Category Archives: parenting

RIS (Repetitive Instruction Syndrome)

“Your Dad is on the phone with a client, so I am going to need you guys to play quietly in your room and the living room please.” I instructed the children, as I set out a basket of oranges, graham crackers, grapes, and cheese slices, placed “Over the Hedge” on their little t.v. screen in their room, and provided them with juice and two different colors of clay, with various implements of clay creation to entertain them with.

“Sure mom!” Monkey said “I will keep Otter in our room and play quietly!”

Otter smiled, sat on his chair, grabbed a piece of cheese and the play clay knife and began industriously sawing away. Pleased that my plan to entertain the children seemed feasible, I went to the bathroom.

My mistake.

As soon as my pants were down, literally, both children were screaming their heads off in the kitchen, mere inches from the office door and Lee’s phone call with the all important client.

Rapidly interrupting and cleaning up from my heretofore necessary, but now less important, bodily functions I sped out of the bathroom and hustled everyone back into the kid’s room.

“What on earth is going on?” I demanded from Monkey, exasperated that my careful providing of snacks and two distractions had failed so quickly and dramatically. “Didn’t I just finish telling you that Daddy is on the phone with a client and you both need to play quietly in your room?”

“Well, Otter was fine until he took some of my yellow clay and ran off with it so I decided to go get it back and make him play with his own yellow clay but he didn’t like that so he ran to the office to get daddy but I knew you didn’t want him to so I stopped him in the kitchen and yelled at him so he yelled back. ” Monkey replied, in one breath.

Hmmm.

“Okay, let me get this straight. Your brother, who is two and doesn’t really understand the whole your clay/his clay concept, ran off with your yellow clay. Instead of simply letting him go and taking his yellow clay, you chased him into the kitchen, where you weren’t supposed to go, and took it back, thereby making him yell and cry. Then when he wanted to go get Daddy, you yelled at him outside the office door, making him yell and cry again. All this right after I explained to you that Daddy was on an important phone call with a client and needed the house to be quiet. Do I have that right?”

“Yes” Monkey responded, hanging her head. “Sorry mom. I won’t do it again.”

Oh, but she will. For you see, mere minutes after I deposited the children in the bedroom with new snacks, a restarted movie, new play clay, the option to paint with the “no mess” paints and paper, and NEW instructions to play quietly because Daddy was on a phone call, Monkey engaged Otter in a game of “Who can scream the loudest.” (Otter won by the way, he has a scream that can break glass.)

Then, when I blocked access to the kitchen off with a baby gate and locked the bathroom door in an attempt to at least keep them physically further away from Lee, Monkey thought she and Otter should ride around the dining room, nearest the baby gate,  on Otter’s loud new scooter, singing loudly into the volume enhancing microphones they bought with their allowances yesterday. The microphones I am now the proud temporary owner of.

I told her to get off the scooter, that she wasn’t allowed to ride it until her Dad was off the phone. She pushed it over and loudly stomped into her room yelling about how unfair it was. Then, when I followed her into her room, she screamed her head off, horror movie style, because “I scared her.” I asked her if she would like me to lock her in her room for the rest of the day and cancel the day’s activities, because I had just about had enough of her unwillingness to listen, follow instructions, and behave like a sane person. I then told her to remain in her room, on her bed, silently watching her movie until I came and told her she could do otherwise.

Of course, when I told my husband about the trials and tribulations I suffered while providing him with some semblance of peace for his phone calls this morning, he told me that my mom and dad were probably high fiving it and laughing hysterically upon reading this, well revenged for some of the shit I had pulled on them growing up.

I informed him that statements like that were only wise if he was attempting to have a long and happy marriage with my mother.

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Tag teamed…

The kids, oft referred to as stinkers, have been tag teaming me this week.

Otter, though normally perfectly happy to nap between 1 and 3, has refused to nap earlier than 3:00, thereby guaranteeing that I have not one second of time to myself between the hours of 7 am and 8 pm, as his sister gets home at 3:00. His later naptime has the additional benefit of delaying his bedtime until about 10 p.m., thereby guaranteeing that I have not one second of time to myself between the hours of 8 pm and 10 pm. Basically, I get no break at all until it’s time to go to bed.

This would upset me less if he acted like this when his dad was in town, instead of saving it all up for me when daddy is far far away.

Guilty!!

After 7 years of motherhood I formally absolve my mother of any and all guilt accumulated from parenting me through the use of… well… guilt.

It would seem the only two things my amazingly teenagerish, somewhat assholian, seven year old responds to these days are spankings, and guilt.

If I spanked her every time she was rude or disrespectful to me or her dad, every time she failed to listen to our instructions or gave us the seven year old version of the finger I would be up to my elbows in sanctions from various child welfare agencies. Instead, I use the only other effective weapon in my arsenal, guilt. Big, fat, piles of Catholic Grandmother guilt. (Nothing else is working!!)

