Red Jellybeans…

We’ve often heard that the only thing one can be certain of in life, is uncertainty. Call it change, call it growth, call it whatever you will, I call it – stress, discombobulation, and absolute chaos.

While knowing that the sun will always rise in the east, and fall in the west – I cannot count on seeing the sun every, single day. For some, this is not a big a deal. They roll with the punches and most of all, they don’t put as much stock into certainty. But for someone like me, someone who needs predictability and order to help me get through the day, it’s amazing just how much a little bit more to the left or a sudden change to the right can affect my world.

The end of the school year is always a hectic one – and it has been for as long as I can remember.

When we were kids, growing up on the other side of the world in Saudi Arabia, the end of the school year meant that we were packing our suitcases for weeks long vacations through Europe and to come and visit my dad’s family here in Canada. It meant that I could go from my daily routine of school, to being able to ride bikes down the hill at my cousin’s house (and try not to crash in the parked cars!) in idyllic Hamilton, or swing from the tire swing at the park near my grandma’s house in St. Catharines and best of all, walk down the street and buy a Freezie from the convenient store.

My mom would pack those suitcases for days, my dad would make sure all the papers, hotel reservations and tickets were in order. All I had to do was show up, little sister in tow.  Now it’s my turn. And there are days when I truly feel like I’m drowning in all the chaos; drowning in all of the choices and responsibilities; unable to see the calm.

They say it’s personality.

Some people have this innate ability to navigate their way through life without ever letting on that the pressure is getting to them.

I, on the other hand, am the epitome of a pressure cooker…with a release valve that seemingly appears to be sealed shut…until it’s not.

And it very loudly alerts all those around that I’m about to go off!!

I repeat to myself, over and over again, “I must try and take my steps more lightly. I must try and take my steps more lightly.” I mean, they will not define my every being. Yet the pressure in the cooker increases and it gets louder and I can barely hear myself above the FFFFFSSSSSHHHHHHHH!!!!!!

Part of the problem is me, of course. Like most modern women, we want it all. Like most modern women, we don’t want to let any of the balls we’re juggling come tumbling to the ground because they’re important to us: partners, kids, family, jobs, friends, commitments and so on. Like most modern women, we even find it difficult to just put any one of those balls on the shelf or in our pocket even for a moment for fear that we may be missing out on something or worse yet, make the wrong choice.

Oh to have the strength of clarity…even in the face of uncertainty!

My seven year old is exceptional at limits and at being direct. He does what he does in such a way as to not even show any doubt in his decision making abilities and eventual choices. That is, unless of course it’s free dress day and he has to wear what his best friend is going to wear and I have to miraculously guess what that’s going to be!

In any case, every week when the boys would go to their swim class, as a reward for a job well done, they’d each get a quarter to use on the dispensing machines on our way out. These machines are a child’s dream: an assortment of candies and bouncy balls. My older son now has a healthy collection of bouncy balls – a testament to his many weeks of hard work and perseverance. My younger son, on the other hand does not. Not because he doesn’t also earn his quarters, but because he prefers to use his quarter to buy jellybeans, a consumable that’s gone within minutes.

I cannot understand the seven year old’s choice. The almost eleven year old and I are the same: we like stuff that lasts. Neither of us are good at delayed gratification (i.e. saving those quarters for something bigger in the end) but we sure do like our stuff. And those bouncy balls are a metaphor for things…material things…trophies! The seven year old is more like Mr. Niceguy: all about the experience.

One week, unable to let go, and accept buying jellybeans as a wise way to use his quarter, I asked the seven year old,

“Why do you keep buying jellybeans? Don’t you know we can easily get these at the store and you can have them whenever you want? Don’t you CARE about bouncy balls?”

To which he replied most matter-of-factly, “I CARE about red jellybeans.”

Point made. I was completely surprised and delighted all at once. This little boy had the freedom to choose but most importantly he had given himself the freedom to be at peace with his choice. There’s a lesson here…

Nothing is perfect – so it follows that uncertainty is a normal state. However, in it, there are elements of certainty: love, fun, laughter and our amazing ability to come through whatever it is we face – even if we’re not exactly who we were when we started. And while there will be days when the loud FSSSSHHHH of the pressure cooker seems to completely block my ears and keep me from remembering to take my steps more lightheartedly, I know I’ll get through them, one red jellybean at a time.

Epilogue: Modern day life is complicated. While many advances have contributed to increasing the length and quality of our lives, they have also presented us with more choices and options than ever before which can sometimes be daunting. Taking a step back, a deep breath and listening to what we really want despite what we think we want, as difficult as it can be, is a good way to move ahead. Try it…and have a safe and happy summer!

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+

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

Field trip through the ages…

Recently I had the distinct pleasure of accompanying the 7 year old’s class on a school field trip to the new Ripley’s Aquarium in downtown Toronto as a parent volunteer.  I was responsible for my son and two other boys from his class – together, Les Trois Mousquetaires, and with Athos, Porthos and Aramis to my d’Artagnan, we set off on our adventure:  all for one, and one for all!  The shenanigans these muskateers pulled were absolute classic from insisting that they knew more than the guides, to suggesting the existence of extinct mega-sharks (megaladon shark – more deadly than the T-Rex!) in the tanks to passersby – but these were no match to their absolute glee, exhilaration and delight over their adventure.  This got me thinking…

During my elementary school years, I remember looking forward to field trips with such excitement that I would lose sleep at night or continuously ask my parents “how much longer ‘til I go?” and prepare, redo and refine lists of things to bring, what to wear and weigh decisions about who to sit next to or pair up with.  Ahhh…the field trip.  So many wonderful things would happen on the field trip…

sea cucumberIn the early years, it was all about getting out of the routine of being in a classroom and – for the über nerd in me – the opportunity to learn by doing instead of by reading.  Growing up in Saudi Arabia had its advantages and I will never forget the one field trip that our school was able to organize (at the time, field trips were generally tricky for expats in Saudi for a number of reasons).  Aside from extracurricular activities at school that consisted of ballet, computers (which in the early 80s were a real treat) and survival swimming (I would swear that I could hold my breath for a full two minutes underwater and tread water for over 15 minutes fully clothed, shoes and all) this field trip supplemented my regular classroom learning and shaped me in a very profound way.  I was taken to the Red Sea where I was able to swim with many exotic species and was even given a sea cucumber to hold which in its frightened state, defecated on my hand.  True story.  And despite that one event, it was on that field trip that a love of adventure (and the sea) really took hold.

Years later in high school, field trips provided the opportunity to find the courage to sit next to the boy I had a crush on and was otherwise too shy to approach.  Somehow field trips broke barriers and allowed for the transcending between classes – and by that I don’t mean grades or levels.  There were the mean girls, the jocks, the nerds, the Italians, the preps, the headbangers, and so on and so forth.  I fell into none of these categories as my three very close friends and I were drifters and spoke to people in all groups regardless of boundaries – though that didn’t mean we belonged.  Again, I attributed this to my sense of adventure – never wanting to set roots or belong to any one group or place, instead experiencing as much as possible.

One particular field trip to watch a production of Shakespeare’s MacBeth led me to an on-again-off-again boyfriend and a relationship that would last throughout most of high school; a relationship that may never have been possible otherwise.  He ran with a pack that socialized only with a certain group, but it was on field trip day that I got noticed, as barriers came down and I was viewed through more objective lenses.

