out because the playroom is the only place in the basement with a window, and we want the light. It’s also pointless to create a secret room if you’re going to cut out half the wall, like we are considering.

It turns out that, for a pretty penny, you can just buy a bookcase/door. It also turns out that it is more of a pain in the ass to build a bookcase/door than I realized. Lucky for me, I married an engineer (turned lawyer) who also used to build furniture with his dad.
Vor decided that the best way to combine the Narnia idea and the bookshelf (hello storage, since we are losing closet storage) was use the cube bookshelves you can build yourself from Target, plus a cabinet with door from the same brand, reinforce the closet door, and attach it all to the already hinged closet door. Holes are cut in order to create a passage way through the cabinet doors, and we will install a fake wall door on the back side of the closet.

I’m not sure this is making sense, so let’s go to the pictures.
The build it yourself cabinet, with the bookshelf cubes on top perfectly covers the door and the door opening--forgot to take pictures, so here they are at Target.

So we bought a plank that pretty much matches the door (we have a smaller one to cover the top bit), and we are cutting holes in both where we want the “secret passage” as well as a few holes where some of the cubes are, so that we can reach in and turn on the light for here (these will be hidden by the bins that go in the cubes). Once the cutting was done, we attached the plank to the door (the door has a hollow core, but there is a 1X2 frame that runs along all the edges, so that’s where we attached the reinforcing plank). Since the door had a hollow core, we had a hole problem that we fixed with insulation foam. Then we attached the cabinet and the cubes to the reinforced door, and the door went back up on the hinges:

Then we hid the open cube spaces (with fabric bins) and the door knob (with a random pillow, who knows what will end up there):

And we turned Lis loose on the door:

When she opened the door, there was this loud, delighted gasp that I desperately wish I could caught on video. She LOVES it.

Lis will only be two in January, so we are just putting a curtain on the inside of the closet for the false wall until she gets the hang of going through the closet passage way. We were worried that at first, if there was a false wall, she either would not go through or would go in and get stuck in the closet. We will put the false wall on later.

We are still debating the best way to cover the insulation foam. We have tossed around white duct tape, paint, the vinyl “tile” you see in older kitchens, carpet or heavy canvas fabric, and so on.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Merry Lis Poppins (Pictures will self destruct)

This is how we roll. Happy very late Halloween.

Other pics self destructed due to Vor's face being included as Bert the chimney sweep.

So Lonely Baby

Sometimes, you procrastinate a thing long enough that it becomes insurmountable, a terrible task to undertake, a terrible burden to bear, when really it’s the stupidest thing ever, like sending off an email or making a phone call, or I dunno, keeping up on your stupid blog. That thing where you vent, where your thoughts have an outlet, where you actually have made online connections that matter to you.

On my way home from work, I make two phone calls: One to Vor, to let him know I have retrieved the package (aka Lis) and one to my parents, just to chat. Sometimes I will call my sister or my SIL.  A few days ago, no one answered, I realized that other than those people, I have no one to call. I don’t have a closest friend anymore. I do have a best friend, but she lives thousands of miles away, and we don’t talk every single minute. I have my co-workers, who I am very friendly with and close to, but I am still stinging from my one co-worker leaving to go hike the Appalachian Trail. We were really close, and our spouses were close, and I just miss her. I really like the other women here, but I miss her. My closest friend from law school is here, but we’ve kind of drifted—she’s in big law working 80 hour weeks, getting paid insane money, and I’m in public interest law, getting paid insanely little money. She has no kids, and while she and her husband would like to have a kid soon, he will be a stay at home dad. I have a kid who runs everywhere and touches stuff and their house is not kid friendly. Plus, they have two cats and I hate hate hate cats and Vor is really allergic to them. I don’t think they like our dog, who is admittedly really annoying sometimes.

What I’m saying is that I’m lonely, and sometimes, blogging makes me feel even more lonely.

It’s not like I can just go join a parent’s group. They meet during the workweek. My friends who work and have kids have the same limited time problems that we do, and honestly we all do like to spend our free times soaking up our spouses and kids. My stay at home friends have already formed tight little circles, and there’s this…vibe? from them that they think I’m judging their choice to stay home (I’m not) and that they are judging my choice/need to work (unlikely, but they do make comments sometimes, that I think they only mean to apply to themselves, but they come out wrong if applied to me).

Poor me, etc., etc., moving on.

October got really crazy—we had my SIL and her three kids come into town for a long weekend, then I had four full days hearing the following week, and then—surprise!—my best friend pretty much just showed up on my doorstep and spent the weekend with us, and we had approximately a metric ton of information to catch up on with each other. Then, we had my company’s big fundraiser, which takes the rest of the week to wrap up, and we got family photos done the next weekend, then I had speaking engagements the whole next week, and we pretty much just dropped onto the couch this past weekend, exhausted and grateful to have our house to ourselves.

Then Vor’s sister had to be all awesome and have her volleyball that she coaches win everything in their division, so they are going to the NCAA tournament, and that means Vor is deserting me this weekend, flying out to see his sister (hopefully) coach her team to a round of victories. Which leads me back to the no close friends problem, because I will be all alone, and so what do I do? Invite my MIL over to help me decorate the house in Christmas stuff. Not have a play date, not have coffee, not anything else. Don’t get me wrong, it needs to be done and I love my MIL, but still.

Fortunately, I have gained back a slice of time, thanks to the MILPs. I was really struggling at dinner time, due to a whirling dervish style toddler who is constantly on the verge of imminent self destruction and poor meal planning. I’m a good cook, but I learned to cook when I was single and had time to make complicated recipes, so my bank of “Oh yes, I know that by heart and can whip it up” recipes takes far too much time. So, I begged for ideas, and they came through, and there are now 2 frozen casserole in my freezer and three frozen quiches, along with precut ingredients that I can toss into stir fry or soup, whatever suits my fancy. That REALLY came in handy this week, when I found myself home at 2:30 in the afternoon with a migraine, unable to stand up. When Vor came home, I mumbled something about putting a frozen dish into the oven, and voila! Dinner.

