Disclaimer

This blog is not intended to provide legal advice, legal services or legal anything else. Don't sue me. All I have is debt anyway.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Recent Cora

I've been such a "serious" blogger lately, I figure it's time to post some pics so you can oooh and aaahh about how cute my kid is.


Cora and her "big sister." She's finally discovered the dog. The dog loves Cora. They're kindred spirits. They're both rather disgusting. The same time that picture was taken Cora yacked up while chewing on her hand. The dog then licked it off of her.


Cora's very good at standing, with the assistance of holding on to something. Then she chews on it.


Cora thinks Daddy is awesome. Especially when he "flies" her around. That's always a big hit.


Babies for Obama!


Green beans aren't very popular. She'll eat them, but she's still not convinced it's food. Peas on the other hand are delicious. We're moving on to different colored veggies next, then fruits.


Cora still loves ducks. And chewing on her fingers. Yesterday, a tooth cut through the bottom. She's been good though. A little fussy, but not horrible. And she slept for 11 hours last night, going to bed a full hour before her regular bedtime. Growing teeth is tough work.


This one's my favorite. Yes, I'm a total geek, but I've been reading to Cora about World War II instead of nursery rhymes. (She thinks Stalin's mustache is hilarious.)

Friday, May 23, 2008

Friendship

I figured since I'd started dissecting my post about what makes my life as a parent easier, I would continue that series. This time, I wanted to talk about the friends that have helped us along the way.

I have a friend who has often chided me for having "too many" friends. He doesn't understand how I can have so many friends and keep up with so many people. I admit, a lot of times I fail big time at being a good friend, because I can't keep up with everyone, and I'm generally not the most thoughtful person anyway. I can be a pretty big flake, and have gotten worse since being in law school. But my friends are really important to me and have often been a source of sanity.

Our friends have been really great to us, especially helping us through the difficult pregnancy and Cora's illness. The majority of our closest friends are our age or a little older, almost all are married, and two other couples had kids about the same time we did, one three months before, another two weeks after (both girls). Another friend of mine had her baby about a month after we did, but I don't see her as often, and a few other friends have kids that are older. The rest of our friends don't have kids, but still enjoy spending time with Cora, and will eventually have kids of their own, just not any time soon.

A couple of our friends have been able to help us out due to their flexible schedules, and have watched Cora when we were in a pinch. One friend was working at home for a month while his office was being remodeled, and watched her one morning while both Husband and I had class. Cora got a crash course in the world of computer programming. Another friend just finished her residency and has been studying for her medical specialty boards, so she's been off work for awhile to concentrate on her studies. Cora got to spend some time learning microbiology (she apparently thinks bacteria names are hilarious... she's definitely her father's daughter).

The great thing is that no one minds (or at least doesn't let on!) that we bring Cora out with us. We're really social people, and we want Cora to be social too. This is the age where kids really start to get separation anxiety and stranger anxiety, and I don't want her to have any sort of severe anxiety that will last through her toddler years like a few kids I've known, so I try to pass her off to as many friends as possible when we're out. So far she's done really well. She happily lets other people hold her, and gives them big smiles (and usually a nice big upchuck on their shirts, ugh. It's a wonder anyone ever wants to hold my kid, she's totally gross.) I don't know if anyone will want my kid around when she's mobile and especially when she's in her terrible twos, but for now everybody loves her and wants to see her, so usually we don't get a sitter, we just bring her with us. (Tomorrow night we're getting a sitter so we can go see the new Indiana Jones movie though. It better not suck!)

Aside from our closest friends, there are my friends from law school. I'm not the only one in my law school class with a kid, but I'm the only one in my group of law school friends with a kid. I have two friends in law school who are married, and three in long term relationships, but the rest are single and for the most part, a few years younger than me. (I get called the "old lady." Damn whipper-snappers.) My law school friends are strangely diverse. I usually try to avoid right-wing conservatives as much as possible, but somehow I ended up being friends with quite a few. It makes for some entertaining political debates to say the least!

Law school relationships are often complicated, though, especially if you actually give a crap about your grades. The environment is adversarial, and you're mainly connected through your misery. You find yourself jealous of your classmates' accomplishments, and feel guilty about your own. Even so, my friends in law school are pretty great. They even threw me a baby shower once we'd reached a safe point in the pregnancy (a co-ed baby shower too, because one of my male friends insisted he should get to go... the other guys protested, saying baby showers were for girls, but they were good sports and came anyway). I don't know if the friends I've made in law school are friendships I'll keep for life, but it's certainly made easier by the fact that these are my future colleagues. I had forged very close relationships with those in my master's program, but most of those friends moved away after graduation. Most of my law school friends will practice in the area, so I'll be able to see them more often.

Anyway, for me, the support system has been so important. While we haven't had to impose upon our friends a lot, it's a comfort to know that in a pinch, there are people there to help us out. When Cora was in the hospital, our friends stepped up and made sure we were taken care of, had non-hospital food to eat, and just knew they were there if we needed anything.

Then there's all you guys. What started as this silly anonymous blog, turned into this network of colleagues from different cities, states, and some different countries even. Women, and some men, who understand the difficulties of balancing a legal education/career with family. I am still so touched by all the support and prayers we had during the nightmarish pregnancy, and scary-as-hell emergency surgery. Not to mention that so many people who don't even know my name were willing to send gifts, send flowers, send money, (someone more local even offered to send a casserole!) to help us out. Thanks again for those of you who sent donations to Children's Hospital in Cora's honor. I think that really speaks to the kindness and generosity of people to just want to do something to help out when other people are in need. (Some might criticize that as naivety. I call it humanity. Not to mention good karma!)

