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Planes, trains and boats (and I’m not on any of them)

July 28, 2013

This past week, I put my Emma on a plane.  Ballsy of me, ballsy of her; the whole trip is quite ballsy:

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She is now in Paris.  Navigating the Metro, the Eiffel Tower, figuring out which museums to see.  She’s not with a group or on an organized trip.  It’s just her and a friend, making their way.

I’m not surprised that when she called today, she seemed a bit subdued.  Or that she expressed some concern about finding their way outside of Paris to Versailles “on their own.”  (her words.)

They’re staying with family friends, so they aren’t completely adrift, but I think that having this time to plan, to execute, to budget – on their own – is an interesting wake up call.  It responds nicely to the exclamations of “I am an adult!  I can make my own decisions!” that were creeping into her arguments before she left.  Arguments for a later curfew, mostly.

She’s not an adult.  One more year of high school, and lots more years to mature.

Yet, I’m happy that we can provide for her an experience that will help her to grow into an adult.

She’s spending a week in Paris, and then a week in the countryside, staying with her friends’ parents’ in-laws.  There, they will hike, they will swim in a lake, they will milk some cows.  And I will be checking my phone, my emails, my growing number of grey hairs, much less.

Meanwhile, the 15 year old is safely ensconced in her remote overnight camp for a month.  Well supervised, well sunscreened, and beautifully cut off from internet and television:

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Last year, David and I fell down on our job of sending her letters from home.  At her camp, each “session” is two weeks, and we are allowed to visit on the mid-point day.  Before I knew it, the first session was almost over, and I hadn’t sent her a SINGLE letter.  This was horrible.  Wretched.  Terrible.  Bad.  We started getting letters that said “why haven’t you written me?” and “I can’t believe I haven’t gotten even ONE letter?  Is everything okay?” We did better after that, but it didn’t reduce the scarring.  (Fortunately, she was having a fabulous time, and this didn’t impact her experience … but it gave her a LOT of ammunition to complain.)

This year, we’re working to fix it.  We sent her postcards from the town right outside the camp on the day we dropped her off, and we’ve been alternating letters and packages EVERY DAY since.  And we EACH send something every day.  I’m hoping I can erase her memories of last year.  I’ve sent her, so far, temporary tattoos, a purple pen, nailpolish, stickers for her nails, and 2 letters.  David has sent her books.  I have some other little trinkets to send over the next few weeks.

As I’ve said here before, my kids are theatrically inclined.  They do musicals and plays, and Emma is now in the high school’s [very competitive, not that I’d brag] Improv Troupe.  Julez’s camp does a musical, too.  They work on it for the full month, and perform during the last week.  Last year, the musical was Seussical, and she was the Cat in the Hat.  This year, it’s The Little Mermaid, and she wrote to say she is Sebastian, the …. lobster?  Sadly, because her camp is 3 hours away, and on an island that can only be accessed by a boat; and because parents simply aren’t invited – we can’t see this musical.  But I take solace in knowing that I will hear the songs for months, during Juliette’s showers.  So I’ll have some sense.

David and I are enjoying our temporarily empty nest.  I’m on the verge of very intense trial prep, but so far things are under control enough that my weekends are untouched.  Yesterday we went and saw TWO movies, and then had some quick, cheap, delicious tacos for dinner out, and then came home and watched West Wing for a few hours.  Wild and sexy, us two.  Today I’m thinking of organizing my home office, so that perhaps one day it will be at the point where I don’t feel that I need to close the door and hide it from all visitors.  We’ll see how that goes.

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And, after a solid 2 weeks of vacation, she finally makes her way toward her blog …

July 13, 2013

A close friend of mine has started a blog this summer. She’s written on and off forever, but this summer, she’s picked a theme, and is writing every day.