I spend that extra time marveling at my daughter. She’s developed a sense of humor, and she is actually pretty funny. When she smiles, she crinkles her eyes and her nose up. Her hair is red in the sunlight but looks blonde inside. I have no explanation. She is unbelievably tall, towering over the other kids in her classroom, even the ones that were born several months before her. She is also ridiculously coordinated, and can out maneuver kids even a year older than herself. Other than that, she is pretty a “normal” kids with the average amount of words, etc. This week, she suddenly added “thank you,” “shoe,” “book,” “oval,” “circle,” and “help” to her vocab, so that was nice. Oh, and she says “Simba” quite clearly, and obviously, loves lions. All lions are Simba. Really, we don’t let her watch much TV, she just really latched onto the songs from Lion King. She loves to play dress up with my jewelry, and she has a tool kit that she carries around to help Vor. She helps him reassemble tables, put together bookshelves, and we have a broken door knob that we let her work on. It’s pretty awesome. She has an incredible obsession with drawing—every day with the crayons, EVERY DAY. Thank God they are washable, because last week, my entire hardwood floor was covered with crayon, and I’m not sure how she accomplished it without me really noticing. She’s a bit sneaky, in a cute way.

She’s so awesome that two thoughts constantly struggle with each other in my mind: “She’s so awesome that no second child could compete with her,” and “She’s so awesome that I bet a second one would be just as fun.” Factor in my current contemplations about loneliness, and there are days where I think having a sibling for her might be good for her. It’s just that it wouldn’t be good for me, at all. So, that continues to be tabled, at least until the idea of being pregnant doesn’t make me immediately cry with terror.

Time to go dig out the Christmas decorations.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

We traveled to Massachusetts this past Thursday to visit Vor’s twin sister, VB. It involved an hour ride to our airport, two flights that were an hour and a half each, then an hour ride from the airport to VB’s house. The train part comes in where we got stuck at a train crossing, waiting for the longest, slowest train EVER to drag its ass out of my way, complete with unhappy baby from all the time being restrained.

All in all, it actually went okay, and Lis did pretty well. The only time she lost her mind was when we had to shut off Mary Poppins on the plane. Lis broke her head phones on the flight, so we played the sound from the iPad speakers on the lowest volume possible to keep her happy. However, the grumpy old biddy behind us (I feel justified in saying this, because when she was boarding and saw that we were sitting in front of her, she sighed loudly, rolled her eyes, and began making complaints, while Lis was just sitting there, coloring quietly—lady was clearly gearing up for a fight, and was going to pick one if nothing readily presented itself) decided that Mary Poppins at the lowest volume was too much for her delicate ears to handle, and complained to the flight attendant. Well, she got exactly what she deserved, because when we shut off Mary Poppins, Lis screamed for 45 minutes, no matter what I did, what snacks or books or toys I produced, however fast I walked her up and down the aisle, etc. So. Karma’s a bitch, and if you have the choice between Julie Andrews singing and a toddler screaming, I think you should CHOOSE WISELY. She choose POORLY. Fortunately, everyone else on the flight was understanding and kind, and complimented us on how well she was doing up to that point and how hard we tried to get her under control. I think some of their comments were pointed enough, because the Bitchy Biddy made her way off the plane as fast as was humanly possible.

Massachusetts, and in particular, the town that VB lives in is just gorgeous this time of year. My heart was just singing at the sight of hills and mountains and colorful trees and leaves. We (allegedly) have four seasons here in Indiana, but one of those is usually drought season, which usually means no pretty leaf colors. Also, it’s Indiana and it’s freaking flat, and sometimes, I just really miss the colors and hills and mountains.

Lis had a blast seeing her auntie and her auntie’s fiancée, ran all over creation and back, completely exhausting herself (the job VB has the town she lives in are both EXTREMELY kid friendly, so it was great to just turn Lis loose and let her run). Lis watched her first volleyball game, and cheered and clapped and screamed happily with the rest of the crowd, and she was generally a rock star.

While we were there, we got to do a bit of wedding planning (or rather, listen to the wedding planning). The chosen location is Seattle (rather than Colorado, the other choice), and I am so excited because (1) I’ve been to Seattle, but not for ages; (2) When I went to Seattle, I was there for swim meets and very little free time; (3) It’s going to be a whole helluva lot easier to get to than Nowheresville In the Mountains, Colorado; and (4) it’s not actually in Seattle, but rather, one of the nearby islands!

My vacation planning mode promptly kicked in, and I started search for B&Bs and vacation rentals. I think we are going with a vacation rental and renting out a house that can house us, Mama Vor, Mama’s Vor date, and potentially VB and her fiancée. I found a bunch of great options, a few of which are directly on the water and come with kayaks. So we are waiting for VB and her fiancée to book their wedding location and figure out what they want to do as far as where they stay, and then we are booking it. Can’t wait. Now I just need to start planning out the rest of the time.

I also get to start shopping for flower girl dresses for Lis. They picked out a brilliant blue color that is downright impossible to match, and the company they are using for bridesmaids dresses doesn’t make flower girl dresses. However, the guys in the wedding are wearing grey suits, and thus, a plan formed. I am ordering the fabric from the company, and Lis will wear a grey dress and we will add a sash or a bow of the fabric. I am hoping to find either a pale grey or a pale blue dress for me, and then get jewelry to match the brilliant blue color.

