Legal career?

Maria called me last Wednesday evening on my way home from work. She talked excitedly about her day. All was going well over the telephone wires until she asked me if she could come to work with me for National Bring your Child to Work Day. 
Huh? I had not heard anything about this day being Thursday. I had a conference to attend and work to complete. It fell on a bad day; and besides, she just brought it up to me (could she really have been excited for weeks to come to my work as she alleged?)! I told her I didn’t think I could swing it. 

Tears, lots of tears. 

She had a rough week with her crazy allergies. And tears. I couldn’t stand it. I caved and told her that I could take her to work with me in the morning but then she would have to stay home and hang with Morgan. She was thrilled. 

We dropped off Mario in the morning (he thought we were heading to the doctor’s office – little white lie) and headed to High Street. Ri had on her black boots and vest. She looked more stylish than me (not too hard to accomplish). 

We had to head to an 8:30 am meeting. By 8:45, she was begging to go up to my office so she could play on the computer. I made her stay and endure the pain of the infamous “meeting” until 9:10 and then I let her go up to my office. She loved the swipe badge she had to use to get in the office and took every opportunity she had to use it.

We went to Starbucks for a morning beverage after my meeting and then she went to town on cleaning my bookcases – a much-needed task to complete. While she was sorting through binders of junk from 1998 she posed a question: “since its bring your “child” to school day, we should really bring Mario, too. He would be so pumped up, mom.”

Always looking out for her little bro.

So we picked Mario up at his lunch time and took him back to my work. He was pumped. Maria taught him how to use the swipe card and showed him where all my candy was stashed. 


They played in my office and continued to clean. Maria wanted me to sit in another office far away but Mario wanted me to stay. I answered questions about what books to keep and toss and posed legal hypotheticals to them. Mario was intrigued with the hypotheticals; Ri not so much. She was wondering about lunch. We decided to get lunch downstairs at the cafe – they had 50% off pizzas, which Ri knew would make me smile. They wanted to eat in my office so we trekked back upstairs and dug into our discounted pizzas. After another half hour of watching me answer email and research, they were ready to call it a day. 

“Can we go home now” they both pleaded. 

They didn’t last as long as I thought they would but I give them credit for trying. My next career will be much more exciting as a park ranger in Yosemite…

I dropped them off at the house to Morgan and gave them a writing assignment: write a paragraph about whether you think you’d like to be a lawyer when you grow up.

I came home to two paragraphs: one from Ri and one from Mario. They couldn’t have had more different take-aways.


I think Mario was more intrigued with the notion of having his own office and being able to boss people around than actually being a lawyer; although he was intrigued with managing a “case file.” Ri was definitely not a fan of meetings; she still has bad memories of her last “bring your kid to school” experience three years ago where she wrote a poem titled “meetings are boring, boting, boring.” But she loved the perks of an office setting: free food (actually, she didn’t realize that me and others stocked the fridge) and jumbo post-it notes at your beckon call. 

Only time will tell what influence this day had on their future careers. I’m perfectly happy if they choose to run faraway from the legal profession or if they choose to embrace justice. I just want them to be as happy as they were when we were in the car driving to my office that morning. 

Fashion sense

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Note to Maria:

Never doubt your fashion sense. I want you to sport the basketball shorts with the hair flower with the go-go boots when you live in NYC and run a health care company. Change it up from the tired old black suit and black heels and pearl necklace. If anyone can do it, it is you, my dear.

Mr. Mom

A few days ago, Jon took Mario to his eye doctor appointment at 8:30 am and then took Maria to her dentist appointment at 3:20 in the afternoon because I got caught up in work. When we both had a chance to sit on the bed and talk for two minutes (while the kids showered), he chuckled “I was Mr. Mom today.” I immediately hurled that comment back at him. “Really? Mr. Mom? I do this all the time when you are gone!”

It was a knee-jerk reaction. Something I’m used to laughing/lamenting about with my girlfriends (“he does the dishes and its a big deal”; “he gives the kids a bath and he’s a savior”). After all, who hasn’t read studies in ten different articles on how much more housework and kid-work women typically do over men?