So, yeah. Friendships are really important to us. They're our lifeline to reality, outside of the insanity of nursing school, law school and muddling through new parenthood. And we're really grateful that Cora will grow up with all these "aunties" and "uncles" who will serve as great role models for her. Someday she's going to think we're totally lame and clueless (sadly, she'll probably be right), so hopefully she'll look to the other "much cooler" adults for added support and guidance during that phase!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Co-Parenting and Partnership

In my last post, I mentioned that I am extremely lucky to have a husband who is both a partner and a co-parent.* I wanted to describe exactly what that means to us, and how we each got to that point.

I was raised in an extremely conservative evangelical faith [i.e. Crazy Cult], which discouraged women from having careers or advanced education. It placed men as the "head of the household" with an emphasis on "women obeying their husbands." Meaning that men worked, women stayed home and raised children, and deferred to the "wisdom" of their husbands in their decision-making. Even as a child that idea completely repulsed me. I never imagined myself getting married and filling some sort of "traditional" role of wife and mother. I couldn't imagine myself ever letting a man have that kind of control over me. With my eventual rejection of Crazy Cult also came the rejection of those "traditional" gender roles. The rest of society told me I could be whatever I wanted to be. Our teachers, TV and other media, and the feminists who had burned their bras all told us we could be more than just wives and mothers. I grew up believing that. I grew up wanting that.

With Husband I found the perfect match. I was attracted to him from the moment I met him. He was witty and charming, and a lot of fun. He likes art, theatre, opera, and gourmet cooking. We each had our own career goals. I was working towards law school, and he was taking the prerequisite science classes to eventually apply to medical school. Our personalities matched very well. He has never let me walk all over him, but at the same time, he didn't try to control me either. We were happy being ourselves and individuals, while also sharing our lives. The perfect balance: an equal partnership.

Husband proposed in 2004, the weekend after I took the LSAT. Later that year, he decided he no longer wanted to go to medical school. He would be almost 30 when he started and he decided he couldn't be both a medical student/resident/fellow/attending (at least in the specialty he wanted to pursue) and be a father. That's right: my husband is the only man I've ever met who gave up his career goals to be a father. I tried to talk him out of it. I told him there was no reason why he couldn't still be a good father and a good doctor, I even told him he shouldn't give up his career for children that didn't exist. But he wanted to devote more of his time to being a parent, and couldn't do that while pursuing the career he wanted. So he chose a less-demanding career instead and is working towards becoming a nurse practitioner. (I periodically remind him that it is never too late to change his mind; if he wants to go to medical school, I will gladly support him.)

I wouldn't have married Husband, and certainly not had a child with him, if he were the kind of man who thought being a father didn't include changing a diaper, giving a bath or rocking a crying baby. Or if he were the kind of man who thought that it was okay for me to sacrifice my career in order to have a family but not his. Or if he were the kind of man who thought a mother was abandoning her children if she worked outside the home. Instead, he is the man his parents raised him to be. A man whose mother had her first two children while in undergrad, didn't take any time off to do it, and not only finished her bachelor's but eventually got a master's; additionally, she had her third child (him) in West Berlin where his father served in the Army. A man whose oldest sister has a successful career, two kids and a husband who is a stay-at-home dad. A man whose other older sister has just recently reduced her work hours in her very successful and lucrative career to spend more time with her two kids (and still makes more money than her husband), and has a fantastic nanny with degrees from much more impressive schools than I attended. A man who is very proud of me for finishing my master's degree and attending law school, and thinks I do a remarkable job of holding it all together (and doesn't judge me for curling up into a ball and sobbing hysterically at least once a semester). A man who this past semester worked full time, took two graduate nursing classes, and cared for a newborn. A man who never once thought taking care of his daughter was a woman's job instead, but rather his privilege. In turn, he wouldn't have married me if I were the kind of woman that expected a man to take care of me, and not stand on my own. He wouldn't have married me if I weren't driven and motivated in my education and career, and didn't want to work.

I have heard many women say that a father could just never love a child the way a mother does, and can't take care of them the way a mother does either. I don't believe that's true at all, and I think it's disrespectful to all the men who are spectacular parents. And I want to know why no one tries to make men feel guilty because they work outside the home? That's the real question. Why does Law School Mom state that it matters whether she or a nanny takes her kids to school, but makes no mention of her husband in that scenario? Why do we as mothers put all of the guilt on ourselves (and on other women) instead of equally between both parents? Why is his career important, not to be inconvenienced by taking care of children, but hers isn't? Why is she a bad mother for working, but he's a good father for providing for his family? These double-standards are harmful for all parents, and perhaps the work environment for all parents, not just women, would improve if society expected men to take a more active role in all aspects of parenting, instead of viewing it as an abomination. Just because I'm the one with the uterus doesn't mean all of the responsibilities of child-rearing fall on me. Having full responsibility ends at delivery.

To Husband and I, co-parenting means both of us being equally responsible for the care of our child. When Cora was born, Husband took a nine week paternity leave to take care of her. When I started back to school full time four weeks after she was born, he got up with her during the night, and cared for her during the times I was in class. I don't feel like I'm a bad mother and not bonding with my child because my husband does an equal share of the parenting, and sometimes even more than half. Since he went back to work, I'm on my own three nights a week. He takes over when he gets home from work in the morning and lets me get a little more sleep. On the days he doesn't work, he takes care of Cora during the day while I'm either in class or at work, and gets up with her at night if she wakes up. He takes her to all of her doctor's appointments, whereas I handle all the bill paying/fighting with Evil Health Insurance Company and Incompetent Medical Billing Agencies. We divide the tasks that way because those are our areas of expertise, and because that's what our schedules allow, not because any gender role dictates as such.