Speaking of a dress for me, I am down almost four sizes and 20 lbs. I have to admit I am partly excited for this vacation and wedding because I am going to wear a bathing suit and not be miserable, wear a dress and not obsess over rolls and angles. It’s not just vanity, though that’s certainly part of it. I just felt terrible all the time—sick and tired and not healthy. I feel a thousand times better already, and I’m not done yet.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Land of the Living

Well, that suspicious barking cough I mentioned that I heard Lis doing? Yeah, that was croup, so we had a lovely time with that. Before that, we had spent all weekend and the weekdays building the Narnia bookcase/closet door.

Then, Vor caught whatever Lis had, in its adults form, and we just tried to survive it. Vor had to go out of town on a business trip, and then this weekend, we were going to relax.

We did not relax, because lo! behold! I gave myself food poisoning and threw up for 24 hours straight. I literally could not keep water down, let alone food. When Monday rolled around, I couldn't get into work. I was too exhausted from all the sickness and I laid in bed and stared at the ceiling. When I dragged myself into work today, I was exhausted within 20 minutes, but stuck it out.

So, there you are. Or here I am. Or whatever. I need to spend this week catching up since OF COURSE everyone picked Monday to go crazy on my docket. Of course.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Project Playroom

We have kind of a big house.

We bought way more house than we needed, because we wanted to skip the "starter" house steps, and yeah, we went seriously into debt with the help of Vor's mom and my parents, bought way more house than we needed or could have otherwise afforded. We banked on Vor's salary mostly, as well as some other things, and it's paid off. mostly through sheer dumb luck and Vor's prior engineering degree, but don't tell him I ever said that. I still insist that the real ENG major is English, not engineering.

Anywho, we have "five bedrooms," which is in quotes because one of those bedrooms is in the basement. It's a legit bedroom, with an access window to outside and a closet, etc, but the people who lived here before us used it as a playroom. It's painted with butterflies and caterpillars and trees and clouds, etc. It's kind of painful in its cuteness. You know, the sweetness that seems like a good idea at first until it makes your teeth ache. This room has basically been a storage room for us, which is sad, because before Lis was born, we loved the basement, but carrying a baby up and down and all around and diapers and bottles and OMG it is just not worth it to go into the basement.

Except--now we have a toddler who can toddle herself up and down the stairs under her own power THANK THE MERCIFUL LORD with supervision of course. We spend more time down there now. So, we are creating a Lis Space down there.

Project Playroom actually has two parts: (1) The Playroom, and (2) The Adult Room.

The Playroom has one window, one closet, and also has access to our main electrical box and our water valves. The ceiling is two levels, and some of the walls in the playroom are angles, and not all the corners are 90 degree angles. One of the playroom walls is adjacent to the landing of the steps leading into the basement. The closet actually is one of those under the stairs closets that starts full-sized and narrows down.

We are for sure doing the following: (1) building a 3-D tree that projects from the wall, with a removable top to cover the electrical box, but leaves us easy access to it; (2) building a secret, Narnia style door/cabinet/bookshelf that leads into the closet; (3) repainting and decorating the closet.

We are contemplating the following: (1) knocking out the top part of the wall between the adult part of the basement and the playroom to essentially create a half wall, letting in the light from the window and allowing adults to see into the playroom easily; (2) cutting a hole in the wall where the stairs landing is, the shared wall between the playroom and the staircase and INSTALLING A FREAKING SLIDE AHHHH I can't even type it without more excitement than you can imagine. WANT. For Lis, of course. Not for me, after a glass of wine, into a ball pit or anything.

There are decorating and movable objecting in play as well: bookshelves, bins, other toy storage, talk of a ball pit, talk of building a stage into one of the weird corners, complete with curtains, having hanging ivy and lanterns from the ceiling, and so on.

The "it depends" projects will depend on time, cost, feasibility of doing it ourselves versus hiring someone, and so on. Obviously, this project will be Lis's Christmas and birthday present to her from us, and we won't have it done until around then.

We have started work on the door first--we drew up plans, assembled bookshelves and cabinets, bought reinforcing boards, and just started making cuts last night. I've started taking before and after pictures of the whole thing, so the progress should be fun to watch.

The Adult Room has many and shifting goals. Our main goal is to make it a cross between a real living space for us and a place to do lots of entertaining, since almost everyone we know has kids. It has a bar with a sink and a mini fridge, and we bought a cart for a song to put behind the bar for storage (seriously, this gorgeous kitchen cart with a stainless steel top for 100 bucks, 75% off). We have a couch, and we have a TV, but that's only on loan, so we will eventually put one down there. We just rearranged the whole darn thing, so the set up looks nice.

What we don't have is any decoration on any of the walls. I am really terrible at wall decor. I just stare at things in the TJ Max Home Goods store, totally blank, and I always walk out empty handed. Too many targets. I get confused. I have to leave before I pass out from indecision. I want to put some stuff on the walls, stuff that matches or coordinates, rather than the hodge podge of stuff we usually do. I also want a freaking clock down there so I know what time it is.

We have a whole section of our basement that is finished and open--Vor wants to (someday) put in a pool table and a dart board. Right now, there is a TV from the 1970s (okay maybe the 80s) and our bike on a trainer, plus my weights, etc. tons of unused space, which quite frankly, Lis and Telly love, because she throws the ball for him over there.

So! That's the start!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

My True Love Gave To Me

In the last seven days, I've had:

(1) Four speaking engagements at conferences and CLEs
(2) Five hearings, two of which were all day hearings
(3) Weekend guests with bonus pug
(4) A toddler who has developed a suspicious cough that makes her kind of sound like a seal
(5) Three emergencies on three different cases
(6) Submitted four different documents (mostly findings of fact and conclusions of law) to the court that were at least 20 pages long

and I'm sure the partridge in a pear tree is in the basement somewhere.

