Wash, rinse, spin, repeat…

All about the never ending spin-cycle…and the little pauses in between.

survivor-2013-episode-8-480x270Last night the PVR was acting up and it took an actual three hours to finally catch up on my TV and watch the Survivor finale and wrap up show – I may as well have just watched it live.  GAH!!!!  I hate it when that happens.  Some question why I still watch Survivor – I’m a bit of an escapist and sometimes overly confident (add a dash of egotistical, judgemental and crazy and voila!) – I think I have quite the social game and am really, really good at puzzles so I think that I would totally make it to the final four provided I didn’t have to eat any weird fetus, maggot or some kind of larvae.  My paranoid self has just realized that actually writing this may actually tip off Jeff Probst and crew to include the Survivor Food Eating Challenge when I compete…one day….once I’ve actually applied….yikes!!!

I digress.  Mr. Niceguy kept telling me that it was time for bed as I kept nodding off but no, I wouldn’t have it.  I absolutely needed to see who would win and quite frankly, after a long day of cooking, cleaning, gardening, repairing, washing, and homework together with, “Mommy, I want this” and “Mommy, the 4 year old is bothering me” and “Mommy, I can’t find my [insert any ridiculously tiny toy that one would need binocular attachments and some kind of sonar or laser tracking device to find]” – it was my down time.  Thankfully, the phone beeps from a very late night round of texting from my other mommy friends who were obviously in the same boat jolted me awake and I was able to watch to the end…but no downtime ever takes place without exacting some form of payment, a lesson I would come to learn again…

7:00am – alarm goes off.  I was so tired that I didn’t hit the snooze like I often do but instead, turned it right off.  And all of a sudden, there I was, fascinator on, gorgeous two-piece and nude coloured shoes…no wait, that’s Kate Middleton.  What’s she doing here?  Oh my goodness, she’s giving me advice about how to host an outdoor party…how grand.  Wait, I must take notes and listen closely…what’s that?  She’s now talking about what to do when I’ve stepped in what??  And how to get rid of the stench???  I can’t pay attention to this!  Why am I even thinking of arranging this garden party?  How did I get here?  Oh no…it was that second dinner I had at midnight!  That’s right…I keep forgetting I’m not 20 anymore!!  Speaking of food…

Oh my God!  8:15am!!!  And Mr. Niceguy is still sleeping too!  We jump out of bed and being the nice guy that he is, Mr. Niceguy makes the boys’ lunch and I decide I can’t leave the house looking like I just woke up and must do something about the embossed sheet marks on my face.  So I scrubbed, moisturized and put on my makeup but unfortunately…no go.  The sunglasses will have to cover my cheeks and nevermind, I’m really pressed for time!!  Quick, grab jean cut offs from yesterday…it was so warm yesterday…argh…quit daydreaming…and pull a beachy look like Gisele!

Finally at school.  Only I’ve just noticed that it’s 11 degrees and one glimpse at myself in the school glass doors and I realize, perhaps today is not the day to try and emulate Gisele…oh, and more disheartening still, the only thing I have in common with Gisele are the freckles on my face.  A walk through the doors would add yet one more disappointment…pizza day.  Why couldn’t I have just checked the school calendar before heading out of the house??!!

So to wrap up, I’m essentially paying for a not-so-exciting-night full of after hour binge eating, TV watching and basically TRYING to carve out some ME time.  WHY IS THE UNIVERSE PUNISHING ME???!!!

I decide that I can’t face the rest of my day without my signature latte and that’s when I ran into a couple of women – other mom friends from school – one of whom is a very hip and cool marketing genius while the other, our local SJP with a downtown boutique full of the latest fashions.  Ever the shallow individual, all I could think was I hope I don’t get judged for my lack of fashion sense re: the t-shirt, cut offs and my signature Converse All Stars, and that the sheet marks had finally disappeared from my face (I swear if someone invents a cheek plumper similar to that instant lip plumper lip gloss that one can simply buy off the counter, I’M ALL IN!!!)

Trying to sheepishly order my coffee and avoid all eye contact to no avail, I was approached and greeted ever so graciously by them both…obviously ignoring my dishevelled and insane state.  And you know what?  I got praised for my writing and praised for a recent outfit I had pulled together for a last minute event and I was on cloud nine!  For just a moment, my insane cycle had been broken.  For just a moment, it was all about me.  Beaming, I thanked them both for their compliments, grabbed my latte and walked to my car…and then promptly dribbled coffee all the way down my shirt.

