Don’t forget the big things!

We’re into 2017 already…and what changes have you made? A little piece written before the clocks turned 12 on December 31, 2016…


Last year marked some unbelievable changes:  the images pouring out of Syria topped a new level of gut-wrenching gruesomeness, a truck ploughing into an innocent Christmas market in Berlin and, yes, a playboy TV personality actually made it to the White House.  Now, whatever your views – humanity has been shaken to its core.  I will not comment with my own personal position:  I’ve long learned my lesson that politics and religion are the quickest route to discord.  However, I do believe that there is a bright light in there somewhere…Trump’s ascension to Presidency while unbelievable does illustrate that which we often forget, anything is possible.

As part of the inherent good in our society, I believe that we all have a duty this year in 2017 to be more and do more and especially to think more about others.  To think about those who are less fortunate than we.  To view differences as enhancements and not barriers.  To celebrate the extraordinary and to try our very best to not fear the unknown, but take a step towards it.

Recently I saw a wonderful ad by Amazon – a priest and an imam, both friends, end up buying each other the same gift.  In one genius stroke the marketing group at Amazon leaves you feeling that there’s room for everyone and everyone’s belief on this planet.

It is now about 18 hours since I started writing the above and as luck would have it, the universe has plucked me out of my ‘magnanimity’ and once again thrown me into the pits of life.  Yes, for the past 17 hours I have cleaned vomit from every crack and crevice of my home, gotten down on bended knees and scrubbed every surface, and washed everything including a very large, luxurious king duvet.

It’s amazing how quickly ‘life happens’.  One moment I’m posting a photo of me and Mr. Niceguy preparing for a family feast and reflecting upon my good fortune for living in a country with no war, the rule of law on the brink of my favourite day in the whole year (Xmas eve) and in one fell swoop, gastroenteritis.  And not mine either.

It seems this is the pattern in life.  Big things take a back seat to the little ones.  And somehow, the little ones become the much bigger things, while the big things just, well, “happen over there.”  But I think it’s ok for that to happen…sometimes…especially when you’re trying to get the sick smell out from your rug – yes, that happened too!

The little things count…and I daresay, they count just as much as the big things.

Mr. Niceguy and I have often had an interesting repartee about things – like how my perspective can sometimes…well…be skewed.  Quite frankly, I believe his can be quite skewed too…albeit in the opposite direction.  Like when the nearly 7 year old projectile vomited all over the kitchen floor and the “splash and splatter” wound up all over the kitchen cabinets – even the ones behind him. And here’s a holiday scene for you, the poor little guy was standing in a puddle of, Hey!  When did he even have rice?  I don’t recall giving him any rice in the past two days!!  And what do you suppose that green stuff is?!

I was frozen to my spot.  Couldn’t believe what I was seeing – I mean that stuff was coming out with such brute force reminiscent of a volcanic eruption.  While Mr. Niceguy lifted 7 year old and proceeded to place him, clothes and all, into a tub, I muttered and cursed and pleaded with the powers that be, “oh, why me???” and to please end my torture – to just let me get on peacefully with my small existence and the planning of my beloved family dinner.

In one fell swoop I was at the computer googling what was wrong with my little guy and did it merit a trip to the hospital…while Mr. Niceguy, as cool as cool can be, cleaned our boy up, put him to bed, covered every surface with spare sheets and towels (AARRGHHH!) and simply carried on.

This pattern was repeated all night long:  I, woe is me-ing, and Mr. Niceguy just managing the situation at large.

img_0190Now, about 18.5 hours later, life has completely turned back around:  Mr. Niceguy is peeling potatoes, my roast is nearly done, my cheese pies (beuregs) are making the house smell divine, the 10 year old is still as happy as a kid can be on Xmas eve and the 7 year old is making a tremendous recovery.  All despite my lack of sleep, two-or-so minor mental breakdowns, and the (very prudent) cancellation of some guests’ attendance.

So as I prepare to sit for my Xmas eve meal in less than 3 hours…by the time, reader, you finish reading my article, you will be well into 2017, and there will be big things and little things and the little things will seem like big things, while the big things happen over there…

I hope each and every one of us remember the more important things, particularly when our little things stop being big things:  to make every moment count, to stick to our resolutions (they are really our deepest desires, I believe – like my desire to be 10 pounds lighter like I was at the start of 2016) and above all, to remember to have the Xmas spirit last throughout the year.

Hoping you’ve had a great start to 2017!!

 

 

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Que Sera, Sera…

Despite my resistance, the unavoidable has happened. I am now officially, most definitely a not-cool-middle-aged-mom-person. I was still cool when I first had the 10 year old now over a decade ago, when none other than Rob Lowe said he was the cutest thing ever at a very hip Yorkville restaurant – I took it as a personal compliment because of course, I made this child and so must have rubbed off on him? I even clung onto my coolness (though just barely) when I gave the 10 year old a brother. At that point, I could still be considered “young” with a new family. Still fresh to the job and still just a young, hip, downtown chick.

vintage-laundryNot anymore. My delusions of cool have most certainly faded and now I’m just middle aged. And most definitely like one of the moms you see in the laundry detergent.

I felt the shift last week while I was driving the boys to school when I came to the realization that their favourite music just sounded like a whole lot of loud noise, that playing “this much” with Nerf guns was a sure sign that they may grow up deranged especially in this unhinged world we live in, and that my irrational fear of them one day turning into that which I most dread in this world (teenagers) would inevitably materialize. NOTE: Not only will this be sad because they are growing up much too fast (cliché, but true) but also because it means that I am even more of an uncool middle aged person than I thought!!!

When I first became a mother, I recall thinking, “I am going to be the coolest mom and this job will not define me. I will be my own person, my own self and still a hip trendsetting renegade. True, I love this little human being more than my own life and would sacrifice anything for his happiness. But get those Gap sweatshirts and mom jeans away from me, and I refuse to just roll out of bed, no makeup on, sleep still in my eyes and tie my un-brushed, unwashed, and unkempt hair in a ponytail just to make lunch and get them to school on time! That’s for the birds!” Today was day 4 dirty hair day and I don’t remember brushing my teeth…check toothbrush, bone dry…nope, didn’t make it.

Could it be that I’ve just deluded myself into thinking I was ever cool? That I could fight the forces of nature and just skip middle age and go straight to coolly eccentric older person?

Recently, I’ve taken on a boatload more work…or should I say, work and volunteering opportunities. I’m still volunteering for the Zoryan Institute (a non-profit organization dedicated to the research and analysis of genocide and human rights violations – which fills my soul and is definitely my contribution to my genocide-surviving-grandparents’ legacy), and now I’m also co-chairing the telethon committee of the one and only ARS Armenian Private School which I attended as a child and which is now passing on my culture and heritage together with a top-notch education to my boys – and the kids of my relatives…and those of my friends!

But the bills have to get paid and so I’m also doing some work for a fantastic newspaper you may have heard of…TorontoHye (!!) and finally, putting my training to work, I’m helping to sell a metal fabrication business. And there are even more things in the pipeline so yes, I’m busy. Maybe I’m just too busy and need to dedicate more time and effort to being cool…but then, that’s just SO NOT COOL!!

While it’s incredibly liberating to be comfortable in your skin, to know what you want and to know how to go and get it, is a consequence of this ‘mid-age liberation’ letting go to the point where the delusions of grandeur completely fade away and we just don’t care at all? And so we let things just go to the wayside and don’t make an effort anymore? Is THAT what causes our cool to fade and the mom jeans take over???!

mom-jeans

Years ago, before I had the boys, I remember looking at old photo albums in Mr. Niceguy’s basement of his mom. We lost her too soon and it was my way of trying to get to know the person that she was in an effort to get to know the man that I married. I recall that in her early years as a mother she had a very elegant figure, long, glossy, blonde hair and would wear cool blue jeans – even a bandana! Then as the children got older, her hair got shorter, her clothes became more conservative and she transformed into the woman that I came to know, into Mr. Niceguy’s mother. A steady, warm, loving and selfless matriarch.

I remember when people would say, “You couldn’t possibly be a mother! You look so young!” and with a small smile and polite, “thank you” I would hide the fireworks going off inside me. Those days are falling further and further behind…

I once met a psychiatrist who said something very interesting to me, she said that what I sometimes labelled as crazy (as in, I’m acting crazy, I feel crazy, my kids are making me crazy), she labelled as passion. She also mentioned that passionate people were often guilty of over-analysis…and that perhaps it was best to just accept things for what they are…and let other things, go.