SPEAKING OF THE BASEMENT, I have really awesome news that I am putting in a separate post that will totally become my next little (utterly irrelevant and boring to anyone to me, Vor, and Lis) series.

Things are going...well! around here. It's amazing what happens when you decide to unfreeze yourself and take the steps you need to take in order to stop living in survival mode, and start living.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Each One More Than The Last

I reposted this last year—I had written it the year before, on the 10th anniversary. I repost it again this year with a heavier heart.

Earlier in the day yesterday, my brother Facetimed everyone to say that he loved us, all was well, but he would be off the grid for a little while, time and location unannounced. Last night, Vor and I watched the president’s speech, and when he made a throw away mention of keeping military high on Syria right now, I dropped my head down. I have no way of knowing, but I fear. It seems that here we are, twelve years later, and we may be on the verge on doing it all over again.

As always, there are moments that time seems to slow down on September 11, and I use those moments of motionlessness and clarity to think of the people my family lost, and the people my friends lost, and the people that everyone in all our communities lost. I try to use sheer force of will to ask the universe to keep my family and friends who are active military members, many of whom are deployed right now, safe. It may seem like that is futility personified, but I cannot believe it to be so.

I will always remember, and I will always hope. Before, Then, Now, Therefore; Still, Always; Remember, Hope. I keep it all within me.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Pickled Rabbit

On Sunday morning, I ventured off to to Target with Lis, solo.

Yes, I have taken Lis to Target before, both with and without Vor. However, I rarely take her solo when it is also a Sunday (very busy) and also my main day to do grocery shopping. In fact, I'm pretty sure I've never made that tragic mistake. She loves loves loves Target--so many people to see and things to remove from their shelves and relocate to new shelves.

Such as, oh, let's say, jars of olives and pickles.

I can see you shaking your head. Grace, you say. Why not just hold her/put her in the cart/wear her in one of those hippy baby slings that she HATES/give her your phone to distract her/sacrifice your hypothetical second born child to the goddess of whatever in an effort to keep her happy? Believe me, I tried it all. Lis was only going to let me grocery shop if I let her walk around.

At one point, I was wrestling two jars of beans and a glass jar of olives away from her when the slippery little sucker managed to spin, grab pickles, and smash the pickle jar.

So, Sunday morning started with broken glass and pickle juice, and we were all very traumatized by the whole thing. I paid for the broken pickles, because I am not an asshole, and I felt terrible and like a terrible parent who had no control over her child.

Lis carried on for the rest of the day in this general fashion, somewhat crazed and mischievous and generally trying my patience and wearing me down fast. What started tragically, of course, ended just as tragically. We used this weekend to install Telly's new electric fence--he's taken off one too many times and earned himself an electric collar. Whilst putting on the finishing touches of the invisible fence, Telly took the opportunity to wander into our neighbor's yard while we were talking to her, locate a pile of rabbit turds, and roll in it. Lis, highly in tune with her puppy, decided to go help him roll in whatever it was he was rolling in, and hey! this looks like fun!

Sunday evening ended in a dog and baby with rabbit poop all over them.

This happened in the span of thirty seconds. I don't know how they manged to get to so poop covered in thirty seconds, but they did. and hey, it was a really big pile of rabbit poop.

We pulled out the hose and the baby pool and filled it with water and soap and hosed them both off and washed them outside, because hell no are you coming back in the house with rabbit poop on you.

Let me make one thing perfectly clear: AT NO POINT when I signed up for this parenting gig did I also check the optional box for RABBIT POOP.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Oh Sh!t Stew and Other Kitchen (Mis)Adventures

I CANNOT be the only one who has a toddler wake up too early, be cranky all morning, and when we get to the naptime upon which I am so desperately depending, toddler refuses to nap and in fact SCREAMS at me for two and a half hours no matter what I do to comfort her. It’s days like this where any dinner prep goes out of the window because I have a TOOMAH attached to my hip, and I cannot work with knives or a hot stove with said TOOMAH.
So, here is what I refer to as my recipe for “Oh Sh!t I Have No Time and My Husband Is Allergic to Tomatoes, Which Of Course Would Make Making Stew Easier” Chicken Stew. You can call it chicken stew for short if you want, but I think that leaves out of some of the flavor, n’est—ce pas?

(1) Chicken, thawed or even frozen and you’re like me and completely incapable of remembering to take the chicken out of the freezer.
(2) Can of beans (I like cannellini, but whatever kind you have is fine but for the love of all that is holy don’t use chili beans that are already seasoned)
(3) What I call “flavor” vegetables—that is, vegetables that give a flavor. I use onion, carrot, and garlic, but you could use celery or potatoes or mushrooms or whatever or even tomatoes if you are lucky and don’t have a husband who is allergic to tomatoes.
(4) What I call “pretty” veggies—that is, spinach or kale or something else with a pretty bright color, cut up to add color and probably more nutritional value that my daughter will send hurtling at top speed to the floor or the dog.
(5) White wine or chicken stock
(6) Spices you like—I use oregano, thyme, salt, and pepper. Oh, and paprika, because I put that on everything.
(7) Olive Oil
Coat bottom of stockpot with olive oil and begin sautéing onions and flavor veggies. When you get bored or they look done enough, whatever comes first, pour in some wine. No, I don’t know how much, because it depends on how much I think I might need in my stew depending on the kind of day I had. Yes, I know alcohol cooks off, why don’t you be quiet and go away KILL JOY.

Toss in can of beans, liquid and all, and then add chicken breasts. Yes! This is the glory of this recipe! It will cook fine even if they were frozen! Make sure there is just enough liquid to almost cover the chicken breasts. If not, add MORE WINE or chicken broth if you are lame. Or not out of it, like I always am. Don’t totally cover the chicken breasts, or you will have soup, not stew, but whatever. It’ll taste fine.

