Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Low Standards

In the past few weeks, I have found myself counseling two different friends who are about to return to work from maternity leave.  The irony of this is not lost on me.  I probably don't carry much credibility telling someone that it all will be okay, when I couldn't hack it myself. 

Neither of my friends are as lucky as I was, though.  As a biglaw associate at the time, I enjoyed an 18 week fully paid maternity leave for both of my kids.  When I tell people this, they are shocked.  18 weeks!  Most people, including my two friends, only get a twelve week maternity leave, only part of which is paid.  Some don't even get that much.  Because other people had it so much worse, I was programmed to carry a huge sense of gratitude about my own maternity leave benefit.  I felt that I couldn't complain, and for the most part, I didn't.

But you know what?  18 weeks sucks too. 

At 18 weeks, your baby is just starting to "wake up."  They are smiling.  They recognize you.  They are bonded with you.  They are becoming little people with preferences and quirks and distinctive sounds.  And as for you?  You are tired.  You may still be breastfeeding. You still aren't completely back to your normal self.  But you are getting used to this new person, this new life, and this new routine.  You are finally starting to enjoy things.  And just as you are getting into the groove, BAM.  Go back to work and find a stranger to take your child.  After the second maternity leave, I couldn't do it.

Wouldn't a bit more time be nice?

It got me thinking about what other countries do.  It's common knowledge that the U.S. leave policy sucks, but how much does it suck?  I was inspired to go to a trusted resource (aka, the internet) to do a brief multi-country survey of government mandated maternity leave.  Here are the results:

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Pic of the Week - Oh the Memories

Irene may not have knocked out our power, but it sure did knock down a lot of trees.  Three days later, I'm still seeing uprooted trees along the side of the road, and on some unfortunate houses.

It brings back memories of a tree that once stood in our front yard...

January 2010

Rest in Peace big tree from our front yard. 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Hunkering In

Can I make a confession?

I was kind of excited for the hurricane.

For one, I love me a good thunderstorm.  Especially at night.  It usually wakes me up, but I don't care.  I love the sound of the thunder, the lightning, the wind, and the rain on the roof.  For some reason, it calms me.  So I was ready for the noise and commotion that Irene was threatening to bring.

More than that though, I was looking forward to hunkering in with my family.  Since the kids and I returned from our ten day trip to North Carolina last week, time with my husband has been scarce. Some deal that was an emergency and life would end if conference calls were not conducted and drafts were not revised.  Blah blah blah, same old, same old.  Not his fault, but still.  We miss him.

My husband had mentioned that there was a chance that he would have to go into the office this weekend.  Ugh.  But then.... Irene!  I obviously would not wish a hurricane on anyone, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't excited at the prospect of my husband being stuck in the house with us instead of back at the office on a weekend.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Stop It

It's another travel day - we are headed out of hurricane country and back into the earthquake zone.

How do I maintain my cool amidst all of these natural disasters, with two demanding passengers in the back seat?

I take the advice from this old Mad TV video clip below, featuring Bob Newhart.  My dad, who is a professor of social work and psychology, shows it to all of his classes on the first day.

Best therapy ever.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Sky is Falling!

My kids and I missed the great DC earthquake.  And no, we did not feel it down here in North Carolina.

Oh, the drama of it all!  We came back from the pool, and my step-father met us at the door.

"Did you feel it?"

"Um no.  Feel what?"

"The earthquake.  [Your husband] called.  He's okay."

I tried calling my husband at work, but all circuits were busy, of course.  In the meantime, I turned on the TV, where there was non-stop coverage of the "Quake of 2011."  It only took a couple of minutes to decipher that this meant no casualties and minimal damage.  When I finally did get through to my husband, he was a bit shaken up.  He told me he had hid under his desk during the 30 seconds of shaking.

I'm sorry, but that just cracks me up.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Pic of the Week - Serenity at Grandpa's House

By now you are all probably very sick of the beach pictures.  I recognize I've posted a lot of them. But it's summer!  And I'm at the beach!  So bear with me as I post one last summer water scene.