So here it is, I accept you, not-so-cool-middle-aged-mom-person. For I cannot change you. But in an effort to still see vestiges of my “true, twenty-year-old self” I will remember to every now and then break the “I’m-a-proper-mom-and-good-example-to-my-kids” rules and climb over the construction tape just to scrape my name into a freshly poured, concrete sidewalk – and then promptly walk (run) away with a smile on my face when I get in trouble…like today.

I leave you, readers, with a song that my mother used to sing to me and my sister – in the wise, wise words of Doris Day:

When I was just a little girl I asked my mother
What will I be?
Will I be pretty? Will I be rich?
Here’s what she said to me

Que sera, sera
Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours to see
Que sera, sera, what will be, will be

When I grew up and fell in love I asked my sweetheart
What lies ahead?
Will we have rainbows? Day after day?
Here’s what my sweetheart said

Que sera, sera…

Now I have Children of my own they ask their mother
What will I be?
Will I be handsome? Will I be rich?
I tell them tenderly

Que sera, sera…

Spincycle Diaries:  Chaos Theory – the explanation for my insanity?

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result

This according to Albert Einstein, one of the smartest human beings to ever walk the earth so it must be right, right?  So if it’s as simple as trying something different each time until you get the result that you seek or hope to get, why do some of us – namely me – have so much difficulty understanding this and are prone to rinse, repeat, redo, rinse, repeat, redo, rinse, repeat, redo…caught in a spincycle of insanity?

I’ll offer up a quasi-hollywoodesque-scientific reason:  Chaos Theory.

spincycle-octoberSee, I became the proud owner of a very big screen television – a dream come true, really. So now I get to watch The Bachelor, Survivor, and my favourite movies virtually in life-size. While most people would be excited during a renovation with the prospect of a gigantic closet, full automation or the latest and greatest kitchen appliances, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this TV. I dreamt up a list of all of my favourite movies that I would watch on this giant TV. As an official member of the Arsenal Canada fan club, Mr. Niceguy had a simple request: to watch the Arsenal vs. Hull City soccer match. The 10 year old was keen to hook up his video games – NO – and the 6 year old just wanted anything Netflix. Top of my list, Jurassic Park. The idea of watching a gigantic T-Rex on the screen both excited and thrilled me at the same time.

Needless to say, in a house full of boys, I’m still waiting for my turn.

But I digress, one of my favourite characters of all time is Dr. Ian Malcolm, played by Jeff Goldblum in said movie. He is a mathematician and devotee of Chaos Theory. So what is chaos theory?  It is a branch of mathematics and the key to understanding the cause of my insanity.  In fact, I say this to all the moms out there, it may also be the answer for you.

Physics has had great success in explaining certain kinds of behaviour, like the regular movement of the planets in our solar system, or the way a pendulum swings.  These are what’s called “linear equations”.  Think of it this way:  if you have 5 apples and you eat 1 apple you are left with 4 apples; linear. But physics does not handle another type of behaviour, described as “turbulent”, or non-linear, quite as well.

You know what’s “turbulent”?  Boys.  Boys in September.  When they go back to school and everything is new and exciting, frightening and freaky, and their personalities are completely out of whack because I, their mother, still haven’t figured out just how to enforce an earlier “school time” bedtime and have been beaten down to now hoping that the time change, and with it, the dark will do my bidding.  All of a sudden I am once again dealing with umbrella sword fights in the car, backtalk, insubordination and a general feeling like I’m undervalued, unappreciated and just irrelevant and the 10 year old and 6 year old have already turned into pimply faced, hormonal teenage boys for whom I am simply the large megaphone from Charlie Brown (for those who are not familiar with the “megaphone”, it’s Charlie Brown’s teacher and when she speaks, the children only hear, “Wah, wah, wah, wah, wah”).  Incidentally, and just as a side note, I have a healthy fear of teenagers.  They can turn on you on a dime and before you know it, you’re wishing you were never born.

But back to chaos theory. If turbulent events are described as non-linear equations, then is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result really insane?  Perhaps being in a spincycle, then, is not a predictor of the final result. My favourite example is that which is used in the movie: a drop of water is placed on the back of the hand – the water, rolls down a certain path.  When the same drop of water is placed at the same spot, again, on the back of the hand, it now travels a different path because the hairs on the skin have risen or the microscopic cells on the surface of the skin itself have changed.  Thus, a non-linear, turbulent event.  Physics can only explain that the water will drip down, but which path it takes, is determined by numerous factors which may, or may not, come into play – chaos.

Now for a real-life example.  My kids like to play a (dreaded, awful) game – it’s called, “Opposite Day”.  Usually it comes up when they’re starting to get annoyed with one another and they’re on the cusp of yet another fight in the backseat of the car that I’m forced to referee through the rearview mirror during rush hour traffic on the way to school.  “I think you’re the greatest…” starts the 10 year old, “…on opposite day!” To which the 6 year old replies loudly, “So what you’re saying is, I SUCK?!  Well YOU suck!  MOMMY!!!!

So when I YELL at my kids to STOP YELLING at each other because good, decent people DON’T YELL over and over again and I’m going insane because this is the umpteenth time I’ve asked them to stop and I’m afraid that one of these days I’m going to get into a car accident (yes, I’m a hypochondriac and yes, that’s a very linear equation when it comes to me) is it fair for me to expect that at some point I’ll get a different outcome because children are non-linear equations?  I mean, they are turbulent and ever changing so perhaps at some point they will just please stop yelling??!!

In conclusion, while it may appear to most that I, like other mothers, am insane for trying to mold my children into good and decent contributing citizens of society by repeating the same requests the same way over and over again, I ask you to remember Chaos Theory. Eventually, we will get to the right outcome and therein lies the secret and answer to all my doubts about my abilities as mother…at least for now….until some part of the non-linear equation changes again….

Thanks Mom…Just for being YOU.

Being a mom is part of my identity, but although I carry that invisible mom pass in my wallet (right next to the Costco card, the Gap Cash and every other points card under the planet), I sometimes struggle with my club membership. Is that all I am? Is that the most important part of me – being somebody’s mom? Does that membership card take precedence over my hard earned travel miles, gold card and driver’s license? True, I birthed two young boys, but sometimes it feels like the moment you become a mom, it becomes your whole identity…

The stakes are high when you’re a mom. So too are society’s standards…sometimes so high that they’re virtually impossible to achieve. I must keep a clean house that is totally “de rigueur”, be able to produce gourmet meals, my children must have manners, like to eat sushi, get A+ on all subjects and must excel in at least three extra-curricular activities, one of which must be “elite” or “extraordinary” like sailing, downhill racing or equestrian, and all of these are my responsibility – plus I have to look and act the part and in some instances hold down a full time job!

Well…I’m at a slight handicap here because I’m struggling to define myself beyond my “mom-borders”.  And I love it when the universe reminds me that my own definition of mom is allowed to be different.

Be trueBeing a mom is a raison d’être but certainly not my seule raison d’être, if you will.

I’m a wearer of many hats and among my many roles, my latest is that of construction project manager…ME! This is one challenge that I’ve readily accepted particularly this past month when my home renovation project really kicked into high gear. I have ignored family, friends, my children and Mr. Niceguy while I’ve poured over drawings and various engineering calculations, learned about air velocity and balancing, insulation and grading, and the list goes on. I’ve appreciated (virtually) every stressful second of it.

Despite the fact that we are temporarily being housed by my gracious parents (thank you, thank you, thank you!  They are readers and perhaps my only fans despite my many ramblings about them and I could use all the brownie points to make up for my constant outbursts, fits of rage and bouts of tears) I am still the primary caregiver of my children. It’s my job to make sure they eat their dinners, do their homework and not let their brains go to MUSH because they’d prefer to spend the entire day holed up in my parents’ basement in front of the big screen playing video games.

Vow Mr NiceguyI’d like to report that while I’ve assumed the role of project manager, my children’s brains have officially liquefied. I’m not entirely certain what’s making their guts move and I’m quite certain that it will only be by the grace of the Almighty that they will pass grade 4 and graduate kindergarten. Thank goodness Mr. Niceguy made a vow to love me for better or for worse…

All this because for the past month (or so…if I’m being honest), I put something other than being mom first. Go ahead and judge. But I won’t be blamed. And I refuse to take it on because I’ve already beat myself up about it enough, thank you very much, and I’m done. I’m a modern day renaissance woman and that means I’m a renaissance mom too after all, my teacher is one too…

My primary role model in the world of motherhood has been my mother. She grew up in a household filled mostly with boys. Not willing to be left behind, she would run alongside them – and oftentimes, ahead of them. She displayed as much grit, courage and bravery than any one of the others and while most girls her age would mind their chores and preserve their dresses, she was jumping from rooftop to rooftop along the buildings in Lebanon, sporting blue jeans and running off to the beach.