Add your spices.

When the chicken is done (seriously? I don’t know when its done. Cut it open and check yourself!), you can either leave the chicken whole or stab it into smaller pieces with a spatula, like I do. Yes. I stab it. It’s good stress relief.

Now add your pretty pop of color veggies. You need to save these for last, because the longer you cook them, the more color they lose. Also, if its spinach, it gets slimy when its cooked too long. Just stir them in at the end! Unless it’s cubed sweet potatoes. You should probably cook those longer, lest you lose a tooth.

VOILA chicken stew.

Bonus step: If you happen to have pasta or orzo or Amish Noodles (love those) or egg noodles, they help thicken the stew. Add them in when you add the chicken breasts, and just keep an eye on the liquid level to make sure the pasta hasn’t absorbed too much liquid. Too much liquid absorbed by the pasta? Add MORE WINE.

Seriously though, it turned out great, and it is really easy. From start (Vor: “Um, what are we having for dinner?” Me: Blank stare) to finish (food in mouth, silence from adults, screeching from toddler), it took 25 minutes.  It was very filling and made great leftovers.

That is honestly how I cook—very fly by the seat of the pants, rarely any planning ahead, almost never following a recipe. I don’t measure, I just eye ball it. I’ve tried following meal plans—it ends in disaster and tears. I’ve tried precisely following recipes, but I always end up picking it apart, questioning why they didn’t do it a different way, and then I end up doing it my way instead. This is not to say that I am a stellar cook, but I am pretty good.

What I am stellar at is baking. It’s dangerous. I make pies, pastry, croissants, and other desserts from scratch, and oh sweet Jesus hold me, but they are good. I bake mostly in the fall, because (1) pumpkin, (2) holidays, (3) cooler weather, (4) less crazy season in my job.
Some of my favorites are:
Pie (apple, peach, pumpkin, mixed fruit, chocolate bourbon pecan)
Croissants (almond, pecan, or chocolate)
Roll up cookies
Shortbread (plain, espresso chocolate, cranberry orange)

All of these can be ridiculously easy and in your kitchen in a short time, I promise. Be not afraid of flour.

So, brace yourselves for my upcoming baking adventures. There shall be apples and pumpkin and cinnamon OH MY.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Steps Towards Ends

After my little, um...incident? the other day, I promptly got an appointment with my GP. So yay, yearly physical, blood work taken in order to make sure I'm not breaking down with the various and sundry conditions that are normal for my family. Also, a referral to a dermatologist to get rid of this ridiculous acne that I've had since I got pregnant.

I ran my little outbreak by her, and we talked about some things, and there is a plan and steps to be taken. A Thing happened at her office that made me truly realize this is not in my head: my doctor, my actual doctor, not the nurse, took my blood pressure. She was just chatting with me about normal things, and then went to take my blood pressure a second time. During the second time, she asked about the dentist/Lis thing, and my blood pressure went from low 120's to the high 140's in seconds. So, in case I had any doubt, that should clear it up. Bonus points to my Doctor for doing it deliberately and then telling me why she did it--so I would know it's an Actual Thing, not a thing in my head. Anyways, there's a plan to take care of it and I feel better already.

In other news on incremental steps forward in the decision making rubric, Seattle is to be the wedding place for my SIL and her fiancee! Am so exited. Have not been to Seattle since I was in high school, and I was there for a swim meet, not for touring. Can't wait! MUST PLAN ALL THE THINGS NOW.

I spent Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday at a conference on child welfare and related topics in Atlanta. I missed Lis and Vor terribly, but the conference was fantastic, I made great connections, and picked up great bits of knowledge and ideas.

Now? The major task of recovering my desk and my docket from a three day absence. Wish me luck, for you may never find me from underneath the files and case law through which I now must wade.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Travel Rhymes With Unravel

So! [Claps hands] Time for some good news.

My SIL--Vor's twin sister--is engaged! Yay! Weddings! And they want Lis to be a flower girl or another TBD role that has Lis involved. Yay! Cute toddler dresses!

A day after the engagement was announced, Vor and I sat outside after Lis went to bed. Vor hesitantly mentioned how crazy his sister's schedule is as a coach, as well as her fiance's schedule because her fiancee is also a coach, and as such, there were only two available dates.

Well, kids, I've been around this rodeo for awhile now, and I know his sister's schedule pretty well, so I had a good guess of what those dates might be. Vor's shoulders just about sagged in relief when I started laughing. "So what you're telling me," I asked between gasping for breath from laughing, "is that your twin sister wants to get married on August 16, which also happens to be our wedding anniversary? You're going to share a birthday and an anniversary with her?" I think he was too relieved that I didn't care to be annoyed. Truly, I don't get people who would be upset over stuff like that, but whatever.

The best part of this is that they are getting married either in mountains in Colorado, or in Seattle. YES TRAVEL!!!!! Vor and I already decided to make an anniversary vacation out of it, and we will go out the normal amount of time before the wedding, but stay a whole week after it, kicking around. I can't plan yet [which I am desperate to begin], so I don't know whether to start checking out Seattle and nearby fun things or do the same in the town in Colorado. They are deciding this weekend, as well as deciding what colors, etc, so that also means YES DRESS SHOPPING FOR LIS! I am way too excited about this whole thing.

In other travel news, we are still moving forward with out major vacation plans for the big trip that will happen in appx. 2 years. Here's where we are now:

Eliminated: Amsterdam, Italy, Scotland. Also eliminated: all cruises and Caribbean resorts, Puerto Rico.

Teetering on the edge of elimination but still a possibility: Paris, Ireland round 2.