This is the view from my Dad's balcony, and those two little figures on the dock are Braden and his Grandpa.

Monday, August 22, 2011

I Got Mad Skills

My husband had his "mid-year" review at his firm last week.  Of course, he got the highest quantification possible, which is something like an A or a descriptive adjective or a numerical rank or maybe a special sticker.  I forget.

It got me thinking about my own skills, and all the ones I'm wasting, for lack of a better word.  There's a lot I used to be able to do, you know.  Have a legal research question?  I am a master of Westlaw and, given enough time, I will get you an answer, or tell you your question is full of shit.  Need thousands of documents reviewed in an electronic database?  I can code ever damn one.  While we're at it, I can also draft all sorts of documents that are incomprehensible to the general public, including motions, briefs, interrogatories, document requests, and deposition outlines.  I can read boring, lengthy legal opinions and make some sense of them (unless they involve patents, then forget it).  And I can get along with anyone, including cocky pricks from the Department of Justice or crotchety old partners.

I don't necessarily want to be doing these things, but it doesn't mean it doesn't make me a bit sad that all of these specialized skills are going to waste.  And it won't be long until those skills start fading.  Maybe they already have.

But fret ye not.  I have acquired some new skills in the last six months, thank you very much.  And since this new career of mine does not involve any formalized review process, I will engage in a self assessment which highlights my top 5 new areas of expertise:

Friday, August 19, 2011

Easy Tonight

Sometimes life has a way of leading you to where you need to be.

The summer of 2000 was a somewhat tumultuous one for me.  I had graduated from college.  I was anticipating heading to London, all by myself, for graduate school.  And I was living at home for a few months - for the first time in four years.  It was a time of major transitions.

A huge part of that major transition was a break up with my high school, and college, boyfriend. We had been together for six years, gone to the high school prom together, and stayed together through four years at Penn State.  But as of that summer, our break up was inevitable.  While I was headed to graduate school in England, he was moving to LA to pursue his dreams in the film industry.  We were going to be more than just bi-coastal.  We knew it was going to be over.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Un-wined of the Week - A Bit of Bubbly

I know my un-wineds are typically wine reviews, but a bit of champagne never hurt anyone, right?

My dad likes to call himself a "champagne connoisseur."  Connoisseur is probably a strong word, but the guy enjoys champagne.  Generally when we come to visit, he'll uncork one nice bottle.  For this trip, the bottle was:

Taittinger Champagne Brut

This bottle retails for about $40, which is outside of my general weekly bottle price range.  But, for a special occasion, I would definitely splurge.  The champagne was fabulous!  Refreshing and crisp, with a clean finish.  It was easy to drink quickly, so I had to pace myself.  Though I admittedly don't have the most discerning champagne palate, this was just yummy.  Perfect for a summer evening on the porch overlooking the ocean.  Just perfect.

Overall rating - 9/10

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Potty Mouth

Since having kids, I have tried really hard to curb my potty mouth.  I can curse like the best of them, and most of the time I don't even realize it.  So I make a conscious effort, and I am usually successful.  There are two general exceptions:

1) Road rage - If someone cuts me off, or stops short, or otherwise does something idiotic on the road, I can't help but blurt out:  "Asshole!"  Yes, I'm aware that the other driver can't hear me - only my children can.  I am working on this, though I cannot say the same for my husband.  So far, Braden hasn't picked up this term.  Perhaps because he is so engrossed with looking for trucks, backhoes, and sirens, or the fact that the country music station is probably turned up a bit too loud.

2) Diaper changing incidents - Just last week, I took Casey into his room to change his diaper, with Braden following close behind.  I opened up the diaper to find a yucky, runny surprise.  Casey was wriggling about, reaching down with his hands, and was just a few moments away from reaching down and rubbing it all over his face (yes, this has happened before).  I quickly reached for the wipes, only to realize there were none left.  What else was there to do than emphatically yell: "Fuck!"  I mean, would anyone have reacted differently?  This time, Braden caught on, and began dancing about and repeating after me.  I tried to save myself - "Braden, Casey's diaper is stuck.  It's stuck!"  So far, he hasn't repeated it again.

