Torts & Tots

Motherhood. Lawyer-dom. And maybe a few nice recipes.

Archive for November 2012

Thankful for Thanksgiving.

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We spent this Thanksgiving how I suspect many of you did – surrounded by family and food.  This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for all the beauty to be found in the very usual and normal things that surround us – the tiniest laughter of our tiniest daughter as she bear hugs her grandparents’ legs, the less tiny laughter of AJS and her cousin as they are overcome with a special exuberance reserved for the holidays, the hum of conversation between family members, the warmth of being in the company of people who are sincerely happy to be all together in one spot, and the lull in conversation when we all appreciatively dig into plates piled high.  My favorite Thanksgiving delicacy is stuffing with a layer of green beans on top.  Claire appreciated the green bean casserole, and Avery dug the mashed potatoes.  This year, I think Avery was thankful for time spent with her cousin Katee and, of course, chasing chickens.  Claire seemed to be especially thankful for time with her grandparents.  As you can see, there is nothing particularly unique about my “Thankful For” list.  But there is something unique about, just for a second, all coming together and being grateful for each other and our blessings.

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November 25, 2012 at 3:32 pm

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90.

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Today is the birthday of one of the people we love the most.  Ironically, this guy does NOT like turkey, and yet he and turkey are sharing a big day.  Because of his un-love affair with turkey, he always smothers his turkey with hot sauce, which has unwittingly made me discover that turkey and dressing are perfectly complimented by hot sauce.  Every year, I find myself reflexively scanning the Thanksgiving table for Tabasco. 

Happy birthday, Grandad.  Throughout your life you have been many things to many people.  And you have also been many things to me.  When I think of you, I think of the candy jug (I say “jug” because “jar” is too skimpy a term to do it justice) chock-full of my favorite candy – the really good stuff – that was always on the top shelf of your closet.  I think of Singing In The Rain.  I think of a book of Auden poems that opened my eyes to a world I didn’t know existed.  I think of chocolate covered gummy bananas in the freezer.  I think of an inexplicably fascinating computer game about lemmings.  I think about a scoop of chocolate ice cream in my cereal.  I think about Spectar.  Each of those things is a window to my childhood.  Through that window is a man who spent countless hours making me laugh and who knew more ways to be silly than I could have ever have conjured up on my own.  As a mom, I have learned that, to kids, grand gestures are insignificant.  They make a big splash and then fade away.  But the small moments, the people who are present day in and out, accumulate in children’s minds and make lasting impressions.  How many small moments do we have from over the years, Grandad?  A thousand?  A million?  There are so many that all roads of me always lead to you. 

To me, Grandad, you are whimsy.  And I am lucky.

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November 22, 2012 at 8:00 am

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The Problem With Carrot Juice . . .

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November 20, 2012 at 9:37 pm

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Thankfulness Abounds.

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On Thursday, I went to the Thanksgiving party at Avery’s pre-school.  I was primed for adorable-ness the moment I walked in to see twenty-six, four-year-olds sitting in a circle, each wearing an Indian headdress with his/her Indian name written upon it.  Avery’s Indian name, of course, was “She Who Likes Merida.”  Doesn’t it smack with authenticity?  As soon as Avery saw me cross the threshold, she shouted across the room, “Hi Mom, welcome, make yourself at home.”  We parents watched our children belt out a handful of Thanksgiving tunes.  My particular favorite was a number that ended with the escape of the Thanksgiving turkey and a resultant dinner at KFC.  Our Thanksgiving angels served us cornbread muffins made by the pre-school class, and then we sat in a circle while each of our children told what he/she is thankful for.  Avery and I were just about at the half-way mark of the circle.  The preciousness mounted as each child dutifully said “I am thankful for my mommy” or “I am thankful for my daddy,” or the particularly endearing “I am thankful for my whole family.”  The child directly preceding us actually said “I am thankful for my mommy” and then crawled into his mother’s lap and gave her a squeeze.  It was fraught with cuteness.  And then it was Avery’s turn.  I could tell I was in for it when she started off with an extra loud “ummmm” and ended with an emphatic and certain “I am thankful for these muffins.”  The class erupted into laughter, and I was the recipient of sympathetic “your kid loves muffins more than you” looks.  She was, of course, referring to the cornbread muffins made by her preschool class.  Ah well, such is life.  I carried her in my womb for nine months and five days (who’s counting?), but those were some delicious muffins.  Although not really.  I felt like my muffin had the subtle taste of kid hands.  Fortunately for Avery, she is extremely cute when she belts out Thanksgiving tunes.  I suppose that this year, I am thankful for Avery’s, ahem, individuality.