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Life with BOYS!

Dedicated to my two moms – my own, who is responsible for all of my good and my bad, and my mom 2, who gave me one of her most prized possessions…Mr. Niceguy.  Now if only she could’ve left me with the instruction manual…

Another long weekend is upon me and the pressure is on to have fun and go on adventures – for this is what it means to be in a household full of boys.  No time for just relaxing, no desire to sit and simply read a book while sipping on a fancy coffee and listening to the birds chirp, and certainly no yearning for the trendy shops and restaurants in Yorkville…

When I was toiling away downtown at my “high-falutin” finance career, I used to live for long weekends…an extra day off work, extra time with the kids and who knows, maybe even a sleep in.  But now all of that has changed.  Life as a stay-at-home-and-work mom is different and most of the time, long weekends actually mean an extra work shift at “the plant” that you weren’t expecting!

When I think back even further, back to the days before the 7 year old and 4 year old were even on the scene, things were even more different still – I’m reminded of just HOW different particularly when I compare my life to the lives of singletons or people who don’t have children.  Sometimes, I hear them rave about recent escapades, spur of the moment getaways to exotic places and I sigh…

If there was a contest to see whose life had changed more and the only 2 contestants were me and Mr Niceguy, I think I would win.  And in his highly logical and rational way, he would concede defeat by stating that I would win only because of the limitations I impose upon myself…

Recently, the 7 year kid brought home an assignment and at the end of it, he had to choose five words to describe his mom (me!).  Among those chosen were funny (true…I have a good sense of humour I think) , pretty (well what mom isn’t pretty to their children), fun (I work very hard at that one), smart (that will surely only last ‘til he hits grade 6 and then I won’t be able to keep up with the homework and the cat will surely be out of the bag!) and lastly, I suppose he ran out of single words here, I quote: “doesn’t like adventure”.  I.  Was.  Floored.  Me?  Not like adventure?  Say what??!!  When did that happen?!

I’m the girl that lied to her parents about going camping and flew to LA for the weekend to (hopefully) catch a glimpse of the boy I had a crush on.  I’m the girl who, upon obtaining acceptance to graduate school went across the Greek Isles and Italy with nothing but my two best friends, a back pack and a smile (and as many cute sandals as I could cram…).  I’ve been to topless beaches and raves that would last until the break of dawn.  I could run just as fast as anyone, climb higher, drive faster, dance harder, and up for virtually any new experience!  And against all odds, I married Mr. Niceguy – an extreme adventure, if you ask me, given that the expectation for any nice, Armenian girl is to find another nice Armenian boy, make Armenian babies and add to the Armenian population!

But somewhere along the way my priorities shifted…I traded my passport and stilettos for my “Mom-UV”, weekly soccer matches and “gourmet” Mac and cheese.

What’s worse still is that when, in my horrified state, I told Mr. Niceguy about the assignment, he agreed!  Or as he said, he could see where the 7 year old was coming from.  But in my defence, this is what my boys classify as adventure:

1.  Running around in nothing but their underwear and holding martial arts demonstrations

2.  Asking me to take them to the park so that I can be the “pusher” of the swings

3.  Watching Mr. Niceguy play with a remote control truck in any random, dusty, abandoned parking lot – who, by the way, is just one big kid and doesn’t do the best job of sharing his toy as it, together with all of its accessories, cost more than my designer bags and non-existent, figment-of-my-imagination designer shoes (oh Manolos…I should’ve bought you when I had the chance!!)

4. Throwing rocks in the smelly lake or dirty river while I ward off rabid dogs and other unidentified wildlife – did I mention that if there’s a mosquito within a 100 mile radius, it will find its way to my body and have a royal feast?