Instead of latching onto my curse words, Braden has developed his own toddler version of potty mouth.  I suppose with potty training this is inevitable.  Because somehow, if you add the word "poop" to any sentence or song, it is hysterical.  Like, drop on the floor laughing hysterical.  So if he were to sing:

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Plan

When I was in college, one of my nicknames was "cruise director."  I like to think it was meant in an endearing way.  It reflected the fact that I am was the quintessential planner - planning nights out, planning vacations, planning study schedules, planning happy hour destinations.  Is it any surprise I always also had carefully set out plans for my life?

The plan back then was simple:  move to London after graduation (which I did).  Meet English man with an EU passport.  Marry said English man, preferably a professor or executive who gets summers off or can otherwise make his own schedule.  Get law degree.  Embark on high powered legal career.  Have a couple of kids, four years apart.  Make enough money to be comfortable; okay, very comfortable.  Send kids to college, retire abroad, and die peacefully in sleep before Alzheimer's sets in.

When I met my now husband, who donned a Long Island accent and American passport, plans altered a bit.  My plans became our plans, which consisted of getting our law degrees, getting the big firm names on our resumes, getting married, and buying a house somewhere affordable.  We would have two kids, three years apart, and get more flexible jobs where we could actually spend time with our offspring.

For a while, we stuck to our plans. Law degrees?  Check.  Big firms on resume?  Check.  Buy a house somewhere affordable?  Kind of - check on the buying a house, not on the affordable part. Two kids three years apart?  Check on the two kids, but two years apart (who knew it would happen so quickly?).

And now is the part where we are supposed to get flexible jobs where we spend time with our offspring.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Pic of the Week - Goin' South

Yes, we are off again.  Another night of packing, another stuffed car, another trip.  This one is just the boys and I, and we are headed to see the grandparents.  Lucky for me, the grandparents live here:  

In T-6 hours, we should arrive in Wilmington, North Carolina.  There are definitely worse places to be.

Longer post tomorrow.  Happy Monday, everyone!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Ode to the Second Child

Being a first child myself, before having Casey I hadn't really given much thought to "second child syndrome."  In fact, when I was pregnant, my concern wasn't with whether or not my future baby would get enough attention; it was sadness over my loss of time with Braden.  I was on a leave of absence from work at that time, and Braden and I spent every minute of every day together.  During those last few weeks of pregnancy I mourned the fact that the days of just the two of us were coming to an end.  In fact, I harbored a great deal of guilt over this.

I knew that I would love my second child, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't worry that I wouldn't love him as much as Braden.  I just couldn't imagine loving anyone more.  Would there be enough room in my heart to love another child just as much?

Ten months out, the answer is a resounding YES.  I can honestly say that I love my little Casey munch so much I think I'll explode sometimes.  I can't believe I once resisted and, in a way, dreaded his arrival.  Just as I did with Braden, I have fallen in love with Casey in a hard way and think he is the cutest baby to ever walk this earth (equally tied with Braden of course).

Despite my equal love for Casey, I have noticed subtle signs of the affects of his birth order.  Nothing groundbreaking per se; just small things.  Most all of his clothes are hand me downs.  While Braden received numerous personalized items as gifts (a duffle bag, a lunch box, a bench, a puzzle, a book, etc.), Casey only received a lone onesie and hat with his name on it (gifted to us by a fellow second child who made a point to give a personalized item - thank you Ethan and Debbi!).  Braden has numerous photo albums and montages devoted to him and gifted from family; Casey has none.  When Braden was a toddler, I enrolled him in a music class and made periodic playdates with other toddlers his age.  Casey, on the other hand, is just along for the ride.  If Braden wants to go swimming, he tags along.  If Braden goes on a playdate, it's just a plus if Braden's friend also has a younger sibling.  

