Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Happy Birthday, Frank!

I am a day late in wishing my step-father a happy, happy birthday!  After spending nearly three days in Lynchburg with our beloved “Pop” (as all 10 grandchildren call him), I feel like we’ve already reveled many times over.  But anyone who knows Frank will understand when I say that he can never be celebrated enough.

1984 - Mother and Frank with Johnny, Henry, and Frank's children Brooks and John.
(Katherine was working in France)

I was seven-years-old when my mother married Frank, which means I must have been around six-years-old when I first met him.  In other words, I am lucky enough to say that I have known Frank most of my life.  I remember when my mother told Henry and me that they were going to be married my biggest concern was whether I would be required to change my last name, too (we didn’t).  It just seemed a natural transition to have Frank be a part of our family; and nearly thirty years later it was equally natural that my first-born son share a part of Frank’s name (“West” – both of their middle names).


In a word, Frank is wonderful.  He is a calming presence in our sometimes (read: often) dysfunctional family and it has been this way since I can remember it.  He adores my mother and has been an ideal role model in helping me find the characteristics that are most important in my own life mate.  It is a testament to Will that he is more like Frank than like any other member of my family – and I count my blessings every day for that.

1986 - the requisite 'head in the stocks' picture for all Colonial Williamsburg tourists.

Frank is hands down the finest attorney in Virginia.  He could have excelled in any field, but he chose the hardest one on which to focus (family law) and has earned top awards and accolades from everyone he meets—from Supreme Court justices to pro bono clients.  And while I no longer practice law, undoubtedly I attended law school and focused my own practice on family law solely because of Frank.  He works harder than anyone I have ever met and has never once complained (unlike my mother and me who are both urging him to SLOW DOWN already!).  But this is the work ethic I grew up around—a man who worked seven days a week practicing law, teaching at the local community college (and now at a top-ranked law school), leading and volunteering with countless bar organizations and has recently spearheaded a new movement in family law (Collaborative Law) all while unconditionally supporting my mother and family’s interests, needs and dreams at the expense of his own.

2006 - receiving one of his many awards (The Lifetime Achievement Award from the Virginia State Bar)

Simply put, everyone who knows Frank loves Frank.
Did I mention that Frank is also incredibly funny?

But perhaps most of all - Frances and George.

March 2008 (Frances)

June 2011

September 2009 (George)

July 2011

Or at least almost as much their mother.

August 2004

Happy Birthday, Frank!!  We all love you very, very much!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Tick, tock, tick, tock

Do you hear that?

It’s the sound of my beautiful mantle clock (passed down to me from my grandparents) with its gentle but persistent reminder that Christmas is a mere 27 days away and I feel like the only parent in metro Richmond who does not have a fully decorated Christmas tree standing in our living room.

Thanksgiving weekend was wonderful, with visits on both sides of the family.  But that also means that Will and I got absolutely nothing “Christmas-y” done during our only guaranteed 4-day weekend.  So for the next few days I will be attempting to deck the halls with the help of a two and a four-year-old (I’m still not sure how that is going to happen) and thus I may be a little M.I.A. in updating my blog.

Until I can write again, I leave you with a new banner and some old holiday pictures.  Let the decorating begin!

Happy Monday, everyone!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wishing you and your family a wonderful holiday.

Thanksgiving 2010

Eat too much, laugh too much, sleep too much (ha!), and hug your loved ones too much.  I’ll do my best to practice what I preach!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I will never get tired of seeing this image

The children peacefully reading in the book nook, freshly bathed and patiently waiting for Daddy’s arrival home.

And please, for those of you scoffing at the idyllic nature of this shot, scoff away.  This scene follows what Will and I both labeled as our “do over” day, which culminated in George’s diaper literally falling apart at Will’s office (on the penthouse floor, on the firm’s custom-made Oriental rug, during a firm luncheon, in front of the entire firm) as the children gleefully chased each other around the rotunda-like entryway.  The second I heard Will ask, “what is that yellow stuff?  It looks like George dropped a snow cone,” I knew what had happened.  For those lucky souls who haven’t seen the contents of a diaper, Will’s description is dead on; except it is the exact opposite of a snow cone starting with how much fun (and easy) it is to clean up. 

