September 26, 2012 at 10:24 am | Posted in Horses, Kids | 2 Comments
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I’m watching my son try to become “king of the hill” in his karate class. They’re practicing Jujitsu wrestling, so this means he has to find a way to disengage and flip the kid on top of him over, then hold him down for a few seconds. I’m watching calmly, nodding and smiling at Brady and the Sensei, while my inner narrative goes something like this, “Come ON, Brady!! Get him! Just trap that arm – TRAP IT! Now bridge… BRIDGE!! You can flip him! You can win! You can be the best!!!” Meanwhile, I’m talking to a dad standing next to me about how it’s ok for our boys to not do it perfectly, and he’s telling me how hard it is for his wife to watch the class because she gets so frustrated when their son doesn’t do exactly what he’s supposed to do. I share this feeling and cringe inwardly all the time – especially with a child like Brady who doesn’t always go with the flow.

What is all this pressure, desire, demand to be perfect? Where does it come from, and why do we try so hard to achieve it and want it so badly for our kids?

I wouldn’t call myself a perfectionist in that down-to-every-last-detail sort of way. That would be my husband. I strive for things to be very well done, but they don’t have to be perfect. Such as, I’ll make the bed because it looks nice and is lovely to slide into at the end of the day, but every sheet corner doesn’t have to be tucked in and the comforter doesn’t have to be flawlessly smooth. Of course, I do feel guilty if the bed isn’t made (bad mother, wife, housekeeper!).

My husband, on the other hand, will not even begin a task unless he can see it through to ultimate completion. Every single tiny cobweb must be off the exterior of the house, every flake of snow removed from the walkway/driveway/deck, every speck of dirt lifted from the interior of his car (Oh, you should SEE his car!! It’s 6 years old with over 100k miles on it and it looks and smells brand new! The man is super-human.).

So what of my boys?

Brady and I see a behavioral therapist once/week who has helped us immensely with his anxiety and other difficult aspects of Asperger’s Syndrome. Her philosophy is “We play games to have fun, not to win. Who cares who wins?” Who cares who wins?? I care!! What is that? It doesn’t matter who wins? Isn’t that half the fun of playing? Winning? And if I teach my kids that it doesn’t matter if you win or lose (I know, I know, ‘it’s how you play the game’ – I agree, that’s important, too), will they be slovenly couch potatoes with no drive? Is this something that comes from personality or programming? So many questions about perfection…

Back in the days when I used to show my horses, I started out wanting to win every class and getting really upset if I didn’t get a trophy or at least place. Over time, I realized that the important thing was that I had the best possible ride. If the judge didn’t see us or didn’t like my horse, I couldn’t really help that. I could only control what and how we did in the ring. But the important distinction here is that I still went in with the intention to win. I trained and practiced and hoped for it. I TRIED to win. And working that hard made me a better rider. What changed was my attitude. I learned to pet my horse on the neck, thank him for the great ride, and smile on my way through the outgate because my equine companion gave me everything I wanted, even if the judge didn’t.

I can see when Brady is practicing karate that he’s a lover, not a fighter. After wrestling for a few minutes, he’ll lie there and pat the kids’ head with whom he’s practicing. I can tell now by the way he glances at me as they play “king of the hill” that he’s trying to win for me, because he knows I want him to, not because he wants to. Maybe he’s just not that competitive. So what I’ve told him is that he doesn’t have to be the best, he just has to give it his best. Try his hardest. I suppose that’s all we can ask from any of us. I’m still going to try to win. But I don’t have to be perfect. And neither do my boys.



Under Construction

September 17, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Under (un’der): Being beneath or below something; less than;
subordinate to; subject to; during rule of.

Under construction”. Ever wonder why they use that term? After building an entire house, then years later having to tear down and re-construct a number of walls and ceilings due to major water damage from ice dams, and currently being in the process of remodeling two bathrooms (under duress because of grout failures leading to water seepage), I think I get it. I definitely feel “subordinate to, subject to, and less than” the process of managing any construction project. It’s not that it’s over (or under) my head, it’s that nothing goes smoothly and everything is a problem. “On time and under budget” might as well be a foreign language when it comes to construction projects.

So, that said, here is my list of hypotheses (get to use that good old algebra again) for any type of building or remodeling project:

If new tile/paint/trim/flooring = needs to match existing tile/paint/trim/flooring, then: you can just simply forget it. Even if you have saved samples and every last bit of ordering information, the new pieces will never exactly match the old pieces. The factory will have gone out of business, changed their color palette (who knew there were so many variations on the color “biscuit”?), or been sold to some conglomerate in China that will take 14 weeks to get it to you and then it will arrive with dings and scratches. Or the company will have been passed down to an errant grandchild who disagrees with Grandpappy’s definition of a quality product and you’ll think you’re working with cardboard rather than pre-laminated flooring.

If contractor mistake = framing issue, then it will be a big one. A window will be in completely the wrong place or the wrong size (no, we don’t want a picture window in the downstairs bathroom looking out onto the front porch); what was supposed to be a cathedral ceiling will be a regular old flat one (and you won’t have time to check the project until the inset lights are installed and the drywall’s going up – just try changing it now!); the cement tubes holding up your second-floor deck will be poured just slightly off so that you are forever looking at posts that jut over the edges and wondering if, perhaps, it takes just one more person to make that deck come crashing down.