5.  Getting in the “truck” and driving to destinations unknown and staying overnight in “family oriented” accommodations that are void of restaurants that require reservations

6.  And the dreaded leaving of the city for the “North” where there are no lights, no shops and yes, NO SOCIETY!!

Of course I’m not going to like their definition of adventure!  To know me is to know that my kind of adventure requires a passport (and some mascara)!  In all fairness, I’m not all THAT high maintenance (or as high maintenance as I’m making myself out to be).  Throw me on a beach and I’m in my happy place.  Take me to some ruins and hand me a map, and I’m ecstatic. There’s just something about adventuring with boys that brings out, well, a different side of me…

So I guess these days, I don’t really seek out adventure – I’m too exhausted and too overwhelmed by how quickly time is just passing me by…  Yet, somehow adventure finds me.  It remembers that I crave it.  It remembers that I love it.  And somehow it knows that in my life with boys, I need it.  For without it I’d be miserable: my horizons would not expand, I would not be challenged, and most of all, I would not feel what it’s like to really be alive

My most recent adventure was sitting on the stands, watching my son be trained during a once in a lifetime soccer training session with the FC Barcelona soccer school coaches.  I sat there, during a torrential downpour and watched my 7 year old have the adventure of a lifetime, an adventure I was having vicariously through him….one that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.

One day, and certainly sooner than I’ll be ready, I’ll be able to once again hop on a plane at the drop of a hat to one exotic locale or another…though perhaps not a topless beach – at least not without good SPF!!

Me Adventure

Ugh…homework!!

Dedicated to a very dear friend for whom I promised to (try) and be funny again!

Although I often forget to be grateful for the roof over my head and the food on my plate, as someone who’s been out of school for more than a decade, I never forget to appreciate that I no longer have homework!

lighten-homework-loadAs a Type A personality, I had virtually all straight A’s throughout my school career.  I diligently studied for tests, poured all my effort into assignments and yes, completed every shred of homework – no excuses.  So what happens when a Type A and a Type B collide over Grade 2 homework…

According to Wikipedia, Type A’s are “ambitious, rigidly organized, highly status-conscious, sensitive, truthful, impatient, always try to help others, take on more than they can handle, want other people to get to the point, proactive, and obsessed with time management…they are often high-achieving “workaholics” who multi-task, push themselves with deadlines, and hate both delays and ambivalence.”  While Type B’s “generally live at a lower stress level and typically work steadily, enjoying achievement but not becoming stressed when they do not achieve. When faced with competition, they do not mind losing…they may be creative and enjoy exploring ideas and concepts.”

When Friday afternoons roll around and it’s time to pick up my boys from school my first question is always, “do you have any homework this weekend?”  Of course, the 4 year old’s response (thankfully!) is always “No!” but the 7 year old kick-starts my anxiety with a simple shrug of his shoulders and an “I dunno.”  And so, it begins.  I start wondering, when are we going to do all his homework?  How much does he have?  Is it going to take me hours and hours???  Why can’t he be more motivated?!  Doesn’t he realize that Grade 2 homework is the first step to the REST OF HIS LIFE??!!!!

One of the greatest challenges of being a parent is raising a child and trusting them to become independent and have the courage to stand up for themselves and go after their dreams…whatever they may be.  I’ll digress here:  throughout my formative years I wanted to be many things:  astronaut, painter, even an army general!  But as time goes on, reality (and social pressure) sets in …my dreams of becoming a fashion designer transformed into becoming a chemical engineer (no idea what they do but a particular dignitary was visiting my school and I couldn’t very well disgrace my VERY traditional Armenian parents by choosing such an “outlandish” career)!  Incidentally, I did neither.

In today’s world, our choices are virtually unlimited and children have the gift of potentially making a real living following their dreams and passions.  But today’s world is also more competitive than ever…which makes being a mom, harder still!

Like most 7 year old boys, mine is not quite a Type A.  So when it comes time to ask him to centre in on his homework, I already know I’m swimming upstream – see, unfortunately I do not have a cool laser gun that pops out of my arm, nor can I shoot fireballs out of my eyes and defeat evil takeovers of the universe!  I’m seriously lacking in the super power department for that’s what’s required to capture my 7 year old’s attention!

So it’s Sunday night, an hour to bedtime and after studying for two spelling tests and doing some required reading, we turned to his last piece of homework:  writing a poem.  WHAT?!  Poetry?  In Grade 2???!!  Completely bewildered I turned to a friend who suggested making it fun by choosing a song together and “simply” replacing the words.  Easy enough, right?  NO.