Since I started my new job, I have really fallen off with my blogging (duh).  At first, it was because there’s an actual policy at my office, stating we can’t post on our personal blogs from our work computers.  Of course, I have no clue whether they’d actually KNOW if I were to do so.  I’m guessing they wouldn’t, because no one ever said anything to me when work was slow in February and I spent hours playing Bubble Witch Saga (I think that’s what it’s called) at my desk.

But lately, being “allowed” to blog from work (or knowing I wouldn’t get caught blogging from work) wouldn’t have increased my blogging, because I never have time to pee, or to eat, or to really breathe, while at work.  I’m constantly juggling 50 different cases, tasks, and phone calls.  There is no time to check personal email, and certainly no time to blog.

I’ve even fallen way behind on my blog reading.  (Stupid Google Reader shutting down hasn’t really helped in that department.)  Today (Saturday), I decided to check in on one of my favorite bloggers because Jules and I are re-decorating her room and this blogger has some amazing projects and design ideas.  This blogger is pregnant.  Last I checked, she was 20-something weeks along.  Today, there’s a picture of a BABY on her site.  Geez.

I want to pick it back up.  I want to make time.  I want to blog, I want to read (books and blogs), I want to go for more walks.  I’m going to work on making these things happen.

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Intensity

April 21, 2013

Right now, the sky is very blue, and the trees are blooming with pink, yellow, purple flowers.  It’s still only 44 degrees outside, but it’s beautiful.  I was happy to have a respite from what we’ve been dealing with during the past week here in the Boston area, to take an hour (or so) for a walk through the hills in town.  Despite living here for almost 10 years, I got lost.  I saw parks I’d never seen, and streets I’d never heard of.  Then I saw them again, because those streets were all called “Circle” or “Crescent” or something else that meant “you are walking in circles.”

A week ago today, I had scrambled to meet the latest in a string of intense and nearly humanly impossible deadlines for work, and got in the car at 11 a.m. to pick Emma up from a race.  She didn’t row in that race, so she was able to leave early.  She got in the car and promptly fell asleep while I drove us to Western Mass., to the first in a string of college tours.

I felt bad leaving Jules behind.  We invited her, of course, but she really didn’t want to come.  She’d done one college tour with us, and said it was just so boring, it made her feel snarky about the school, and she LIKES the school (Wesleyan), so she doesn’t want to feel snarky about it, and she thinks doing college tours when she’s a Freshman will be detrimental to her own process, when she’s ready.  Seemed reasonable, and David was staying home, so she did, too.

However, for the 10 days prior to this trip, Jules had been at home alone a LOT.  Because 10 days before, she got beaned in the head by a softball.  That was awesome.  She called me after softball practice and complained that she had to just SIT there the whole time, because her coaches “freaked out,” and asked her all kinds of questions (what’s your name? what’s your address? what year is it?  who’s the president?), and made her go to the trainer to get some ice.  She said she felt fine.  She seemed fine, although she had a bump on her head.

But then, mid-day on Thursday, she called me to say she felt dizzy and nauseous and couldn’t focus in class.

Then I had a freak-out.  A working-parent freak out.  It was 11:30, my kid obviously had a concussion, and I had a major filing deadline and a court hearing.  I called David, but I couldn’t reach him.  I called the doctor, and they said, “she shouldn’t be home alone, if her symptoms continue to escalate, she could slip into a coma.”  So I promptly closed my office door, sat at my desk, and started to cry.*  David called me back, he left work, he took Jules to the doctor, and hung out with her for the rest of the day, and the next day as well.  And I met my deadlines.  Over the following week, she was able to escalate her activity, and by the time I left on Sunday with Emma, Jules was back to 100%.

So – Emma and I got on the road.  We did one college tour (Amherst College) that afternoon, and drove through 2 other campuses – UMass Amherst and Smith College.  Then we went to my parents’ house, and had steak and baked potatoes and broccoli, and Emma made cookies, and I drank my father’s wine.

Monday a.m., my mom made Emma and I breakfast, and we got back on the road.  First, a morning tour and info session at NYU.  Then, in the afternoon, a tour and info session at Barnard College.

