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I wish I could report that I’ve been somewhere remote. And tropical. With beverages. But I’ve been garden-variety busy. So not exciting.

I’ve missed Only the K. I have so much on my mind, and I’m not beyond bribing you to listen. If you were in my kitchen right now, you could help yourself to anything in the fridge… although I admit I’ve eaten all the leftover cake. But I still have wine. And Prozac chocolate! Do stop by.

You know I’m not the most confident person in the world. Yeah, if confidence were vitamin C, I would definitely be deficient. I have my moments of feeling at peace, where I’m satisfied with my lot. But then something — or someone — will remind me of my inadequacies, whether they be personal or financial or what have you. And I doubt and second guess. It’s ugly.

One of my favorite quotes is, “We all do nothing equally well.” It’s my mantra, and I’m raising my children to remember this truth. There will always be someone who is more successful (though how we define success is another topic for discussion), more financially secure. There will be someone who is more patient with their children, who breastfeeds longer, who runs faster. There will always be someone who is more organized and better dressed and has a more stylish home. Did I mention I lack confidence?

Deep down, I know I have my own strengths. I think I’m a good listener, and I’m proud of that. I think I’m understanding and compassionate. That must be why I have such a difficult time hanging up on telemarketers, right?

I admit I find it easy to focus on my children’s weaknesses, perhaps because I’m looking for further evidence of my shortcomings as a mother. My son isn’t particularly athletic, and he talks a little too much about his imaginary friend. My daughter isn’t talking in sentences the way my mother swears I was at her age. And she’s a picky eater.

If we transcend my neuroses (because, come on, my children are awesome), we come to the book I’m itching to read: Your Child’s Strengths by Jenifer Fox. It’s on my bookshelf and any minute now I’m going to read it. It appeals to me beyond measure, focusing not on our shortcomings, but on where we excel. Because we all excel somewhere.

No, my son may not be the quarterback. But he is logical and sensitive and passionate. Who knows: my daughter may not be potty trained until she’s 4 (please no please no please no) but she’s compassionate and a veritable ray of sunshine.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if we approached everyone in our lives this way? If instead of needling each other about how we need to fix our personalities or lifestyles, we could appreciate each other for what we have to offer? If we exuded confidence and had confidence in each other?

I find myself comparing my family to my friends’. What’s up with that? I’m so happy with us. Why do I feel a twinge of insecurity when I hear of someone else’s accomplishment? How do I get over it?

Quite seriously, I think it’s a component of my penchant for depression and anxiety. But I see it everywhere, especially in the media. We pick at people who we perceive as somehow better off than we are.

I remind myself. A lot. I’m trying to build up that confidence. And I hope to send my children out into the world knowing they’re good at something, that they’re important and make a difference. And that they don’t have to compare themselves to anyone — or belittle anyone — to feel good about themselves.

In the meantime, if you see me lashing myself for not equaling Martha Stewart in the execution of my son’s fifth birthday party, remind me the cake I *purchased* was delicious. Buying good cake is a strength, right?

I have an old friend — old in the sense that I haven’t seen her or talked with her in forever, not in the sense that she’s at all old — who is, in my opinion, perfectly assertive. Janine is confident, intelligent, respectful. You can’t walk all over her, but people don’t cower when she enters a room. She is everything I want to be when I grow up.

If nothing else, I’ve become acutely aware of my lack of assertiveness. Self confidence. Courage. Whatever. And aware that, as a parent, I have to step it up. Not only because I now represent my children’s best interests, but I also have to be a role model. Crap — I am a grown-up, aren’t I?

I have a long list of relationships and interactions in which I’m treading new ground: telemarketers, cashiers, retailers, servers, other parents, other kids… Yeah, stand back: the bank teller better not forget to give me two suckers!

All that said, I wasn’t a complete doormat before. A chicken? Yes. But typically I’m not apt to fight for something that doesn’t seem worth the effort. Either I’m good at keeping problems in perspective (ha), or I’m lazy. ;) And I don’t want to be a commanding presence. It’s not in me. I’m a behind-the-scenes type of gal. I want to strike a balance, to not shy away from a person or problem, to set things right. And, somehow, I want to teach my children to do the same.

All of the Janines (as if there could be more than one, but you know what I mean) out there, if any of you teach an online Assertiveness 101 class, let me know. ;)

Once upon a time, my husband and I abandoned various forms of birth control, and embarked on the exciting adventure that is starting a family.

We tried. And tried. And tried. I’d be lying if I said we maintained our confidence. But we persevered, and a relatively short — and relatively long — five months later, I peed on a magical stick and it proclaimed we’d be parents.