Honestly, there I was, my Type A self, pouring everything I had into this “poetry assignment” and there he was, my little Type B, cycling song after song just so he could play around with my iPhone!  I’m trying to come up with words for his poem while he’s more interested in the cover art!!!  My nerves were getting shot!  I begged!  I pleaded and here’s what I got:

Stuart was a little mouse,
He lived in a great big house,
His brother’s name was George,
Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, adventure

WHAT?!  I kept explaining that he had to rhyme with “George” but he just stood there staring at me, a blank expression on his face.  Perhaps it was the crazed look in my eyes, my nails digging into our dining room table, the beads of sweat appearing across my forehead, my hair starting to frizz or simply the fact that I had gone from shouting to an almost possessed person whisper…or perhaps neither of these things that finally lead us to this…

Me:  *exasperated, worst parent ever as have now resorted to begging and pleading* Please.  For the love of God and all that is holy, please, just choose one song and stick with it.  It’ll make things easier.  You can’t keep bouncing all over the place.  We’ve been at this for over 45 minutes!  You’ve just really got to focus and it’s almost bedtime, tomorrow’s a school day…

Him:  *shrugs shoulders* Maybe I should take a break.  Can I go play outside?

Me:  You played earlier.  Look, we have to finish.  You have to do your homework.  You must be prepared.  This is all about your future!  Trust me.  You have to pay attention, get good grades and then you will be able to open doors to all kinds of possibilities.

Him:  *sprightly*  What doors?  Where?

Me:   *!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  trying to keep it together…* The.  Doors.  To.  Your.  Future. – not actual doors, you know, just a metaphor for possible paths you could take…look, it’s even bath night, we don’t have much time left…

Him:  YAY!  Bath night!  Can I play in the bath?

Me:  UUUGGGGHHH.

It took every ounce of me to not take his exercise sheet and pencil and try and “forge” a poem!  I mean EVERY-SINGLE-OUNCE.  True, that would have been the absolute worst form of parenting but I’ll admit, I WAS DYING TO DO IT!!

Realizing that I was now on the verge of going against everything I stood for, I walked away and gave him his space.  And you know what, he did it.  I was his crutch and when I removed my (psychotic) self from the situation, he demonstrated that he could be a self-actualizing, independent thinker.

I guess more than one of us completed our homework this weekend…

A+

FEATURE ARTICLE: Morality and Genocide

While most parents are concerned with raising a moral child that can identify between right and wrong within the everyday context like sharing their toys, not hitting their siblings and caring for others, Armenian parents are charged with the extra burden of raising a child that understands that what occurred to an entire nation of peoples nearly a century ago is a demonstration of probably one of the darkest immoral acts of humankind:  genocide.

But at what age is it appropriate to pass along this burden and teach our children about the moralities surrounding genocide?

Almost a century has passed since the Young Turk faction of the Ottoman Empire began its attempt to eradicate the Armenian people.  Virtually all Armenians have been taught about this dark time in our history – when more than 1.5 million Armenians were slaughtered, mutilated, massacred, tortured, and evicted from the homes which they had occupied for more than 3 millennia.  It is hard to forget the imagery:  photographs of emaciated children, bodies littered along the path of a forced march through the Syrian desert, notable Armenian leaders hung on makeshift gallows, pictures of maps with red circles sized according to the number of the slaughtered and murdered juxtaposed with maps delineating the historical lands of our people.  Imageries of loss, injustice, and immorality.

Armenian Genocide map

I recently came across an editorial recently published in the New York Times by Adam Grant entitled, “Raising a Moral Child” which starts with a simple question:  “What does it take to be a good parent?”  Grant states that the top priority for parents is to raise children who care, in essence children with good morals.  Children learn about morality at a very young age:  by age 2 they know right from wrong in a very simplistic way.  Yet parents only have a fleeting window of time in which to cultivate their children.  While children frequently forget some of the lessons they learn at around age 5, by the time they are 10 years old their identities have mostly been formed.  Furthermore, tying generosity to character was most effective around age 8 or when students are entering Grade 3, and over the long term, children who associated generosity and morality as part of their own identities or character were significantly more likely to make moral and generous choices, rather than children who were simply praised for doing the right thing.

Generosity is a large part of morality:  being kind, showing empathy, and the ability to be the bigger person when the situation does not make it easy or when generosity doesn’t seem like the obvious choice.  Generosity is a trait better taught through action – a challenge given the Turkish government continues to deny its guilt.  Interestingly, and according to Grant’s article, when guilt is experienced, children are more likely to experience remorse, regret and empathy and aim to right their actions.  Perhaps it is for this reason that the government of Turkey will not accept blame or teach its citizenry about the Genocide.  Consequently, Armenian parents are faced with an additional layer of complexity:  demonstrating generosity and being the bigger person in an equation that includes much hurt and anger, and which is void of resolution.