And Jon would completely agree that our situation confirms those studies.
But we make it work. I love running around outdoors with the kids, and would much prefer that over taking the cars in for oil changes, which Jon gladly does. I love mowing the grass and washing the floors over paying the bills on-line and heading to the bank, which Jon would much prefer. Are there times I am annoyed at him for not folding laundry? Yep. But are there times he has no desire to drive to the library to return the videos? Yep. We know each others’ strengths and preferred activities and have an unwritten rule as to who typically does what.

Jon’s reaction that night was not so much one of anger and defensiveness as it was hurt. He simply wanted me to acknowledge what he had done – moved meetings all around in order to take Mario to the doctor for an hour and a half, drive him to school for an always less-than-pleasant drop off, drive to work, drive to Ri’s school and take her to the dentist, and head back to work. Not so much to ask. I’d be looking for the same acknowledgment if I was him.

And, he would have given it to me. He’s the first one to tell me and anyone else in the room that I’m a rock star and that I’m the best mom and wife ever. He tells it to me all the time. So put away the studies and the stereotypes for a minute and stick with the basic human need to feel appreciated. That goes a long way in a marriage… and friendship.

Yesterday morning, I had to be at a 7:30 am meeting so Jon had to take the kids to school. He did not complain about it even though I know he was stressed with work and other issues.

So tonight, when we finally get a chance to sit down together and talk about our day, I will definitely make sure to address him as “Mr. Mom.”

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Living it up

I have been blasted at work over the past few weeks. Mario and Ri have been killing me with their pleas to stay home with them one day (which tears me up on one level but on another I know they get over it minutes after I’m gone and they have their friends over). I noticed on Tuesday that I only had one meeting on Thursday afternoon so I canceled it and decided to take the afternoon off with the kids. It looked like possible thunderstorms so I found a discount coupon for Fort Rapids, called Patrick to make sure Alana and Gio could go, packed up swimsuits, told David to feed them and keep it a surprise, and cranked out some serious work Thursday morning.

I stepped in the door to the house at 12:30 and received a star’s welcome.

“Mom!”

I hugged them both and told them the plans. Maria was ecstatic and kept saying “you are the best mom ever!” Mario retreated and said he didn’t want to go. He has been wanting alone time with me lately. But Maria quickly pepped him up talking about the slides and fountains at Fort Rapids.
We gathered our stuff and took off for Patrick’s house. I traded cars with Carrie and we were off down I-70. We walked into the hotel and the kids were in awe of the antlers on the walls and the high-heeled leopard shoe seats.

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While I got tickets, Mario and Gio filled up on Jelly Bellies from the dispenser not understanding that they had to actually pay for them. Luckily, the cashier was a young high schooler who could care less. We got our passes and headed to the locker rooms to change. Mario hated the swim trunks I brought him so luckily I had a second pair. He adjusted those for five minutes but finally felt comfortable enough to head to the slides.

And the fun began! Mario and Gio played in the main area and Ri and Alana went to the lazy river and the big slides.

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Mario is anti-picture taking lately so I couldn’t get a good one of him until he went on the big yellow slide. I raced him; he won.

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Gio joined us after a while but he found a friend in the main area that he ran around with for a majority of the time. Mario became addicted to the yellow slide and then witnessed the long line for the black slide and became intrigued. The black slide is the favorite slide among most Fort Rapids’ guests. It takes you into a black bowl where you go around and around until you shoot down a hole into a pool of water. Ri went down with me last year when we went to Fort Rapids for Zach’s party and she loved it. We were worried Alana wouldn’t be tall enough but she barely made it. Those two rode down at least twenty times.

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Mario was not nearly tall enough for it but we were able to sneak him on with me a few times and he loved it! We both laughed so hard when we shot out into the pool. Then a young, militant girl put the smack down on him and refused, even after the most pitiful of pleas, to allow him to go down. He pouted and called her a jerk to me (which I promptly scolded him about but did express my appreciation that he didn’t call her that name in front of her- baby steps). But he soon found good times in the main area with me and Gio.

