Happy Christmas!

We’re entering my favorite time of the year and unlike many, I don’t mind at all that it’s getting colder, that the days are getting shorter, and that soon the ground will be covered snow.  In the lead up to the holidays Christmas decorations are everywhere and people seem so much kinder, warmer and more tolerant.  Even those added extra hours of darkness don’t feel gloomy when I’m getting lost in all the magical, twinkling lights.  Like most, however, come March I’ll be willing the snow to melt and the warmth to return, but for the time being I’m just going to stop, press pause, and enjoy.

Despite all of the excitement around the holidays there are always those quiet moments when you can sit still, perhaps by a crackling fire enjoying a nice, hot latte (or something with more of a kick) and listening to some relaxing music…none of which I seem to have found quite yet.

For the past couple of years, I’ve been trying to teach my boys about the act of making resolutions. Resolutions make us acknowledge the passing of the old and give hope for the chance of something new and better.  Ancient Babylonians and Romans made resolutions and they can also be found in more religious holidays like Lent, when sacrifices are made as a form of penance.  At the very least, resolutions can help us to seek betterment through change – and change can be a good thing, right?

So this morning when I asked the boys what they thought of the year ending and another one beginning here’s what happened…

Me:  Boys, the year is almost over.  Soon it will be January and we will start fresh again.  What do you think of that?

4 year old:  Hmmph.  NINJA TURTLES!!!!!!

8 year old:  The year ending is bad.  Like, really bad.  I don’t want change.  I want everything to stay the same.

Me:  Really?  Are you sure?  It’s not bad, it’s just an end and then we start over with a new beginning.

8 year old:  Well, ok.  But I still don’t want it to change…unless of course we get hovercars.

Me:  WHA?!  Hover cars?  Or hover crafts?  Do you mean hover cars like the Speedors in Star Wars or hover crafts that go on water and land?

8 year old:  Not Speedors.  The first one.

Me:  Huh?!  First one? (Totally confused)

8 year old:  No.  Not Speedors.  Hover cars.  Like in Mario Kart 8.  We could all drive around in hover cars…then I’ll be happy with the new year.

Me:  Ummm ok.  So I think we’ve missed the point – a new year means a new chance at starting over and we can do that by making resolutions.  Like, I’ll be nicer to my parents this year, I’ll work harder this year, I won’t play as many video games *under my breath: because now I’m dreaming about hover cars…*

8 year old:  Definitely to be nicer.

4 year old:  I-WANT-TO-COLOUR!!!!

Me:  *Getting frazzled* Ummmm…great!  (Turning to 8 year old) And what do you mean by “nicer”?  You already are super nice.

8 year old:  Well then I want HIM to be nicer (points at 4 year old).  And I know what I don’t want.  I don’t want my ears to grow so big that I can hear everything in the world because then my teacher will get really mad when I can’t concentrate on what she’s saying in class …unless I plug my ears with bass drums, of course.

Of course.   The conversation continued for at least two more blocks about gigantic ears being able to touch outer space and the various moves of the Ninja Turtles and Jedi fighters and I thought to myself:  this has been a huge year for me.  A year full of changes of risks – some of which have paid off while others, I’m still waiting to appreciate.  In some ways the year flew by.  In some ways, it took an eternity for how could I have filled in so many things in the blink of an eye?

The only thing I can say to you, dear Reader, is as follows:  I hope you had a year full of wonder and growth.  I hope you learned something new and saw something that made you stop and think – for therein lies the magic.  I hope your losses will be overcome and that your pains will subside.  I hope you didn’t add very many more regrets to any that you may already have.  I hope you can allow yourself to let go of those regrets and instead hold onto the small moments – the ones that seem so insignificant while they’re happening for they are what will remain in the years to come.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Merry Christmas


The Great Outdoors Pt. II: You can take a fish out of water…or can you?

Summer’s over…it’s back to school and (slowly) back to writing.  But just before I completely leave my beloved season behind, thought I’d share this little happenstance from just a couple of weeks ago…  (Dedicated to all those city girls that put in the effort for their families – and especially to TSM, a true lover of cottaging – how do you do it?!)

This summer, my top priority was to take a break from everything routine – my blog, homework, extra-curricular activities and most especially electronics – and to focus on the great outdoors.  At least I tried anyway…minus my addiction to Candy Crush (I had resisted for so long!) a game where the object is to match up coloured candy in various patterns in order to progress to increasingly more challenging levels. You see, one night, seeing Mr. Niceguy so engrossed in this game, I snuck a peak and got sucked into candy land myself – didn’t matter that I’d been getting facebook requests on a daily basis, but like a lemming I followed Mr. Niceguy into his candy cavern and I swear I now see everything in “candy vision”:  can I shift that car over there and blast that row to drive into that spot?  Let me fork some salad, a piece of kebab dunked in hummus which then snatches some rice – quadruple effect!!