*I like to use the words "parent" and "partner," because I don't think gender matters. A parent is just a parent. (If a child has two mothers, does that mean there is double the guilt for working outside the home, whereas if a child has two fathers, there's no guilt? Just a thought.) But this is another blog topic entirely.

Monday, May 19, 2008

On Constructive Criticism

Law School Mom wrote a post a few days ago complaining about how there is no real honest dialog throughout the blogosphere, (I assume specifically in the Moms in Law circle) about the difficulties of balancing family life and law/law school. However, if you make a call for honest dialog, don't then disable the comments on the post. Especially if you choose to make a rather biting criticism of a fellow Mom in Law School.

What I wanted to comment (but couldn't, so I'll say it here) is this: I don't believe the only choices are: 1. Stay home and be a good mom; and 2. Go to law school and have other people raise your children. If I did, then I wouldn't be in law school. Personally, I don't equate "child care" with "other people raising my child." And if you do, that's your opinion. You have a right to it, and a right to do what you think is best for your family. What I have a problem with is calling someone else "selfish" because they disagree and make other choices. And here's the part I really have a problem with:

"And that makes blogging this stupid, polite game where everyone minds their manners. Sorry, but that's not real life."

Since when is being polite a bad thing? It is certainly possible to express a dissenting opinion in a respectful, polite manner. Without being harshly judgmental and unfair. We might be students, but we're still professionals. As legal professionals, we spend a great deal of time arguing opposite sides of an issue. There is a certain expectation of respect in such discourse. No, not everyone minds their manners in "real life," as Law School Mom has clearly demonstrated. However, they should.

I certainly encourage open dialog. I think I've been pretty candid about the ups and downs of my law school experience. That's why I started this blog; I wanted to give an honest portrayal of making the decision to be a parent while in law school. But I lose a lot of respect for someone who chooses to express her views in a way that demeans other women who are struggling with the same issues as all of us. I assure you that mothers feel enough guilt about whether they are doing the best by their children (regardless of whether they are stay-at-home moms, work-at-home moms, moms that work outside the home, or are rich country club moms with nannies) without unfair judgment cast upon them by fellow women.

I chose to go to law school. Then I chose to have a child. I choose to have a career in law that allows me to be fulfilled by my work, but at the same time not control my life. That might take some trial and error, but I know it can be done, because I know women who do it.

I want my daughter to be proud of me and of the things I accomplish. I want her to know that I love her and value my time with her. I want her to know that I am there whenever she needs me, but that she doesn't need me every minute of the day. She has a wonderful support system of people who love her and care for her. Her father, her grandmother, our various family friends who have been there for us and lend a hand when we've needed it. And soon, hopefully, a daycare provider who will be as wonderful as Lag Liv's nanny Mia. Maybe there will be times (and maybe there will be plenty of times) where I feel like a complete failure at my career, parenthood, my marriage, and life in general. But I hope there will also be times when I feel like Wonder Woman. Overall, I just want to look back on my life as an old woman and say, I raised wonderful children, I had a happy and loving marriage, and I had a fulfilling career. And that I had a helluva good time doing it.

It isn't an easy task being a Mom in Law School, and certainly not a Mom in Law. But I wholeheartedly believe that for me and my family, I'm making the right choices. We all do the best we can with the hand we're dealt. I'm lucky that I have a husband who is a co-parent and a partner (rather than a useless burden). I'm lucky that my mom is close by and views babysitting her grandchild two afternoons a week as a privilege, and wishes I would leave the house more. I'm lucky that I have friends who keep nagging me to let them babysit, because they love my child too. I'm lucky that I have been able to arrange our schedules to where we can spend the most time together as a family, and not need outside childcare until this fall when we will put Cora in daycare. We will put her in a carefully selected daycare because we want her to be in a structured and stimulating learning environment with other children, not because we actually need full time child care.

Because not every parent has it as easy as I currently have it. Sometimes it takes three different baby-sitters in one day to make it work. And instead of judging those moms who do the best they can, since they have to go it alone, I simply say, well done. Because I couldn't, and wouldn't, have chosen to do this alone. I'm not strong enough.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Book Review: A Prisoner of Birth

A Prisoner of Birth is a novel about revenge and redemption by Jeffrey Archer. Its protagonist, Danny Cartwright, is wrongly convicted of his best friend’s murder and sentenced to life in prison, torn away from his fiancée and child. Because Cartwright is uneducated and from the “wrong” end (East End) of London, the jury chooses to believe the testimony of four “respectable” blokes from the West End who refer to themselves as the “Musketeers.” The four gentlemen include a barrister (the real murderer… those damn lawyers), and his friends who witness him commit the murder but lie to protect him: a soap actor, an aristocrat, and the youngest partner in a respected investment firm. The book focuses on the trial, Cartwright’s imprisonment, his escape and his revenge.

If you haven’t recognized the plot yet, the book pays homage to Dumas; it’s essentially a modern remake of The Count of Monte Cristo. I am not opposed to modern interpretations of classic works; however, there are a few plot holes that just don’t work, and actually can’t work, in this modern setting. It is beyond far-fetched that Cartwright would be placed in a cell with his very own doppelgänger, who educates him and instructs him how to be a nobleman, then conveniently dies so Cartwright can assume his identity. Even Dantès’s escape in Faria’s body bag seems more plausible. This plot point becomes more Days of Our Lives than great modern literature and distracts from an otherwise well-crafted story.