And that’s where we were — on the lawn at Barnard College, standing right outside the library, listening to our tour guide talk about her creative writing class, when my phone vibrated.  I took a peek, and it was an NBC news alert.  “Reports of Explosions at the Boston Marathon Finish Line.”

There was quite a moment of disconnect.  I get news alerts all the time.  Shooting in Colorado, shooting in Newtown (the town next to where I grew up in CT, by the way), earthquakes, actor deaths.  Always somewhere else.  This time it was “somewhere else,” but “somewhere else” was home.  [not to say that Newtown didn’t have that kind of feeling, too.  It did, but still different.]  My brain made some very obvious “clicks.”  Like I could feel them.  Boston.  Home.  Juliette.  David.  I texted J immediately “you okay?”  She texted back “yes, I’m at home” and then instantly called me.  I pulled myself away from the tour to talk to her, and she was a little shaken up because (a) 2 bombs went off 3 miles away from our house, and (b) if her day had gone as she initially planned it, she would have been a block away from the explosions  – shopping on Newbury Street.  If she had been on Newbury Street, she wouldn’t have been injured, but she would have been in the midst of the chaos, and I think it would have been horrible for her.

I had determined not to tell Emma until after the Barnard tour/info session, so she could focus.  But then I blurted it out anyway.  It was a struggle for both of us to listen to the virtues of Columbia’s sister school, and we bickered during the info session when I made her put her phone away.  10 minutes later, though, a woman yelped and said, “I’m sorry to interrupt, but there was a bombing Boston, and I need to leave!” She ran out to call her family.

Emma and I had intended to stay in New York for a couple of hours after the tour, but we were in no frame of mind to wander the city.  We got back in the car and drove to my parents’ house, listening to the news the whole way, where we could watch the news, and try to piece together what was going on.  It was so surreal, and so horrible.

Nevertheless, we were able to focus on Tuesday’s 2 tours/college visits, and were very happy when we got home to be with David and Juliette, and to be back home.  Funny how despite the horror and pain that was taking place at home, we both wished we were there. You’d think we’d be relieved to be out of town, but we were not.

When i got back to work on Wednesday, it was to continued pressure of deadlines, deadlines, deadlines.  Things are so busy in our firm right now, and the vast majority of the 30+ lawyers are working at break-neck speed.  I’m personally not happy with this pace.  I like to be busy.  I like deadlines.  But this has been all-out for over a month.  It’s not ok.

I thought I’d have everything under  control in time for the weekend, though.  My Friday would be busy, and possibly long, but I’d be able to go to Emma’s regatta on Saturday, and I was thinking maybe – just maybe – I could take Sunday off, too.

On Thursday night, David had to work late.  He is managing a campus book store at a nearby college, and they were having a 7 p.m. event.  He left work at 9:15.  but then something happened, and he thought he was going to have to go back.  In the end, he did not. I was exhausted, and knew I had a long day in front of me on Friday, so at 10:30, I went to bed.

At 4 a.m., I woke up to pee.  I looked at my phone and saw 2 seemingly disconnected items (gotta love these NBC alerts):  (1) a campus police officer was shot, a mere HOUR after David left the exact address where it happened, and (2) there were gun shots in another town – the one where we go to Target.  “Weird” I thought, and went back to sleep.

At 5:30, my alarm went off, and then another NBC alert came through:  The T was shut down.  Then the pieces all came together – everything was related, and the world was GOING INSANE!!!  I woke David up, and we were trying to figure it all out – first the big picture, and then how it would impact our days – with sirens going off in the background, with new reports of police activity taking place at one of the neighborhoods that borders our town and Boston, and where I almost NEED to drive, bike, walk, commute through to get to work.  It was feeling very close to home.

How could this be real life?