As I was chasing my screaming, yellow-snow-dropping child down the firm’s hallways, I realized how different my life had become since stopping my own law practice.  In many ways, I feel more similar to those attorneys at the luncheon than I do to other stay-at-home mothers—I still work hard, I still read voraciously, I continue to write (almost) daily, and I negotiate some major deals on an hourly basis.  But once I seized my boy and scooped him and his diaper contents up as tenderly as possible, my eyes caught the gazes of some of Will’s colleagues looking at me like I had two heads (or maybe just like I had a tw0-year-old with a major diaper issue)—some looked at me with pity; others looked at me with aversion; none of them looked at me as a comrade.  At that moment it hit me that while I may feel like one of them, I am no longer part of the club.  To those attorneys looking at my life from the outside, I am now a mother, a wife, a running partner, a book club member, a tennis buddy, a coupon clipper, but I am no longer an attorney.  I wanted to wave with my one free hand and say, "Hey!  Don't worry; I'm one of you."  Somehow though I knew that in my worn out jeans from law school and Shape-Up tennis shoes, I would only stick out even more than I already did. 

Truthfully, I don’t know how I feel about that yet.  I have no interest in returning to the law anytime soon, but I’m not sure I am ready to be dismissed from its membership.  I still know the secret handshake.  I still love the research and writing aspect.  I still have an unending respect for the true greats in the law.  And I still know there will be something there for me when I return, in whatever format that takes.

I suppose that last thought will have to carry me through these next years.  Or maybe over time I will stop asking to be included in the good ol’ club and realize that my new club is pretty wonderful just as it is.  And the members are really stinkin’ cute!

Happy Tuesday everyone!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thank you, Mother Nature

I hope everyone in our neck of the woods spent the day outside today!  It was a perfect-weather Sunday – sunny, slightly breezy, highs of 70s (but still with that wonderful fall chill in the air).  We had planned a morning at the playground, but Frances and George had such a great time playing in our own yard that we stuck around the house until late morning before heading to our local park.

Will needed to clean out the gutters (which you can do yourself when you’re 6’5”) and the kiddos were thrilled to be able to play in our usually off-limits fenceless front yard:

As they wrestled with each other, Will and I both commented about our own childhood memories of playing outside in our yards with our siblings—the feel of the ground when you were tackled (just hard enough to stop you, but not hard enough to hurt), the sweet smell of the grass, the complete muscle exhaustion from chasing each other around the trees until you collapsed into a happy heap on top of the dry leaves:

Some of my most vivid childhood memories are from playing in our yard—not a fancy playground, not an indoor moon bounce arena—but in our own neighborhood.  I remember finding new corners, rocks, plants and other natural features nearly every time we were left to just explore.  When we were left to our own devices, we let our brains relax and wander, slowly opening up to what lay within our fenced-in play area.  We didn’t expect our parents to entertain us and quite frankly we didn’t need it.  We had all we needed at our fingertips—grass, trees, balls of varying sizes, and our imaginations.

I don’t know if Frances and George will recall their memories from today’s romp.  But I do know it will not be their last, particularly if they have anything to say about it:

Happy Sunday, everyone!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Friday randomness

I am happy to report it is finally Friday!  I try not to be one to wish away the time, but this week in particular I have been secretly counting down the days and yearning for a calm Friday evening at home—Frances and George happily in bed, Will and I eating dinner in front of mindless television, Marshall and Max draped over the throw pillows on our sunroom sofas, and the entire weekend in front of us.  Looking both forward and back, I realize this is one of the few weekends we will have since the time change when we don’t have a birthday party or a holiday event to attend.  I am very (very) excited about Thanksgiving and Christmas (I know, how unique that I love these holidays, right?!), but in this calm before the storm we plan to have a weekend of very little structure and I couldn’t be happier.

In the weeks between mentally resolving to leave my career and actually stepping out of the door that final day, I remember wondering what weekends would feel like once I was home full-time.  Thankfully, I was not so naïve to believe that every day would feel like a holiday (and I assure you, I have heard someone say that very thing to me – ‘now that you’re at home, it must be like you’re on vacation all of the time.’  Right.  This person must have had some pretty laborious vacations.  I love my children but please do not send them to Puerto Rico with me).  I foolishly thought that weekend days would probably feel a lot like weekdays, with the addition of one set of hands that happened to belong to my soul mate.  And yes, some weekends do feel like that.  But the best weekends are those that Frances labels “Family Days” – when Will is truly relaxed, when the urgent errands have already been taken care of during the week (and the not-so-urgent ones can wait until Monday), and when our only must-dos are meals and naps (for at least two of us).