She is my non-traditional, traditional mom. And while she always makes sure that we are well clothed, fed and taken care of, she has a life of her own and I absolutely refuse to pigeon hole her into one role. Her life is a full adventure – and I hope mine will be nearly as full as hers.

It follows that I believe motherhood has to be the greatest adventure of all. There is no real, set, tried and true course – despite the fact that I’ve poured over dozens of popular baby books and scientific articles on child rearing. I could never have imagined the incredible joy that my children would bring before I became a mother…at the same time, I would never have imagined the feelings of tremendous guilt, frustration, and exasperation over little things like an unfinished plate of dinner or settling a child down to do homework and especially getting them to finally go to bed so that I could enjoy a moment’s peace after the never ending tidying, cooking, cleaning, monitoring and answering one hundred plus questions about the locations of any one of the following: “Mom, did you see my video game controller / the iPad / my book / my pencil / the red bouncy ball with the blue stripe – not the blue bouncy ball with the red stripe / my socks / my gym clothes / my special Pokemon card…blah, blah, blah!

I appreciate my role and the blessings (and heartaches) that come with it so I won’t feel guilty for the moments I yearn for the days of yore when dinner would be brought to me, when I could ask for my favourite dish, or when I take more than just a moment to pretend I’m something other than a mom. No. This month, when you write your mother a card, or bring her flowers, or just sit and think about her, take a moment to think about who she is (or was) as a person and thank her for just being her.

Me and Haig

My very own Minecraft…

Ever feel like you’re watching yourself live your life as though you were in a video game? Do you turn left? Or go right? Do you use a shovel or a bomb-thrower to knock out some zombies? What if the zombies are your kids that were just turned into zombies? What do you do then?

Minecraft zombiesLately I feel completely discombobulated – out of my familiar environment and with a to-do list longer than my arm I feel like I’m in the eye of a tornado. I know I need to loosen the reins – as an absolute control freak I have an unwavering belief that without me in charge how else could things possibly ever get done? (Said every obsessive-compulsive, perfectionistic-tendency having control freak…)

When I wake up in the morning it’s like I’m walking straight into Minecraft – or better yet, a mine-FIELD – the slightest misstep and BLAST!

For those unaware, Minecraft is a video game my boys are obsessed with complete with zombies, weaponry and the ability to create new worlds (I’m osmotically aware of everything Minecraft).

Alarm goes off, I jump out of bed and head to the washroom because who can stand the full bladder any longer (speaking of which I swear that while my entire midsection grew after two pregnancies, my bladder seems to now be the size of an acorn)!! Brush teeth, wash face, decide that two-day dirty hair isn’t so dirty when you’re trying to get out of the door and quite frankly not heading to a high power meeting on Bay Street, although…moms in the school parking lot can be an even tougher crowd so a quick brush, some makeup and voila, I’m off to the races…

That is, until I have to wake them up…

When I was young I was drawn to those video games where the zombies come towards you with blank stares, arms outstretched in front, stiffly limbering forward, mouths agape. You would have to blast them with your laser until eventually, inevitably, you were overtaken. That’s exactly what it’s like waking up my two boys at ages 9 and nearly 6 every morning before school – only I’m overtaken in less than 5 minutes flat!

Wake up kidsEvery morning I turn on the light, I say “good morning” (in that terribly annoying and completely disingenuous happy tone that I use to mask my absolute terror that they will totally ignore me or start yelling at me to sleep longer and erupt my anger which feels like it’s on a precipice just waiting to ignite) and pull their very weighted bodies off the bed so that if I’m lucky, their autopilot will kick in the moment their toes touch the ground and we will merrily make it out on time. I’ve even resorted to reminding them that they have to rush to the bathroom (because they must need to use it) and when that doesn’t work, “Who’ll be first to go to the washroom, brush their teeth, wash their face and comb their hair?” – some friendly competition.

Today I had an extra reason to get them out of the house on time – I had a meeting with a very, very important person who had taken time out of their very, very busy day just to give me some very, very much needed advice on, well, the rest of my professional life. Mr. Niceguy would be taking “double trouble” to school and to make things easier on him lunches were prepared the night before and stored in the refrigerator, snow pants, extra shoes, and school projects all packed in backpacks (I lost 30 minutes of my life last night as well as the opportunity to watch the Bachelor because I had to cut out a million jigsaw puzzle pieces for the 9 year old with scissors that were not small enough and I swear my hands were trembling so much that I now fear I’ve finally entered the realm of hyperthyroidism or was it just that fourth cup of coffee today?)

In any case, I made it out the door – bleary eyed and all – and even though I still have a head full of matted tangles I’m presentable enough and only a few minutes late so I stake out the perfect spot and I’m sure this person will be here any moment…

…Hmmm…I’ve double checked my emails, the time on my phone, the time with the coffee shop and ok, 15 minutes is fashionably late, right?

…I’m really hungry and could really use that coffee now – I’ll send an email and just let them know I’m here…t + 22 minutes…

…I wonder, did I even confirm this meeting? Quick check of email and GASP!!! I didn’t even confirm! OMG…but what do I do now? Sometimes people don’t wait for confirmations and it’s only t + 27 minutes plus I sent all those emails letting them know I’m here!

OK think, think, THINK!! I’ll get a latte because that will grease my brain wheels and I did tell the baristas I’m waiting for someone and they’re giving me their full on pitiful stares like I’ve been jilted on Valentine’s Day!

…One latte down…one croissant inhaled …and still no contact until…PING! Oh my goodness, it’s my person and they’re not even in town! Ugh, how could I have been so amateur to not even confirm a meeting? Ugh! Ugh! UGH!!!!! *So embarrassing.

*SIGH* I guess I will just head out and find something else to do, after all I did promise the nearly 6 year old a new backpack and some kind of light up shoes for school. And the 9 year old was hoping for new play pants.

I guess it’s pretty obvious – I’m the zombie here. With so much going on I’m like the walking dead roaming around in my life, arms outstretched, mouth agape, limbering along with the blank stare.

At least my person is understanding and generous enough to give me a new meeting time but wait, what’s that on my windshield? A parking ticket???!!! I’m in a no parking before 10:00 am parking spot?! How did I ever miss that??!!

Incidentally, this author did get a chance to have that meeting and it proved to be a definite step in the right direction…and out of the eye of the storm!

Walking away

Traditions, traditions…??

Traditions are developed over long periods:  decades, centuries, millennia…or so I thought. 

It’s the time of year again when traditions take centre stage.  The holidays are approaching and everyone – every family, every social and religious group – has their own way of celebrating all based on their traditions.  But traditions aren’t just about holidays or special events; they also govern the way that we interact with one another in our day-to-day lives.

This year, I am spending the holiday season together with my own family, as a tenant in my parents’ house. For those who missed my previous post, let me catch you up.  Aged forty-something, mother of 2 boys and wife of one very Mr. Niceguy, I’m undertaking the ambitious project of renovating my house into my dream home (or as close to it as budget will allow!).

It goes without saying (though must be said as both parents are avid readers of my work) that my parents are making the ultimate sacrifice.  I’m sure that when my sister and I first moved out they must have breathed the largest sigh of relief: “Finally…”  They had accomplished what I believe all parents hope to achieve (which I now appreciate):  two married daughters, established, homes of their own – now they could relax.

Until they took us in.

Only months after they had taken in my younger sister and her family…

And only weeks after they completed their own renovations…

But (I believe) as parents, they’d signed a deal (perhaps with God or the universe) and in so doing, upheld their traditions of always caring for family so on November 2 (Mr. Niceguy’s birthday!!) we moved in.

I had prepared my brood for how they’d need to behave:  be neat and tidy, no eating in front of the television, no yelling/screaming/fighting/pretend skiing or car racing in the house/and always, always finish the food on your plate.  I thought I had it figured out what with years and years being under my parents’ roof – surely things could not have changed that much, could they?

What I hadn’t banked on was just how much I would change (or come into my own) after flying the coop…

Kim K ArmeniaWhen I married Mr. Niceguy I thought to myself, I will absorb this man.  I come from a culture that is as old as Ancient Egypt (and incidentally has produced some of the sexiest people in the world including Kim Kardashian!) while his is only a few hundred years old.  I will convert him to an Armenian and he will adopt all of our traditions, our ways of being – he will no longer be phased by my air-traffic-controller hand gesticulations or jump at my voice as I yell commands from just the other room as though I was on a trans-Atlantic telephone call circa 1979 – incidentally my dad still does this whenever he’s on a long-distance call…even if it’s just to my aunt and uncle in Hamilton!

