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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?

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My first car was a used white 1986 Ford Escort hatchback that my sweet dad “souped up” with a CD changer in the trunk and a vanity plate. The catalytic converter never worked quite right and often smelled of sulfur, and the entire car would shake when you went a little too fast. But I was 16 and couldn’t have asked for anything more.

In my day of chipping in for gas, you could fill up a tank for $20. Granted, my parents boast their VW was topped off at less than $5. I’m now paying more than $70 to power my minivan. And my kids won’t be driving for more than 10 years — what then?

As much as I may change my tune as our credit card bill begins to climb, I’m okay with rising gas prices. Since high school, I’ve been aware of our dependence on a nonrenewable resource. I remember visiting Central Europe 15 years ago, and thinking how our affordable fuels condition us to waste, waste, waste.

We’re not completely dependent on our one family car. My husband’s commute to work involves walking and a 35-minute train ride. My son will walk to school in the fall. Our grocery store, our gym, our parents and many of our friends are within three miles of our home. Our only long drive is 30 minutes to our church-of-choice every-other Sunday.

What stinks is how many communities do not offer the infrastructure to support mass transit. How many people depend on their cars for their commutes to work or school. How many families won’t be able to easily adjust to gas prices higher than we’ve imagined.

I’m an environmentalist at heart, and I welcome the challenge to use less. But I wish there was an easy answer for those among us for whom this challenge is daunting.

My daughter was sitting on her heels, on her changing table of all places. And from behind, I caught a glimpse of her beauty. The curve of her spine, her flawless skin. For a second — you know, before she peed on the changing mat — I saw a woman in a Renoir painting.

What I didn’t do was slap her photograph in Vanity Fair. Duh. Art? Beauty? Whatever. She’s a baby. And while her mother can be captivated by, and emotional about, her daughter, she’s sure as hell not for general consumption.

That’s right, boys, call again in 20 years.

So, Tish Cyrus, I ask you: what were you thinking, standing by at the Vanity Fair shoot as your daughter posed like the grown woman she’s yet to become? How did you look in your baby’s eyes, and say, “You’re a beautiful and talented girl, Miley. We could portray your beauty in so many ways. But we’ve chosen to sexualize you, to capitalize on your fame, your moment as Lolita. Don’t worry, honey; it’s unavoidable, especially when there’s a buck to be made.”

I typically try to remain neutral, to avoid paying attention or even caring about Hollywood goings on. But now, as the mother of a son and especially a daughter, I see these controversies through new eyes. Have you seen the clothes for little girls? The dolls? Come on, could we be in any more of a hurry for them to grow up, wear minis, heels and eyeliner? This isn’t news, I know; but it’s new to me. I had a boy first. ;)

I’m bracing myself for the day my kids’ role models expand past Bob the Builder and Danny on Build it Bigger. When they listen to bad pop music and look up to actors on the Disney Channel. Suddenly the Cyrus family’s choices have potential bearing on my life.

Now I care. It’s shallow and selfish, but I care. Sadly, I think there’s plenty of room for one more mom in the fight to protect childhood.

O, unsung ranch dressing. How my children love you so. They have eaten you straight, on hot dogs and grapes. And have happily used (veggie) chicken nuggets and honest-to-goodness vegetables as vehicles to your creamy goodness.

I know I should be nothing but grateful. You’ve eased mealtime stresses and likely saved my kids from the perils of malnutrition. But, Ranch? You give my baby ranch breath. And you’re so greasy in her hair when she puts her otherwise empty plate on her head.

I admit I think about cheating with a really attractive balsamic vinaigrette, but I bet it stains. Who knew love and condiments would be so complicated?