But even with the plausibility issue, the story flows well, and is a fast-paced read. The characters, while somewhat one-dimensional, are still interesting. The story itself differs from Dumas, not in plot but in purpose. The Count of Monte Cristo is the story of revenge, mercy and forgiveness. A Prisoner of Birth, while trying to be those things too, is more the story of a man who changes his position in life through the opportunity of education. This really speaks to me. Cartwright begins the story trapped by his upbringing, and is emancipated not through his escape from prison, but in his education and new opportunities. I did miss the Dumas analysis of how revenge can be empty, and certainly that revenge can have unforeseen consequences of hurting innocent people. However, Archer’s story isn’t really about revenge; the revenge portion is limited so a lengthy analysis of its ramifications would seem forced and out of place. Archer’s story is more about Cartwright’s transformation. He is Eliza Doolittle to Moncrieff’s Henry Higgins, and because of that change, he is no longer a “prisoner of his birth.”

About a quarter of the way through the book, I remember thinking how the character of Moncrieff was so completely far-fetched. He is educated and articulate, even has a title of nobility, yet there he is, serving a sentence in maximum-security prison, biding his time as a teacher to all the uncouth prisoners. He takes a poor, uneducated man from the East End, changes his entire outlook on life and helps him overcome his limitations of poor upbringing and lack of education. A nice idea, but really, how often do smart, cultured men end up in maximum-security prison, anyway? Apparently more often than I realized. The author, Jeffrey Archer, has plenty of street cred to spin such a tale. Lord Archer is a former MP who served time for perjury and [the English equivalent of] obstruction of justice. He even spent some time in Belmarsh Prison, the same maximum-security prison to which Cartwright is sentenced. This guy’s life story is much more unbelievable than any plot line in his book. I can’t help but like the book, because I can’t help but like the author. Archer continuously gets caught up in controversy (and illegal activities), but then manages to rise above his mistakes and still come out on top. I like that. And I really do like his book.

A Prisoner of Birth is rather a well-written story and a fun page-turner. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book, and eventually I was able to suspend my disbelief in the plausibility of the storyline in order to do so. The revenge plot that Archer weaves is creative, much less complicated and drawn out than Dumas, and works well in a modern setting. The best portion of the book, however, involves Cartwright’s “treasure hunt” to seek Moncrieff’s rightful fortune. I like treasure hunts. (Especially that involve pirates, but sadly, pirate action in this setting would just be silly. Arrr!) This particular yarn is reminiscent of Charade, and serves as a fun distraction from the heavier personal turmoil-and-revenge parts.

From a law nerd standpoint, I found the book especially interesting. For someone who is not a barrister (or even a solicitor), Archer does a great job weaving the trial work into the book. His attention to detail and the overall understanding of English laws of evidence seem to be quite good. Admittedly, I had to do some research to determine that; I knew nothing about English trial law, so I learned a lot (an added bonus). For instance, I had no idea a criminal defendant can be convicted based on a majority jury verdict, nor how much authority a judge has in a criminal proceeding. Fascinating. For law nerds, and especially comparative law nerds, this is a fun way to learn a little about English trial law. (If only American lawyers got to wear robes and big white wigs. I would so love a big white wig.)

Anyway, if you’re looking for a fun read this summer, I would recommend picking up a copy. I’m actually interested in reading Archer’s other works, which definitely says something. I hope you've enjoyed my book review. I had a great time, and if anyone else wants me to review a book, I'd love to do it! (hint, hint)

Monday, May 12, 2008

Happy Belated Mother's Day

Yesterday we decided to skip mass like bad Catholics, and spend most of the day in bed. It was storming in the morning, so it was nice and cozy. I got Cora out of her crib at 8, and brought her to bed with us after she ate/was changed. She played for awhile and then took a nap with us. She's so snuggly. I definitely don't want her in the bed during the night (my kid snores, grunts and kicks), but I love taking naps with her.

Then we finally left the bed about 1pm. Husband made me breakfast, and then we proceeded to spend the entire day being lazy. Cora watched some Baby Mozart while playing in her saucer and we caught up on some reading (I'm almost finished with the book I'm supposed to be reviewing, A Prisoner of Birth by Jeffrey Archer. Look for it sometime over the next week.)

In the evening, we went to dinner with some friends, including one who is home for the week (he goes to grad school in Texas, while his wife is finishing her last year of residency here at University Hospital). Then we came home, I quickly scrawled out my lame scholarship essay for the law school (with a 9% tuition hike, they'd better give me something, dammit). Then I got depressed when realizing my student loans very nearly equal our mortgage. I pulled up a loan calculator, and if I get a decent interest rate, I will need to do a 20 year loan. Cora will be in college by then. Now, granted, my salary should increase greatly over the years, and hopefully I will be able to dump large sums of money onto the loans eventually and pay them off quicker. Besides, I'm sure when we're paying a bazillion dollars for a tank of gas, six figure loan debt will seem like nothin'. Ah well. We'll really only struggle for the first few years (unless I miraculously land an awesome job with a living wage). Our "equity" mortgage will be paid off in five years, leaving us with just the "first" mortgage, and 20% equity in the house (maybe more if the housing market recovers). Also, hopefully Husband will find a job in his specialty after he finishes his master's which would (hopefully) up his pay scale somewhere between $20-$30K. We'll eventually be financially stable. My goal is to have the student loans paid by the time I'm 40, which will be 10 years after I am sworn in as an attorney (hopefully). Something to work towards.

Anyway, after the depression of the scholarship application/examination of the debt I have acquired to get a law degree, we cracked open a bottle of wine and savored the final two episodes of the second Torchwood series. (British shows just don't have enough episodes though. And they don't air with any sort of regularity. For instance, the next series of Doctor Who won't air until 2010. Ugh. Yes, there will be a Christmas episode and a couple of specials, but it's just not enough. The other bad thing about watching British shows is trying to avoid spoilers. The episodes of Doctor Who on SciFi Channel are three weeks behind what's aired in Britain. Makes spoilers difficult to avoid.)