At six she had a highly developed sense of empathy and really could be managed by simply saying “how would you have felt if….”. Now if you ask that question she will flippantly answer “Sad. Am I grounded now?”. However, if you say ” Your actions really hurt and upset me tonight. I feel really bad.” She will pause a little before asking “Am I grounded now?”Then, if you answer “No, you just have to deal with knowing that you hurt my feelings” she will usually respond with apologies that at least appear sincere in nature and squeeze out a tear or two. Of course, sometimes it helps a little to ground her anyway.

I always swore I would not engage in guilting my kids into behaving well. I hated that by the time I turned 20 I would begin to feel guilty about a proscribed action before I had even finished commiting the damn thing. (Career criminal is not the life for me.) Even now I feel guilty about guilting my kid into understanding that standing with her back to me mimicing my stance and pretending to mouth off while I am talking is mean and disrespectful.

Guilt is the gift that keeps on giving.

Maybe at 8 she will recover her former empathy and once again begin to feel for others, or maybe she feels for others already, but doesn’t care to apply such feelings to her father or me. After all, she is very caring towards her brother, and seems to really feel for the completely fake strangers she sees on the T.V.

Why do I have a feeling that I am going to visit Mr. Margarita quite a bit when she becomes a teenager?

A little bit of everything…

It’s been a while since I posted, as I am recovering from the election and dealing with all that I let pile up during it’s demanding pull. So here is a hodge podge update on life here at Law and Motherhood.
Law: The practice building continues with more contacts made everyday. There are now several family law attorneys in my world who have accepted my information and promised referrals. I have also gotten my resume to the office of the child’s representative and am hoping I can be added to the state pay list early. (Sometimes it happens.) I have also been working on my Lizard case, two divorces, and a trusts and estates case.

I have learned many things, such as, never expect opposing counsel to actually listen to you and take your clients needs into account when writing up a stipulation. Expect to rewrite it to reflect what you discussed with them on the phone, not once, but twice. Expect to feel sorry for the other side when you realize your client is paying you in trade for massage, and they are likely paying hundreds (think 4 or so) of dollars an hour for an attorney who will be able to bill for a) the phone call where you told them what your client would accept, b) the time they spent creating the stipulation that reflects nothing in that phone call, and finally c) the time spent reviewing and editing the new stipulation created by me.

I hate attorneys who pad their billables, especially since I rarely charge for more than 75% of the time I spend on a case. It makes me crazy.

Motherhood: Otter has moved into a big boy bed in the room he shares with his sister. Today we put the bed in place and he is so very proud of himself. He hops on and off of it, lies down on his pillow, and generally beams at everyone.

A cheery big boy room... complete with sleeping boy.
A cheery big boy room... complete with sleeping boy.

Monkey is pleased to be sharing sleeping arrangements, but is struck down with a majorly awful cold, so she is not getting around much. She was home almost all last week, felt better Friday, adn then was struck down again this morning. Poor girl.

Otter has been communicating more clearly, though he has no intention of speaking anytime soon. He asks for milk by carrying the Boppy to me and tugging on my leg, he asks to go along somewhere by taking his shoes to the door and trying to put them on, he asks for food by holding his hand out and saying “num”. He is so incredibly cute with all his actions, but I don’t expect him to talk soon. His Daddy didn’t talk until he was four.

I have been making pumpkin pie and other comfort foods, and generally loving avoiding everything I have to do. However, it is time to get busy this week. I need to get a lot done for work, so there will be little time for pie, walks, bike rides, and housework.

Betty Crocker meets Ruth Bader Ginsberg…

After spending two weeks networking nearly every day and sending my information out into the universe I finally got a chance to get several solid hours to work. Unfortunately I spent those hours wrestling with the Lexis-Nexis electronic case filing system instead of writing and researching my Lizard complaint. I need an assistant (and a housekeeper, chef, nanny, paralegal, and personal trainer.) It would appear that mac using attorney’s like myself (a designation I think only makes me a sexier attorney) create really huge documents when we scan to PDF. Gargantuan really.

My 8 and a half by 11 filing was blown up to 30 by 70 inches by the time my scanner was finished with it. Best of all, my filing was rejected over and over again for size. “File scanned in too large” was the error the clerk kept sending back to me. (The clerk may not know how to use a zoom in button.)

So, like any intrepid entrepreneur I boldly Googled “how to reduce the size of a scanned PDF image”. Happily instructions were easily found: Go to the Tools Menu, select Adjust Size. Great! That should be easy!

Oh. You mean the Adjust Size that is greyed out and inaccessible in my Tools Menu. Just great.

Many hours later, after accessing every single section of my HP Scan Pro application and settings several times, I had an 8 and a half by 11 file. (Only when I scan to PDF Image though, not when I scan to PDF anything else.) Of course, then the file was too big, MB wise. Lexis Nexis only allows 1.5 MB per document in their e-file system. My scanner, diligent little assistant it is, would only produce legible copies that were too large, or illegible ones that were small enough.

After much time I discovered I could create a ridiculously large and high quality scanned file, and then reduce it to a slightly more than barely readable state with the Reduce File Size quartz filter option under the Save As portion in the Preview application. (Say that 10 times fast.)

So I e-filed one of my cases today. Finally. Yay.