Oh how wrong I was.  While Mr. Niceguy did get used to me and my ways (he loves the cuisine and even raises his voice above a whisper from time-to-time)…I hadn’t realized until I moved in with my parents just how many of his traditions I’d adopted.  He quietly, stealthily, converted me into a person who went from blurting, “Huh?” and “What?!” to “Pardon?” and “Please.”  Living with my parents, I see where so many of my quirks and foibles come from but having had time apart, you really do develop your own traditions.

Our life has become so individualized:  each of us has a schedule – I volunteer, write, and am managing our home renovation; Mr. Niceguy has a full time job and is constantly in training mode for one obstacle race or another; and the 9 year old and 5 year old are a couple of jumping beans bouncing between school, soccer, swimming, piano, skiing, judo, jiu jitsu and everything else in between!  We have what’s a very modern “grab-and-go” lifestyle.  We eat on the run, do homework on the run, catch-up on the run and perhaps the only two things we do staying still are video games and sleep.  (And TV for me!!)

Just the other day I was standing in the kitchen having breakfast for dinner:

Elegant mom:  What are you doing dear?  Why are you eating like that, hunched over your plate?  Why don’t you sit down?

Me:  ***Food stuffed cheeks***  Pardon?

Elegant mom:  I said, why don’t you sit down while you eat?  And what is it that you’re eating anyway?  Are you having eggs?  For DINNER??!

Me:  ***Swallow quickly – don’t talk with mouth full***  Yes.  It’s Wednesday.  Wednesday is Judo night.  I got the boys from school, cleaned up, did homework, made breakfast for dinner, and now I’m just eating quickly so I can get them to their class…

Elegant mom:  But eggs?  For dinner?  Surely dear they must need better nourishment.  They’re growing boys!  Look here, I’ve made green fasoolia with rice – why don’t you feed them what I made?  And where’s Mr. Niceguy?  Should I fill a plate for him?

Me:  ***Totally exasperated – I don’t have time, I don’t have time, I don’t have time…*** Mom I don’t have time!  I have to get them out of the door.  Mr. Niceguy will take care of himself!

Elegant mom:  “Take care of himself?”  No.  That’s not right.  He must feel comfortable and be well fed in our home.  You know dear, you must make time for good nutrition.  Look at you. Did you sleep well?  You know, if you don’t take care of yourself…

Carrie Post photoThis is one of just a myriad of interactions…in a day.  But I’m beginning to realize that perhaps I shouldn’t depart so quickly from my “old” traditions. While loud and food centric at times, these traditions are rooted in taking the time to have real interactions – not just those on-the-go – they value a slower, more humane pace and while I seldom have the patience for “twenty questions” (“Where’d you go? What’d you do? Who’d you see? Who’d you know?”*), they’re an indication of real, genuine interest and caring: the cornerstone of family.

So, while you make your lists for Santa this year consider the gift of family and good friends.  I am getting the gift of knowing my parents as the people they are now, Mr. Niceguy is getting a front-row seat to my history, and my children are not only getting to build memories with their grandparents, but getting first-hand experience with our rich and unique culture laced with ALL of our traditions.

Now, if only I could put a stop to the teen angst flashbacks that keep cropping up like my chubby days, the mean girls, the countless crush dramas, getting caught, the heartbreaks and, and, and…

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you, your families and loved ones.  May 2016 bring us all more of what will fill our hearts and souls, and make memories we can recount for years to come…

*Carrie Bradshaw, Sex and the City, recounting discussions with Aiden Shaw after moving in together to her girls.

christmas-wallpaper-196

 

How far does our need for acceptance go??!

acceptance fishTo some degree or another, we all have a need to be accepted.  Whether it’s by friends, family, colleagues and even random strangers – like when I’ve just “been me” while saying something so asinine and I feel like I’ve instantly been blacklisted as they look at me like (a) I’m from another planet or (b) I’ve been living in complete isolation having only a volleyball named “Wilson” as a companion.  While I’ve always known that I fall more on the side of the spectrum that craves acceptance (I write a blog for goodness sake), I didn’t realize just how much until the other night.  My 8.5 year old, who, after a full day with his BFF, came home telling me all about this thing he discovered called, “Siri”…

8.5 Year Old:  Mom, we were talking to Siri!  It was awesome.

Me:  *Great.  Now he’s totally going to hijack my phone and get me into all sorts of trouble…*  Oh ya…what did you think?  Not that exciting huh?  I just ask Siri about restaurants or the latest movies or where the closest gas station is in an emergency.

8.5 Year Old:  Ummm…ok.  We asked it to show us the biggest butt!

Me:  WHAT?!

8.5 Year Old:  *In hysterics*  Ya!  Ya!  The biggest butt!!  At first Siri didn’t know what I was saying but then it showed me a picture of the person with a HUUUUUUUUUGE butt!!

Me:  *?????* 

He then proceeded to “demonstrate” this new skill on my phone.  After the hysterics, and obviously not amused by Siri’s sterile demeanour, my son ended his torture of my iPhone 5 with the following statement, “Siri, you suck.” and Siri replied, “That doesn’t sound good” and “I’m just trying to help you.”  Poor Siri.  All I could think was, OMG!!!  Now Siri is not going to like me.  Now she won’t help me with reservations, recommendations and witty remarks!  Wait a second…WHAT AM I THINKING???!!  And that’s when I realized just how deeply we (I) sometimes need to feel accepted…

Recently when I picked up my son from school he told me that someone made him cry that day.  He had been excluded and was feeling unsure of himself – I was amazed at how quickly he linked not being picked to play at recess, to who he is as a person.  Akin to having to speak to your children about the birds and the bees, storks, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, having to talk about self-esteem is right up there for me…where does one begin?

Perhaps one of the hardest things to face is when your child or any child comes to you distraught over being made to feel that they aren’t good enough, that they don’t fit in or that they’re simply, unwanted.  I can’t help but internalize their sorrow and their feelings of insecurity and inferiority; all I want to do is take away the angst and remind them that they are strong, smart, capable and good people.  Somehow, though, it’s not the same as when it comes from their peers…

Accepted conceptI was brought up to feel like I was special, important, and strong.  My parents gave me a lot of room to use my voice and demonstrate my talents and capabilities.  While I’ve tried to do the same for my boys, in this fast paced world of too much homework, actual work, extra-curriculars and social media I wonder if I’m doing a good job.  Some call it helicopter parenting – when a parent is there to solve all of their kids problems (in a nutshell) and basically tries to shield them from any pain or loss: “there’s no winner here…you both tied!  Hooray!”  I feel like I can fall into that trap very easily.  It doesn’t help when you’re as big a control freak like me!

Other times, I like to just let them sort things out for themselves; I’m more of a bystander.  But then the control freak side of me wonders if they’ll come out learning those important lessons…and whether they’ll destroy our house in the process.

Not any closer to knowing what to say or how to handle this particular situation, I decided I needed more information.

Me:  So tell me what happened.  What’s this about someone making you cry?

8.5 year old:  I feel terrible.  I wanted to play but they told me I can’t.  I didn’t know what to do…why won’t they play with me?

Now 5 year old:  I would hit them.

Me and 8.5 year old: You can’t do that.

Now 5 year old:  Then I would punch them.

Me and 8.5 year old: You can’t do that!

Now 5 year old:  Hmmm…(thinking)…then I would kick them and tell them they’re stupid.

Me and 8.5 year old: Nooooo!!!

Was the Now 5 year old onto something?  Is it right to fight fire with fire?  Have we become too sterile, too methodical and too considerate?

When I felt bullied or excluded while I was on Bay Street I would simply run to the third washroom stall so that no one would see me “get emotional” – there’s no crying in finance.  But that can’t be the right strategy!  Somehow we get through these awkward years – hopefully unscathed and better prepared for hard times in our futures…but how?

I decided to focus on building his self-confidence and remind him that the buck stops with us – we cannot control how other people will behave, all we can do is focus on how we will behave.  You can’t force someone to like you or to play with you, and while it’s important to stand up for yourself, remember that you still have to face those same people the next day so stand up for yourself without tearing someone else down.  So while it’s important to have compassion and empathy, to be diplomatic and considerate, it’s just as important to know your worth and your value.