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Un-wined of the Week - A Double Bust

I have to admit that when I started these wine reviews, a teeny tiny part of me had this hope that maybe someday it would lead to me getting free wine.  You know, the blog would explode, and wineries from around the world would send me bottles just begging for me to review them.

That hasn't exactly happened yet.  But, it seems my friends are filling in the gap.  On Tuesday night I had a playdate at a friend's house, and as I was leaving her husband reached into their fridge and passed me a bottle of half-drunk wine.  He said I should review it.  Who was I to refuse? He mentioned under his breath that it cost about $2.99 from Whole Foods.  Hmmmm, a red flag perhaps?  That, and the fact that he was giving it to me, when it was half drunk?  The wine was:

Three Wishes Chardonnay
California (no year specified)
Sabrina and Joe, while I totally appreciate the free wine, I must be honest.  This wine was, in a word, disgusting.  I don't like Chardonnay to begin with, but this just brought my dislike to a level I didn't believe possible.  It was bitter, flat, and made me scowl after just one sip.  I have the remainder of the bottle to return to you when I see you next.   I do like the label though.

Overall rating - 1/10

I decided move on to a different bottle we already had on hand, which was:

Alamos Malbec

My husband picked this bottle up for $12.39, and I love Malbec, so it had promise.  But it seems that last night it just wasn't meant to be.  This wine brought new meaning to the term, "Blacktooth," which is my husband's nickname for me when I drink bad red wine.   Shortly into the first glass my teeth, lips, and surrounding gumline were bright red.  I had to brush my teeth multiple times to finally rid myself of the stain.  The wine was heavy, syrupy, and had bitter, thick tannins.   After one glass I felt a headache coming on and popped two advil, just to ensure a peaceful night sleep.

Overall rating - 1/10

What a bust.  The memory of it almost has me turned off of wine at the moment, which is tragic really.  I am thinking I may need to up my game (and my budget) to drink something decent next week.  Any suggestions?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Baby Nurse

Before I had kids, I thought a "baby nurse" was just a nurse in the hospital who took care of babies.  I suppose that may be true.  But a baby nurse also refers to a person who is not a nurse at all.  Rather, it is a title for a lady who comes to live in your house when your baby is born and hangs out with your baby all night.  Unless you have a spare bedroom, they sleep on the couch, or on the floor in the baby's room.  They hang out with you and your family during the day.  They eat with you.  They sit with you.  They teach you all things baby, but an actual nursing degree is not required.

Oh, and did I mention you have to pay them for all this hanging out?  Somewhere in the area of $200 a day.

Baby nurses are very common in New York, so when I was pregnant with Braden, and my mother in law asked me if we were getting a baby nurse, I answered with a big, "Huh?"  It had never dawned on me.  And I quickly decided no, I did not want some random stranger coming into my home when I was emotionally fragile and bleeding and recovering and my baby was only 3 days old.  No, I wanted to experience the sleep deprivation and night feedings and exhaustion first hand.  It was a rite of passage I wasn't about to pass off to some random woman in white scrubs (yes, they actually wear those).

Granted, I did have a bit of help during this rite of passage, which came in the form of assistance from my mom and dad.  But save for a few days here and there, my husband and I beared the brunt of it all.  And, as any mom knows,  it was HARD.  Those first few weeks are brutal, but there was a sense of pride in knowing we had done it.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Pic of the Week - Six Years Ago Today...

I was 26.

I was newly engaged.

I was anticipating the start of a legal career.

I was a little bit lighter.

A little bit freer.

A little bit braver.

And I was here.
Great Barrier Reef - Cairns, Australia

But little did I know what I was missing. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Un-wined of the Week - Some Local Flavor

Long Island isn't just strip malls and diners.  There are actually some vineyards here.  And an unassuming beach community called the Hamptons. 

