Why can’t I aim lower?

One of the problems with being on a perpetual self-improvement kick is that I am seemingly incapable of simply enjoying life as it is, without constantly trying to nudge it along to what it could be with just a bit more effort.

With all four kids back under one roof for what felt like a microsecond this weekend, I bought real maple syrup but couldn’t resist making whole wheat pancakes.

I bought Heyerly’s doughnuts for the girl who lives 12 hours away – but only half a dozen lest any of us (especially me) get too carried away.

Scrutinizing my collection of nutritionally enhanced pastas before settling on a noodle that purported to deliver a full serving of veggies, I deluded myself into thinking that for once I could make a truly stupendous creation because my more adventurous eaters had temporarily returned to the nest.

No need, this time, to settle for what I’ve come to think of as Clark Kent mac n’ cheese, which looks like its usual wimpy cheese-coated self but packs a secret nutritional punch: tiny pieces of chopped cauliflower that blend right in with the turbocharged pasta. (See, these are the lengths I’m driven to with a spouse who prefers 1950s veggies and a resident vegetarian whom I frequently feel compelled to ask, “Have you actually consumed any vegetables this week?”)

I chopped zucchini and carrots, dug out the bleu cheese and black olives and raspberry vinaigrette. For a garnish, I arranged slices of a purple pickled egg I’d picked up at my son’s favorite meat market.

But in the hubbub of scrambling to get to my 3-year-old nephew’s birthday party on Sunday, neither of my  late-rising, bleary-eyed older kids even bothered with the maple syrup and pancakes, much less tasting the pasta salad creation I was planning to take.

It wasn’t a hit at the party, either, as everyone opted for familiar comfort foods. (Surprisingly, only my husband expressed any interest. But he actually went back for seconds – apparently his love of bleu cheese elbowed out his other aversions.)

Now Rowan and Ben are gone again, and it feels like all I’m left with is a giant bowl of leftover pasta salad.

Should I have bought more doughnuts? Made a big gooey vat of mac and cheese? Not rolled my eyes at ironic hipster late-night viewings of “SpongeBob Squarepants?” Why can’t I focus on the fun parts of this eyeblink weekend without getting immersed in do-over angst?

Nothing ever turns out the way I see it in my imagination. But that’s not always a bad thing.

Who would’ve guessed that Mr. Corn and Peas Please would actually seem excited to find such a generous amount of pasta salad in the fridge, zucchini and all?


Rowan was zonked after her 12-hour drive from Charleston, but Loki was ready to play after being cooped up in the car.


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2 Responses to Why can’t I aim lower?

  1. bgddyjim says:

    “Nothing ever turns out the way I see it in my imagination”

    This is why I leave my imagination on the sidelines for family get togethers. Make good food, put it out, and get out of the way and let the party happen. That’s what I do, and people say I manage some great parties. It’s not that you can’t aim lower, maybe it’s that you try to aim too high, going for an emotional response?

    You are a lot like my wife in this regard, so the important thing to remember is that your heart is in the right place.

  2. tischcaylor says:

    “get out of the way and let the party happen” … this is where it all goes to hell. I can’t even get out of my own way, it seems. But thanks for thinking I have a good heart. (It’s not good enough, though!)

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