I reassured my son that sometimes these things happen.  Sometimes people don’t want to play with you but that doesn’t mean that you’re not worth playing with.  And as for Siri, I made sure to tell her that I loved and appreciated her, to which she replied:  “I don’t understand, ‘Siri I love and appreciate you’.  But I could search the web for it.”  Hmmmppphhh.

snipy siri

Oh…to be in a cocoon

On this blustery, winter day, I’m wrapped up in my large duvet, trying to block out all the fighting and the fake gun shots (POW!  POW!), the million-and-one questions, requests and demands, just trying to find a quiet place to get in touch with my inner thoughts.  My cleaning lady quit and after the fifth (yes, FIFTH) load of laundry this weekend, I’m spent.

Incidentally, during one such load of (thank goodness) darks, when I went to put the washed clothes in the dryer I heard a *CLINK*…I ignored it.  Until I looked back into the washing machine and to my horror, found crayons…CRAYONS!!  So oh—my—GOD!!!!  Now I have to dig through half-wet clothes and turn out all the pockets because five loads of laundry were not a big enough chore?!  And if they find their way into the dryer…I’m screwed!!!!  WHO KEEPS CRAYONS IN THEIR POCKETS??!!

I know I shouldn’t blame them…they’re just kids.  They’re having fun.

And I can kind of see the humour in it.  I’m a horrible mother.  Why couldn’t I just turn their pockets inside out before I started the load?!  Ugh.  No matter now…

Crisis averted…I’m lulled into a false sense of accomplishment until I move onto the next:  cleaning “boy” toilets (eew), the kitchen sink, the floors, and dusting and I’m just about ready to admit failure again, abandon my intentions of becoming the best domestic there ever was and simply hire another cleaning lady.

duvetcoverFor goodness’ sake, in addition to all of the above, I’ve stripped the beds of all their sheets and mattress covers and, being a big believer of continuing education, I’ve even watched various online video tips for housework including one teaching an orgasmic, idiot-proof method of stuffing a duvet into its duvet cover!  Yes, this “new generation” of YouTube-ing everything and equating housework with emotional highs and true accomplishment is a new twist for me.  I’m SO PUMPED to try this out!

In truth, the video captivated me because it equated the method with a burrito roll and quite frankly burritos and I are super tight.  Like really tight.  Like Angie and Brad tight.  I can’t walk by a burrito and not eat it.  Chicken, beef, pork, veggies, cheese, eggs…put virtually anything in a burrito, hand it over and I’m in my happy place.  Add sour cream, some pico de gallo and that’s what I call orgasmic!

Incidentally, the idiot-proof method took much longer than my usual haphazard “Girl Fight” style of blindly stuffing my the duvet into the corners of the cover and now I’m upset with myself for having put so much faith into this fail-safe, quick, life-saving, orgasmic method.  Completely let down and feeling like I’ve been cheated on by a bad ex-boyfriend, in true homage to the burrito, I’ve rolled my idiot self up in my uncovered and totally naked, king-size duvet.

So back to where I started this entry, here I am, lying in fetal position; I’m desperately trying to drown out the wails, the complaints, the incessant questions and unrelenting complaints from my world.  I’m desperately trying to drown out my own wails, complaints and incessant questions and unrelenting complaints.  Like, “is this what a so-called balanced life is supposed to be like?” and, “I quit my job to be able to focus more on my family / personal life but I just can’t seem to find focus” and most of all, “is this what I went to graduate school for?!”

The thoughts swirl around me like an F5 tornado.  I can see all the different parts of my life but I can’t seem to catch any one.  Everything is a blur and in this total bewilderment I hear a tiny voice whisper, “give in”.  The blur morphs into a haze…and like a caterpillar waiting in its cocoon to turn into a graceful butterfly, I drift off into a blissful slumber, leaving the world behind…for now.

duvetcocoon

 

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

This is MY forty.

Spincycle Diaries:  This is MY Forty…

A friend of mine, relatively to her forties, posted an article about being forty on Facebook prefaced with the comment, “I’m not sure I agree.”  My interest was piqued…

this-is-40-movie-wallpaper02When I was turning forty, I was more focused on my actual birthday than what it would mean to be in my forties.  My initial thoughts centered on how I would celebrate this milestone:  would I have a big party or fly away to some exotic locale – “Instagram-ing” every second?  Would I bring the kids or leave them behind?  I imagined all sorts of different outfits to wear to my great, elaborate party or otherwise, on a day filled with shopping, visiting museums and walking from Battery Park all the way up to Columbus Circle in New York City, alone, with Mr. Niceguy – stopping for burgers and beers along the way.

Yes, turning forty was definitely the focus – so much so that I had neglected to stop and think what it would actually mean to be in my forties.  Of the articles I’ve recently read, one author made a statement which rang very true for me:

I’ve never managed to grasp a decade’s main point until long after it was over

When I take a look back, I can see that my 20’s were full of learning and making mistakes, adventure, and romance:  I lay the groundwork for what would become a wonderful marriage and exciting career.  My 30’s brought a new set of challenges as I got deeper into my profession, started my own family and questioned the kind of person I wanted to be and the kind of legacy I wanted to leave.  So what will my 40’s be about?  With time growing ever more precious I’ve decided that I’d better figure this out toute suite! 

Probably the very first thing I’ve noticed about being forty is that I’m certainly making a much bigger deal of it than Mr. Niceguy ever did!  In all seriousness though, I’ve come to realize that it’s really important to appreciate the present.  All the worrying, the planning, the preparing – these are all distractions from the now, from the moments that we can never again have:  a first step, the first A on a project, basking in a moment of brilliance, or an unexpected ‘thank you’ for a contribution when you weren’t even expecting to be noticed.  Building a storehouse full of vivid moments is what will sustain us in the future and help us to keep going when times feel particularly tough.

This brings me to another realization:  many articles stated that we should not make comparisons between ourselves and others – comparisons only get us into trouble.  I believe this is true but given the right perspective, comparisons fuel motivation.  Like the other day, I saw Supermom in the parking lot – you know her:  fab, fit, forty and so together.  Supermom effortlessly juggles all the aspects of her life, is ever so charming and eloquent with her kids and never, ever appears frazzled, in other words, my antithesis.  After trying countless low carb diets and exercise routines, trying to keep on top of this project and that, and reading all the parenting books I can get my hands on, I’ve come to learn that although my thighs will always “kiss”, I will inevitably forget about a deadline and quite often, will make some parenting expert cringe, thanks to the Supermoms out there, I strive to take better care of myself, not sweat the small stuff and be a better mother.

My last realization is that in truth, I really have no idea what I’m talking about.  I mean, on most days, I feel like I’ve somehow reverted back to my teenage years, worrying about how to cover up the zit that just popped up on my forty-year-old forehead!  I do things I shouldn’t do, say things I shouldn’t say, even try hard to be one of the “cool kids”!  Like, this can’t be how a forty year old would behave, can it?  Turning forty has highlighted some of my deep-seated insecurities!  Should I spend more of an effort on my appearance and dress more appropriately for my age by ditching my Converse and jeans?  Should I act more grounded and finally start reading the newspaper instead of quoting the Vampire Diaries or the Bachelor?  Should I stop pretending that I’ll one day become President or Secretary of State?!  Should I start acting “my age”?!

No, I believe I should not.

Forgiving my presumptiveness, here’s what I think I know about being forty (and perhaps beyond).  That none of it matters.  While I have no clue as to what it means to be in this “club”, I wouldn’t be true to myself if I didn’t say that I want to have a hand in its design.

I can say with certainty that by the end of this decade, I will seek out my children more than they seek me out now, I have to make more time for romance (despite the constant tornado called life swirling around me, no book takes the place of a night out with Mr. Niceguy!), I will have to work harder than ever before to not feel left behind by some new technological gizmo and that I may need to finally trade in my sneakers for more sensible shoes.  In the meantime, I’ll continue to make mistakes and cringe when I think of them (like hitting myself on the head while closing the trunk of my own truck in front of all the Supermoms, or the daily insert-foot-in-mouth-itis with which I’m plagued), or continue to pretend like I know what it takes to set world policy (there are worse things than pretending to be President!).  Most importantly though, I’ll learn to focus on what’s really important:  my present, and the fact that as time ticks on, surrounding myself with a circle of true friends and a loving family that I helped to build, along with my not-so-grown-up spirit, are really all that matter.

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

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+

Battle of the Sexes!

This week I have thought a great deal about the never ending battle of the sexes…and I’ve concluded, women win.

We survive continuous changes from puberty to our death, and we do it in stride!  Women are reminded virtually every 28 days of a “weaker state” yet we overcome.  We can bear another human being.  We can go through “the change” and still come out the other side while physiologically, the greatest challenge a man has is his daily routine of shaving a beard.