Years later, it would be the corporate retreat or holiday party that replaced the school field trip.  Call it what you will:  teambuilding, leadership training, soft skill building workshops, blah-blah-blah training.  The reality is that these corporate retreats are just adult field trips – nothing more than boondoggles and opportunities for hookups and scandal!  Though I never partook in the hookup and scandal part (for most of my corporate life I have been spoken for and have had enough wherewithal to not jeopardize things with my Mr. Niceguy), I certainly was not above the gossip, rumour or conjecture and it was amazing to see how a change from the routine, once again, would result in many a lapse in judgement, atypical behavior and regret.  And the holiday parties or socials were no different – just a retreat packed into a few hours rather than a few days.

My tendencies again, ingrained, once more would reveal themselves:  adventurous and fun loving and perhaps a little naïve.  I’ve written in the past about being emboldened by one such work party and ordering round after round of Kamikaze shots for “all my friends at the bar”, while standing next to the company president.  Though perhaps I haven’t written about my tendency to also have a couple of drinks, jump up on a bar (or any elevation really) and shake my groove thang!  Once again, I blame it on the field trip.  Regardless of my day-to-day self, field trips have a way of bringing out one’s hidden side…

So today, it was nice to see the beginnings of the “field trip persona” for my Trois Mousquataires…especially evident when Athos, or was it Porthos, or perhaps Aramis exclaimed, “this is the best day of my life so far.”  As a sort of d’Artagnan, or student to the ways of these 7 year olds, they reminded me of the simplicity of life and the ability to find pure joy in the everyday which triggered so many memories, flooding my brain.

It is a rare privilege to get a glimpse of people experiencing moments that will shape them forever – whether they’re moments of real learning, of overcoming, or even of regret.  In my case, I wonder…perhaps when these three musketeers are older, they will recall this field trip – with that same twinkle in their eyes – as the start of something…

Until the next field trip!!

three muskateers

SCATTERBRAIN…if only for just one day…

I’m going to take a moment and date myself.  In 1989, Vachon (manufacturer of the pastry called “Flaky”) ran a commercial about a woman – a very scattered woman – that annoyed me to no end.  In those early teenage years I used to wonder how someone could be so scattered, so bewildered, and yes, flaky?  And now, in an ironic twist of fate, I AM HER!

There are days when it’s a wonder that I’ve managed to actually put myself together, get the kids to school with packed lunches and homework completed, and then myself to work.  How does one do it?  Autopilot mostly.  But this particular morning, my autopilot had a massive glitch and here’s what happened instead:

  • I forgot that I changed the station on my circa 1990’s alarm clock from the news to music in an effort to make my “reveille” much more civilized but though my intentions were good, all that resulted was that my dreams were set to great background ambience – in other words, I got up more than half an hour later than usual.
  • The 3 year old (almost 4) woke up with an extremely runny nose and I spent about 10 minutes trying to fish out…well, he calls them “burgers”…
  • The 7 year old remembered that he forgot to remind me YESTERDAY that Mondays are library days and since we’ve already lost one book, I thought it might be wise to spend a few seconds looking for the latest one borrowed before I end up funding an entirely new collection of books at the school library.  Only, it never actually takes a few seconds…AAARRRGGGHHHH!!!
  • Just when I thought I was finally ready to leave, a quick final glance in the mirror and I found more greys in an already, severely damaged section of my head thanks to the trials and tribulations of PREGNANCY from which, after four years, my hair is STILL recovering (on most days, side parts are sadly, a thing of the past).
  • My skirt hem came undone, the plastic thingy at the bottom of my car door is on the verge of falling off, my so-called winter boots which do nothing to keep out the cold also proved that they are useless in keeping out the snow and my poor toes have transformed into pale, blue nubs at the end of my feet, and after taking three times longer than usual to drop off the kids at school, I realized I had left my laptop at home and would be adding another hour and a half to my morning commute.

These occurrences must be a sign of my frozen brain – the electrons are just not firing.  So quick, FIND WHITE, STARK, PADDED CELL.  Failing that, stay at home; only then can one be sure to avoid more mishap.  Besides, change of routine can be good, so today is work from home day.  I can be much, much more productive – no disruptions, no social coffee runs, no discussions of how the weekend was (which in my case was a bit of a bust so fortunately, no need to rehash) and no temptations for a heavy, calorie laden lunch (poutine, pasta, chicken pot-pie…it’s that kind of a day…)  No, I will stay at home, get all of my work done tout-suite, and have a very healthy lunch which will surely fuel my brain to produce some of the best work ever seen!

Right.  Laptop fired up.  Logged onto work network.  Ready to go.  But wait…it feels a little cool.  I’ll just go and put on a sweater.  Yay, love working from home.  No high heels, or suit jackets required.  Wow, it’s still really cold and the house temperature appears to be normal…oh no, am I going though perimenopause?  (I have an irrational fear of menopause and everything related to it – seriously, just the mere mention of it sends me straight to anxiety-ville) But wait, that’s hot flashes, not chills, that must mean…oh no, am I getting the 3 year old’s cold??  Ukh…

I can’t concentrate.  Maybe I just need to tidy up – clear work environment equals clear mind.  Done.  Now what?  Write report or do research?    Speaking of research…I still need to book that hotel in Whistler and check out a good Prosecco for a very dear friend…  No!  Must do work.  Must be productive.  A quick glance at the bottom right of the screen and I’m saved.  No wonder I can’t think…it’s almost lunchtime.  Yes, surely I’ll be more productive after some nourishment.

Oh.  My.  God.  I am full.  I think I just need a nice, warm cup of coffee to help me digest…

The distractions are everywhere…the excuses, limitless.  But I finally hankered down, got some work done, recommended a Prosecco or two and even checked out some hotel options, and the truth of the matter is that it did take a lot less time to get stuff done here, than it would have at the office.  So now, I’m going to take my annoying, flaky self, and do something I never have a chance to do on a regular work day…PLAY.  The sun has peaked out from behind the clouds, the snow looks soooo inviting and despite my soggy boots, I’ve just gotta get out there because before I know it, I’m going to have to leave my little padded cell and re-enter the real world.

Snow day

Short…but oh, so sweet!

7 year old:  Mummy why is the sky blue?

Me:  Hmmm…*not sure but should give answer.  Am adult.  Older and therefore wiser.*  Why, it’s because of all those chemicals floating about in the atmosphere…

Mr. Niceguy:  Well, ummm, more accurately, it’s the way light travels from the sun in waves, like radio waves or energy waves, and through the gases and particles in our atmosphere… blah, blah, blah…

bluesky.en

7 year old:  Mummy, how long will the earth survive?  When will the earth end?

Me:  *My boy is so smart.  So inquisitive.  Wait, are we back in that death phase when he was constantly thinking about how people die when they reach one hundred and his time is running out?!*  Hmmm…thousands and thousands of years…

Mr. Niceguy:  Well, no.  That’s not quite true…

Me:  Yes it is.  I mean, sure it’s longer than that *whisper to Mr. Niceguy – he’s 7 (i.e. can we put it in terms that he’ll get please?!)* but you know what with global warming, and overcrowding, and…

Mr. Niceguy:  Son, there are a number of theories on this point.  And man is always coming up with new technologies and ideas to combat things like global warming, density and overpopulation.  The earth has a life of many, many millennia remaining Me thinking:  Just say billions for crying out loud!   Eventually we may travel too close to the sun and then it will be too hot for life to survive and…

Red_Giant_Earth_warm

When it comes to my 7 year old, and the 100+ questions I get asked daily, I often feel I have to have the right answer.