So that was my first Mother's Day. Just a nice relaxing day with the family.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Health Insurance = Suck

I hate insurance companies. I sooooooo hate insurance companies. I have friends in the insurance industry, and I certainly wouldn't want them to be out of jobs, but I really just want to see the entire industry flattened and replaced with a [working] system of non-profit, hassle-free medical coverage. I know that's unlikely to happen, and would also have far-reaching ramifications (especially in the legal industry, and likely my bread and butter), but I have this happy mental picture in my mind of the Evil Insurance Empire being completely flattened. With the use of light sabers. (Yes, I just revealed my inner geek.) I am so tired of dealing with these people, going back and forth between the Evil Insurance Empire and Greedy Medical Billing Empire, and being screwed on both sides. Oh, and throw in Extremely Greedy Pharmaceutical Empire, and you have the perfect storm of suckdom. Sigh.

One of the reasons I went into law is that having legal experience is invaluable in daily life, even outside the scope of a career. My experience in law has saved me many times from being completely screwed by The Man. Now sometimes, regardless of how much legal knowledge you have, The Man still gets you. But I've found as useful as my legal knowledge has been in fighting The Man, it really just seriously raises my blood pressure. It makes me ANGRY to deal with this stuff. Every time I got a messed up bill, or a stupid landlord had tried screwing me over, or some other dispute, it just made me more angry. The older I get, the more it makes me angry. I think because I value my time more these days, and having to spend literally hours on the phone taking care of stupid shit makes me livid. I used to hate those people who were always, "Oh, my time is so important, time is money, blah blah blah, I'm so full of myself." Now I'm afraid I'm becoming one of them. It'll probably get worse when I actually become an attorney and I can say that my time is worth X amount of dollars, literally! And that hour I spent on the phone dealing with stupid shit, could have been spent doing legal work for a client, and not myself. Getting paid! I can't pay myself!

Anyway, I will win my current fight with Stupid University HMO, it's just going to be a huge pain. Cora is on husband's insurance, and they had pre-approved her to receive vaccines to protect against RSV. (they denied the first request, then approved the second request after she had a lobe of her lung removed.) Now they're denying the claim. These shots cost $1500 each. That's right. Fifteen hundred dollars. Each. She needed one each month during the RSV season. They're denying the claim because they say they only agreed to pay the doctor's office for the price of the shots, not the pharmaceutical company. Ohmygod. Now I have to go through the appeals process and hope they are actually reasonable. Hahahaha, I know, that's funny, right? Oh well, I guess I should be grateful for the extra legal experience. But I'm gearing up to write the nice long appeal letter, being sure to use fun words like "reliance" and "bad faith" and "big fat lawsuit."

But seriously, these are the kind of things I love (well, except I would love to do it for other people and actually get paid). I'm glad to not be doing insurance defense anymore. I'm not sure I can do it ever again. I didn't feel bad doing it before because most of the cases were stupid people looking for a quick buck who weren't actually hurt, and the ones that were actually hurt deserved a fair settlement and that's what we were (hopefully) working for. But when there's a way to deny liability, that's the goal. I don't like that. Just like here, they're trying to work in a loophole to avoid paying my claim. They had to know the doctor's office wouldn't just stock this vaccine and instead they would have to pay the pharmaceutical company. Their consent to obtain the vaccine from an outside pharmacy was implicit in the authorization they issued. They just suck.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

New job

I started my new job yesterday. I'm working part-time for a plaintiff's attorney who does products liability and personal injury. I like it a bazillion times better than my old firm, to the point that I almost wish it were a full time job. (Almost!)

First, I have my own office. It has windows, and hardwood flooring. And skeletons. That's right, there is a full skeleton, and then also a skull and a spine. How cool is that? Second, they feed us. I love me some food, that's for sure. Since the office is in an old historic home, there is a fully functional kitchen, which they stock with food for us. I love food. The farmer's market is across the street, so they get fresh fruit and vegetables. Yummy.

Third, and best of all, it's real legal work. Last summer I did bitch work that they could have hired high schoolers to do. It was ridiculous. I know someone has to do it, but shit, I didn't go to law school to organize papers. People don't even go to paralegal school to do that. But I've already gotten to do real research, into real issues. And torts issues! (The only time I got to do research last summer was on contracts, because defense attorneys never do research on torts. Because defense attorneys have standardized forms for everything, recycle all their old motions and memorandums, and still charge the client as though they drafted it brand new instead of just changing the names, which sounds like a violation of the professional conduct rules, but hell, maybe so is pushing someone out during their maternity leave after indicating to her she still had a job and she relied on that promise of employment to her detriment and didn't look for a job and couldn't find full time employment for the summer, costing her half her pay for the summer. But whatever. I'm ranting, I know. I'm still bitter. I will be bitter for a long time about that. I have dreams about going to a competing firm and luring away all of their clients, and I don't even want to do insurance defense.)

Anyway, I like Small Plaintiff's Firm. I didn't think I would, but I really like it. It's casual, but busy. I feel like a real professional, in my office (I get my own office! I've never had my own office before!), doing real work. Moreso than I felt at Mid-size firm tagging along with attorneys to appearances, sitting at a computer table in the library, and doing bitch work. I already learned new things this week about torts. (Mmm, torts.) It'll take some getting used to working from the Plaintiff's side though. I automatically start thinking defense strategy when I read through a case. I guess that's good to anticipate what the other side will come up with, but I am interested to see how the Plaintiff's work goes. Working for the injured party instead of the evil insurance companies. And I LOVE not being a slave to the billable hour. I do the assignments I'm given, when I finish them I ask for more, and I don't feel I have to justify everything I do and how long it took me. Getting kicked out of Crappy Mid-Size Firm was probably the best thing that could have happened to me.