Bachelor-In-Paradise-August-4-2014-Recap-250x200(The lack of) summer TV programming also helped with my goal of getting back in touch with Mother Nature and “a simpler lifestyle”… particularly once the World Cup ended (which, in essence, was a total nightmare for a die-hard Espana fan such as me) but just until a couple of weeks ago, when Bachelor In Paradise started and my Achilles’ heel started to itch…I gave myself the green light – after all, the show is set in the “great outdoors” (ok, not quite the great outdoors but a contrived resort on the beaches of Tulum, Mexico).  But since I too would be going to the cottage for our annual pilgrimage soon, I figured this little indulgence was justified…it would lessen my dread of cottages and whet my appetite for some sand, sun and water activities…I couldn’t have been further from the truth.

Those who know me know that I’ve been quite vocal and unabashed about my dislike of cottaging.  It’s not that I don’t think it’s “of value” – particularly when it comes to children and forging a love of the outdoors, physical activity, creativity, and so on but still, I have to sit through hours of traffic to get to some remote destination where I “have the privilege” of doing all the cooking, cleaning, planning and entertaining…wait, isn’t that what I do at home anyway???!!  

I wasn’t always plagued with such an aversion; my “cottage allergy” has only become more severe since I had children.

Before then, I used to dislike cottaging because I was a bit of a priss and had a hard time letting go of my creature comforts like my favourite pillow, air conditioning, water pressure and the ability to flush the toilet as many times as I wanted (sit down you environmentalists – I do my part in other ways!) and not for strategic reasons like an inherent fear of clogging septic plumbing or worse yet, needing to drown out biological noises thanks to paper thin doors.  Before children, I could do it all and particularly well I might add when helped by a six-pack of beer, good company (especially when rehashing old camp songs and memories) and the ability to stay on the swim-party-sleep cycle indefinitely.  But post children…I’m totally out of my comfort zone and constantly fighting off the bloodsucking bugs (I’m referring to the mosquitos and black flies of course) that seem to relish in tormenting me!  So I ask…why bother?!

As a Canadian born Armenian growing up in the Middle East during its golden age, I had all the makings of a city girl and rugged adventurer!  As my family moved from one cosmopolitan locale to the next, my father, an avid outdoorsman, ensured that my sister and I developed a strong love of nature as he taught us to climb the mountains of Taif (Saudi Arabia), survival swim in the Red Sea and of course join scouting (or guiding as it were) to then rough it in the great Canadian outdoors.  While my sister ended up being much closer to Mother Nature, my relationship with Her was one that was more subdued.

The City captured my imagination – its noises and lights like a constant disco that I couldn’t get enough of – it filled my soul and for many, many years, I was happily at its mercy.  It wasn’t really until I had my boys that I really rediscovered nature – or at least was forced to rediscover nature – and I realized that if my relationship with nature was going to have any chance, I was going to have to put in the effort and let go of much more than I thought…

My struggle is best encapsulated by one particular incident from our recent trip (though believe me, I have many to choose from).  I nearly lost my mind when I handed my prized (and very-typically-not-backed-up) iPhone over to my 4 year old who was begging to take a picture of a speedboat on the dock.  While I was correcting his position (he kept taking snapshots of his own hand) he dropped my phone and everything went in slow motion:  phone, floating through the air, rotating over and over, slipping through the planks on the dock that was floating thirteen feet above the cold, black lake, and landing on the floatation device underneath – all with the gorgeous backdrop of the setting sun…AAARRRGGGHHHH!!!!!!

I felt like I was in a movie…like I was having an out of body experience and I kid you not, I was Hugh Grant. Flopsy, awkward and positively cornered Hugh Grant in Four Weddings and a Funeral – you know the scene, the one when he’s about to marry Duck Face at the church:  bugger, bugger, bugger…BUGGER!   But what came out of my mouth instead, first in utter disbelief followed by shock and catastrophe, in increasing crescendo and volume was one profanity after the next:  *Bleep* the cottage!  *Bleep* the great outdoors!  *BLEEPITY-BLEEP-BLEEP* the thought that I could actually let go long enough to appreciate any of it!!

coming undoneI could see my phone…balancing precariously on its edge…like my mental state…and at that moment I vowed not to abandon it – my only connection to civilization and the last vestige of who I am.  Never mind that I’d entered into a state of hysteria and was ready to tear each individual hair on my head, I would NOT walk away until the glow from the screen faded away.