Even if I’m uncertain, somehow I must “logic” my way through

While some may say (ahem, Mr. Niceguy) that this behavior is perhaps unhealthy and we should teach our children that spreading the truth is more important than being right or appearing to be an all-knowing, wise shaman-type, omniscient being, well, with a bruised ego I retort, how about some confidence and the ability to think on one’s feet and use logic to argue a point?  Any takers?

Truth is, I do agree that arming a child with the skills to go and seek answers, conduct research and certainly to uphold good, moral values like truth, honesty and yes, humility is very important…but for now, just in this fleeting time, it’s nice being the alpha to omega, the end all and be all, for the 7 year old…before I know it, he’ll be calling my bluff and be too embarrassed to hold my hand in public.

At the age of 7, my parents were my everything.  While my dad was superman, my mom was the very beautiful wonderwoman.  And although this sentiment has persisted…it’s certainly not in the same form.

And then, there is that other issue.  That competitive issue.  The one when you know that there is that smarter, wiser, stronger and in my case, much calmer, more rational and certainly more logical person standing right next to you who is always prepared to be the voice of reason and truth…Mr. Niceguy.

I have a vivid imagination and I believe that puts me in good stead with children.  Sometimes teaching by consequence is just not enough like, if you stick your finger in an electrical socket you will become electrocuted with 10,000 volts.  Or, when you don’t eat your vegetables, your body doesn’t get the fuel it needs in the form of important vitamins and minerals – the building blocks – to perform.  I resort to my grandparents’ methods:  “If you don’t eat your veggies, you won’t grow properly and you will just make the devil happy and more powerful.”

So when the universe throws me an opening and things all go my way…

7 year old:  Mummy what’s the closest planet to the sun?

Me:  *AWESOME!!!!!  I GOT THIS ONE!!!*  Mercury!

Mr. Niceguy:  Uhh…I don’t think so…

Me:  *AGHAST. *  What?!  It’s Mercury?  You know, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus (tee hee) and Neptune

Mr. Niceguy:  I think we’ll need to check on that…

Me:  *Huh?*  Check on what?!  Google it!  Wikipedia!  I know I’m right.  It’s MERCURY!

Later that evening Mr. Niceguy confirmed my answer with the internet and told me I was right.  And I smiled the most beatific smile.  It feels so good…wouldn’t you agree?

I told you so

What to expect when you’re expecting…

I’m borrowing this title…and taking it out of the “expecting” context – in the pregnancy sense, that is.  Having cleared out my bookshelves to make room for new reads in the new year, I noticed just how many books I bought on pregnancy, a mere 9 months of my life (how can I say this about such an important time? I’ve had children.  If you haven’t, well, all I can say is, you’ll see).  What I need is a What to Expect for some of life’s OTHER main events.  Like…

What to Expect When You’re Expecting…How to Handle the Holidays edition, or What to Expect When You’re Expecting…Post Holiday Survival Guide.

Since I can remember, the holidays have been a time I’ve looked forward to with all my being

Better than birthdays, better than a bonus day off, better than finding the secret stash of cash hidden in a sock, at the back of your closet, in an old pair of boots in case of an emergency:  to me, the Christmas holiday season always felt like I had won the lottery – there just seems to be a sprinkling of fairy dust in the air!

Most everyone is excited about the change in routine – a couple of days off work, holiday break from school, time with friends and family, and if you’re lucky, a visit from the guy in the red suit complete with a little trinket, or two!  Not to mention the absolute joy while watching the faces of the 7.5 year old and nearly 4 year old as they tear through package after package of carefully planned  presents (some educational, some that will surely encourage imagination, and others that will simply turn their brains to utter mush).  But the greatest gift for me does not come in a package:  it is the excuse to bring together friends and family, to feed them, entertain them, and watch as they relate under my roof; truly, the present I look forward to all year long.

However, to know me would also be to understand that I am by no means a Martha Stewart, Jamie Oliver (love him!) or Barefoot Contessa.  Though I try really hard to be inventive and imaginative, inevitably, the stress of the holidays takes hold and things almost never turn out as I expected…or imagined…

For starters, though I invite my family over for the holidays months in advance and every year, I am amazed at how quickly they forget that they are ATTENDEES at the party, and NOT the hosts.  This of course is extremely typical in the Armenian culture – and especially with moms.  Nevermind that I own a home, am married, work for a living and have birthed two children, it seems there is still a seeming lack of trust (??!) around this annual gathering…

Mom:  Calls me at work, sometime late November.  Hello dear.  How are you?  I’m starting to make my plans for Christmas eve dinner.  What are you planning on serving?

Me:  In the middle of juggling at least three balls at once…  Hi mom…wait, what?!  Are you calling me at work to ask me about the Christmas eve dinner menu?

Mom:  Why yes.  Yes indeed.  What were you thinking of serving?

Me:  Mom, it’s still NOVEMBER!!! 

Mom:  But it’s December next week.  Your dad and I want to know so that we can prepare our plans for shopping.

Me:  BUT – IT’S – STILL – NOVEMBER!!  I don’t know what I’m going to do, I haven’t thought that far ahead.  Oh.  My.  God.  MOM!!!!   I’m at work!  Somehow I think reiterating this obvious point will change things???

Mom:  Yes dear, but you have to think of these things.  How’s everyone going to know what to bring?

Me:  Getting angry and loud…kick door shut before I totally lose my cool at the office.  It’s not a POTLUCK!  It’s Christmas eve DINNER!  And I’m making it!!

Mom:  Still totally calm tones.  Well dear.  You are so busy.  How about I make the turkey, the stuffing, the rice, all of the sides and bring a fruit platter.  Why don’t you just make a couple of salads.?????????????????????????????????

Me:  0 to 200mph / Defcon 1 / Full blown nuclear.  WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?!  It’s MY house.  It’s MY dinner party. It’s MY menu!  Why can’t you just come over and be a guest?  Why do you have to take over?!!!  Why are you making me think about this NOW!??!   I HAVE SO MUCH TO DO BEFORE THEN!!!

Mom:  Still calm (HOW?!  HOW DO THEY STILL REMAIN CALM??!!)  Yes sweetheart.  But you’re planning a party and you don’t have a menu.  And we all know you’re busy.  It’s ok.  I will take care of things.  The family has been asking about what to bring.  We’re all trying to make our preparations.  But most of all, we just want to help you.  You’ve been so nervous and on edge lately…

Me:  Confused.  Defeated.  Exasperated.  Feeling guilty.   Look mom.  I’m at work.  Please, can you not make any more plans about MY party.  We’ll need to talk about this later.  I have to go now.  (Totally feeling shamed for screaming…it’s an Armenian parent specialty) Umm…oh, and thank you for wanting to help.

Mom:  Ok dear.  Nice talking to you.  Just take care of yourself.  All this stress isn’t good, you know.  Are you taking vitamins?  Oh, and don’t take too long to get back to us.  Bye!

Oh boy.  I swear it’s the same every year.  Why isn’t THAT what I was expecting??!  And needless to say, little did I know back at the end of November, that this conversation was just the beginning…a torturous couple of weeks at work, the Christmas eve dinner that had to be cancelled due to the ice storm and power outage, and then the absolute apex of unexpected events, the passing of our beloved Zoom.  The little fish I, without any premonition, wrote about some weeks ago…

If I was going to write some sort of a (survival) guide or manual, it would have the following title – What to Expect when all of your expectations are dashed:  Just go with it!  And that’s what we did;  it’s what I did.  Christmas Eve dinner became the very first New Year’s Eve dinner, I accepted help from all those around me, and in the end, it was my mom that brought the salad.