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November 17, 2012 at 7:39 pm

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Mom to Mom.

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Motherhood is the essence of on-the-job training.  For me, I had never really taken care of or spent a significant amount of time around a baby.  Avery Jane was born, we spent a few days in the hospital, and then off we went – into the world, with a baby, with little idea of what we were doing.  I had to endure three years of law school and take an arduous bar exam before I was allowed to practice law.  The bar for being in charge of a helpless, human life is not that high.  It is true that my motherly instinct kicked in.  There is no greater urge than the urge to protect your baby.  I would wake up when I heard Avery’s breathing change and I knew she was about to start crying in the middle of the night.  I charted her feeding cycles for 6 months.  So, yes, motherly instinct (and type A compulsiveness) helps.  But, thank God for my mom and grandmother.  During those early days, they fielded many a panicked and often teary phone call with an “urgent” baby question.  Who am I kidding?  I still pose every question imaginable to them.  On one hand, I am sure I could figure it out myself, but it makes me feel better to have them weigh in.  On the other hand, they know their stuff.  They are calm.  They are practical.  They soothe my sleep-deprived soul.

This brings me to the topic of today’s post.  Today, I am thankful for my mom and grandmother and how they have helped me and are helping me navigate the road of motherhood.  Here are the top lessons I have learned from the women who raised me.

Think outside the box.  When AJS was a baby, I was rigid.  I was by the book.  I still am in many ways, but I have loosened up.  Watching my mom with Avery, taught me many things about entertaining a baby.  I was a little shocked the first time she stripped Avery’s diaper off and handed her the hose when we were out in the backyard, but I was in heaven having a moment to sit in a chair and watch her play without her demanding that I entertain her.  She was in heaven having that freedom.  And, yes, Avery still plays naked in my mom’s backyard.

Trust yourself.  It seems like we live in a time when the word of the pediatrician, baby expert, lactation consultant, etc. is taken as gospel.  I remember vividly my mom and grandmother both telling me “you’re the baby’s mother, you have to make the call.”  I felt a huge sense of freedom at hearing those words.  Yes, I think you and I should follow our pediatrician’s medical advice.  But there is a large gray area with children where you have to make decisions with which you’re comfortable. 

Everyone Gets Overwhelmed.  To me, my grandmother has always seemed like the perfect mother.  She runs her life with such efficiency and expertise.  It was a great relief to me to hear her stories about when my mom, aunts and uncle were kids.  My favorite story is about my Uncle Avery.  He was a high-energy kid, and my grandmother spent every minute of the day playing with him and churning through one activity after another.  One day, she had enough and went to the garage, got into the car, and hid from him.  He did, by the way, check the garage, but didn’t think to look in the car.  When she tells me that story, I always think “I know that feeling.”  It’s the “I just need half a minute to myself” feeling.  That story makes me feel like it is okay to be tired and a wreck because it happens to everyone.

These are a few of the gems I have learned from them.  They may seem simple, but sometimes I need someone to state the obvious.  I need someone to tell me what is okay.  But, what I appreciate the very most about my mom and grandmother, is how they always make me feel like I am a great mom.  Some days it is so hard to feel like a good mom, and hearing the words “you’re doing a good job” from the women I admire most has kept me afloat during many a storm.

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November 15, 2012 at 2:54 pm

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I Am Thankful For Mothers.

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Most people have the luxury of doing their jobs out of the public eye.  Of course, every job intersects the public in some way, and some jobs more than others.  As a lawyer, some aspects of my job are open to the public, such as published opinions, trials, etc., and naturally, I am susceptible to the review and criticism of my co-workers.  But outside of my parents and grandparents, most of the people in my life don’t the know the outcome of any particular case or the details of my job performance.

And this brings me to how being a mother is different from most jobs in the world.  As a mother, my job is necessarily played out in public.  Unless I want to keep my kids confined at home, people I don’t know see how I handle my kids on a daily basis.  And, people I do know have a front-row seat to how I am raising my children, as I don’t do much without my kids in tow these days.  Having people involved in raising your children can be a wonderful thing.  One thing I’m sure you’ve heard me say before is the more people to love your children the better.  However, these days it seems like everyone is a parenting expert.  More and more, I have noticed total strangers inclination to “help” mothers parent their kids.  I truly have not had that many negative experiences with this.  I have felt all eyes on me when my kids are kicking up a fuss in a public place.  I have held my breath in an airplane with a baby on my lap and a toddler at my side.  But as an observer, I have noticed the unkindness other mothers have received.  I have heard the stage whispers of “can’t you control your kid” when a nearby mother’s child is not cooperating.  I have a friend who was actually yelled at in a public place by a “concerned” stranger who felt she was not keeping a close enough eye on her baby.  And I have even seen people on instagram commenting on parenting practices they observe via photographs.

