Going Home

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Last week my husband was out of town for work, so I took the kids to visit my parents for a couple days. There’s more to this story, but this site is about the journey to law school (I hope) so I’ll leave out most of those pieces. I’ll just say that we stayed busy the whole time, with over nine hours of the two-day trip spent in the car. By the time we got back late Wednesday night, my whole body was sore, most of all my tailbone.

I brought a notebook of notes from my book with me, but was only able to look at it for about ten minutes while we were at my parents’ place. Thursday I was still alone with the kids all day and was still so exhausted from traveling that I didn’t get any studying done after they went to bed. Friday I spent with my husband since he’d been gone for four days, then fell asleep almost as soon as the kids were asleep.

Saturday I was feeling better so I went to the library to get some studying done and learned the hard way that I can’t take five days off of studying. I did a little review, read some new material, then did a practice “game” set and got every single question wrong. I’d forgotten so much that I felt like I was guessing. I kind of remembered some things, but it turns out I haven’t drilled this stuff enough yet to have it deeply enough ingrained to overcome gaps in studying.

Now we know. So this morning I got some more studying done, read ahead, then took the kids to the museum (1). Tonight after dinner, I’m planning to get a little more studying in, with the idea that I’ll finish the book tonight or tomorrow and take another full practice test after work tomorrow to get a new score. Hopefully I’ll improve from my initial 156.

(1) I cannot recommend the museum enough! Our kids are two years old and will-be-one-next-week and it was fabulous. There’s a lot of NO TOUCHING, but enough “pwitty!” things to keep them distracted.

Choose a book

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I’ve already gone over why I study at the library: To minimize distraction. Part of being a mother, for me, is that I am alert to sounds of my kids’ distress whether I like it or not, whether I need to be or not. Even with my husband caring for them, I can’t tune out their sounds. So I go to the library.

But. I knew that the library itself would be a distraction. I like books, I love reading, and I always have. I have my master’s in library and information science for crying out loud. Books and ideas are a love apparently similar to what I have for my children, or at least nearly equally distracting. This means that being surrounded by books, especially nonfiction, which is what the study carrels are next to at my local library, is a distraction.

I tried not let the shelves get to me, but it didn’t work. As I plodded through page after challenging page of lesson and practice in my book, I couldn’t stop thinking about what might be on those shelves. Since we’ve only lived in our house a little over two years and with new items being added regularly, there’s no way I’ve read through even a tiny portion of what’s there. I can’t keep my mind off the possibilities.

I suppose with time and effort I could train myself to focus and let go of the temptation to wander, but I don’t want to. Just as I don’t want to train myself to be indifferent to the cries of my children in any context (though compartmentalizing this may be a healthy thing to do, I don’t know), I don’t want to become immune to the cries of books.  The desire to respond to these things, to care for my children and to pursue new ideas and perspectives, are good and healthy things. I should be tempted by new information and a broadened worldview, by the expansion of compassion and empathy that should naturally grow from exposure to new information.

Maybe I’m just poetically justifying a distraction, or maybe what I’m saying here is legitimate, I don’t know. But I do know that for today it holds true for me, so when I’m not currently in the midst of a book, I wander the stacks before I sit down to study. I walk up and down the aisles until I’ve found something new or something old I just need to experience again, and I check it out. Once the book is checked out to me and in my bag, I can sit down and focus on today’s work.

Mischief managed.

Challenges

I love this Paper House Luminary by Just Something I Made (click for source)

I knew when I started this project that there would be some challenges. Learning the LSAT is and will continue to be difficult. The law school application process, if the LSAT goes well enough, will be difficult. Actually doing law school if both those things go well will be a challenge probably like none I have had to tackle before.

One challenge I anticipated but didn’t fully realize the weight of is studying at home with two kids. I do most of my studying in the evenings when my husband is home to watch the kids. I have an office in our basement with a table and a folding chair and I sit down here and wade through my book slowly but surely. My husband and kids play upstairs or in the playroom in our basement.

I knew there would be some issues with the noise of the children playing and getting upset, but I didn’t realize just how unable I am to tune those out. I don’t know if that’s a natural maternal thing or if it’s just my anxious and nosy nature, but it is what it is. I cannot seem to concentrate well enough here, and trying to concentrate on learning to tune out certain sounds while trying to concentrate on trying to learn difficult material is just too much for me.