Strong Contenders: London, Maui, Florida Keys, National Parks tour.

The pros and cons:

Paris: We can easily stay in the city once we are there and not need to do any extra travel. In my experience, it's actually fairly family friendly, if you know what you're doing. Vor's mom would love to go to Paris, and it would be easy to talk her into coming with us. Cons: While I am mostly proficient in French, Vor is not, and this would only be his second time out of the country, and first time with Lis. The idea makes him nervous. Lis would need a passport, and that's a hassle. Long flight. Expensive.

Ireland round 2: We can stay in one city, like Galway, but we are also comfortable traveling, since it is such a relaxed country. Mama Vor would probably go. We are familiar with the country, and we love it. Family friendly. English speaking. Tea, yo. Cons: Already been, long flight, passport.

London: Easy city stay, family friendly, lots to do, Mam Vor and Vor would love it. I've been and have some familiarity. English speaking. Tea, again. Cons: Flight time (are we seeing a theme?), expensive, passport.

Maui: Gorgeous, relaxing, exotic enough to feel almost like a trip out of country, very family friendly, Mama Vor would go, sushi, pineapple, lots to do that Lis would love. Cons: Looooooooooooong flight, and the length of the flight might be what kills it. That is literally the only draw back. At what age could you expect a toddler to handle a flight like this? We would have to get to Texas or CA or west coast somewhere before the really long leg of the journey even began. Otherwise, this would probably be my number 1 pick.

Florida Keys: Easy to get there, gorgeous, relaxing, warm, can travel around if we want, or just stay put. I could probably talk Vor into getting a convertible to drive around in. I've never been, and would like to go. Cons: I really have an out of country itch, and this won't satisfy it. Probably no Mama Vor, so no downtime for us.

National parks tour: I loved loved loved Yellowstone and Grand Tetons and Grand Canyon as a kid. I still love the. I think it's a fantastic family vacation with lots to do for a family that loves being outdoors, like we do. Maybe we could even take the dog! No passport needed! Possibly very little plane time! Cons: Not out of country, probably no Mama Vor, potential to be traveling in car A LOT.

If I could ignore the problem of travel time, my ranking would be thus: (1) Maui; (2) London; (3) Paris; (4) National Parks; (5) Ireland; (6) Florida Keys.

In reality, since I have to take into account travel time, it's looking like this: (1) London (overnight flight maybe?); (2) National Parks; (3) Florida Keys; (4) Paris; (5) Ireland; (6) Maui.


Friday, August 23, 2013

Ever More So Now

My brother deployed two months ago, but had a month of training stateside first, so he has been in The Land of Sand And Camel Spiders for about a month now. My SIL and the three kids on their own (sort of, they live twenty minutes from her parents) in AZ. The kids are Blossom, 13, Brick, 11, and Petunia, 7.

About a day after my brother got to Sand Land, Petunia, my youngest niece, started having these weird "episodes" where she would announce that she felt weird, and her head would turn to the side, and her arm would curl inwards. It would be over in seconds. It happened once. Then again. Then again, ever increasing in frequency, until it was happening several times a day.

A few doctors, a 24 hour EEG or whatever it is observation, and several trips to the children's hospital later, there are no firm answers. There is a firm not: it's not just stress. There is a firm problem to explore: they found on abnormality on one of her brain lobes.

Petunia is sweet, and feisty. Although my brother and his family have moved around a lot, she has somehow wound up with a southern accent, and she knows how to play it up. She has blond curly hair, blue eyes, with a round face reminiscent of Lis, my dad, and his side of the family. She is petite. She has eyes that twinkle, and a smile that sparkles. She has a great sense of humor. She loves Lis and Telly, and can't wait to see them in October. When we first got Telly and took him to Buffalo for a visit when Petunia et al were also there, we woke up in the morning to find a pile of dog toys outside our bedroom door that Petunia had apparently insisted on having my brother and SIL buy for the dog. When we took Lis out to AZ last Thanksgiving, Petunia was like glue. Lis and Petunia went everywhere together.

I feel sick. This cannot be happening.

My brother is beside himself. It's a cliche. It's a phrase that doesn't actually mean anything other than really upset, until you see someone who is almost literally giving you a visual of what it would look like to be beside yourself with anger, fear, grief, and terror. He is thousands of miles away, and he can't help. He can't get home. He is not there. If it were possible, he would rip down every tangible and intangible barrier to be there.

My SIL is hanging on--she texted me that she was okay, but really sad right now.

You expect things to come up during a year long deployment. You expect, attitude problems, stress, water heaters breaking, some broken bones, bad grades. You don't expect that a day after you get there, something goes wrong with your daughter's brain. You don't expect to have a whole year looming large in front of you with that dangling out of reach.

I don't know what to do for them. My SIL and the kids are coming out in October--at least, that's still the plan. What they need are answers, and they don't have them yet. Without answers, there ar eno plans. Right now, there is only limbo.


This hit Vor hard. Of all my nieces and nephews, I know Petunia is his favorite. He would never say so, but she was just a baby when we started dating, and he would hold and cuddle her, and he taught her how to bang on pots and pans, much to my brother's and SIL's dismay. She is the only one who has only ever known him as Uncle Vor, and never as just Vor, Aunt Grace's boyfriend.

I told him the news, and like newbies (seriously, you would think that we of all people would know better!) Googled the tentative problems and options, and of course, there are many, many bleak outcomes and treatment paths.

Vor did something I have never seen him do. He walked out of the room, and downstairs, filled up a small shot glass with Tequila, and took a shot. He came in and laid down on the bed, and stared at the ceiling, teary-eyed and silent.