Wishing you the very best in 2014!

mother-and-daughter-holiday

Epilogue:  Zoom passed sometime between the eve and actual day of Armenian Christmas (January 5/6).  He will always be remembered by our household, especially the 7.5 year old who shared his room with him for just over 2.5 years.  I will forever be grateful for how he bonded our family together (in that special way that only pets can) and the little lesson he taught me:  to get up and go after what I want.

The above is dedicated to Zoom T. and to a very brave woman who lived Zoom’s lesson.  I hope to follow in both your footsteps…

me and zoom

If it’s good enough for Gwenyth…

There’s a feature in US magazine that makes a regular appearance, Stars – They’re just like us.  I used to think it was cheesey and really such a stretch – like who actually feels better about themselves when they see that yes, J.Lo actually pumps her own gas?  Really?  But about the time that I had the seven year old many, many, moons ago, I had an epiphany…

It was day 9, 10 or 11 back from the hospital.  Those days are all a big blur and I believe they are because my mind has made (and continues to make) the greatest of all efforts to shield me from the trauma I experienced.  I was the first in my closest circle of friends to have a baby.  Yes, I had been exposed to them and yes I come from a large extended family so babies were being born when I was in my late teens but it’s not quite the same until you pop one out yourself…somehow, you skip all the nasty bits.

Anyway…it was day 9, 10 or 11…and it was following one particular feeding that lasted over 3 hours with me isolated in the bedroom with just my baby boy, during a small dinner party hosted by me that I thought, with tear stained cheeks, there must be another way.  I had naively thought that my small collection of baby books would prepare me – albeit, up to that point I had focused mainly on the pregnancy part and didn’t bother to read about how things would turn out once the baby arrived – a grave mistake.

I should have heeded the warning signs:  I was terribly concerned about having the right hair and natural looking makeup for the delivery.  And I honestly thought that once the baby popped out, we would all get cleaned up and then poof, be back in the sanctuary of our home to start a full year’s vacation from work!

Baby would just be a project – and I would have all the time in the world to figure things out…

So when I was told I had to stay overnight because they wanted to observe the little guy I was slightly put out, but smiled and complied…until I was rudely awoken at 6 am and asked by a very cross nurse, “Did you wake that baby and feed him overnight?  When was the last time he nursed?!”  And apparently, before I passed out 8 hours ago wasn’t good enough – nor was my response, “Why would I wake him up?  He was asleep.  Do you have a bottle somewhere?”  The look of horror on that nurse’s face was laughable to me then.  There I was, this straight A student, this total cheeky, know-it-all with a plan, smiling away…but she had the last laugh, I’m sure of it.

People GwenythIn any case.  Day 9, 10 or 11, worst feed EVER, tear stained cheeks and I thought to myself.  Gwenyth had her daughter, Apple some months ago.  She’s a very busy lady and movie star.  How does she do it?  And while maneuvering with my son in my arms, I opened up a special issue People Magazine that featured all the celebrity moms and babies and there it was, my salvation, at the very bottom of the page, Gwenyth Paltrow’s nanny book.  Her nanny had written a book!  And the very next day, I got my hands on that book because I figured, if it’s good enough for Gwenyth, it’s good enough for me! 

Celebrities are an interesting breed.  They have teams of people scouring and vetting and basically seeking the best for their clients.  So why not jump on the bandwagon and benefit from all the legwork someone else has already done?  That book saved me and I don’t even know how many times I’ve quoted, “Gwenyth Paltrow’s nanny book” since.  So when I found myself at the end of my rope again a couple of months ago, I hopped on the bandwagon once more…

I’ve written many times about my absolute love and admiration of the ketchup chip.  It is perfect.  Thin, crispy, with the right balance of salt, sweet and sour.  And how my love of this devilish delight (together with my absolute lack of control and a side effect of some meds), ‘Kim Kardashian-ed’ my behind.  At first the curves were welcome – like historical days gone by, I carried those extra pounds around like they were a sign of nobility.  But after some time, they began to feel like a chained weight (pun intended) and with the realization that it is no longer the Renaissance and I am certainly not Botticelli’s Venus, the time came to make a change.

After 4 torturous weeks on a diet which did not allow partaking in any Hallowe’en candies, Mr. Niceguy birthday binges, or late night, thai-food takeouts, I am happy to report that if it was good enough to get Ms. Kate Middleton looking 5+ stars in her wedding dress, it was good enough for me!   Arrivederci extra weight!  Hello the real me – it’s nice to be back again.

So what’s the moral of the story?  First, though mostly silly, celebrity gossip can actually be more than just a source of entertainment – it can truly be a resource!  And second, celebrities or otherwise, in times of need, it’s nice to know you’re not alone.

La_nascita_di_Venere_(Botticelli)

Thanksgiving…thanks goodness it’s over.*

Thanksgiving is not really a holiday I get all that excited about so I’m glad it’s behind me.  For starters, I am not a fan of turkey – whether cooked breast up or down, wrapped in bacon, stuffed with bread or rice, nuts and berries. It just seems like a wannabe Christmas…except it’s missing the best part, PRESENTS.

And Thanksgiving in Canada has nothing to do with the pilgrims in Massachusetts celebrating their first successful harvest and breaking bread with the Native Americans – so I always find it kind of odd when I see “pilgrim inspired” decorations – like the big black hats with gold buckles or historical pilgrim costumes. Pilgrim turkey

And finally, why turkey?  Why not something else all together different and more delicious, like a roast?  Or spaghetti?  Or roast and spaghetti?  Now that’s a fun and tasty meal.  I mean, were there really that many turkeys roaming about that someone thought, hey!  Now that’s a convenient meal?  After some digging, here’s what I found…

According to an article in Slate, turkeys have taken the centre stage as they were fresh, affordable and big enough to feed a crowd.  Furthermore, as cows and chickens were more useful alive and ham or pork wasn’t considered fit for special occasions, turkey became the choice by default, “because the birds could be slaughtered without a huge economic sacrifice.”  Seriously?  Poor turkey.  And they were cheaper (and apparently easier to deal with) than geese.  So these nice, sweet turkeys spend all of spring and summer eating insects and worms and grow to just the right size by Thanksgiving feast.  Well now, that’s enough for this girl to maintain the current status as non-turkey-tarian.

Regardless of the main dish though, I still always find a way to eat too much, lie flat on the ground and complain ad nauseam ad infinitum of a bellyache and turkey coma (despite the fact that I don’t eat the stuff), and pretend to be at least 4 or 5 months pregnant as I drunkenly (on food, not booze) waddle about waiting for dessert. But not this year.

The weekend started early for me as fortunately, I had a reprieve from work.  Though unfortunately for me, the boys also had a reprieve from school.  So after we kissed Mr. Niceguy goodbye (no reprieve for him which turned out to be the reprieve…my, how twisted the universe is sometimes…wait for it) boys and I decided to get dressed and ready to start our fun filled day of monitoring my computer should a work crisis arise and shopping for the ingredients of a fancy salad I had promised to bring.

And that’s when things unraveled.  Literally.  Moments after Mr. Niceguy’s departure (and seconds after my too short hot shower).  The 7 year old and 3 year old tore into my room, screaming with fits of laughter, all while I was trying to straighten my unruly hair…and that’s when I saw it.  Or should I say, them.  The 7 year old had a lump right in the middle of his forehead the size of a small quail egg.  It looked like it was the result of some sort of insect bite. And while examining him, the 3 year old came in for a look when I noticed that he had a lump the size of a small chicken egg on his neck!  But no sign of a bite or any other sort of trauma.  What could it be? Meningitis?  Mumps?  Mono?