And I had panic over the fact that one of the deadlines I was dealing with that day was some initial appeal filings in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.  While federal and state courts in Boston were closing as quickly as the T and the cabs and the businesses, the court I was dealing with is in Philadelphia, and is known to be rather unforgiving when it comes to deadlines.  I was thinking that I would have to drive to work, since I couldn’t take the T.  At that point, my town was not on the list of areas being told to stay inside.  My firm had sent out a robo-call saying that while the office was open, everyone in the areas being told to stay inside should NOT come in, and anyone who takes the T to work was excused for the day.

Then my town was added to the list.

Our managing partner sent an email saying he really wanted everyone home.  Please let him know if you have critical deadlines.  I had to write back with a pretty lengthy email with my 3 critical deadlines.  While I was drafting it, my assistant called my cell, equally stressed about the Third Circuit filings.  Two of the partners (the managing partner and the partner who’s on the appeal with me) wrote me to say “call the third circuit, they’ll give you an extension.”  Then a client called me to say “I know things are crazy there, and you might not be able to get to work today, but what about meeeeeeeeeee?”  I gave him the finger while talking to him as if I gave a shit.

The Third Circuit gave me the extension without batting an eye.  Then they told me that if I’d missed the deadline without calling, the result would have been a letter, along with an extra 2 weeks to get my act together.  Huh.

I worked some for selfish-client yesterday, and again today – but it seems like Friday’s shut-down otherwise took place without the world ending.  I was a little frustrated that we were included in the lock-down zone, because we weren’t THAT close, but then I just reminded myself that they found a BOMB near a T Station that I go through twice a day.  And that’s why we were in the zone.  I thought it was possible that they were keeping us in our houses while they were sweeping the larger area for more bombs.  So I got over my frustration, and took a nap.

At 5:30, though, after a full day of constantly fluctuating news reports and stir-crazy teens, I said, “I’m going for a walk.”  David came, and we slowly strolled around the block.  We live about 2 blocks from the T tracks, and as we were walking toward it, David said, “it’s so weird not to have the train going by” – and then the train went by.  We were surprised, and I guessed they were staging to resume service.

We ran into a couple of dog-walking neighbors (one of which is married to a Cambridge Police Officer, and he was – at that moment – at the apartment where one of the bombers allegedly lived, and where they kept saying they’d be doing a “controlled explosion” – but never did), and another friend saw us out the window and came out to say hi.  While we were chatting with them, we could sense activity picking up; a bus went by, a pair of teens walked by, more people were on the sidewalks.  Then David got a text from work saying they’d be open on Saturday, and we knew the lock-down had been lifted.

It was kind of disappointing that we’d spent the day inside and the 2nd suspect still wasn’t caught.  But it was also nice to be able to leave the house.  A friend texted and invited us over for dinner, and we instantly accepted – happy to be with others, and happy to be out of the house – during this trying time.

And then – more news.  They found that boat, and there were gunshots, and I texted my friend to say “but I can’t leave the TV!”  She responded with “oh, please, it takes 5 minutes to get here!  Come watch with us!”

So we did.  We cooked together, and chatted, and nibbled first while the suspect was captured, and then while we watched Across the Universe (awesome movie) with the kids.

My hope is that this week, things start being calmer.  On all fronts.

*  Crying at work.  A working woman’s scarlet letter.  My tears are often family-related, not work-related.  I think the last time was when David was the one to take Jules to get her braces off.  I wanted to do it.

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Christening

March 17, 2013

“Oh having teenagers has been so EASY lately.  I haven’t had any trouble with them at ALL.  They’re so well-behaved, and respectful and WHOLESOME.”

Ha ha ha.  Joke’s on me.

We had a kerfuffle last weekend.  Oh yes, we did.

I suppose it’s not something I should post onto the internets, especially since I told my daughter* that she should keep her own mouth shut about it, and explained to her that I haven’t told my friends (who are parents of her fellow students) the details of what happened, lest they decide that their kids shouldn’t hang out with my kid anymore.  So now I will be cagey.