I got called by folks at work a few times and spent 45 minutes working out an “emergency.” I wavered on the edge of frustration and anger but did not tip over into the black hole. I kept my thinking positive – happy to be able to take the day away from the office and give my kids this treat. I knew I may be called away and I knew the kids would be just fine playing with their cousins amongst the slides and fountains. I find that so many of my days turn on that shift in thinking. I could easily have gotten angry and walked back in the park in a foul mood. Sulked at the table and not played with the kids. Thought about another job where they wouldn’t have bothered me. But what would have been the result? A day lost laughing with my kids. The experience of riding 15 miles an hour through a tube with my giggling son. The expression on Ri’s face when I told her I’d ride down the black slide with her?

Granted, there were times while we were there when I thought “I should just grab a coke and read something on the Internet.” But I kept running up and down those steps and sliding down those slides. First, to be in the moment with the kids. Second, to experience the joy and carefreeness they were experiencing. Third, to get some killer exercise (my calves are still killing me today!). I always have this unrealistic mindset that I will arrive at the water park or Kings Island or zoo, and I will spend the entire day enmeshed with the kids and the fun of the place. But the reality is that I do think about reading a book or checking my email when I’ve gone down a slide eight times in a row. And that’s ok. I am 41 years old. Even though I think “when can I do something else” sporadically during our adventures, I keep hanging on and sliding and splashing and in the end when the kids have finally tired out, I have the awesome recognition, if only self-recognition, that I participated fully in the day. I experienced the thrill of the slides, the exhilaration of the bucket of water on our heads; the nonsense of standing on a fountain spout and spraying the kids.

When we were leaving, a worker said “good-bye ma’am.” Maria looked up at me and laughed.

“You may be 41 mom but you act like a kid.” What a compliment. And with that, I joined them in the video arcade.

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The hilarity of life

I woke up Sunday and went for my run. As I was lifting weights at the gym, I thought about something I had overlooked at work. And I thought about it again. And again. My stomach tightened; I felt sick. I had to head home. I started to cry.

When I walked in the door, Jon walked up to me. I started telling him how stressed I was about work. He touched my shoulder and told me the ten reasons why I shouldn’t be stressed. Why is it that he is always thinking the way I should be thinking when it comes to holding my own at work? I think of something I missed and I automatically start damning myself for not being perfect. How could I miss that? What was I thinking? Jon goes straight to “look at the pressure you had on you; you had a ridiculously short time frame to seal the deal; things will be missed and this thing is nothing compared to the big picture.” He does what I have seen other leaders do – stand up for themselves; diminish the matter; look at the big picture. It is so hard for my perfectionist self to do but it’s absolutely necessary to not go insane in my job. Thank god I have a hubby that grounds me.

Thank god I also have two kids that make me laugh about it all. When they saw me upset, they both reacted. Maria said “Mom, in the big scheme of things, does this really matter?” Yeah, there is my philosopher girl who has picked up my stock response when the kids start crying about trivial things. Mario chimed in making goofy faces and saying “Mom, just do this and you will feel better!” They bring me perspective. As I was walking towards the stairs, I kiddingly told them that I was going to take a shower and cry. Maria’s response “don’t cry in the shower, pee instead!” (An inside joke that made me chuckle during my entire shower). If kids are good for anything, it’s making you see that life can’t be taken seriously; it’s pure chaos and you just got to see the hilarity in it.

Jon left that afternoon for business so I let the kids have a sleepover with Sophie and Quinn. We took a stroller/scooter ride to the Chocolate store which always makes me feel better. I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation between Mario and Quinn in the stroller:
Mario: “Dude, did you see that?”
Quinn:”What?”
Mario:”Ha, nothing. Got ya, dude!”
And so it went over and over. Maria and Sophie were far ahead on their scooters talking about who knows what.

The Chocolatier did not disappoint. Gelato for the kids and dark chocolate nutter butters for moi. Pure heaven. The boys went shirtless into the store and I got a smack down from the owner who told me next time they would not be served. Seriously, at age 5?! I would say its more likely we won’t get served based on these kids being downright nuts!

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When we got home, the kids watched Paranorman while I wrote my sis a letter and they were all fast asleep when I peaked in the room at 10:30. I carried each one to bed upstairs.

The next morning I made pancakes with chocolate chips, eggs, and bacon for the crew. Ri and Sophie helped me make the pancakes. They graciously allowed Mario to help stir after he had a meltdown when they told him he couldn’t assist. Quinn was fine watching tv and being waited on.