If your move-in date = September 1 or you will be living in a tent in the muck that will someday be your lawn, then: it will definitely rain the entire months of July and August, except on the weekends when everyone knows no contractor ever works (also, good luck with that grass).

If your site = comes with pre-site-work done, then: it will be done wrong and/or extremely confusing and have to be re-done or have experts brought in from out-of-state to review, recommend and reconsider. For example, our lot at the end of a private dirt road had the pre-built driveway in completely the wrong place to fit into our wet-lands-bordered building envelope, and our pre-installed septic system had pipes running the length of a football field across one neighbor’s property to a shared leach field on another neighbor’s property. This scared off more than one builder.

If your site = a lovely rural area that used to be field and forest, then: neighbors will hate you for disturbing their privacy, peace and quiet and will re-survey the land right after you pay surveyors to mark off your lot. Of course the neighbor’s survey ribbons will be on the exact same trees and posts that your surveyors’ ribbons are on, which will piss them off even further. You’ll be lucky if they don’t steal your copper plumbing pipes during construction. Actually, I can totally relate to this one and will do the same if anyone ever dares build on undeveloped land near us.

If your house = a custom build, then: you will agonize over every last paint color, light fixture, wall trim, built-in, and floor board, including the huge and now infamous “doorknob fight” which took place between my husband and I, nearly resulting in a divorce and complete bankrupting of the entire project.

Aaaaahhhhh, construction. Wish us luck as we try to get these two bathrooms back in working order. We do live in the woods, but it’s getting a little cold for outdoor showers and peeing on trees.


Feeding Frenzy

September 3, 2012 at 8:48 am | Posted in Beauty, Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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It’s never good when you suddenly don’t need your belt anymore.

As in: Hmmm, I swear the last time I wore these shorts I really needed this belt to keep them from sliding down my hips. How come I don’t need it today? They seem to be staying up all on their own. In fact, they might even be a little bit tight… Uh oh.

Could it be ‘vacation fat’ syndrome? You know, “I’m on vacation, so I’ll just… eat dessert after every meal… have a huge breakfast every morning (it’s a buffet, after all)… make sure I keep my strength up with a chocolate bar every afternoon… have cheese and crackers with artichoke dip on the porch every day at 4:00… try everything on the menu in the gourmet restaurant… keep the frozen drinks coming…”   Accompanied, of course, by the I’ve-just-hiked-a-mountain-(ok-it-was-really-a-1-hour-walk-up-a-slight-incline)-so-I-must-have-burned-4,000-calories-and-really-deserve-this-rack-o-ribs-cornbread-nachos-brownie-sundae-meal syndrome.

What is it about being on vacation (even if for just a quick weekend get-away) that inspires uninhibited eating in an “I deserve it” sort of way? And of course, the whole time, I’m just trying to get my kids to eat SOMETHING as I continually overindulge.

All you guys want is chicken fingers and mac and cheese again? At home you eat everything!  Come on, you’re going to get scurvy or leprosy or some other life-threatening disease from all the salt and preservatives! Hey, where are you going? Sit down! Dont bother those people over there! Leave the waiter alone! Eat some more of that food! Why can’t you guys sit still and eat? Am I going to have to shove some of that food down your gullet? If I had my way, I’d eat CONSTANTLY!

Oh wait, I guess I got my way…

So back to the shorts. It COULD be vacation. Or it just could be that I’m a sugar hound. Or that I pretend to count calories while constantly faking it in my favor. As in, “Whole grain spelt bread with peanut butter and honey. So healthy! Let’s see, two slices of bread = 160 calories, good. Peanut butter = 100 calories/tablespoon. Well, how much did I really have? Couldn’t have been more than one tablespoon (meanwhile the thickly-spread PB is oozing off of both slices of toast and onto the plate) so… 100 calories there. Honey = 60 calories/Tbsp. Well, really, how much honey could I have used? (More dripping off the bread.) Must be like a half-teaspoon so total for this snack is 270 calories! I have SO much self-control!!”

Yeah, those are the kinds of games I play with myself.

When I was in high school, we actually had a ritual around eating – or as we called it in the 80s, ‘pigging out’. One or the other of us would invite each other for a sleep-over and as we were hanging up (remember, we actually had to CALL each other back in those days), we’d casually say, “Bring your eating clothes”. That was the sign. That meant there was going to be a feeding frenzy in between the MTV music videos and episodes of the A-Team, which generally included the following staples: Nacho Cheese Doritos (the only flavor they had back then), Nutter Butters, Munchos (a much-better predecessor to Pop Chips), chocolate chip or Oreo ice cream, and chocolate in just about any form.

What were ‘eating clothes’? Anything with a stretchy waistband that you didn’t mind spilling something on. That should really be required for most get-togethers today. How often have you spilled your wine or olive-oil-infused bruschetta on your favorite dress or shirt? If everyone just wore sweat pants and old t-shirts it would be so much easier. We could dress it up a little by wearing them with high heels and lots of big hair and make-up. Wait a minute, I think I may have just described a few of my outfits back in the 80s.

But once again I digress. I need to figure out what happened to these shorts. Maybe I shrunk them? Maybe the belt stretched out? Too bad I don’t have a teenage daughter so I could claim that my clothes got mixed up with her size 2’s. At any rate, why don’t you all come on over? And wear your eating clothes. It’s Labor Day weekend, after all…


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