Except to say — I haven’t talked to a single adult about her lapse in judgement who hasn’t chuckled, remembering their own, very similar, story.  And also to say – no one was harmed, in any way, during this little dalliance of my daughter’s.

Oh!  Total subject change, not at all related to anything that happened in this house:

When I was a Junior in high school, my parents were pretty strict.  I didn’t go out that often, but every now and then, I managed to convince my parents I should be allowed to have a social life.  One particular weekend night, I told my mom I was going to my friend Missy’s house.  Instead, a group of us went to a party at someone’s house whose parents weren’t home.  We were having a lot of fun (in my memory, I wasn’t drinking).  I didn’t want to stop having fun to get home in time for my  11 p.m. curfew.  So I called my mom to “tell” her that I was sleeping over at Missy’s house.  My mom — clearly not a stupid person — said “the hell you are” and insisted that she was coming to pick me up – right now – at Missy’s house.

Oops.

So I got someone to quick drive me to Missy’s house, which was not even in the same TOWN that I had called my mom from.  I was very nervous, thinking I wouldn’t make it there in time.

I got to Missy’s house before my mom.  Of course, Missy wasn’t there.  She was still at the party.  But Missy – like most of us – had a relatively long driveway that went down a hill to her house.  So I stood at the top of it to wait for my mom, hopefully keeping all of this out of Missy’s parents’ view.  She showed up, kind of angry, I got in the car, and we went home.  She didn’t ask to talk to Missy’s parents, and Missy’s parents didn’t know that she was there at all. Also – (key point here) – my parents didn’t socialize with my friends’ parents.

 

Advice to those of you with younger children:  socialize with your kids’ parents.

 

 

* The older one, thank God.  I don’t know why it feels so appropriate for a Junior in high school to be fucking up in the particular way that she did, whereas if it was my Freshman, I’d be looking into military school or something else equally extreme.  Those two years make a big difference, in turns out.  When they’re Juniors, you can’t help but to acknowledge that these follies are only a foreshadowing of the college years, which are not far away at all.

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Chastised, yet again.

March 1, 2013

After yesterday’s post about what a conscientious parent I tried to be to my young children, I thought it appropriate to show how far I’ve fallen.

  • Yesterday, at the pediatrician’s office for the girls annual check ups, Jules was asked about her diet.  Fruits and veggies? check. Plenty of water?  check.  Milk and Dairy?  “Well, I have cream in my coffee every morning.”  The doctor(nurse practitioner, really) whipped her head around to shoot daggers out of her eyeballs and into my brain.  I – very maturely – returned her look with a smug look, with a bit of a giggle suppressed.  “It’s too early.  You need to stop that!”  I continued with my look, and did not agree to “stop her” from drinking coffee.  As if I didn’t choose to let her drink coffee when she asked after careful thought?  
  • On the way home from the pediatrician’s office, I got pulled over.  Awesome example for my nearly-driving-aged teens, no?  Fortunately, it was not for a moving violation – it was because my inspection sticker had expired.  On January 31st.  Oops.  We knew it was expired.  David and Juliette figured it out while Em and I were traveling last week, but David thought it was the registration.  When I got home I pointed out that, no, it’s just the inspection.  We had been joking for the past 4 days that we shouldn’t drive the car because we might get pulled over.  Then I drove the car, and I got pulled over.  The very nice police man let me off with just a warning, and I went straight to the inspection center and forked over the $29 to get a new sticker.

I’d also like to point out that their doctor appointment was at 2:15.  This required me to leave work at 1 p.m., and I opted not to go back afterward.  This 1/2 day of work gave me not only the time to take the girls to the doctor, but also to get the car inspected AND to write my first blog post in months.

Half days may be the key to the universe.  Too bad they’re also a once-every-six-months treat.  (If you can call being snarked at by a poopy-face nurse practitioner a “treat”).