Out poured all of my frustrations (at great volume, I might add) – the cooking, the cleaning, the refereeing, juxtaposed with the freedom and expanse of the great outdoors – I was a fish out of water and hated it.  I was coming undone.  I felt trapped and cornered and like I was slowly slipping through the crack myself…but surely this city girl had faced worse than this?  And it was in that one moment – in that break from the insanity – that I came up with part of a solution.  Hearing it through my wails and my tears, Mr. Niceguy took over, reached in and saved the day.

Embarrassed by my behaviour, I shrank away.  I took my beloved phone to my car, plugged it in to listen to some music and realized…that despite my absolute and complete effort to NOT partake in my surroundings, I had just survived an adventure…in the great outdoors, no less!  And despite a battered ego, I came out unscathed with a story to boot!  Perhaps it wasn’t all that bad.  Perhaps I could do it again – after all summer is virtually over and school is about to start maybe I could learn to be more of an outdoors woman?  Or perhaps next time, it can be a boys’ getaway instead…

running on dock

WANTED: The rest of my eyebrow…

When one starts to egotistically indulge, the universe finds a way to “right-size” their ego…

Part of my eyebrow went missing and I honestly can’t remember where it went.  What’s worse?  I can’t even remember when it was last there…oh, what the rest of my eyebrow must be thinking of me.

Did I tweeze it away?  Did I pull at it?  Did it simply rub off while I slept?  I can’t say…  Perhaps it is a new kind of facial baldness?  Is this the symptom of another affliction?  A side-effect of aging that gets overshadowed by the soon-to-arrive-at-some-point “Big Change”?  Quite frankly, if so, then womankind, fellow sisters, you have done me a great disservice by keeping me in the dark on this one.

I had to figure out what it was like to first kiss a boy and what it meant to get to “all the bases” on my own – and while child labour was a mystery (not to mention the notion of parenting in its entirety), no one, and I mean, NO-BODY ever said anything to me about the possibility of losing part of my eyebrow, an essential feature on my FACE!

It’s absolutely no wonder, then, that the sun’s been shining brighter from “the west” – my God given (and now taken away) natural parasol is missing an arm.  Yet, how could I have not noticed before?  Did I become so intoxicated by the sun’s kisses?

I could’ve done something about it had I first noticed its departure. I should’ve done something about it when I first noticed it was missing…but what?  I suppose I could’ve been more proactive…it’s been some time now…only, I don’t know how long as I’ve been avoiding my face (well at least that region).  When I first caught a glimpse I was so appalled!  I went into denial…I just thought if I didn’t think about it, it wouldn’t be true.  I blamed it on the light and shadows.

I blamed it on the relentless winter and undulating weather (although we are now in a much more steady summer-ish pattern, it seems to me that one can almost always be justified in blaming the weather for virtually anything).

Oh!  If only I could recall the moment.  My brain is trying to preserve me…to keep me from finding the real cause…and ergo, the true culprit!  I know I should’ve been more concerned about my appalling diet…but I’ve been good!  I bought the fancy blender, I’ve had my near-daily smoothies and powered through the detox headaches.  Overall, I’m living a much more clean lifestyle when it comes to eating and drinking (ok, minus the three beers at a friend’s house but it’s World Cup and that only comes but once every four years and so I could be given some leniency, could I not?)

Oh.  My.  God.  That could very well be it!  Perhaps it was all part of the detoxification.  Perhaps that part of my eyebrow was actually toxic and the rest of my body did what it needed to survive…like gangrene?  Had that part of my eyebrow succumbed to necrosis, and was the rest of my eyebrow just undergoing euthanasia?  Well, if that’s the case, do I give thanks?  No, that’s insane.  I’m going off the deep end.  I must recall how it happened.  WHY CAN’T I JUST REMEMBER?!

Wait.  Maybe if I stare in the mirror long enough I’ll get a flashback.  Like in those movies or crime dramas when they have temporary amnesia and then all of a sudden, lightning strikes…FLASH!!  OK, here goes…but wait.  What if I focus and stare at it and I get nothing?  And what if it never comes back?

No. Be brave.  S – t – a – r – e…….and THINK!  I see it…baby blue with white polka dots….a tweezer…oh, and I’m going in…STOP!!!!

And that’s how my day started just yesterday…it ended in the emergency room – not because of anything to do with the trivialities above…but because the four year old experienced an allergic reaction to a cashew.  Which really put things in perspective.

Now my four year old is happily sitting on the couch, watching one of his favourite movies, eating his favourite indulgence…one that he rarely ever gets.  And I’m grateful…missing eyebrow and all.

missing eyebrow

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

Delayed at Procrastination Station

This one’s for Mr. Niceguy…who ever so sweetly purchased a book for me all about being Happy!  xoxoxo

Once again I find myself in procrastination station but instead of beating myself up, I got a little help from none other than the Big Man upstairs…

It’s 1:05pm and just over 96 hours ago, with the prospect of a long weekend ahead, I had compiled a list of much needed projects to complete:  tackle new outdoor lighting, replace kitchen faucet which has been on the fritz for over 3 years (no word of a lie but a fritz that just doesn’t really merit the effort), consider applying for a blogging gig, and buy outfit for special dinner in my honour.