Schools play a large role in teaching about morality sharing in the burden of genocide education.  As a parent of two students that attend the an Armenian Private School in Toronto, I learned that children are exposed to aspects of the Genocide as early as Kindergarten.  Every April, once the coloured eggs, bunny rabbits and baby chicks have been packed away, teachers begin laying the groundwork for learning about the Genocide.  There, children are told simply that their forefathers had to leave their ancestral lands for reasons such as their refusal to convert from Christianity – a clever tie-in considering the children just learned about Easter and the sacrifices made by Jesus for humankind.  In elementary school, children learn about memorializing the perished:  they place flowers at the base of a memorial statue and attend an annual assembly where the simpler facts around the Genocide are discussed again including the introduction to the concept of injustice resulting from denial.

I spoke to a Principal of an Armenian Private School, who stated that the topic of genocide does not get fully explored until Grade 11, when virtually every facet is discussed within an academic context and as part of the Toronto District School Board comparative genocide course.  The goal at the high school as exemplified by both the Armenian History teacher, and the high school teacher responsible for teaching the genocide course, is to ensure that students are equipped not just with the emotions and sense of empathy necessary when learning about the Genocide, but also with the facts and with a higher sense of morality about what is right and wrong within the context of international history, law and universal human rights.

In her Armenian history class, the Armenian History Teacher teaches students to move away from a “victim mentality” to one that leaves them with a sense of achievement in the strength, patience and endurance of the people.  Armenian revolutionaries are discussed alongside the historical facts and she stresses to her students that as a nation, Armenians have a higher moral code; that as Armenians, we are creators – not destroyers – that our own value system would not allow us to do to others that which was done to us.

The Genocide Studies teacher continues the hard work by teaching the school’s Grade 11 genocide course, which is a comparative study of genocide, starting with the Armenian Genocide and including the subsequent Holocaust, and Bosnian, Sudanese and Rwandan genocides.  Students are taught about the definition of genocide as well as the various stages of genocide with the essential first step being a discussion of the concept of universal right and wrong – an easy task, one would think, having been ingrained in children since they were toddlers.  However, as the teacher stated, when the concept of justice is introduced, and certainly as children get older and become adults, situations appear less ‘black-and-white’ as reason, rationale, experience and circumstance interfere with our clarity.

Justice is a concept of morality based on ethics, rationality, law, religion and fairness.  Morality, on the other hand, refers to the distinction between right and wrong.  So when a key tenet of Canadian society, justice, and consequently fairness, is taught to children, as students they are faced with a conflict as they struggle to be moral while reconciling with a past injustice.  For example, as an exercise, the teacher asks her students if they would commit those same acts if they came face-to-face with one of the Genocide’s perpetrators.  While a younger student would almost certainly say no, for these older students, the concept of justice and “an eye-for-an-eye” can really come into play.

The ideas of good and evil take on different meaning as we get older, changing our sense of morality.  We see atrocities that make us angry, allowing our emotions to overpower rationality and perhaps make us ready to inflict more evil in the name of morality.  And in today’s world, unfortunately these behaviours are sometimes more readily rewarded and sensationalized by the media.  The risk we run, however, is the risk of descending into vengeance and intolerance.

Yes, teaching morality is a responsibility for any good parent.  And teaching about the Armenian Genocide, while an important, complicated, difficult and heart wrenching element of the morality equation, is an imperative as it allows for the contradiction between moral and immoral, the dark – where as a nation we were completely victimized and dehumanized, and the light – where we are strong, have flourished, demand acceptance and fight to ensure that such an act never occurs again…to anyone.

As an Armenian-Canadian parent, married to a non-Armenian (or as I laughingly refer to him, a “converted Armenian”), I accept this burden.  Like all of these educators, I seek to educate those around me who are not aware of the Armenian Genocide and the injustices which my ancestors endured and which I continue to endure.  I did not ask for this burden – and would gladly wish that it not be mine – but I will be strong and teach my children to be strong, to lift their heads high and be proud, moral, educated Armenian-Canadians.


Armenian genocide cover