Then it was off to parent teacher conferences where Monkey’s hard work, dilligence, and generous nature was touted by all her teachers. She is a rock star, she is going awesome in most things and really well in everything else. All the teacher’s love her. We are very, very proud.

Which is why I ended my evening making 36 miniature apple pie muffins from scratch for her class Halloween party. What can I say, I asked her what she would rather have at her Halloween party, candy or muffins. She said both. (I am touched.) Then she begged me to make them. Her Dad added to the celebration by bringing home ice cream and waffle cones for dessert. We toasted Monkey’s educational success with Vanilla Orange Cream ice cream and Java Chip with caramel. Mmmmm.

Now, I am going to bed. Tomorrow I have a particularly painful, science fictionesque medical procedure to endure, and I am going to need my sleep.

Inviting them in…

(Also posted on API Speaks. Join us in celebrating Attachment Parenting Month!!)

Sometimes being present in your child’s life has more to do with inviting them in to your life, rather than joining them in theirs. We focus a lot on setting aside time for our children so we can engage in their activities, which is definitely important, but it’s not the only way to involve them in your life.

I had my daughter, now seven, when I was twenty five. I was in my last year of college. I distinctly remember reading my criminal justice and criminology text to her as she grew in my womb. Once she was born, she came with me everywhere. When I went to study, she came along, sitting up in her little baby seat, smiling away at the staff and Village Inn as I read up on trial practice, literature and the law, and basic evidence. She flourished at my side.

When she was two, I entered law school and she entered pre-school. There were days when I would pull her out of school and bring her to class with me, so she could see what mommy did all day. At two, she would sit quietly next to me in class for the full hour and forty-five minutes, listening to a lecture on federal wildlife law, administrative law, and be happy as a clam. She would often raise her hands and ask questions of my professors, and in the three years I attended law school, she enjoyed every class she got to sit in on.

When I joined the American Inns of Court she came to our weekly breakfasts, and loved talking to the judges and lawyers, listening to their stories, and stealing bits of their bacon and cantaloupe. To this day she attends these breakfasts with me, and is very proud that she gets to come along.

After graduation I went to work for an attorney in NJ. At one point in time I had to bring Monkey to work with me. We had a huge filing due the next day, my husband was out of town, and there was nowhere else for her to go. She sat in my office with me from 3:30 p.m. until nearly midnight, happily drawing away. On the ride home I thanked her for being so well behaved. She said “You remember how I used to go to law school with you? This was kind of like that, I have missed it.” I was so touched to realize how much she enjoyed being a part of my adult world.

I forget how much it means to her, to be allowed in on the things I am doing. Sure, she is thrilled if I play house with her, or paint a picture with her, but she will cry if she misses Thursday morning breakfast group. I always worried she would find these grown up occasions boring, but she doesn’t. She involves herself, and finds a way to participate, every single time. She is so proud that she gets to attend grown up functions, and she is always well behaved at them. We may have tantrums in the store, or wiggling at a restaurant, but she knows when she has to behave well, and she is so pleased to be included that she goes out of her way to do her best.

There are other ways to invite children in, letting them cook with you, clean with you, choose items at the grocery store or make decisions about what you do as a family on the weekend. In my experience, just being asked to join in makes all the difference to our little people.

Scylla’s Law…

Every single time my husband has left town, be if for business or pleasure, something has happened to make the time here without him more challenging. For example, my husband went to Thailand for a week or so the during my first year of law school. His friend was getting married, and he was invited to attend the wedding. I couldn’t attend with him because the wedding was scheduled over my first ever week of law school exams. We talked about whether or not it was more important for him to stay and help me through exam week, but ultimately decided he should go.

All would have been well, except that his mother fell and broke her arm the day after he left, and I was stuck caring for a child and his mom, while studying for and taking my first ever law school exams. Hence, that trip will always be referred to in my mind as the trip of resentment.

This theme continues whenever he leaves town. Somehow the universe decided that I am to be tested when he is away. Okay, that is fairly egocentric of me, I am sure the universe has better things to do than test me. Clearly, the universe just has a really sick and perverse sense of humor, and I make for a good laugh.

When Lee left for the Rails Conference a few weeks after Otter’s birth I had a heck of a time handling all the kids and pets on my own. The last time he left town for business I was in the middle of starting my own business and had to find sitters to watch the kids as I interviewed people. Oh yeah, and Monkey got sick.

SO… this time Lee is gone for four days, well, three and a half. Otter had been sick all week with Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease, courtesy of little Lily’s daycare center. We thought he was better, all back to normal, until four hours after his Daddy left town. He yawned, and I saw blisters inside his little mouth.

Well…. fuck.

I promptly canceled all playdates and got some low acidity yogurt to tempt him with. Of course, all he wants to do is nurse. Now he has a racking cough, a crackly little voice, and sore blisters inside his mouth. His plaintive cry of “Mama” is heard constantly through my house. Monkey’s nose began to run this morning and she claims to have been sneezing all night.

So, Murphy’s law is “what can go wrong, will” and mine is “what can go wrong when your spouse is out of town and you are alone with the kids, will.”

It sucks, but hey, I have my own law!!