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After breakfast, they didn’t want to go outside and I didn’t want them watching another show so we compromised. We got out paper and magazines and they cut out their favorite pictures from the magazines to glue on their paper. Ri and Sophie cut out horses and puppies and kittens; Quinn cut out an expensive watch and dog; Mario cut out a polar bear and half-dressed women. Yea, that is right. He cut out a woman in a bikini from my Self magazine and a woman with long, luxurious hair from a shampoo ad.

“These girls are sexy, Mom!”
“Mario, girls are not objects and you should not call them sexy. That girl works out hard to get strong and she plays sports.”
“Yeah, yeah, mom, they are still sexy.”

Seriously, at age 5? The only thing that gives me hope is that Ri got all into boys when she was 4 and she totally grew out of it by 7. However, Jon and I thinks Mario may not take that path. It’s like it’s innate in him. Scary.

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He asked if I’d tape his girl pictures above his bed for him so he could see them when he goes to sleep. See why we’re concerned?! Maria schooled him on how “inappropriate” he was being, and she and Sophie cornered him in the living room to tell him that “girls rule and boys drool.”

Needless to say, they kept my mind off work all weekend, and I love ’em for that.

Meetings

Today is Take Your Daughter or Son to Work Day. Ri begged to get off of school to come with me to my work. I had a day full of meetings, which sounded Ike heaven to her.

During our very first one at 9 am, this is the poem she wrote:

Meetings
boring
we depend
upon
meetings
being
very
very
very
boring

Does that sum it up well folks, or what? My colleagues loved it. My one colleague, Eunice, had to get a picture with the poet wearing her pink headband.

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Ri bolted after the first meeting complaining her eyes hurt. I believe it was really the thought of five more meetings…. and the fact that Grandma Lolo and Lou offered to come spend the day with her.

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Can a Woman

I have been crushed with work lately. So when I called the courthouse yesterday to confirm that Maria’s Girl Scout troop could still meet with a female judge during our tour that afternoon and was told “not sure,” I was ready for my head to spin around 100 times and my mouth to spit out fire. I expressed (in a cordial, polite manner, of course) how important it was for these girls to see a female judge and hung up the phone confident that it would happen.

And it did.

Maria and her troop of 7 and 8 year old girls met Judge Kim Brown. Before that though, they walked through a metal detector, which may have provided the most fun of the entire trip ( actually, it was probably second to the tunnel walk).

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Before meeting the Judge, the girls visited the jury room. We talked about what a jury does and asked them if their parents had been jurors. However, all of our questions fell on deaf ears. The girls were more intrigued with the giant tvs. The first question posed: “what movies do jurors get to watch?” That question prompted a series of discussions amongst the girls about movies they loved and had recently seen. Not quite the captive audience I wanted.

After checking out the vending machines and bathroom (with a shower!), we headed to Judge Brown’s courtroom. The girls’ mouths dropped as they entered. Questions bounced all over – “who sits at the tables”, “does the judge use her gavel”, where does the jury sit”?

Surprisingly, all the chatter ceased when Judge Brown entered the room. It’s as if they innately knew to be quiet (either future lawyers or they are going to be respectful defendants one day).

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Judge Brown talked with them about running for judge and about using her gavel and about the cases she hears. They sat and listened taking glances over at the juror box and up at her bench. All of those little minds taking in the atmosphere. I was hoping the presentation would have been a little more kid-friendly but I think the girls would have taken away what they ended up taking away all the same. And that is that they can choose whatever path calls to them. They’ve got a great big, exciting world in front of them and it’s theirs to gulp up. If Ri takes away one nugget from the trip, I hope it is that.

We ended our time with the Judge by singing her a song titled appropriately “Can a Woman.” The girls belted it out so that any one in the courthouse could hear.

I stood across from the girls to videotape them and wanted to shout “Amen” with every “Yes I Can” they sang. I wanted to hoist every one of them on my shoulders and reinforce that the sky is the limit. The power and confidence in that courtroom during that song was palpable and I will work like mad to keep it that way as Ri moves into pre-teen and teen years. Those girls will struggle together, laugh together, yell together over their school years like all of us remember doing with our girlfriends. And when they need a boost, I just hope they remember the confidence they exuded when they sang this song together.