Now I’ve completely distilled it.  I’ve used a trump card that can’t be beat.  I realize this may be fighting dirty but I know I’m right.  For this week I have endured.  I have lasted.  I have won.

I have been ruminating about the battle of the sexes because I’ve been surrounded by two, very feverish children with undulating colds and a very ill Mr. Niceguy, poor, sweet Mr. Niceguy, who has been in a state of malaise.  And at every turn I have been met with one runny nose or another and the fear that every surface is contaminated with germs and so I must guard not to touch, sit, eat, smell or even look at anything!  Still, after a very extended weekend in our virus-laden house, I have endured.  I refuse to succumb to the illness that has gripped every male person in my household.  And I have concluded, it must be because I AM A WOMAN!!

I am told, women have stronger immune systems and we eat better, are neater, better at organizing, etc.  Surely that can’t be the only claim to superiority?  No.  The battle between the sexes has been raging through the ages and here’s how an article in the Mirror begins:

Men joke that women can’t parallel park, women say men have all the emotional intelligence of a plank of wood…

male-vs-female-brainThe article actually does go on to cite that Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania found unique differences in brain connectivity between males and females:  male brains are structured for perception and coordination (like ducking if a ball was being thrown straight at them) while the female brains are wired for coordination between analysis and intuition (like examining evidence in a high profile crime case and knowing when your client is lying to you).

Essentially, we are two different species when it comes to how our brains work.  But like the article asks, who’s best?  I’m quite certain it will (unjustly) be a tie…

From the standpoint of intelligence – women win.  They have been scoring higher and higher scores on IQ tests and likely that is due to the fact that we, as women, have had to deal with greater complexities in the last century such as juggling family life while building a career.  Male brains are also adapting to the faster moving modern world, however not at the same pace as women’s.

Women also win when it comes to medicine – female doctors are said to be more cautious in that they order more vital tests, more likely to prescribe the right drugs and essentially, are less likely to tell a patient to swallow two Tylenols and call back in the morning.  I can’t say I’m one to speak on this as I’ve known great male and female doctors…but yay, another point!

We know women are great multitaskers – after all, they have to be.  And this may be an unfair challenge, but take it from me, as a woman, sometimes I wish multitasking was not an inherent, ingrained requirement.  Having said that, we win.    We are superfast at making dinner, doing homework, paying bills, writing up proposals and preparing lunches for the next day…ALL AT ONCE.

What I didn’t know, and was so happy to read about, is that we make great bosses – this is because I am bossy and now I have validation.  Truth is, however, that female bosses are fairer and make decisions that are more likely to benefit all stakeholders (also, if you don’t believe me or the Mirror, the International Journal of Business Governance and Ethics found that female-influenced companies are generally more successful than those dominated by men).  Hear that?  Stand up women and let’s take over the world!

brain scanHere’s where we lose: at throwing, driving (WHAT?!), sleeping (no surprise) and at boozing.  Hmm…so what if I can’t throw a ball like Blue Jays’ pitcher, R.A. Dickey?  And ok, apparently men’s brains are better than women’s at visualizing 3D images which helps when it comes to parallel parking – I would like to add here that I am the QUEEN of parallel parking, even with my oversized Mom-UV!  Truth is, in general, I do have to agree with this one.  And sleeping – why of course men are better.  Remember that multitasking thing?  That doesn’t just shut off because it’s 11pm and time for bed…  And as for boozing.  I had to laugh – I am the cheapest date!  Apparently it’s because men are full of more water and so do a better job at metabolizing alcohol.  So touché, besides, I’m full of more brains…

So that’s it and just as I predicted – 4 to 4.  But is this really an even split?  I mean, can we weight these?  Surely intelligence must count for more than throwing?  Unless of course you had to “throw” a lasso to swing yourself out of a burning building?  But dare I ask, how would you know whether a lasso would be the thing to throw if it were not for intelligence?  Am I being too petty?

Uh-oh.  What’s that?  *cough, cough*  My throat is feeling scratchy.  My eyes are tearing up and watery.  Oh…I feel so tired, my body hurts, my head hurts…oh no!!  Can it actually be a TIE?

timthumb

Sisters before misters

We’ve all heard the term, “Bros before hoes”…how about, sisters before misters?  We too have an unwritten rule of backing up our girlfriends and not being sellouts…

Some time ago, I was out and about with Mr. Niceguy at a park.  And though I’d love to say we were alone and were on a romantic stroll, gazing into each other’s eyes, whispering sweet nothings, and getting ready to settle down for poetry over a nice picnic with some beaujolais, baguette and brie…the reality was that we were chaperoning our children which meant screaming at one not to throw sand at the other kids in the sandbox, while pushing the other for what felt like an eternity on the swings while having this type of conversation:

Me:  Hey, how was your day?

Mr. Niceguy:  Hmmph.

Me:  Did anything interesting happen at work?

Mr. Niceguy:  Nope.

Me:  How are the markets?  Are they up?  Are they down?  Are they up and down?  (tee-hee)

Mr. Niceguy:  Yup.

Me:  So things are going well then?  TSX hit a new high?  Or they could be better?  Markets still reacting to Russian aggrandizement?

Mr. Niceguy:  Huh?  Ya.  Hey, what are we doing for dinner?  Where are the boys?

frustrated-momSo, it can be a nice change to run into other parents at the park.  I find it’s a good way to have some adult social time and to commiserate.  After all, how else are we supposed to get through the sleepless nights, the teething, the terrible twos, the not wanting to wake up and go to school, the nagging and whining and all that other not-so-great stuff?

While children are definitely one of life’s greatest joys, let’s be real…all good comes with some bad and having a support system to deal with some of their curve balls is an absolute must!

Anyway, on one such occasion we met a couple while at the park.  The conversation flowed freely and we were all enjoying ourselves, reveling in the happenstance for adult time while the children ran around, until the moment when the woman from the couple had to tend to her tantrum-having-toddler and her spouse came over and made a slight complaint to me…about her!  I was completely taken aback.  Now while what he said really wasn’t a big deal, it was really weird – not only because we’d just met but also because it felt like I’d been transported right back to high school, like to an episode of Glee – yes, I still watch it, and did you see Gwyneth last week?  She was AWESOME – where I was now put in a position of “high drama” and “inner conflict” and had to figure out “the right thing to do”…  My inner monologue started to work overtime as I broke out into a cover song and dance routine in my head.  Hadn’t this guy heard about “sisters before misters”??  Didn’t he know the code?  Things just got a little too intimate…

Now let me explain what I mean when I say, intimate.  Not intimate like being intimate with a loved one in the bedroom when you’re…well, NO!  Intimate like when you’re getting ready for a very important first meeting so you try and retry outfit after outfit and finally settle on a cute skirt paired with a sweater and booties that will carry you from that meeting to an après work drinks party that you just got invited to and can’t miss because since you left your middle-management-downtown-financial-district-career, gone are the days of regular Thursday night drinks and throwback parties where the beers are bankrolled and you don’t just talk about homework and compare extra curriculars but bitch about bosses, new initiatives and unreasonable work expectations.

After all that daydreaming, you realize that you’re going to be late and so no more revisions on the last outfit iteration and off you race to the subway (which before, was the bane of your existence, but now, an out-of-the-norm treat) only to realize when you get on the train that your sweater shrunk more than you thought after you freshened it up in the dryer (bloody merino wool and bloody hard-to-set-dryer-timer!!) and that you’re going to have to sit through an entire quasi-interview / meet-and-greet / bacon-to-my-bread meeting fidgeting with a now very tight and itchy crop top and though you try your best, you are no match for nature and you flash your still-not-washboard stomach and belly button to the utter amazement and surprise of not just you, but the prospective employer.  THAT kind of intimate.  (Oh, and true story by the way)

So how does one respond?  By now, I believe I’ve expressed (in rather eloquent detail, if I do say so myself) that while I can have the strongest of opinions, I can also be a cowardly jellyfish – I responded from a place of great surprise in between nervous giggles:  “Oh, ha ha.  OK.”  And while that would’ve normally been enough, the puzzled look on his face revitalized me enough to say, “Well, to each his own.  I think she’s doing a great job.” And walked away.  Though we’re not in high school anymore, it’s still sisters before misters…except where Mr. Niceguy is concerned, of course!

frozen sisters

 

The (unexpected) joys of travel???

Travel can bring out the best (and worst) in people.  It can be stressful trying to get from point A to point B which is unfortunate because it can also be an opportunity to learn and grow.  With the airline industry being what it is these days, unless you’re in an opulent, first-class suite on Emirates Airlines (dare to dream!) expectations for air travel are typically quite low and the attitude is certainly one of:  to it and through it! 