All plans on hold while we rushed to the doctor’s office.  I knew we were done for (along with our plans to go up North the next day) when the doctor came in and exclaimed, “Ugh.  What’s that?”  Not a good sign.  No.  Twenty minutes later, and the explanation that it would either go away on its own (with a little help of some antihistamines) or become the size of a tennis ball requiring hospitalization, we walked out of the office – them ecstatic to be leaving and me completely panic stricken.

And in that state, we accomplished two Thanksgiving dinners.  Two dinners complete with family that we hadn’t seen in such a long time.  Truly lovely, yes, but these meetings always seem to give rise to the sorts of conversations that involve me having to recall people, places and events encountered at a time when I don’t even think I was sentient!  Like, “remember when you were a baby and you would only drink milk after your mother would drop blue food colouring in it?”  True story.  My peculiar particularities started at an early age…but no, I can’t remember!  Or,

did you know, we found out we were pregnant with you just months after we were married when your dad took me to the doctor because I was constantly sick to my stomach!

Great.  A guilt trip on Thanksgiving…  And by the way, gross!  Didn’t a stork deliver me?

But I survived.  And fortunately for us, the lump went down the better path, and started a slow shrink to normal, all under the extremely watchful eye of Mr. Niceguy, who was so worried that he decided to camp at the foot of the 3 year old’s bed until he drifted to sleep.

So Thanksgiving, I’m glad you’ve passed.  But I haven’t forgotten what you stand for and so here goes:

I’m thankful that the chicken egg lump went away.  And the quail egg lump too.

I’m thankful that my illusion of a stork delivery was blown out of the water…the truth shall set you free.

I’m thankful that time with family brings out shared history – and whether I was there or not, recall it or not, it will get passed on and form part of my legacy…and to that end, I’m also thankful that Mr. Niceguy hasn’t run for the hills!

Finally, I’m thankful to have had the luxury of not just one, but two thanksgiving dinners full of too much food, too much laughter and too much love…I know it’s much more than some will ever have.

*Not a typo…just how my mom has always said thanks.  Like “Thanks God”.  I love you mom.  Thanks God for you!  And you too, dad!

Happy Thanksgiving

What, me? A hypochondriac?

Aging is a funny thing.  Not laugh out loud funny…freaky funny.  And as my speed train gets closer and closer to the big X0 mark, I’ve started to notice the “funny” a little more…like those funny little lines they call “laugh lines” and crow’s feet, or how my once full cheeks, that morphed into a more chiseled high cheek bone look (ooooh Christy Turlington) in my mid-20’s, are now just a couple of deflated balloons…speaking of which…NO, I will NOT go there but you know what I’m talking about…shh!  Gravity it’s entirely your fault!!!

The seasons are turning and although I can still hold onto summer a little bit longer (read: loose summer dresses, tanks and flip flops), the reality is that I’m going to have to try and squeeze myself into last year’s skinny jeans…which incidentally, are the year’s before too-tight skinny jeans and I’m really not looking forward to an in-your-face I-told-you-so from my muffin top, thank you very much.  Unless it comes with muffins…mmmm…warm, blueberry muffins…..or I could shell out and buy a new pair but since I refuse to upsize, I’m just going to find myself in the exact, same squished predicament.

At any rate, this time of year continues to mark a time of beginnings (or endings?) – like the start of a new school year – despite the fact that I’ve been out of school for a decade and a half!  Somehow, I still haven’t grown out of that back to school/end of summer feeling…

Now that I think about it, with all this hindsight and wisdom that comes with age, going back to school at the end of every summer was probably more of a trauma than a “beginning”.  I mean, if I break it all down, after loafing around all summer – hanging out by the pool working on my tan (these were the days of baby oil, Coppertone no. 2, and boom boxes not skin cancer or 60 SPF and iPods), not having to worry about grades and homework, or whether I’d get asked to this dance or that – it was back to the grind.

The look of utter glee (akin to the Joker’s smile) on my parents’ faces when they would remind me that tomorrow the fun would end, that tomorrow there was school, that tomorrow I had to be responsible, get up, get dressed and go get good grades in order to not totally screw up my chances at a successful life.  Yay.  Back to school. And now, back to work.  To this day I absolutely abhor Sundays…

But it is this responsibility that fuels my view of beginnings and planning for success.  And what could be more appropriate than resolutions when it comes to making plans:  this year I will get that new job or promotion, this year I’m going to lose that nagging 7 lbs already, this year I’m going to plan that great South American adventure!  As an aside, who doesn’t want to go to Rio?  Carnivale?  To see the sugar loaf mountain and the giant Jesus?  To be surrounded by warm breezes and hot, Brazilian paixão??  (trans:  passion in Portuguese). Ahhhh…Ipanema….

I digress…as far as resolutions are concerned…mine start grand but practicality takes over and besides taking one’s health into one’s own hands is important…don’t we have more to lose at this stage?  OK, real reason?  They have to get done and arranging doctor’s appointments and checkups are easier than exercise and diet.  There.  I admit it.  And I’m just not satisfied with the attitude of those of my parents’ generation: 2 Tylenols and a good night sleep are not a good enough RX for me…particularly given my tendency towards hypochondriasis (real word, I swear!) and Googling!!

Speaking of which…I had a spot…on my back…a nagging, little, brown spot.  I could’ve sworn it wasn’t there a couple of months ago.  I worked myself up to the point where I asked the 7 year old what he thought of the spot…

Me:  Can you take a look at this?

7 year old:  What?  It’s your back.

Me:  THIS!  This SPOT on my back.

7 year old:  You have spots on your face.

Me:  [IRRITATED]  NOT my face!!  Forget my face.  And besides, those are cute freckles…well, no, not that one…or that one…oh my God, is that an age spot???   NEVERMIND THAT!!!   This one, on my back.  [Trying to reach over, angling to point out the spot while trying maneuvering in between two mirrors]

7 year old:  Oh.  It’s a spot.  A brown spot.

Me:  Does it look weird to you?

7 year old:  Huh?  I’m hungry.  When’s dinner?

Hmmmppphhhfft.

And like I said, I know me…hypochondriasis.  Sometimes I get worked up for no legitimate reason.  Like, oh my goodness, I’ve had a headache for three days, is it a tumour?  Or, oh my goodness, I can’t feel my arm, am I having a heart attack?!  But while I think all of these things, somewhere deep down, I think I know that I’m overreacting – a particular gift of mine, I’m told…particularly by Mr. Niceguy.

So how do you think it all went down when the brown spot was diagnosed as a little bit unusual?  Or a little bit odd?  And perhaps a good idea to remove?  OH BOY.  And typical me, I discover that all of a sudden I’ve grown really attached to that brown spot.  I realize it means more to me than I thought…like I’m that brown spot…I’m a little bit unusual, a little bit odd…I’m not worth removing, am I?

A good friend of mine who has a knack for speaking the truth and being utterly genuine – even though you wouldn’t think it at first glance given his extremely stylish exterior – once gave me probably one of the most real analogies about oneself during trying times…and in this case, during times of utter, full blown, hypochondria,

it’s like being a rolled up tube of toothpaste and they’ squeeze out the last drop of you by pushing out what’s left with their thumb through your neck.