It's a shame there's no possibility of getting hired on after law school. It's just him and an associate, a small firm with a small caseload. So, the job hunt will start again this fall. But for right now I'm just enjoying the summer, the learning experience, and I'm definitely going to enjoy only working 3 days a week!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Reflections from a Mom in Law School

Thus ends 2L year. A whole lot of good, and plenty of suck to go with it, but we made it through relatively unscathed. And we’re ready for an awesome summer!

Having a baby during the second year of law school was pretty crazy. I knew it would be tough, but it was easier in some ways and much harder in others.

First, the pregnancy itself. The entire pregnancy was probably the worst experience I’ve ever had in my life. I knew pregnancy was going to suck, but I had never anticipated the problems we had, and how shitty I felt. I thought if there were any problems it would be because I was starting the pregnancy over-weight, so I was very mindful of how much I ate (being sick the first trimester certainly helped control my appetite), and I only gained 20 pounds (15 of which I left at the hospital). Anyway, we were in such a low-risk category that the idea there could be a serious congenital defect never crossed my mind. Definitely something we had not anticipated, and which made 2L Fall really awful. Now, overall, my health was fine, even being on “modified bed rest” for 12 weeks after the fetal surgery. Okay, so I didn’t always come right home from class to lay down with my feet up, but I didn’t exercise or do yoga, or walk a lot, or lift anything heavy, even my casebooks. But I think the restrictions made a huge difference in how awful I felt, and for the last trimester, I felt really awful. Some prenatal yoga would have made a big difference in all the back and hip pain, I’m certain. So hopefully next time I’ll have the opportunity to do so.

Maybe I just had unusually bad morning sickness (and fatigue), but I was barely functional sitting at a desk. I’ve often thought maybe that’s why I lost my job, that I managed to screw something up in those 6 weeks during summer that I felt like complete shit and no one ever told me so. (However, I doubt it, I was just doing bitch work on [crappy litigation] instead of doing real legal work. And they kept me on during the fall, when I was back to being a functional human being. I dunno.) But I am glad that I was only a clerk and not an attorney. First, I wasn’t doing anything important, so if I had screwed it up, it wouldn’t have mattered. Also, if I was actually supposed to bill real hours, I definitely wouldn’t have been able to bill much. And once I had activity restrictions, I probably would have lost my job for sure. So one really good thing about being pregnant in law school is that if things had gotten really bad, I could have just withdrawn for the semester. It would have totally sucked, and set us back financially, but not as sucky as losing a job as an attorney and not being able to make my student loan payments.

Even so, there was plenty of disappointment fall semester, and some setbacks. First, I bailed on doing the write-on for Journal because I’m lazy and also because I felt pretty awful thanks to the morning sickness. Not that I really care, because I definitely didn’t need anything more to do this year, I think a source and cite and writing a note would have made my brain explode. But I do sometimes regret not doing Journal. I don’t regret not doing Moot Court. I would have torted someone this year had I been. I’m still bitter about the whole TAB situation, but I’m going to try out for a trial team next year, and I’m taking Lit Skills, so I don’t think I’m at any disadvantage for a career in litigation.

The big success of the semester was, of course, having Cora. I’m well aware of exactly how blessed we are that she is alive, and how the result is nothing less than a miracle of modern science. That the fetal surgery worked, the hydrops resolved, the surgery didn’t have to be repeated, that she grew normally, that she made it almost to full term, that she made it through her emergency surgery with no permanent organ damage and is a healthy, normal five-month-old with very good lung capacity. I’m so thankful to have Cora, but I know it all could just as easily have gone the other way. I think it helps keep us appreciative of what we have, and how precious it is. It also puts things into perspective, about what things matter, and what things just really don’t.

Anyway, back to lighter topics. Giving birth during finals rather sucked. I was happy for the reprieve from Tax, but I really had wanted to take my Insurance and Torts finals that week. I definitely would have done better on the Torts final. I’m happy with my Insurance grade, but maybe I would have done even better if I hadn’t taken it the first week of Spring semester, barely functional. Oh well. I blame my Internet professor. I told him his final was so stressful it put me into premature labor (I had him again this semester for Trade, he's a lot of fun). Now he has a “hardcore” law professor story to tell, much like our Civ Pro professor making some dude pass out in our class while being "socratized."

After all the insanity of Cora’s emergency surgery and near-death experiences over the holidays, she came home on January 6. I started school on January 7. That was craptastic. But Husband being off work for the month of January really helped. I would have been a useless zombie if he hadn’t been. I think I did pretty good, even in the beginning when she wasn’t sleeping very much. I managed my time well, did my reading in the middle of the night when Cora was eating. We got her into a pretty good routine pretty early of eating every 3 hours and going right back to sleep at night after eating. So it wasn’t terrible.

I think the worst thing throughout the semester was the fight with breastfeeding. She didn’t actually latch and feed well enough until almost 3 months, and by then her appetite had far exceeded my production. She was on breast milk exclusively for about two months, which I got from attaching myself to a medieval torture device like some sort of dairy cow six times a day. It’s bad enough feeding a baby every 3 hours, but pumping then feeding the baby is even worse. Not to mention constantly cleaning all the equipment to do it. But pumping doesn’t keep up production like nursing does, so it just kept getting worse and worse. Now she usually only nurses first thing in the morning and her last feeding of the day. I took medication to stimulate production, but it didn’t make a whole lot of difference. Next month, the boobs get turned off for good, as the pediatrician gave me the green light to wean at 6 months. (I can’t wait to wear normal bras again.) I wouldn’t have gone through all that insanity except for the fact she was missing a lobe and she could use the extra antibodies to avoid getting sick. If the next kid doesn’t latch, it’s just getting formula and we’re going on with life. No more medieval torture devices, and strange women touching my boobs, for me.