I ache, because I know. I know he loves Petunia, and he is so scared for her. I know he hurts for my SIL because he knows how hard this kind of process can be. He feels desperation for my brother, who must be feeling so desperate that he would sell his soul to get back and fix everything. Not that it can be fixed. I know, because I feel it all too.

And, oh God, I don't even want to say it out loud, because this is about them and how scared I am for them, but I could see the shadow in Vor's eyes, thinking of Lis. I could see as he laid there trembling that tunnel vision look on his face, and suddenly I knew what my face looked like the other day. You can call me selfish, but this is bringing back terrible memories for us. I feel numb, perhaps because I've already had my little incident. But Vor? I don't think he's had an experience quite like that until now.


I'm waiting for answers. If there's at all a need for me or all of us to be out there, we will go. If I can send food or get them a cleaning service or figure out a grocery delivery or find friends out there on base that can help with car pooling, I will figure it out. As far as Vor and I and our memories go, it's amazing that both of us got such wake up calls within days of each other. I thinkw e both know we need to talk to someone who can give us some direction in how to cope with it better.

In the meantime, we wait for answers and we think of plans. I will keep sending copious amounts of Swedish Fish and jerky to my brother, and always, always, always take every phone call from him, from my SIL, and from Petunia.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Wolf At Your Heels

I had to go the dentist today. It resulted in tears, shaking, hyperventilating, and not because of the usual reasons trip to the dentist does.

I've had trouble with medical procedures done on Lis since Lis's surgery--even a routine one, like a shot. Not exactly shocking, to have your baby undergo cranial vault reconstruction, and then freak out when she sobs over shots or freaks out over a chest x-ray. In fact, I've chalked it up to pretty much expected.

I had a bunch of personal medical appointments, appointments for ME, since Lis's surgery. However, I seemed to find reasons why they needed to be "rescheduled" aka, cancelled and never rebooked. I was just busy, I would catch up, yada yada yada. It did not dawn on me that I was doing myself a disservice until I went on my campaign to improve my health earlier this year.

I certainly did not think I was avoiding it.

So, I went for the teeth first, figuring that I had probably done some damage there, and sure enough, a cavity. Ah well, dentist trips have never bothered me, I have never had a fear of dentists or cavity fillings, it will be fine. It will be fine. It will be fine.

I began chanting that in my head when I walked into my dentist's office, a very family friendly, nonthreatening place. The roar in my ears when I sat down in the chair and the overhead light was switched on was deafening, drowning out my chanting. When they leaned me back, everything went numb and I felt faint.

I'm not afraid of pain. I've had Novocaine shots before, and it has always been no big deal. But suddenly I was wincing, gripping the arm rests, pressing backwards into the chair, gulping back whimpers. Tears began pouring down my face.

The door to the next room over opened, and I heard the dentist in there use the drill--that high pitched whine--it was all I heard. I couldn't hear my heart, I couldn't hear my breath, I couldn't hear anything anyone was saying, all I heard was that whine.

I was shaking, I was crying, my heart was racing, I was pale. The dentist was concerned, had raised my chair, was asking if I was okay, did I need water, did I need a break. I mumbled out that it really hurt and I needed a minute. I could see on her face that she knew it wasn't true--she knows me, she knows I have a great pain tolerance, but she gave me water and space.

I sobbed and slobbered and shook and took a few minutes. I pulled myself together and got my cavity filled. I actively had to sing Mary Poppins songs or "A Few of my Favorite Things" from Sound of Music in my head throughout the procedure. Thoughts of Lis hearing the whine of the drill I was hearing keep leaking through, much like the tears rolling down my face. I thought about during the hour long procedure, and I thought about it all day, and here is where I am at:

First, I have been subconsciously, deliberately avoiding my own medical appointments and issues, not because I am busy, but because I am freaked out. Second, this is new since Lis's surgery. Third, this is not normal behavior for me. I called my sister after, to run what happened by her, and she pointed out that I really don't "lose [my] shit like that. Ever." Fourth, I was completely unable to separate Lis's ordeal out from a simple, normal procedure of my own, and I was unable to block it, shut it down, divert it, or any other coping tactic. Fifth, I have noticed increasing anxiety at Lis's medical appointments, even for minor things. I have also noticed increasing anxiety when Lis injures herself (DAILY) in some minor way. Just now, Lis (in bed, asleep) gasped and I was up the stairs in thirty seconds or less, convinced she was wrapped in blankets, choking and dying. Not so, Grace. She's a sleep, probably having a funny dream, where she gasps at the hilarity of it all.

It doesn't appear to be an all the time thing. I don't feel depressed--most of the time, I'm in a really freaking good mood. Lis is delightful, Vor and I have a great marriage, I love my family, I love my job. For sure, my anxiety is higher than it used to be, but I was a stress ball before Lis anyway. It appears to be specifically triggered by injury or routine medical appointments. Well, okay, that doesn't quite explain my still racing heart reacting to Lis's little gasp a few minutes ago. Maybe tack on unusual medical related behavior.

I don't know what this is yet. All I know is that this is not normal behavior for me. It seems like I may have had some kind of panic attack, which is not something I have ever had before. I have felt it building recently, but was always able to divert it before this time.

Do I wait? Do I see if it happens again? Do make calls now and get help? I don't know. I don't know. I've felt, since Lis was diagnosed, like there was this shadow behind me, dogging my every step, chasing me, gaining, fading, then reappearing right at my heels. I wonder if this little event was it's way of taking shape, so that I can see it, name it, embrace it, banish it.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Stay Or Go

So many of my fellow MILPs seem to be moving on, making major changes in their jobs, having another baby, etc. While the baby issue is tabled indefinitely for Vor and I, the job issue is never really tabled. Watching everyone switch jobs around has gotten me wondering—what would it take for me to leave where I am? For what would I be looking? What about Vor—what would make him want a change?