Graphic.  And true, although we were talking about the proverbial “man”, “job”, etc.  That’s exactly how it felt…squeezed, used to the last drop.  Unappreciated.  Ready to be tossed aside.  A blemished model (as in car, not supermodel…)

And now, post (minor, minor) surgery I wait for this wound to heal.  Now I will have yet another scar of undeniable aging.  Though perhaps I should view it more like progress?  An opportunity?  It’s knocking…so I’m going to open that door.  After all, isn’t it better to just toss that old tube of toothpaste, pay the 4 bucks and get something new and shiny?  And who knows, I may even change the flavour this time.

toothpaste

Heels, hoops and all…you better represent!!

Summer is nearing its close, it’s back to school and this year I was ready!  Instead of spending my two weeks of vacation sipping very expensive cocktails at a five star hotel on the French Riviera wearing a wonderful broad brimmed hat and behind large Jackie O sunglasses (so blasé), I decided to be a mature adult and tackle all sorts of important tasks around the house.  OK fine, it’s not really a choice if the Riviera isn’t a real option.  Anyway, as part of the “staycation” I filled my time with some much needed home renovation (and people renovation) projects:  from basic gardening to full landscaping, (root) touch ups, school supplies, new wardrobes, replacing burnt light bulbs, manicures after replacing burnt light bulbs, and so on and so forth.

Although I am a renaissance woman, and wholly capable of being a quick study in just about anything, there are some things in which I am not meant to dabble.  For example, after a particularly raucous night out with Mr. Niceguy a few years ago which included an open bar tab and hopping from one club to the other, we arrived home in the early morning hours, starving.  After placing an order for chi-thai delivery, Mr. Niceguy mentioned that his hair was getting too long.  I mentioned that cutting hair was right up my alley and that I’ve often trimmed my own hair – front and back.  Note here, I have fairly long hair which is naturally curly so any slight discrepancies usually blend well.  Note also, that I normally don’t handle scissors while drunk.  What I did to the back of Mr. Niceguy’s head was unforgivable.  And the sad part was, I just kept trying to fix it.  Some things are much better left to the professionals!  (Don’t drink and trim!)  So, I started the process of engaging some professional help for some of my home projects.

What I found was that despite fairly lengthy (and though I do say so myself, well informed and knowledgeable) discussions with these professionals I was consistently asked, “Will your husband be there?”

What.  The.  #$%^?!!!!????  WHY???

In this day and age, do people STILL believe that the woman of the house is still just the “little lady”?  That seems so utterly out of date and backwards.  Let’s just be clear about something here:  I am a career woman.  I earn a salary.  And a global professional services firm happens to believe that I am highly capable of raising millions of dollars in financing.  I may wear sky high heels, pretty dresses, hoop earrings and although on most days the quality of my day directly correlates with how good my hair looks I AM STILL HIGHLY CAPABLE OF MAKING DECISIONS, thank you very much.

I mean, I can represent!  I can whip on some boots and dig up a lawn.  I can wield a brush and paint.  I’ve hung chandeliers and constructed closets.  I’ve also gone from work to banquet to soccer field to brunch without missing a beat.  I haven’t let my family down – I’ve represented.  And I’ve made them proud…and that’s what I’m now teaching my boys.  They need to be self-actualizing adults.  Strong, independent, able to make decisions and see them through.  And they need to demonstrate their capabilities.  Though at this age, sometimes I’m not sure they really get the message…

About two-and-a-half years ago, I was in a pretty serious accident.  My two boys, then four-and-a-half and just 9 months old, were sitting in the backseat while I was driving.  As a treat, I decided I would take them both on a surprise trip to Toys R Us and en route, I would go through the Tim’s drivethru for a much needed coffee and a Timbit (yes, one Timbit – it’s my way of demonstrating self-control).  It was an unusually frigid winter day (I believe close to minus 60 with the wind chill!) and the traffic lights were not working so cars were treating the intersection as a four-way stop.  My turn came to drive through when out of nowhere we were struck by a car.  We spun out of control and I momentarily blacked out.  It was my older son’s screaming that snapped me back and all I remember thinking was, please let them be safe.  Luckily we all walked away.  I didn’t realize it then, as it took about 11 more months to transpire, but I had sustained a crushed disc which resulted in severe sciatica.  After visiting a number of different doctors and professionals I found myself face-to-face with one of the most capable and incredible chiropractor-acupuncturists (in the world!!!), Dr. S.

And just this past week, Dr. S paid me a house call.  She is extremely elegant, capable and professional and I can only imagine what she thought when she walked into my world…

Both the 7 year old and 3 year old were completely entranced.  They loved her portable treatment table which they used as trampoline, diving board and fort all while she graciously watched and I begged for the ground to open up and swallow me whole.  Then they proceeded to tell Dr. S about the dead chipmunk we had found in the yard and disposed of moments before her arrival, “He has no eyes.  He has no head.  He’s dead.  Mommy put him in the garbage.” Nice.   And showed her a picture of our dearly departed cat, “This is Hudson.  He’s our cat.  He’s dead.  He’s really dead.  He’s in here (showing her the little urn given to us by the animal hospital).  But you can’t drink from this cup.  Coz he’s in here.  He’s really in here.”  OMG!  And what could I do with needles up and down my spine?!  Then, the 7 year old brought my gluten-free, organic loving Dr. S a plate full of marshmallows and gummies to thank her for all her hard work and because she must be hungry.  Oh boy.

I wished I could crawl under Dr. S’s treatment table…needles and all.  But then I remembered a little girl, age 8, who would walk around with grace and kindness because she had secret powers:  she knew that she was a mermaid in water, and mermaids always took care of everyone, and that she could fly if she really, really put her mind to it…she was special.  That magic was obvious to everyone and if it wasn’t, she made sure it was.  She was strong, capable, imaginative, kind, curious and clever.  That little girl was me.

I can only imagine what the 7 year old and 3 year old must imagine.  What they must believe to be real.  What I know for certain is, that even if they don’t get it right away, I will continue to raise them to make sure that they too convey to others who they are:  capable, strong, generous, kind and independent people.  They will represent well…and garner much laughter along the way!

Superhero shenanigans

Pride and Prejudice…the spincycle version

One of my all-time favourite movies is Pride and Prejudice – the BBC version.  I’ve seen it more times than I can remember and at first, I thought the title should’ve been, “The Charming Mr. Darcy” (swoon).  But after watching it many, many more times, I came to appreciate its meaning…how both Elizabeth Bennett (the heroine) and Mr. Darcy both prejudged each other given their circumstances and ingrained thinking.  In the end, they realize that their prejudices were ill-found…

It’s just past 7:30 and I’ve decided to skip the 3 year old’s soccer game this morning  and instead decide to lounge around…beep-beep-beep-beep…

Hmmm…it’s Saturday.  Who could be texting??  I can’t really be bothered…I mean, it’s the weekend…everyone should just chill and relax, like me.  I can be the Queen of Relaxation – when I want to or more like, when I allow myself – I can be so good at it.  Mr. Niceguy has taken care of everything and the 7 year old is downstairs playing video games (sue me, it’s summer vacation).  Beep-beep-beep-beep…

Why does it keep beeping?!  It’s breaking my focus.  My concentration.  My zen.  Oooommmmm….

Beep-beep-beep-beep…

Ooooooommmmmmmm…..

Beep-beep-beep-beep…

OOOOOMMMMM!!!!!!!!!…..

BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP…

OK!  OK!  I’ll just check it…OH NO!  Texts from my mommy friends…Oh.  My.  God!!!  The playdate is TODAY and I forgot that I was supposed to get up early and prepare!  Quick scan fridge…nothing.  Pantry….nothing.  Basement pantry….boxes of mac & cheese and our emergency if-the-world-comes-to-an-end cans of chili and space age/military grade, vac sealed meal replacement kits that Mr. Niceguy bought from some kind of disaster readiness website.  How could I let this happen?!  Incidentally, I’m more ready for the end of the world than I am a playdate!

Not a problem.  I can put it into full gear – besides, I’ve had a few hours minutes seconds to relax.  I am recharged, refreshed and raring to go!

T-minus 1hr 45mins:  In car, 7 year old in tow, pull up to grocery store.  Veggies, fruit, cheese, bag of chips (again, summer, sue me), juice, and a diet coke for me.

T-minus 1hr 30mins:  Need more caffeine!  Hit up a Starbucks…can’t do the day without my latte fix!

T-minus 1hr 24mins:  I wonder…if I add up all the time I wait for the baristas to prepare my lattes how long would that be…and why can’t they ever get my name right?? What if I started pulling some Bart Simpson name pranks…

T-minus 1hr 23mins 30secs:  REALLY?!  I don’t have time for this!!!  NEED MY LATTE!!

T-minus 25mins:  At home.  Fruit chopped, veggies chopped, cheese cut, house tidied up, beds made, teeth brushed (I had no time!), hair straightened (this could be a blog topic all on its own) we’re ready.

T-minus…THEY’RE HERE.  Kids all run into the basement and chaos ensues!  And moms can all relax, put their feet up, and dish!

I’ll digress now and say that I have chronic foot-in-mouth-itis.  I frequently say things that I shouldn’t say…and consequently, do things that I shouldn’t do.  For example, when kicked under the table to keep quiet or go along with something, I have often blurted out, “hey!  Whatchya kick me for?”  And after each occasion, I remember that perhaps I should’ve tried to be a little more incognito – and perhaps I should remember that my actions (and lack of discretion) result in the “outing” or inconvenience of someone else.

Sometimes I’m like a toddler with no filter.  I chalk it up to honesty and being an open book, but one mustn’t forget about tact…

So at this playdate, a few weeks ago, I said something I really shouldn’t have said.  Something that I didn’t even realize was in me.  And I remember the moment, the instant the words were out of my mouth:  I felt hot, I felt a flush rising from my chest to my face and head – I felt so uncomfortable that I just wanted to black out (like that may have been an easier out and I could’ve blamed my momentary lapse in judgment on something medical).  What I really wanted to do was to rewind, go back in time, and never utter those words which were made so carelessly and without any cognition. Thankfully when I apologized, she accepted my apology.

This was all the result of an ill-conceived bias…like group think and blindly following along with a majority’s views.  Like being under compulsion (Vampire Diaries reference here…and yes, I’m still addicted).  It can make an appearance at the most unexpected times – and when it’s someone like me, with no filter, it really can pop out of nowhere.

For example, when walking into someone’s house for the first time and there’s underwear in the middle of the floor.  Look, this really has happened to me and it made me feel totally uncomfortable.  It made me question what I thought about that person. Like who leaves their underwear on the floor knowing that they’re expecting company?  Who??  Feels a little intimate…no?

And now I was the one that had dished out the uncomfortable.  I was the one that had put someone else in a very awkward position.  I was the one who had “left underwear on the floor.”  And for a penance, have been feeling absolutely horrible – despite remedying the situation.  I’ve totally beaten myself up and cringe every time I replay that careless, awkward moment.  (You know that face…the “oooh” smush face and shrugging of shoulders made when thinking about it.)

But I think it’s time to move on and time to take it a little easier.  We all make mistakes and hopefully, we learn.  After all, that’s what I would tell my boys.  That, and I am fortunate that my mommy friend could look beyond this one instance.  She has taught me the lesson of being more gracious – and she was tolerant of my toddler-like ways.  Just like Elizabeth Bennett changed her views when she ran into Darcy after he had taken a swim in his “underthings”, the next time I see underwear on the floor, I swear to be more discrete, shrug it off and not jump to any conclusions…oh, and save everyone’s pride, including my own.

PRIDE-AND-PREJUDICE-1995_400

Bleep! Bloop! Blurp!…men are from Mars, women are from Venus…ummm…ya!

Monday:  Start of week 2 on this major acquisition which is happening at lightning speed.  It’s definitely the “dog days of summer” as I’m totally working like one.  I’ve arrived home from work only to find that the 3 year old is burning up with a fever of 102…oh no.

Tuesday:  Acquisition still full steam ahead.  Fever is now at 103.  Leave work early and rush home to takeover watching 3 year old from grandma…coach 7 year old’s soccer game…and sneak in an episode of Bold and the Beautiful…it’s the little things…

Wednesday:  Fever spikes at 104.  Sleepless night tallies 2.  Work from home day.  Develop financial model day.  Try and get disgusting antibiotics down my toddler’s throat day.  Try not to have a nervous breakdown day.  Think happy thoughts…ommmmmmm….

Thursday:  Fever down to 100…progress!  Sleepless night tallies 3…wrong kind of progress!  Tag out of babysitting – Mr. Niceguy’s turn.  Drop 7 year old at camp, race downtown, park car and walk to my desk.   Oh, there it is again…like a forbidden drug…the travel shop.  I always look at the window with such forlorn on my way to the office – do I go to Delhi?  Sounds so exotic…I can just smell the spices.  Do I take a whirlwind trip to NY or Las Vegas?  Or a month jaunt to Europe:  London, Paris, Florence…just $499 / $899 / $1,099…

Friday:  Temperature normal!  Hooray!  And I got some sleep!!  But the list of things to do has been piling up and I have a really full weekend ahead.  Oh boy…I just need to make it to Saturday…

Saturday:  4:57 am, I hear a pitter patter in my sleep, reach out my arms from my horizontal position, twist to the right, grip the 3 year old, lift him up, twist back to the left and plonk him between Mr. Niceguy and me – all without opening my eyes.  4:58 am – did I just do that?  Do I dare open my eyes?  5:08 am, I can’t take it anymore – I rush to the washroom and then rush back…sleep, why do you evade me?  5:14 am, I hear him.  Thump, thump, thump…that distinctive walk…it’s the 7 year old.  And before I know it, he’s standing over Mr. Niceguy.  I’m in a horror movie.

7 year old:  I had a bad dream.  [He says without fear – almost like it was super cool]

Me:  Oh.  You ok?  Why don’t you squeeze in here – your brother’s here anyway.  But we’re still sleeping, it’s too early…

7 year old:  My bad dream starts with a ‘T’

Me:  [10 bucks] Tornado?

7 year old:  [Pretends he’s shooting guns – with the sound you make while clicking your tongue in your cheek] “Tch-tch”  Ya.  In the basement.

Me:  Tornadoes don’t happen in basements.

7 year old:  [Points gun at me] “Tch” – You got it!

Scammer.

After nearly an entire week of sleep deprivation and disruption, for which I maintain a healthy level of fear as well as an almost twisted sense of reverance, I feel like I’m losing my mind.  As an aside, it goes without saying that thanks to the “PTSD” brought on by the early days of parenthood which were laced with unforeseen, unexplained, and unbelievable levels of sleep deprivation, I am compelled to pay homage and respect to the power of sleep.  Those early days were like nothing I’d ever experienced:  infinitely harder than cramming for my hardest exam or preparing for a job interview.

Getting back to it, sometimes in this house full of boys, I feel like I’m in that same sleep deprived state… trying to navigate like an alien from another planet, or better yet, winding around like a drunkard.  Hyper emotional, totally unpredictable, yet somehow, fully functional.