I also took way too long to read Baby Wise and realized I could have had her sleeping through the night long ago. It took less than a week of Baby Wise to have a baby that sleeps through the night. We were doing really well, but she’d still wake up between 4 and 6 for a feeding. But I let her cry it out one night, and the next night she slept for 10 hours. I couldn’t believe it worked so quickly. She’s not on a very strict schedule, which I like, because we need her to be flexible, but she goes to sleep between 10 and 11pm without much fuss, and she now sleeps until about 8am. She takes two really good naps during the day, and then usually a short nap in between. She just started the rice cereal at 4 months, and she really likes it. It probably tastes like her formula, since we get the thicker stuff for less spit-up. At 6 months, we’ll be starting her on baby food, and get to find out what she likes, and what she spits back at us.

Cora really is such a good baby though. We are very lucky in that respect. She didn’t have colic, and only on very rare occasion does she scream for no discernible reason. It was difficult there for a while when she always wanted to be held though. That was fine when all I was doing was reading, but that made outlining really hard. I took a hit on some exam preparedness for that reason. But then she took a real liking to the swing, and now that she’s more active and playful, she loves her exer-saucer, her play mat, and her Baby Papasan (when she’s watching Baby Mozart). She’ll tolerate the tummy time mat for awhile, but she likes being on her back/side much better. She’s very close to rolling over (Husband says her giant cheeks serve as a bumper otherwise she’d already be rolling over). She’s a lot of fun, she smiles and laughs, and now she does this thing where she wiggles her whole body in excitement. She’s just a joy to come home to. I really missed her when Mom kept her for those two days because of my finals and Husband working. I like to think she missed me too, but I’m pretty sure she missed her ducks much more.

Another really good thing about having Cora during law school is that I was able to spend a lot more time with her as a baby than I would have if I were practicing law already. Sure, I didn't get an actual "maternity leave," other than a month off after she was born, (more than two weeks of which she spent in the hospital), and had to start school the day after she came home from the hospital in January. But I only had to be on campus a couple hours a day, then I got to come home and spend time with her. I was gone even less than having a part-time job. If I'd been working, I would have had at most 12 weeks off work (and probably not that much, likely I wouldn't have gotten more than 5 or 6 weeks off), and then would have gone back to work 40 or more hours a week (probably more). We would have needed full time daycare. But with being in school, I didn't get the stir craziness (which I was starting to feel just before she went back to the hospital), I had a good amount of structure, I was intellectually stimulated, socially stimulated and I got to enjoy being with her.

Cora may not have given a crap whether I was there or not, but I really enjoyed it, and it's been fun watching her grow and discover things. I'm glad I have that opportunity over the summer as well, since I'm only working part time. I probably won't have that opportunity with subsequent children, and I'm grateful I had that "new baby" experience (in moderation of course... I'd probably have gone bat shit crazy being home alone with her the whole time. I would have gotten really fat too.) I think she's even starting to like me too. She gives me huge smiles whenever she sees me, like, oh hey, it's you! It's just fun.

I have to admit, I like being a parent. I'm not really a big fan of other people's kids. I like my friends' kids, and (usually) my nieces and nephew, but I don't like most kids. I like my kid though. She's pretty cool. It's pretty awesome to watch her develop and become a little person (as opposed to a sack of potatoes that just eats, poops and cries). I've always said I never really wanted kids. I was willing to have them if I married someone who really wanted kids, but if I didn't get married, or if I married someone who didn't want kids, it wouldn't have bothered me one bit. But having a kid is pretty awesome. It's a lot of work, obviously, and it definitely requires certain lifestyle changes, but it's really rewarding. I'm glad we did it.

I also like to think that even though we had a kid, we haven't morphed into "Cora's Parents." We've been pretty caught up with school since Spring Break, so we haven't gotten to do a lot of social activities lately, but we still went out and did stuff earlier in the semester. We brought her out with us, or we got a sitter. And, with the exception of the past month, we did stuff as a couple too. That was also something I really liked about Baby Wise, was the philosophy that a baby becomes a part of your existing family, not the center of your universe. My relationship with Husband is the foundation of our family, and being happy in our marriage, and most importantly in ourselves, is what will help us be good parents. And 18 years from now, when Cora's out of our house, we'll still have each other, our careers, our lives, and we hope Cora will look to us as a source of wisdom and inspiration, instead of an example of what she never wants to be. Being a parent is now part of who we are, but it isn't all of what we are.

So that’s that. That’s been our year. I think as crazy as it was, I’m very glad we had our kid during 2L. 1L is crazily hard and sucks ass, I would never recommend anyone to have a baby during 1L, and if you've done it, I commend you for your bravery and perseverance. 3L wouldn’t have been bad, but I wouldn’t have wanted a newborn while studying for the bar. But like I said, with all the problems we had, I’m glad we did this whole pregnancy thing during law school and not while I was out practicing. I have to admit, I’m a little apprehensive about having another one while I’m just starting out in my career, in case we end up with more drama. But hopefully we’ve gotten the drama out of the way and the next pregnancy will be much less eventful. (Which won't be happening for quite awhile.)


Tummy Time for Cora. Yes, that's a bunny on her butt.


Enjoying her bottle

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Sad

Poor Eight Belles. (This is what happens when I bet on horses. I'm serious. I am really bad luck when it comes to horse racing. Don't get me started about Barbaro) I was sure she'd win the Derby, she was a great contender. The sweet, pretty girl came in second, her final race.

Finished!

I am finished with finals, and with 2L. What a good feeling that is!