Air travel is fraught with perils of all things negative; at every turn chances are high that in one fell swoop you feel what’s like to be on an island in the South Pacific fighting in a multi-round elimination challenge to “win immunity” – or in this case, to board the plane, find room to stow all of your belongings, claim your armrest and get to your destination.

From packing the trunk with overstuffed suitcases (including the extra one that had to be brought along due to the weight allowances which were only discovered the night before), to the unpredictable traffic en route, to the ridiculously long lineup for bag tags (despite the fact that care and effort were taken to print boarding passes the night before), the dreaded security line (which, has much improved since the days of trying to juggle holding a finally sleeping infant, collapsing a stroller, and removing shoes all in one go while fending off glares of other passengers) and finally to the gate, onto the plane and into the “ever-so-coveted” **full blown sarcasm here** middle seat – the mode of travel for the foreseeable future as the windows are coveted by the 3 or 7 year olds and who can survive a tantrum in closed quarters? 

Suffice it to say, gone are the days when Mr. Niceguy and I could spontaneously take off with merely a carry-on between us, drinks at hand.

I practically grew up on airplanes.  Thanks to my dad’s career which took him to Saudi Arabia for nearly a decade, we spent much of our vacation times and certainly all of our summers, jet-setting (totally privileged!) making my sister and me expert travelers.  Air travel back then was also much more glamorous and much simpler – at least that’s how I’m going to choose to remember it…

Catch me if you can

Bitten by the travel bug and sprinkled with a dash of wanderlust (together with my commitment phobic tendencies) to me, there is nothing more exciting than going somewhere new and immersing myself – ok, not just anywhere but places where I can shop, lounge on a beach, shop, check out historic ruins, shop, pick up a new language, shop…you get the idea?  I couldn’t wait to immerse myself in the West Coast.  I braved March Break madness and took a flight to visit my sister and her family in Vancouver – Mr. Niceguy, 7 year old and 3 year old all in tow.

Having forgotten what it was like to travel during March Break (this not working thing is still new!), I was not expecting the chaos at the airport that comes with school holidays.

Boarding passes in hand, we made our way to the bag drop off and just when I thought things were going well, while getting some assistance from an airline attendant, a woman bud in front of the 7 year old and 3 year old who, diverted by all the excitement had left a large gap in front of us.  This woman just sauntered into line not minding that an agent of official capacity was speaking to us, not caring that she cut in front of the 50 or so other passengers who were patiently waiting, and certainly not at all concerned that she took advantage of my children!

I will not profess to be cool headed – those who know me or who have read my entries in the past know my longing to be a flighty, cool, hipster chick that lets things roll but alas, I have failed miserably.  Being Armenian, I have a predisposition to the “Armenian temper” and 0 to 60 and back down to 0 is something I can do in a split second.  However, this time, I stayed at 60…ok, 100.  See, this woman took advantage of my children who were surprised to be overtaken; she also took advantage of me and of all the other rule abiders.  She hijacked my travel experience!  I felt my eyes alight, my body temperature rise and I was poised for a fight and when she next paused, like a Maserati Gran Turismo, I maneuvered my cart and we overtook her but not without adding in my shy anger (the kind when you’re about to have a confrontation but can’t look the other party in the face because you really wish you weren’t having this confrontation but you will forever regret that you let yourself be a doormat), “you budded” ever so quietly lest the extremely proper and non-confrontational Mr. Niceguy hear.

She had the nerve to respond loudly, “well, we’re all going in the same direction anyway.”  WHA?I  My instinct took over, my inner struggle subsided and I just scoffed, “Ya, that’s right” and boy was I proud of myself…Mr. Niceguy was proud of me too, having witnessed the whole thing.  I felt so grand and dignified…and surely, this was magnified (and validated) by the fact that I was about to be bumped into the fast security line legitimately

Quick, boots off, lap top out, cell phone, pockets emptied, belt whipped off, push children through the checkpoint, get through checkpoint, boots on, repack bag, snatch children’s hands from conveyor, grab phone, beg children to stop trying to climb up on conveyor, fill pockets, yell at children in front of masses to take seats at far end where I can keep an eye on them, whip belt back on as pants now starting to fall, and no one, I repeat, no one, needs to see my favourite, comfy, “wedgie-proof-travel-undies”, glare at children while I walk over counting to 10 in my head taking long, measured breaths and reminding myself that it’s all about the journey…

As I said, for me the excitement of boarding a plane trumps just about anything.  Forget about the budding lady or the fact that my children were totally out of control, I had the golden ticket:  passes to the Air Canada lounge…this trip was about to get a whole lot more decadent…

After all my years of corporate travel (and only two or three visits to the lounge thanks in large part to budget cuts and middle management) I, nay, WE had arrived.  I was worried about how disruptive the 7 year old and 3 year old were going to be…but perhaps I should’ve been more worried about me.  I couldn’t believe my eyes:  eggs, bacon, waffles, fruit, fancy yoghurt, exotic juices, mouthwatering pastries, and specialty coffees to my heart’s content.  All of a sudden 4 hours of sleep and waking at the crack of dawn didn’t matter.  Croissant dangling in mouth, latte in hand, I got to the magazine table:  Cars, business, fashion – I didn’t have to choose, I grabbed them all!  My troubles melted away….my cares melted away…my fear of having to sit next to the 3 year old for 5.5 hours melted away…like I said, we’d arrived…I could almost imagine being in that Emirates Air suite…

emirate suite

But how long do those kinds of sentiments really last when you’re travelling by air?

We got on the plane and to our happy surprise, were well accommodated. And despite the fact that I once again found myself squished in the old, reliable middle seat, my neighbor was extremely kind and helpful.  I tend to conserve energy on flights with the 3 year old (you have to be ready for the 8 minute circuit:  change dvd, go to washroom, change movie on screen, get something to eat, open window cover, close window cover, turn volume up, adjust headset, adjust air, change dvd again, go to washroom again to finish what was left unfinished…you get the drill) but my neighbor was so great that I partook in some light conversation, shared my Goldfish crackers, and even threw in a few jokes for good measure!

What happened next, however, came completely out of the blue.  After a (typical) seat mix-up that took the airline some time to sort out, a woman took the seat in front of the 3 year old.  She had barely occupied her exit row seat with ample leg room for more than a minute when she stood up, turned around, looked at my 3 year old and said, “Now you make sure not to kick my chair.  I don’t like that.” 

If I asked what you thought of this woman, what would you say?  How would you take that?  Would you wonder why she spoke directly to the 3 year old?  Would you ask about the tone in which she made that statement?  Certainly, you may wonder about your own state of mind at the time which would affect your perception when she uttered those words.  Like if you were feeling particularly upbeat after a visit to the VIP lounge, would you take it well?  Either way, you have by now probably imagined what she looked like and perceived what she meant…

I was surprised.  Up to that point, the 3 year old had been an angel (the 8 minute circuits had not yet begun).  The plane hadn’t even taken off yet – no cross check, no safety movie, nothing.  Yet, this woman felt the need to make this statement.  Regardless of whether she was a sweet, lovely woman with a kind face – what happened next was even more surprising.  The entire 5 rows behind her on both sides of the plane had witnessed the event.  Had witnessed this tall, cratchity and grey woman with small, evil and squinty eyes, and a tone that was not quite sweet but stern, make this statement.  She became vilified.  All of those passengers condemned her.  And sadly for her, the occurrence was exaggerated,

“Did you hear what that @#$%^ said?  To that poor little boy?  His feet probably don’t even touch the chair!” 

“That evil woman wagged her finger and said that she would be very disappointed in that poor, little baby boy if he makes a single sound!”

“Wow, what’s wrong with that woman?  Some people are just crazy!”

I actually started to feel bad for this woman.  Unlike the woman who budded in line, in this situation I had 5 rows of people come to my defense – actually, to the 3 year old’s defense.  That felt really good.  What felt even better was the reaffirmation that sometimes keeping cool and maintaining my composure is of greater benefit than losing my @#$%!