Since I am in Long Island for a couple of days, I figured I would sample some of the local wine.  Today's wine of the week is:

Duck Walk Vineyards Merlot

This particular wine is bottled in the North Fork of Long Island, which is just north of the Hamptons (which is the southern part of the "fork").  (To see the website of the actual vineyard, click here).  I've actually driven through here before after taking the ferry from Connecticut, and I have to say, it is really beautiful.  My husband and I have even commented before that we should take a trip sometime to go vineyard hopping in this area. 

If we ever do this, I will probably visit this vineyard for the beauty, not for the wine.  The Merlot I sampled was just so-so.  It didn't even really taste like a Merlot, more like a Zinfandel gone wrong.  It was acidic and had a sour aftertaste, and was teethstaining.  That being said, it was drinkable, just not completely enjoyable.  At the price of $9.99 a bottle, if I ever make it to the North Fork again, I'd be willing to give good old Duckwalk Vineyards another chance. 

Overall rating - 4/10

Speaking of the Hamptons, I'll be heading out there tomorrow to hang poolside at my brother-in-law's summer home.  Real Housewives style.  So I may not have time to write tomorrow.  I hope this doesn't ruin everyone's weekend.  (Ha!)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Ceremonial Snipping

It's going to be a quick post today.  We are in the midst of packing up the car to get on the road to New York, so we can attend the bris of our nephew tomorrow.

We are so excited to meet him.  I mean, what is more precious than an 8 day old newborn baby that is not keeping you up at night?  But as quickly as we meet him, he will be whisked away by some old guy with a kid doctor kit and no medical degree, who will cut the skin off his penis with no anaesthetic.  Oh wait, they do give the baby a little bit of wine afterwards to numb the pain.  That makes it all the more acceptable.

We did a bris for both of our sons.  I didn't particularly want to, but it was important for my husband to have his childrens' penises snipped by an old Jewish guy in front of friends and family.  I have to say, it wasn't as traumatic as I thought.  For some reason (the wine perhaps?), neither of my kids really cried.  It was a pain to deal with the aftercare (picture raw, red, bloody newborn baby penis), but I suppose we would have had to do that even if they had been circumsised in the hospital.  (And I'm not going to engage in the circumsised versus non-circumsised debate that seems to be so prevalent these days - to each his own, do what you want with your kids' penises).

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Pic of the Week - Budding Musician

You know how every mother thinks that their child is the smartest, most attractive, most talented individual on the planet?

I think that too.

But in all honesty, I have to believe that Braden is a budding musician just overflowing with musical talent.  He has always loved music and singing, but his new obsession is his guitar.

He strums along and sings the following songs:

 - I Gotta Feeling, by the Black Eyed Peas
- Mean (or as Braden calls it, Sumpa Umpa), by Taylor Swift
- Felt Good on my Lips, by Tim McGraw
- I Like to Move It Move It, by Reel to Real
- Baby Mine, by Alison Kraus
- Goodbye, as sung by Jack Black on Yo Gabba Gabba
- And all the classics of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Old McDonald, Row Row Row the Boat, and the ABCs.

Quite a montage for a two year old, don't you think?

Monday, August 1, 2011

What (Not?) to Wear

I never thought I would miss my business casual uniform.  But to be honest, I kind of do.

There's something so simple about it.  Pair of pants.  Button down shirt.  Maybe a sweater, or a dress that went to the knees.  Apart from the once a month jeans day, my wardrobe was pretty predictable.  (*Author's note - have you ever been at a law firm when it is jeans day?  The twinkle in the attorneys' eyes, the spring in their step... truly magical).  Now?  I don't have much use for the business casual clothing anymore.  They sit in a box in the attic.  

So what do I wear?

When Casey was born, it was pajamas.  I have a lot of pajamas, none of which are particularly cute.  Picture some kind of pajama pant with mismatched torn, decade old sorority t-shirt, and that was pretty much how you would find me October - March of this year.   Then the sun started staying out longer, and I started feeling more comfortable leaving the house with two children in tow.  And I have to say, my clothing and style generally leave a lot to be desired.

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