Yes, ridiculous morning sickness and exhaustion followed, but nothing out of the ordinary. We had a level II ultrasound at 20 weeks (my husband’s two sisters survived mere hours after birth, and their genetic abnormalities were never explained), and confirmed a healthy little person had taken up residence in my belly. I had sciatica and swollen feet and ate everything I saw. And 10 days before his due date, our son arrived in a fast and furious and truly awesome delivery.

It wasn’t easy, but it was textbook, and we got our baby at the end, just like we were supposed to. All we had to do now was wait two years and do it all over again. No problem!

The thought of my naiveté astounds me. Everyone should be entitled to a least one pregnancy like that. And while I feel ridiculous looking back — and yes, even a little guilty — I wish my second pregnancy had been the same.

When our son turned 2, we tried again, as planned. And when I got pregnant after only a month, I honestly thought we were being rewarded for our “patience” the first time around.

A few weeks later, I woke up in the wee hours of a Friday (Aug. 19, 2005) with horrible abdominal cramps. I was shaking and terrified in the bathroom: I was bleeding. Heavily. I called my OB, who met us in her office as soon as they opened. We saw our little bean with its heart beating on an ultrasound, although it wasn’t as big as we expected, and the heartbeat wasn’t as strong. Still, they sent us home cautiously optimistic (I still cringe at those words).

To make this long story slightly shorter, the bleeding only intensified. And by Monday, another ultrasound showed my vacant uterus, as if no one’s heart had been beating there days before. Our baby was gone.

In the throes of a grief I couldn’t have expected, I learned three things:

  1. Miscarriage, though strangely taboo, is all too common. Determined to talk about it, I found that so many women I know have experienced pregnancy loss. We’re like a secret club that feels lonely and exclusive, but our membership is booming.
  2. The logical words of solace — the ones I would have used myself — are the worst. I know it’s for the best. I know it’s nature’s way. I know it’s God’s plan. But I don’t care. I want my baby.
  3. There’s no spreadsheet to calculate how much it hurts. Miscarrying at six weeks certainly isn’t the same as a stillbirth at 36 weeks. But they’re both a loss. And it’s normal to grieve.

I’m standing on the other side of my grief now. Four months after we lost our baby, another life began and a nerve-wrecking pregnancy commenced. Of course I wouldn’t change the result, or trade our crazy little girl. But I do think of our baby, our little bean, who would have just turned 2 in April. I haven’t forgotten, and hope I never will.

When I hear of friends who have lost a baby, my heart breaks all over again. I’m so sorry you’ve joined the club. But know you’re not alone. Hugs.

Typically Mother’s Day leaves me… disappointed. It doesn’t live up to the expectations, the hype. Even our 4-year-old son said to my husband this year (too late, mind you), “Daaad, you have to get Mom a Mother’s Day present!”

But Mother’s Day ranks among the Hallmark holidays in my family (I’m sorry, Hallmark; I really don’t intend for you to be my scapegoat). You get a card or two and brunch, and call it a day. And while a heartfelt gift would certainly be accepted, all I really want is appreciation. A little acknowledgment that I’ve done more than simply keep our kids alive for the past year.

I realized this year that I typically ask my husband to keep our kids away from me on Mother’s Day. Isn’t that nice and warm and fuzzy? “Kids, I love you. Now sit over there and don’t touch me.” But I had a change of heart… except for diaper duty, which I let my husband keep.

Yes, I’m so.damn.exhausted. I didn’t realize this mom gig came with no vacation benefits! But when it comes down to it, I actually enjoy being around our children, particularly in the moments when they’re not testing the limits of my patience or generally behaving like demon spawn.

I’m proud to be their mom, and it’s heartwarming to hear our son articulate that he wouldn’t trade me for another. I’m proud to have a hand in the people they’re becoming (of course they’re people already, but they’re evolving!). They’re growing up — as ancient as nearly 5 years and 19 months, respectively, are — and this year I had more of an opportunity to appreciate them.

I sat between our son and daughter at brunch. I talked with my mom and took trips to the buffet table with my grandmother (who is 88 and counting). And I was happy, which is saying a lot in through here.

I will add that my husband offered an IOU for a spa package (when our budget allows, which may be never), and I do intend to hold him to it. ;)

In case you happen to miss my daily shout from the rooftops, I’ll spell it out for you:

I’m done.

If you also are done, my statement needs no explanation. But I’ll elaborate for the rest of you. Today I babysat for a friend’s youngest son, who is young, indeed. Shy of 3 months young. He’s a smiling, cooing, fuzzy-headed bundle of sweetness and joy. At least he was for the 20 minutes I watched him, changed him, danced around my house talking and singing to him. He could warm the heart of the grinchiest baby grinch.