I recently finished reading an extraordinary novel – “The Namesake” by Jhumpa Lahiri (a book that I completely missed when it first came out, but found it thanks to a law school friend's recommendation - thanks, Annie!)  It was beautifully written with a quiet, understated but interesting plot – an eloquent book.  I loved crawling into bed at night knowing that I would be spending the next minutes as a voyeur to the characters’ lives.  I truly felt like I could have read about them forever; but like all good books, it came to an end too quickly.  I started the next book on my list ("The School of Essential Ingredients" - so far, so good), while desperately searching Amazon.com for another novel by Ms. Lahiri.  From what I can tell, her other two books are short story collections – not something I am accustomed to reading (and which I typically instantly dismiss).  But I may just have to try one of them out; I loved her writing that much.

And with that Top Chef: Texas is starting, so I am signing off to half-watch, half-fall asleep until Will wakes me up for bed.  Hello Friday!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Running and other musings

Today I am officially sick.  I know this for certain after having an entire night filled with those “sick dreams” that I am sure you are familiar with—they make no sense but remain vivid throughout the next day because you likely had them in a feverish half-sleep.  So rather than complain, I thought I would simply write-up a completely incoherent post and bank on some cute pictures of Frances and George to distract you from my nonsense.

This past Saturday I ran the Richmond half marathon.  It wasn’t my fastest 13.1 miles (by far) but thankfully it also wasn’t my slowest and considering I spent much of this past year recovering from a knee injury I was happy with my race. (And just so you know, that entire last sentence is a complete falsehood—I really wish I had run faster and kick myself for not pushing more through the race).

I wish I could say that the blurry picture is because I was running too fast for the camera to focus.  Nope.  The only thing out-of-focus in this picture is my brain.

And speaking of brains, I have Christmas on my mind—or more specifically, Christmas cards.  In an attempt to get some Christmas card pictures other than those I have posted on this blog, I set Frances and George up in our sunroom with promises of a morning at the playground and M&Ms after lunch if they would sit still and smile for the next five minutes.  After four years, Frances has the photo session down to an art; George is still a work in progress, but is learning from the best.  Below are some of the outtakes:
G's "cheese" face captured half-smile


Um, no.

He is very likely saying, "Ish!" (George's nickname for Frances)

Even professionals get bored

We're getting closer...

...oh well.

And finally, I took this great shot of Frances and Max yesterday while the kids were “helping” me sweep up the leaves:

George felt left out and insisted on a close-up of his own:

Not Christmas card material, but hilarious none the less.  Or maybe that's just my fever kicking in again.

Happy Wednesday everyone!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Rock n' Roll

Frances’s birthday party was this Saturday at the local Romp ‘n Roll, or as Frances calls it “Rock n’ Roll.”  And really, her nickname sums up the party pretty perfectly. 

As expected all of my pictures are blurry and were taken about 3 seconds after the ‘ideal’ picture moment, but they certainly capture the feel of the event which was nonstop excitement:

Followed by refueling on sugar and water:

Ending with another round of nonstop excitement:

In all honestly, Romp n’ Roll is about as great as it gets for 15+ preschoolers (ranging in ages from 2-6).  You are in and out in 1 ½ hours, the party hostesses run the entire show and there is no clean-up (my favorite part).  Plus the kiddos (and many of the adults) love it.

Even cousin Justin could join in on the fun (a safe distance away from the complete craziness)

I couldn't resist including a picture of George with his crush, Lily.  My boy is head-over-heels for this little cutie-pie and it melts my heart.  She wisely plays hard to get.

Unquestionably Frances had a great 4th birthday this year, starting with a much-coveted visit from Nana and Pop:

And ending with an Ariel doll and singing card from Grandma and Grandpa:

Next weekend, it’s back to reality with our first party-free Saturday and Sunday in a month.  But I’m going to let Frances (and George) bask in the celebration just a bit longer.  After all, you only turn 4 once:

Dress courtesy of Frances's personal shopper, Nana.