This leads me to my oft-repeated mantra: parenting is personal.  Whether I agree or disagree with your parenting practices, how you raise your child is your decision.  You have to live with the child, not me.  I am a mother who has what I consider to be an average amount of child-related stress.  I do not have many factors, besides my children themselves, that contribute extra stress, such as a job with demanding hours, a child with special needs or a chronic health condition, a chronic health condition myself, etc.  And yet I know, that on any given day, I can feel overwhelmed.  It is that crazed I haven’t quite slept enough, ate a cookie for breakfast, have cracker mush dried in my hair, a purse overflowing with kid paraphernalia, not enough hands, a bucking bronco for a baby, a four-year-old with more demands than breaths, a shirt that is on inside-out, and a used Kleenex in my pocket kind of feeling.  No matter who you are – you in someway should be able to relate to the plight of mothers.  You either are a mother, have a mother, know someone who is a mother, etc.  So all I am asking for myself and for all mothers is kindness and understanding and for you to not roll your eyes and audibly grimace when my kid spills her drink and it almost splashes you.

In the sense of full-disclosure, I fail at this as much as anyone.  I criticize the parenting of others (quietly, inside my house, at midnight, of course).  The voice in my head says “get control of your kid, lady.”  So, out of fairness, I am giving myself and the voice inside my head a strong talking to because I know how those mothers feel.  

To help the turning over of my new leaf, I am kicking off a week of thankfulness for the mothers in my life.  There are numerous talented and amazing women in my life that are raising or who have raised talented and amazing children.  For these women, I feel grateful and humbled. 

The first woman I am grateful for is my very own sister.  Erin, I am grateful for you and the kind of mother you are.  You are raising a smart, curious, unique and engaged human-being.  Yes, I know I am biased, but the kid knows all the verses to “I’ve Been Working On The Railroad” and even hums at the appropriate moments.  He knits (I’m not making this up).  He colors in the lines better than most adults, and he has an unparalleled thirst for knowledge that my sister is constantly feeding.  If reading the favorite man in your life the dinosaur encyclopedia from cover to cover is not love, then I don’t know what is.  I know it is not easy to love another person and rearrange your life for him, but you are doing it and doing well.  I would be lucky if Avery and Claire turn out as bright and perceptive as my favorite nephew, Tom. 

Stay tuned, friends.  I’ll be here all week.

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November 13, 2012 at 7:28 pm

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Weekend Snippets.

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Yes, I realize it has been since last Monday since I posted.  Life has been hectic in a usual way around here – breakfast, play, school, lunch, play, nap, play, dinner, bath, bed, repeat.  Somehow, there’s a job crammed into that schedule somewhere. 

This weekend our guest room was occupied by one of our favorite people – Granddad!  My dad, Avery and Claire’s granddad.  Avery and Claire welcomed him right into the fold, and Claire immediately started following him around the house chanting “Gran Da.”  My dad may have forgotten what it’s like to be surrounded by little girls.  My dad and I took Avery to see Brave at the dollar theatre – in 3D nonetheless.  I love it that everything is larger than life through her four-year-old eyes.  She was transfixed and sat perched on the edge of her movie seat.  She actually just weighs enough to keep the movie seat down, but occasionally the seat would fold up with AJS inside.  As she sensed the scary part was coming, she kept whispering to me “Mommy, you can close your eyes if you get scared.”  On Sunday morning, before my dad left, he pulled me out of bed for one last breakfast.  Avery was particularly impressed because I never get up with them for breakfast on the weekends – that’s Jerrod’s terrain.  My dad explained to her that he’s my dad and can tell me what to do.  Avery is in love with the concept that someone is my boss.  She’s has reminded me at regular intervals that he is my dad and can tell me what to do and can also tell me what not to do. 

On Sunday afternoon, I took Avery to see the traveling tour of Mary Poppins.  This was her first play, and I was not sure how it would go.  Again, transfixed.  Although I offered to leave at intermission, we stayed the entire time.  On our way out of the theatre, Avery told me she would like Mary Poppins to come to her house.  I have grappled with how best to shoot this idea down without bursting the Mary Poppins illusion.  I tried telling her that Mary Poppins lives too far away, but she very helpfully pointed out that she could fly to our house with her magic umbrella.  Drat. 

Those are the AJS weekend sound bites.  We’re starting to gear up for Thanksgiving and (can you believe it) Christmas!  Happy week, friends.

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November 12, 2012 at 10:19 am

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