It’s impossible to imagine leaving my job. I love this company. We have a great team, and we all get along really well. We work well together and complement each other. Do you know how hard that is to find? Nigh onto impossible. The flexibility I have is unreal—when Lis is sick, I go and grab her and work from home. When Lis’s daycare was closed for “summer break” last week, I just adjusted my hours to work around my MIL’s schedule and the sitter’s schedule, and I worked a little at night. I come in later on Tuesday and Thursday, because I go to gym those mornings. I work at home every Friday afternoon—I come into the office in the morning, then I am home in time for MIL to drop Lis off (MIL usually wants Lis to spend Thursday night with her—she is a fantastic grandma). Lis eats, plays happily for an hour, then goes to bed for a nap, and lo! By the time she wakes up, I’ve had another 2-3 hours of work time. I can easily put in 7 hours on Fridays.

Of course, part of the reason the company is so flexible is because the pay is dirt low, so the CEO wants us to make it up in other “benefits”, one of those being flexibility. So, I get more time with Lis, and I get to knock off an extra day of daycare cost, cutting less into my salary.

The area of law is interesting—while the litigation end of my work is uniquely focused on one area of law, my research/writing/presentation/policy responsibilities cover all of family law, CHINS (children in need of services) law, and juvenile law, with an extra dose of ethics, trial practice, and evidentiary issues as they relate to my main subject areas.

My commute is nonexistent—my office is 12 minutes from my house, 10 minutes from my gym, and 11 minutes from Lis’s daycare. The courthouse is a bit further, clocking in at 25 minutes from my office, 30 from my house. You really can’t beat that.

Why would I want to leave?

It would have been something really specific to tempt me away, and surprisingly, that thing is not money. Sure, it would be awesome to make what law firm type lawyers make and pay off my student loans much faster, but with that salary comes billable hours, less flexibility, and practicing law from a perspective that I don’t like at all (ie, having a parent as a client instead of the child).

I’ve given it a lot of thought, and here’s what I’ve come up with: (1) job in state or local government relating to my current area of law. There was an opening in the beginning of 2013 that looked sweet—it had to do with family/CHINS/juvenile law, service referral coordination with the courts, appellate briefs, and some other legal aspects. The salary was about 15K more than I make now, with state benefits. But? I highly doubt I would have the flexibility I have now. (2) A job as a commission or magistrate (in this state, that’s basically an associate or lower level judge, not the actual sitting, elected judge). Hell no do I want to be an elected, sitting judge. Tort law? GAG ME. I would want to be a commission or magistrate in a family law court, preferably in probate court (guardianships/adoptions) or in paternity court (strictly custody/child support, no dealing with property division). There was an opening earlier this month and I choked on my drink when I saw the salary. That is a HUGE pay increase, triple what I am making now, and benefits! I had commissioners encouraging me to apply for it, which was a really nice compliment (I do not have the required number of years yet). But with that salary comes major drawbacks. I have no idea what the schedule and flexibility is like. I know they get something like 4 or 5 weeks of vacation/sick time, but I could easily blow through that with The Lady Lis. Then… there’s the crazy. I got a small taste of it when I sat judge pro tem in July, and OMG. Some of the people and issues and cases and situations they deal with are unreal, crazy, scary, sad, even more so than my docket, if that’s possible. Then there’s the fact that they are the decision makers, so everything that “happens” is their “fault”, if someone is looking for someone to blame.

So, those are really the options for which I would consider leaving my current job. I feel like I need more years to make either of those possible, so I am just going on like always. Everything I am doing right now is really setting me up to be qualified for either one of those positions, so I guess my game plan is  to do my job as best as I can, increase my skills, proficiency, and knowledge, along with other skills like speaking, etc., and then puts me in a great position if I ever want to switch to one of my preferred options.

As far as Vor goes, I think what could tempt him away is either: (1) better pay with the same hours, or (2) the same pay with better hours. Considering the rest of the country’s market rate for his practice area, he is really underpaid and overworked. The third possibility is an ALJ position, but we would probably need to move, so that’s not likely. The fourth option is maybe going in-house someday but Vor really dislikes corporation insider politics and there is a strong chance that in house would require a move.

So there I am. It makes me antsy, watching IRL friends and my fellow MILPs moving on to other things, but when I take stock and evaluate where I am and where it looks like I am going, I wouldn’t change a thing right now.

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Next Big Thing

We got married five years ago. We started dating eight and a few months change years ago.

We started dating five months before Vor left for law school—we had been friends for about a year before that. Right when we should have been “getting serious” etc., we turned into a long distance relationship during tumultuous years—my last year of college, applying to law school, which was also his first year of law school, and the following year, my own first year of law school, in a different state than where Vor was at school.

We were long distance for three years.

We’ve been through three years of long distance, two different 1L years, family members dying, a beloved dog dying, two bar exams, epic family fights and deep hurt that almost resulted in no contact between me and my family, a heart attack scare, a hard pregnancy, the murder of a close friend, Lis’s surgery, and months and months of no sleep.

There’s times where I think, if we are fighting over this, how can we make it through a big thing? Then I realize—we’ve been through the big thing. We’ve been through a few big things. Sometimes we did poorly, and sometimes, we did well. No matter how we did in it, we came through it okay, and sometimes learned valuable lessons about each other and ourselves. Those lessons have always helped for the next big thing.

We squabble, we apologize; we hurt each other, and then give back and heal. We learn, and we grow; we disagree, then unite. We take it all for granted, but then we hold on tight to remind each other of their steadiness of our bond.

It’s been a good five years/eight+ years. No—not good. It’s been great, and humbling, and hard, and fun, and everything. It’s been everything to me, and I know for the next years, it still will be.