Those 20 minutes — while my son was bowling at a birthday party and my daughter napping in her crib — brought me back to a time and place when the world revolved around me and my firstborn. When I was on maternity leave and life was simple. Of course it didn’t seem simple at the time. Caring for one newborn is only simple when you have more than one child.

Those 20 minutes were particularly peaceful, I think, because I didn’t yearn for another new baby of my own. And that’s saying something because I love me some babies. I’m done, and I’m at peace with my decision. (I suppose I should add that my husband agrees with this decision. So far.)

I’m not done because I didn’t have enviable pregnancies, or because I’m afraid of experiencing another miscarriage, or because children are exhausting and expensive. I’m done because I’m so ridiculously happy with my family. My son and my daughter are amazing little people. As they grow and their personalities emerge, I can’t help but beam with pride knowing I’ve had a little something to do with them.

I’m done because our family feels complete. We have each other; no one is missing. Except maybe a fish, per my son.

I say it again and again, and I don’t waiver. But I now have three friends who have welcomed their third child after swearing up and down they, too, were done. “Never say ‘vasectomy,'” my husband says. So you never know. (But I’m done.)

My family and I drove to Alaska when I was 7 or 8. (Yes, you can do that… a story for another time.)

Along the way, we took in a few natural wonders, the geyser “Old Faithful” among them. I apparently insisted on calling it “Old Reliable,” which admittedly makes me chuckle. I now find myself longing to be referred to as reliable. Old… not so much.

But it’s unlikely. I’m habitually late. My preschooler and his friend have learned to run from the car to school, and that they’ll likely be “the caboose” — again — because we’re late. My extended family takes bets on when my family will arrive to holiday dinners, and my friends know to add a half-hour when I say I’ll be over at 10:00.

I like to blame it on my husband, but really I procrastinate of my own accord. Sometimes my tardiness is relatively legit: the baby sleeps late; the phone rings as I’m walking out the door; yeah, I can’t think of anything else right now. Usually, I just don’t have my, um, act together. I try to squeeze in 10 minutes of extra sleep, I can’t find my son’s socks, I let my son watch TV during breakfast so he’s moving in slow motion lest he miss.one.second of Higglytown Heroes. I can’t find my car keys, I have to get the diaper bag packed for the gym, my hair is sticking out funny and I need to run the straightening iron over just one little section.

In a perfect world, I would be prepared. Clothes would be laid out the night before. Diaper bag would be stocked. Our water bottles washed and maybe even filled. My keys would be in the cute little bowl on the counter, my cell phone would be charged. The kids would be well rested and cooperative.

And you know what would happen? I’d be so calm, cool and collected, I’d let my son have an extra five minutes of TV because, you know what? We have five minutes; what would we do if we were five minutes early? If nothing else, anyone who typically waits on us wouldn’t yet be ready.

And that would be inconsiderate of us, wouldn’t it?

I don’t intend to be inconsiderate. In my head I’m really dependable. But there’s a huge disparity between the two. I feel shame. So much more importantly, in four months it will no longer be about me. My son begins kindergarten, and there will be no more sauntering in after the bell. I have to ensure he’s prompt. Poor kid.

I’m hoping kindergarten will be the impetus to change my evil ways. This is my challenge, and I accept it… or I will, anyway. In a minute.

I’ve been exercising regularly for the past few months. If you don’t know me, you have no idea how funny that is. I’m 32 years old, and this is quite possibly the first time I’ve been fit by even the loosest of standards. And, cardiovascularly-speaking, I have a long way to go.

After two pregnancies, which each yielded a small child and a bonus 55 pounds, I’m finally committed to a Mommy Boot Camp program. And although I’m not yet ready to say it out loud… I like it. I look forward to it. I feel better. Stronger. I can run an entire mile. I’m working toward the “Linda Hamilton arms” (circa Terminator 2) an old friend inspired.

That said, I still detest running. And I don’t appreciate those of you out there (my husband, ahem) who make it look so bloody easy. I’ve all but mastered the elliptical machine, the arc trainer, the rowing machine, the Bosu. I’m dabbling in kick boxing. But put me on the track, and the jig is up. I’m awkward and exhausted. I know the greater an object’s mass, the greater the force of gravity… this does not say good things about my body composition. I may even be radioactive.

Everyone — and by everyone, I mean my mom — says staying in shape reaches a new level of difficulty after 35. So I have three years to get this right. Okay, two years, six months and three days. Rub it in. I clearly need to contemplate my strategy over a pint quart of ice cream.