Oh, and of course, being one who is very involved in my culture and community, I have about a million obligations borne out of my volunteering.  So where do I begin?

Here I thought that leaving a job that afforded me with very little time to manage house, home, family and self, would now provide me with the kind of space I needed to “get it all done.”  Not quite.  But then, I can’t blame it all on the work – or no work.  For you see, the reason for my procrastination is not because of laziness, fear or an unwillingness for change.  Rather, it is my absolute tendency towards being ever-so-slightly, a self-diagnosed ‘haver’ of ADD.

royal-tenenbaumsLike just this past weekend out of the sheer goodness of my heart and inherent, perpetual guilt, I had agreed that Mr. Niceguy, the 7 year old and 4 year old would accompany my parents to a post-church Easter dinner.  While I wasn’t thoroughly excited to attend this dinner, I’m glad I did for what I observed would have provided much fodder for a Wes Anderson movie (think The Royal Tannenbaums or The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou)…

As we took our seats, I thanked the heavens that I’d had the wherewithal to bring along gaming devices for the boys for like most large-scale dinner events, we were in it for the long haul.  At every place setting there was one ruby coloured egg to be used for the “Easter egg wars” (he or she who has the last remaining, uncracked egg, wins!) and a cookie in the shape of the cross.  While the priest announced that we were not to touch the eggs, the cross appeared to be fair game and while I was busying myself with my own diversions, before I knew it those crosses were being held by guns by the 4 year old (!!!) and while he virtually stood on his chair yelling, “Pow!  Pow!  Pow!” I had to fight my every instinct to crawl under the table or smack that cookie out of his hands and politely asked him to please refrain from such boorish behaviour and to recall that God was watching him from above and so every single Octonaut toy would be confiscated by Him, never to be returned again.

Seemingly, everything was now in the “all clear” and I could return to the task at hand:  research for one of my volunteering commitments.  When all of a sudden, I heard a light rustling…and a little bit of a ‘crack-crack’.  Then that sweet, sulphuric, signature smell that can only mean one thing…an egg that would never make it to the egg wars.  Staring down both of my children, asking them to reveal to me who had broken the egg, they looked at me with those cherubic eyes and swore it wasn’t them.  So I turned, and right next to me was a bag, which formerly housed the cross cookie (now gone), filled with none other than ruby coloured eggshells, used tissues, and all sorts of other garbage…there on MY bread plate left by a neighbouring dinner companion!  This person had also hijacked my fork and was ever-so-slightly inching her seat over so that my claustrophobia started to kick in!

I felt grossly violated – at least my personal space did.  In an effort to avoid an absolute meltdown, I buried myself in my phone – from Instagram and Facebook to the new Realtor App (always getting ideas…) and Houzz – and neglected much of what was going on around me.

I began to block things out and in turn, found solace.  So what if I couldn’t be enjoying the sun, watching the world go by at a café with a latte in hand, so what if I was on automatic pilot and had responded to the dozen or so questions from my children about when the dinner would finally be served or for that matter, what we would be having for dinner, and so what if I was blatantly bribing them to stay put, stop using the cross cookies as guns and stop asking about the egg fights that they could stay up later and watch the shows they’d missed since they had to be at this event.  I was trying to survive.  Until…

Lo and behold, all of a sudden, I came face-to-face with the priest – and unfortunately I was the one uncensored.  My face was frozen in a weird sort of scowl slash look of disgust as I thought long and hard about the contents of that bag now on my bread plate, the lady at the next table making strange pucker faces at a baby who probably couldn’t see farther than its own hand and didn’t have the neck muscles to turn away, and the smell of cigarettes that somehow kept wafting over thanks to a group of “young adults” that kept ducking outside for a quick smoke making my throat constrict and my eyes water.  Had he been alerted by the “higher-ups” of my uncharitable thoughts?  Had God himself sent him over to remind me that there are more important things than my sense of space or my laundry list of things to do?  Either way, there he was, right in front of me.

I don’t consider myself a religious person.  But I do believe that there is something greater than us all.  Connecting us all.  And the thought that there is someone that watches over me and keeps me from, well, I’ll just call them life’s great burdens, is comforting.

96 hours after listing all of my “grand plans” I have accomplished nearly nothing…but I did watch the 7 year old make it as a finalist in the egg wars and the 4 year old try and skip stones at the beach afterwards while Mr. Niceguy and I took stock of our present.  I think I’ll hang out here, in procrastination station just a little while longer…although wait, what’s for dinner?!

sign from heaven