Happy Monday, everyone!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Eleven • Eleven • Eleven

Frances turns four today.  Four years old; I can hardly wrap my mind around that number.  I distinctly remember when she was born thinking along the lines, “November 11; what a great birthday.  She’ll be four when it’s 11/11/11.  Geez, what a long time from now.”  Along with the Great Wall of China, my colossal naiveté could probably have been seen from outer space at that moment.

Frances came bounding into our lives at 4:56am on November 11, 2007 and Will and I have yet to recover.  I still remember her full-blown scream the moment her face hit the cold air of the delivery room – pouting lips, powerful lungs, closed eyes.  To this day, she still makes that same face when she is really upset about something (and a small part of me smiles inside when she does).  But seconds after her birth, she quieted down, opened her eyes, and took in the world around her (as small as it was at that moment).  She gazed into her father’s eyes, both neophytes equally amazed at meeting the other for the first time. 

First picture with Daddy, minutes after she was born
I treasure those first days our small family had in the hospital.  The rest of the world was a hazy background to my sheer joy and newfound emotion of unconditional love.  I was not prepared to be so utterly infatuated with a seven pound wiggle worm, but overnight I understood every single strict rule and life lesson my own mother rooted in my brain.  I will never forget when the nurse wheeled Frances into my room the morning we were leaving for home.  I was alone when they brought her to me; she was swaddled tight in her striped hospital blanket, a soft, pink hat neatly placed on her beautiful, pear-shaped head.  I took one look at her, bent over to kiss her smooth cheek and just cried.  I couldn’t believe how much I loved her.  She was at that moment a perfect being.
Of course, two days later I was crying for other reasons—I was totally overwhelmed and sleep-deprived; every two to three hours the equivalent of sandpaper was being rubbed on my nipples for 30 minutes; I could hardly sit down on my sore rear end; and Will had to go back to work.  But a week or so later, Frances and I had found our own little routine and I could breathe out again.  Nursing clicked (and I know I am lucky to be able to say that), my stiches healed up, and although there were moments I would have paid $1 million for eight consecutive hours of sleep, I was learning how to survive on less shut-eye.  It is hard to convey to young parents (and I know I would have never understood had someone tried with me), but those first months with your first born are simply magical.  And it will never be as wonderful, easy or calm as those early weeks.

Four years later?  Our life is chaotic, methodical, slow-moving, lightning quick, cerebral, physical, crazy and normal all wrapped up in two adorable little smiles.

And four years later, Frances still takes my breath away.  She is passionate, active, athletic, and opinionated – I have no idea where she gets that last one from.  But in many ways she is the daughter that I never was—she is a girly-girl (a term that annoys me to death, but I must admit describes her perfectly) who insists on wearing a dress nearly every day; she loves to play with dolls and doll houses; she is exceptionally nurturing to George and anyone else who she thinks needs a little TLC; and perhaps most amazing (and most unlike me as a child) is that her biggest fear in life is disappointing me.
Her "worried" look

It is this last characteristic that has challenged me most as a mother because it is the easiest one to take for granted.  To be the caretaker of your daughter’s happiness is a daunting job and I must constantly remind myself to take heed with heaping on too much guilt in my discipline because Frances takes every single remark to heart.  The greatest compliment I can pay to Frances is to tell her she is a good girl (or a good friend or a good big sister or a good cousin…the list can go on and on as long as the word “good” is in front of the pronoun).  Thankfully, such praise is easy to bestow because Frances really is a good girl—for me and for others when I am not around (the true test).

Frances is like a drug – the more you are around her the more you miss her when she’s gone.  And I actually can’t take credit for this last observation primarily because I am with her more than anyone else--this is straight from my mother’s mouth.  But I have seen first-hand how the people closest to her cannot stay away for more than a week without going into Frances withdrawal.  They miss her giggle; they miss her imaginative stories about how all of her baby dolls and stuffed animals are related (“did you know that Puppy is Baby’s little brother?”); they miss her smile; and they miss her small arms squeezing them hard when they have to say goodbye.

I really have no idea what I did to deserve having a daughter like Frances - and yes, this question can mean different things on different days.  But most days, 99% of the time, this observation is one of disbelief that my daughter is as wonderful, loving, good, sweet, clever and funny as I could ever have wished.

Now, if only her parents don’t completely botch it up.

Happy 4th Birthday, Frances!  11/11/11 – a date to remember.