It’s like I’ve arrived in my most elegant gown, strappy sandals, without a hair out of place, in perfect makeup and dripping with bling to a backyard BBQ complete with flip flops and finger food.

Misconstrued, misinterpreted, misunderstood.

And this was confirmed by none other than Mr. Niceguy…who in a moment of absolute, rational, logic, set me straight.  Kids in bed, tidying up complete, we put our feet up and started watching a taped episode of the Bachelorette.  And that’s when it happened.  Another poor guy, totally smitten with the Bachelorette gets sent home…and I’m defending how she was absolutely right to send him home.  How she was so gracious and kind and how her words would surely lead to a mutual respect and potential future friendship…to which Mr. Niceguy responded, gesticulating like an alien robot:  “Bleep, bloop, blurp!”

Me:  [Whiny]  Whaaaaat??!!

Mr. Niceguy:  You can’t be serious…they’ll never be friends!

Me:  Why not?  He’s sooooo funny…and so sweet!  I’d wanna stay friends with him.

Mr. Niceguy:  Ya.  Men are from Mars, women are from Venus.  There’s really no point to him being friends with her, is there?  Think about it…

And there it was…and there it is.  We often make light of our differences by magnanimously referencing the book with that very same title – and incidentally neither of us have even read it.  Still, it’s our way of diffusing misunderstandings, resulting differences and feelings of slight.

I don’t need to survive another crazy week to recognize that Mr. Niceguy and I have lasted as long as we have, despite roadblocks, hurdles, obstacles, bumps and sticky wickets, because somehow we have become totally aware and completely accepting of the fact that we are completely different beings.  And let’s face it, because Mr. Niceguy humours me by putting up with my meltdowns, crazy mood swings, my choice in TV (the Bachelorette and the Bold and the Beautiful, to name a couple) and declarations that I am the boss of this house (which totally fall on deaf ears), to name a few.

Though we may be from different planets, what I do know for sure is that we’re both on a fantabulous ride together!  Oh, and that my people add a lot of colour…and wishful thinking!  And if Mr. Niceguy were to read this, once again he’d say, “Bleep, bloop, blurp!”  Pffft….

 

Mars Venus

More than just a mommy in Strollerville…I’m a princess!

Some time ago we moved to our current neighbourhood, what we jokingly called, “Strollerville” (a term I first heard made by Professor Richard Florida).  At that time, the 7 year old was a new toddler, and the 3 year old was my next project.  Strollerville is the mecca of neighbourhoods for young (yuppie-ish) families – right on the subway line, which makes it easier to get downtown (I swear nearly everyone in this neighbourhood is either a banker, lawyer or stockbroker), within walking distance from some very well known and one-of-a-kind retailers, great schools and parks, plenty of free street parking, and easy access to the city’s major highways.

Yet, coming from a very chic and trendy neighbourhood downtown where children were almost never to be seen outside the 9am to 3:30pm window, and where the closest thing to a kid’s play place was the Baby Gap or the Potterybarn Kids on Bloor Street – which, ironically were almost always devoid of children – Strollerville was like being in a theme park with children everywhere!  And although I missed the sounds of luxury imports racing up and down our street, I knew that we had made the right decision for our little, growing family – particularly since I no longer was mistaken for “the nanny” when I would take my (then) toddler out for a stroll!

Strollerville is now my home and I’ve found that I’ve marked my time here in the most unexpected way. True, the trees have grown, the house could use a fresh coat of paint (thanks to my two little terrors), new restaurants and shops have popped up, and the little boy who would always ride the bus with his mom is not so little anymore…

My first weeks commuting to work were the most harrying for me.  I had to wake up an extra 45 minutes earlier just because we had moved 10 minutes away from the core!  Anyway, I would see this woman with a little boy, about the same vintage as my 7 year old, nearly every day on my way home from work.  They seemed to have such a connection – he was very sweet and quiet and never tested his mother, while she had the kindest disposition.  They even looked like each other.  He was very obviously the center of her world.

Now I’ll take a moment to digress here…I am no less connected to my two boys, who are definitely the centers of my world but I cannot recall a single day where I haven’t been tested, pushed, stretched, taxed, overwhelmed, etc. by them!  Particularly in public when their inner Satan chooses to come out and party.  I mean, simply recollecting the shenanigans of this past weekend, my birthday weekend, when they repeatedly begged to leave dugout seats (I repeat, DUGOUT SEATS) at a baseball game (after the top of the FIRST inning) and simply became more insistent with every minute culminating in both of them on my lap in inning 5, completely obstructing my view, each whining into my ears (too closely and spitting God knows what into my ear canals…eeew), and then breaking down in tears when I unexpectedly took all my frustrations out by yelling at the ump!

Or as recent as last night, when I was given a hard time because I’m planning to go out (sans les deux) with my other mommy friends and have too much food, too much wine, ice cream on the giant piece of (faux) Canadian shield in Yorkville, while wearing my too short for me shorts and stilettos, and pass judgement while people watching, without them. Here’s how that went:

Me:  So guys…just a reminder that mommy’s going out

7 and 3 year olds in unison:  WHY???!!!

Me:  It’s mommy’s birthday.  You want me to have a nice birthday, don’t you?

7 year old:  But your birthday passed.  How many times do you have to go out for your birthday?

3 year old:  Ya.  Issss my bertday (His “bertday” was actually 4 months ago)

Me:  No, it isn’t your birthday.  It’s my birthday party.  And mommy’s friends are going to take her out.  She deserves it.  [Note:  I am all flustered and like a volcano that’s moments from erupting…]  I’ve cooked and cleaned for you, I take you to school, I pack your lunches, I play with you, I buy you all the greatest toys and clothes, I go to work so that I can earn money to keep a roof over your heads, so guess what?  I’M GOING!

Them:  [Totally un-phased] can we come too?

Me:  NO!!!!!!!

Anyway, I hadn’t seen this woman in some time but today, as I hopped on the subway a little earlier than usual; there she was sitting just perpendicular to me, with her son.  He had grown so much…  Still, just as obedient and quiet as ever – she was reading the newspaper while he was busying himself with a Nintendo DS.  And when she thought the volume was too high, she gently leaned in, whispered something to him, and he, without a moment’s hesitation, turned it down.  I noticed that she didn’t wear a ring on her left hand – perhaps she is raising him by herself – and when I looked up at her face, I noticed that time had also moved for her.  No longer as youthful looking as when I first moved to the neighbourhood.  Her hair had more greys, and there were a couple of lines near her eyes that crinkled in just that way when she smiled at her son.  But she was no less beautiful, and no less lovely than when I first saw her those years ago…

I have no idea how long before my boys stop being boys.  But what time I do have, although laced with tears, frustration, bewilderment and anger, is also wonderful, loving, happy, and most of all, magic.  And just when I think that once again, things are just too hard and too complicated, I got the best belated present…

Them:  OK…we know you really want to go out.  Is that what you’re going to wear?

Me:  WHAT?!  WHY?!  I just got this today…doesn’t it look nice?  (Snap: why do I even care?  Honestly?  I just want my IV drip to start hooked up to a bottle of Pinot….)  Are you saying this to upset mummy?  Is this all because you really don’t want me to go?

3 year old:  I don’t want you to go.  [Figures]

7 year old:  I don’t want you to go either but…if you have to go, you have to go.  Hmmm…mommy, you do look nice.  You look pretty, beautiful…you know, more than a princess. [Melt]

Meandboy