 

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Hippie mom of preschoolers = chastised mom of teenagers

February 28, 2013

In the last week, I’ve been reprimanded twice for my decisions when the kids were young:

First, on Sunday, Em complained that I didn’t let them watch t.v. when they were young.  “there are so many shows that everybody watched, but we didn’t, or at least we didn’t unless it was on in the summer when we were at dad’s.  Why didn’t you let us watch t.v.”

Oh, I don’t know.  Because I thought you and your brain development would be better served by playing outdoors, reading books and drawing pictures?

“But t.v. is the one thing that connects us to other people.  Even people who don’t have anything in common at all can talk about popular television shows.  And you DEPRIVED us of this connection to our world!”

Never mind that they really did watch plenty of t.v. in the preschool years, although it was limited to PBS and Playhouse Disney — I did get stricter as they got older and the shows got crappier. They were complaining about not watching some show like the Suite Life of those boys – whatever that was.  I don’t know – I never saw it.

Then, today.  “E-Z Bake ovens are so cool, but we could never have one!”  I had to foolishly ask “why not?”  “Oh, because you hated plastic toys.  And because you didn’t want us to have gender-specific toys.  So we couldn’t have doll houses or EZ Bake ovens!”  Em went on to say “I liked my wood blocks and legos, but I wish I could have had an EZ Bake oven!”

Even though we did bake all the time …. and I am pretty proud of my teenage feminists.

 

 

 

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The Mother of All Field Trips

December 11, 2012

During my last year of law school, my girls were in 3rd and 5th grades.

Before I went to law school, when the girls were in even younger grades, my job was all we had.  I was a single mom, and while we were making ends meet, we didn’t have a huge nest egg.  I didn’t play around with time off.   Then, when I was in my first 2 years of law school, my time was tight.  Again, time off wasn’t easy to get.

But during that last year of law school, I was more flexible, and I thought, “this is my chance!”

My chance to chaperone a field trip.

I picked one trip per kid, and I committed to it, and I went.

With Emma’s class, I went to Wolf Hollow, and saw, well, wolves. It was cold.  Our bus got lost.  The kids were cute.  It was fun.

With J’s class, I waited for the summer (I probably had already graduated, come to think of it), and I went to George’s Island.  That was kind of a magical day.  It was warm, the kids were soft and sweet and young.  It was also a trip where I got to know a few moms that I hadn’t really known before (thanks to law school and the intensity that it brought into my life).  I have pictures of J and her friends from that trip that I cherish.  We got sunburns.  We had fun.

And that was that.  My chaperoning days were done.

Until now.

Emma’s crew team is going on a trip.  During February vacation.  A week long vacation.

Last year, they went to Texas.  Where it’s warm in February, and they can go on the water without risking hypothermia.  This year, Texas got too expensive (or the dorms were demolished, or something), and so they’re going to Georgia.

And they needed chaperones. They sent a general plea.  “We need 4 people!”  I looked at the email wistfully thinking, “Emma wouldn’t want me to go . . . ”

Apparently, they didn’t get the 4 people.  Because a second email came.

I don’t know how the coaches came up with their list, but they came up with a list of about 15-20 parents (out of hundreds) that they thought would be “great chaperones!”

I forwarded that email to Emma: “Can I go?”

And she responded:  “Are you serious??!!  I wanted to ask you, but I figured you had to work!!!”

NO!  I do not have to work!!

I put my ducks in a row at work, tallied up my vacation days, saw that this was doable, and signed up.

And now – I’m chaperoning!

What am I chaperoning?

Oh, about 60 boys and 30 girls, ages 16-18, on a plane, through a layover, to a hotel, to a race course, into Atlanta, etc., etc.

What the heck am I thinking?

I’m thinking:  These kids are absolutely awesome.  I know many of them.  Know of the rest.  Think the world of them.  It’s going to be great. I’m also thinking:  Em wants me there!  Hooray!!

(In fact, she was telling me that she was scoping out other “cool” parents to try and get their kids to talk them into going, so I could have cool people to hang out with.)

Now let’s just hope that I don’t get some random trial scheduled for that week . . . .