Anyway, I said I'd post about the baptism and such. We had a ton of family come down for the baptism, so the weekend in the middle of finals I got to entertain a ton of family, and then get the house ready for the reception after the baptism last Sunday. But it turned out fine, we all made it through.

First, last Friday was my masters program graduation. The In Laws came in for it, it was held at the university's alumni club. Since I won't be posting pictures of me, I'll post a pic of Cora instead (in her pretty yellow and white dress). I tried to find something blue to compliment it, like a bow or something, but couldn't find anything. (Yellow and Blue are our program's colors.)


Baby Diplomat

Then on Saturday, all the family started filtering in. We had a big cookout Saturday night, where we ended up with enough food for an army. My father in law has a compulsive need to overfeed everyone/everything he comes into contact with. He insisted on stopping by Costco on his way to town to pick up meat for grilling. We told him 6 to 8 oz of meat per person. Instead, he bought an entire herd of dead cow. I'm so tired of meat leftovers, I'm thinking of going vegetarian.

Anyway, lots of food, lots of alcohol (after the post-graduation celebrations Friday night, I had one helluva hangover Saturday afternoon, as all the family's coming in.) Our niece and nephew were also in attendance. Our five year old nephew is terrified of, well, everything, but spent the whole weekend going into hysterics every time Family Dog even looked at him. We had to keep her either outside or locked in the kitchen all weekend. I really hope this is a phase he'll grow out of soon. Even his three-year-old little sister was getting exasperated. She'd come over, pat him on the back and say, "[Brother], it's OKAY!"

Our niece, on the other hand, is fearless. She loved the dog (she kept feeding her), and loved the rabbits (that her brother wouldn't go near). She especially loved Cora. The cutest thing was Cora was sitting in her lap (with help, of course), and she squeezes Cora's cheeks together and happily proclaims, "CHUBBY!" Cora then gives her a huge smile and they both laugh. They totally bonded.


Cora and her Cousin

Then there's the baptism itself. Of course, Cora was actually baptized back in January at the hospital, but she still got to have her little ceremony and be presented to the church. I was waiting for a meltdown the entire mass, she had been a little fussy. But she did really good. Her Godfather is my best friend, and her Godmother is Husband's oldest sister (he has two older sisters).


Me with Cora, next to her Godfather

Our regular priest couldn't be there that weekend, so the visiting priest, a Franciscan, did the ceremony instead. She stared at him wide-eyed the entire time.



Cora's gown was really special. It was made from her great-great-grandmother's wedding gown, for her great-grandmother to be baptized in. I made sure she kept her bib on the whole time so she didn't yack on the family heirloom.

Cora then had a nice reception, catered by a local cajun place. We had a ton of jambalaya, crawfish maque choux, and spinach and mushroom etouffee. (Which Cora didn't get to eat, of course, not having teeth and all.) I made the cake myself though. (I figured since I spent a small fortune in cake decorating crap from those classes, I should at least use it.)


Less turdish than previous cakes

I worked hard on the cake. It had three layers and the cross layer was made of chocolate gluten-free cake (Mother in Law and nephew both have celiac). I was going to do roses on top of the cross, but I ran out of time and I was tired. So I did petals instead (which got a little smooshed from being covered... I really need to get a rectangular cake dish. I have a round one.) Anyway, it was quite tasty. It was white cake with vanilla butter-cream frosting (which I made from scratch).

A long weekend, but we got through it. We were all pretty tired by the end of it. Lots of family, lots of things going on. And a week of finals right afterwards.


Tuckered

Thursday, May 1, 2008

One more to go!

Tomorrow's my last final, and it's the FINAL of DOOM: International Environmental Law. Since I got a rude, impromptu study session during my graduate school comps when an IE law essay question popped up, I feel moderately prepared for this exam. We can bring in our outlines and our book too, so it's not so bad. I feel prepared. I'm going for my usual mediocrity.

Int'l Trade kicked my ass today. I got owned, big time. (Or is it "pwned" these days? Trying to keep up with what the cool kids are saying. Failing miserably.) But oh well. I don't think I was the only one, and if I end up with my usual mediocrity of B's, then I'm perfectly content. I would, however, like to get an A while I'm in law school. I know that's really hard to do, for instance, in a class of 14 people, where two of the people in the class are in the top 5. But I'd be really excited to get an A. A real A. Not an A minus.

Anyway, after tomorrow's final, I'm picking up Cora from my mom, who's been watching her for the past two days. I really miss her! We're going to do lots of snuggling, and then we're going back to campus for a special lecture from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Cora and I will sit in the back in case we have to excuse ourselves. Then we're picking up Husband and heading over to a friend's law school graduation party. She was also a joint degree student in my masters program. So she graduated last year from our masters program, and graduates tomorrow from law school. Should be good times. On Saturday... we're doing nothing. Absolutely nothing! We're going to have Family Time and enjoy doing nothing. I've barely seen Husband in the past few weeks, we've both been so busy with school. It seems most of the time we only see each other as we're passing Cora off so the other can go to work/school, study or sleep. Then this past weekend we had a crazy amount of family in town for the baptism (more on that later).

Almost done! I'm so excited. An entire summer of working part-time, and having four day weekends! Husband's probably going to pick up a little bit of overtime this summer to subsidize my inability to find full time work (and save up for the possibility that I won't find a job right away next summer after law school graduation). But most of the time, he'll work Sunday, Monday and Tuesday nights, and I'll work Monday, Tuesday all day, and mornings on Wednesdays. My mom will watch Cora on Mondays and Tuesdays while I'm at work and Husband's asleep. And I'll be home on Wednesdays in time for Husband to sleep. Wednesday night, through Sunday afternoon, we'll have lots of time together. It's going to be a lot of fun.

One more final and it's summer!