We live less than two blocks from the public library and I’d love to go there every night, but my husband doesn’t get home until 5 and we’re not done with dinner until after 6. The library closes at 6 Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, so on those days, studying must be done at home. I know I get less done and have to repeat things far more when this is the case.

Monday and Wednesday they’re open until 8, but for most of winter it’s just way too cold to walk outside (since the library is so close, driving is ridiculous) after dark unless there’s no alternative. It’s just not worth the pain of the cold hurting any exposed skin. Now that it’s starting to get nicer out, the library is a real option for me and I’m excited to see how much more quickly I’ll learn when I can focus for longer periods of time and am not distracted by constant unintentional scanning for sounds of distress.

So, while the studying is going well and I definitely feel like I’m doing better and learning something, it’s going slower than I thought. Spring will be great for my LSAT score, which is something I did not anticipate.

I should also mention that there is no way I could do this without my husband to take care of the kids while I study, especially with the risk that it may all be for nothing (if the LSAT does not go well enough). He’s totally supportive of my efforts and does whatever needs to be done to help me try to meet my goals. This is why my studying only occurs from the time he gets home until the kids go to bed. The time between the kids going to bed and us going to bed (~8p-1030p) is reserved for us to spend time together. Not only is this something we enjoy, we have learned in nearly a decade together (with over four years of that time long-distance) that it is something we need, both as a couple and individuals.

With all these restrictions and conditions this is starting to sound like one of those awful logic “games,” but I think it’s worth the work to make it work. More than anything, now that I’ve sat down to think it all out, I am grateful to be in a situation where I can even take on these challenges. To be able to devote this time and energy to studying and trying to pursue a career while being a mother to two small children and working (extremely) part-time is a privilege I do not intend to abuse.

First Books

A couple days ago I bought “1L of a Ride”, which was surprisingly difficult to find at a reasonable price because it’s required/recommended reading for so many law schools and thus has a textbook price. Today I took the oldest son to Barnes and Noble and bought “the champion of LSAT prep” and when I got home I got told my parents (my siblings already know) about my plans. Mom said it sounds “interesting” and implied that she thinks it might be a good fit for me, and dad said I make him and my kids proud. I got “The Paper Chase” ebook from my local library and read some of it on my phone while I sat in the dark and bored the kids to sleep.

I’ve out of my way with everyone I’ve talked to about this new project, relatives, friends, and even the lawyer, that it’s conditional, that I’ll only go through with it if the LSAT works out really, REALLY  well and leads to not having to borrow for law school. That way, when it doesn’t work out I don’t have to feel stupid and cowardly because I’ll have said it all along that it might not happen. I’m saving face three years in advance because I’m a chickenshit. It’s true, and I’m simultaneously ashamed and not at all ashamed.

As I was talking to my dad, I realized I can’t believe how fast time is flying. The youngest son will be one in less than three months and I am not at all prepared for it. I don’t want to let go of his infancy because I know I will desperately want a third baby for the rest of my life. I want to have again that deep, joyful feeling of being unconditionally, madly in love with a tiny thing that can in no way meaningfully reciprocate it, and it kills me that I’ll only ever get to feel that once. But the reality of it is that there is no guarantee that I will get it again or that it won’t be even worse than it was the first time.

It is time to let go, it just is. It’s time to accept that the part of my life wherein I get to be the young mother of little babies is quickly coming to an end and can never be done again. When it’s over it’s over forever and that kind of permanence is scary. It’s a death of the way things are, and it’s the birth of an uncertain new way. What if I don’t love the new, next chapter as much as I have loved this one? What if being a mother to two young children isn’t as joyful, cute, and easy as being the mother of a toddler and a little baby?

I have loved being the mother of a toddler and a baby. Loved it. It’s easy and cute and fun.  And now it’s time to get go of that. I could say that the cutoff point is the youngest son’s first birthday, but you’re still a baby at 12 months, just less so than you were three months before that. The big milestone for moving from infancy to toddlerhood, in my mind, is walking with ease and relegating diapers to sleeping times. At that point you’re past baby and marching rapidly toward child. So I guess it’s not quite time to grieve yet, but I think preparing (without panicking) will help ease the transition.

So I’m studying for the LSAT and researching law school. It keeps me busy and gives me something to look forward to. I need distraction and goals, and I get that from this step that frames my future as one of possibility and hope rather than uncertainty and loss.