In this woman’s case, however, I think had she looked differently or approached things with a little smile, she probably would not have been labelled as such.  Also, had she tried to not intimidate but rather, to request, no defense would have been required and her personal brand would likely not have been tarnished.  Never one to pass up an opportunity, after the initial shock subsided I decided to remain magnanimous and instead highlight discipline, “That lady is going to get mad at you if you don’t behave.”  But I think the 3 year old had learned that “preventative maintenance” would not work having picked up on the fact that the tall, cratchity lady had no credence and there were 5 rows of passengers who would back him up no matter what.  So started the 8 minute circuits…

I won’t go into the details of how I survived the rest of that plane ride…but survive is what I did.  So it should come as no surprise that my initial thoughts are also reinforced:  travel, the opportunity to learn and grow, to see human nature at its best – and worst!  Thankfully, I had a belly full of yummy pastries to get me through it and maybe, just maybe, someday I will make it to that Emirates suite…

kidsonairplane

Photo  was taken by Ma1974 on flickr

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

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

Underachiever…in the profession of potty training

Is being an underachiever so bad?  It sure seems easier than trying to claw your way to the top or compete with all of the overachievers…

Let me point out some of the things that an underachiever (probably) never has to do:

    1. Never have to toss someone under the bus – and for that matter…
    2. Never have to take credit for someone else’s achievements
    3. Never have to kiss anyone’s ass
    4. Never have to put in “face time” – hell, that you showed up is an achievement in itself
    5. Never have to play the comparison game, you know the one:  I have a better house / car / job / spouse / top / purse / vacation home, etc.
    6. Never have to pretend to read the newspaper and know about the latest market / economic trends, who won the game last night, and what’s happening outside of your own little fiefdom
    7. Never have to play golf
    8. Never have to pretend to like golf
    9. Never have to answer the phone if you don’t want to…except perhaps to make friends with the telemarketers
    10. Never, ever have to make small talk.

Now I’m not suggesting that tossing someone under the bus or doing any of the above are the keys to achieve, or that becoming an underachiever is by any means a glamorous aspiration…though it does have a particular appeal some days.  So, would it be so bad if you turned out to be one?

I am, literally, waist deep in toilet training my 3 year old.  YES, I know I may be late out of the gate but sue me, I have a full time job, a 7 year old that also needs my attention and a love life to maintain with Mr. Niceguy!  In any case, I was told by the teachers at his daycare that in order to progress to the pre-school, he would have to be toilet trained by September.  I was told this in January and figured it would be a piece of cake…like it (sort of) was for my older son.

March Break came and went, as did Easter, Victoria Day weekend and Canada Day Weekend…and still, I am no closer to having a toilet trained toddler! I have poured through books, internet sites dedicated to toilet training, mommy sites and blogs and even WebMd to determine if there was a medical condition impeding our success (God forbid I’m to blame!)  I even asked his GP who basically told me that I had to be patient and, in not so many words, to basically, lay off.

Let me digress and provide context here.  My parents submitted a picture of yours truly, their first born genius baby, at the ripe age of sometime well before 18 months, to a local publication, sitting gleefully atop the potty, reading the Beirut Business Journal.  Thanks mom and dad for that ingrained pressure.

Anyway, feeling utterly perplexed, I decided to turn to trusty Google and found:

…toilet training is a mutual task, requiring cooperation, agreement and understanding between child and the caregiver, and the best potty training techniques emphasize consistency and positive reinforcement over punishment – making it enjoyable for the child.

What about making it enjoyable for the parent???!  I guess I could have been more consistent and not raise my arms up in defeat every time he answered my questions, “Do you want to do pee pee in the toilet?  Would you like some chocolate?  I will give it to you if you go to the toilet?” and “Don’t you want to be a big boy like your brother?” with a resounding, “NO!”

Continuing on…I was dumbfounded to read about Elimination Communication, a practice that was recently observed in Vietnam where infants were potty trained starting at birth and achieve success by 9 months of age:

The 4 keys to Elimination Communication include: the baby’s signals, the baby’s natural timing, common potty timing, and the parents’ intuition. It is believed that a deeper bond is created between child and parent through the strengthening of this communication.

Well…I guess we missed THAT boat.  @#%@#$!!!!  I can only figure out one out of the four keys:  like I always have to go in the morning and so that’s likely common potty timing…but what is this about the baby’s signals?  The natural timing?  And clearly my intuition has been TOTALLY OFF AS HE IS NOW 3 YEARS OLD!!!!  Seriously?  The only signals I get are when we are in the full throes of the act – I defy ANYONE to tuck my kid under their arm like a football and reach a toilet / potty / any patch of grass in time!  And when you become a practiced sprinter like me (did I ever mention that I used to run 100m dashes in elementary school and was really good?) – even if you make it to the toilet / potty / patch of grass, good luck trying to get him to GO!!!!!!!!!

So during these past few weeks of “training” all while battling a bad back, acupuncture treatments, multiple loads of laundry (because let’s face it, the 3 year old could care less if there are “presents” in his undies) and tears of frustration while I ask all my other mommy friends (and even non-mommy single guy friends – that’s how desperate I’d become), I have decided to throw in the towel.  What’s the worst that could happen?  I have a brilliant, headstrong, loving and funny little boy…so, in this instance, and for the time being, I’m going to declare myself an underachiever…and I’m feeling more relaxed already…

Potty

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

Charlie’s Angels…all rolled into one!

A very dear friend of mine, let’s call her Madeline, or Maddy for short, is one of a group of 5 (and sometimes 6) known for their sense of humour, perspective, inner (and outer) beauty and overall capability…she is a friend that I met once I became a mom.  And I have her to thank for the latest of my over-analytical queries…thanks Maddy.

In one of our more recent conversations, Maddy reminded me about how she always got stuck playing “the brainy one” of the Charlie’s Angels while she was growing up.  And that got me thinking about myself…and my cousins’ basement.  For as long as I can remember, my cousins’ basement was the absolute coolest place to be.  My VERY cool aunt allowed her two daughters to completely annex the basement of her house which meant that posters and magazine tear-outs covered every square inch:  Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp (circa 21 Jumpstreet), James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Star Wars and the Dukes of Hazzard (with the original Bo and Luke Duke along with Daisy, of course).  And in one corner, the absolute perfect poster of the original Charlie’s Angels:  Sabrina Duncan (the brainy one), Jill Monroe (played by the one and only Farrah Fawcett – the tough, resourceful one) and Kelly Garrett (the really pretty one akin to a damsel in distress).  And while Maddy had to be Sabrina, my cousins were gracious enough to let me be Kelly.

Kelly had long, bouncy hair, she wore the very cool bell bottomed jeans and cute tops – my version of a Disney princess – smart, with cool martial arts moves and able to handle a gun.  I could swear that without realizing, I have aspired to be her ever since (minus the gun part)!  So this got me thinking about a couple of things…first, who are the role models for our children today?  I mean, there’s the obvious:  Iron Man, Spiderman, Merida (Brave), Rapunzel, Cinderella, etc. but what if your kid’s really, really into Spongebob??!!  Are you screwed?

And then…isn’t it interesting the way TV shows always portray women in groups with one overly dominant trait or characteristic?  We already covered Charlie’s Angels, but here’s what I mean:

  • Sex and the City:  (the pinnacle of all shows, if you ask me)  Charlotte (prim, sweet), Miranda (brainy), Samantha (ballsy…in more ways than one) and Carrie (outgoing and flighty)
  • 90210 (original):  Brenda (dominant and easily swayed), Kelly (the pretty one), Donna (the comedic, not-so-smart one), Andrea (the brainiac)
  • 90210 (revival):  Annie (original main character, easily swayed and sweet), Silver (broody, philosophical, smart), Naomi (resourceful, younger Samantha), Adriana (artsy and troubled)
  • Golden Girls: Dorothy (smart and manly), Blanche (the original Samantha but super sweet and southern!), Blanche (the original naïve blonde) and my favourite, Sophia (tough)

And there’s more!  From Lipstick Jungle to Designing Women, and even Keeping up with the Kardashians!  Surely we’re a lot more complex…

At what point do we start identifying with just one characteristic?  And why are they always cute?

What if you’ve had a morning like the one I’ve had?  I need these characters to identify with:  angry, disappointed, raging, crazy!  Better yet, disgruntled, disenchanted and disenfranchised…or unmotivated, bitter and haggard.  Too much?  You be the judge.

Last night, after organizing one of the most perfect days for my two boys (playdate at a best friend’s house, surprise trip to Toys R Us, staying up waaaaaay past bedtimes and extra video game time, etc.) I had to wrestle them to bed (I can feel judgement here:  I admit, I spoiled and wound them up with all the great stuff during the day and they weren’t prepared for it to end).  Unfortunately, I was then too tired for Thai takeout, TV and QT with my cutie.

No mind, dugout seats at the Jays game on the agenda today.  So I wake up with a little bit more energy and excitement, tell Mr. Niceguy that I’m ok with both kids on my own so that he can run an errand (my birthday’s around the corner and I’m fiercely collecting brownie points!) and within moments things start to unravel…more wrestling as I struggle to get the 3 year old in a “tidy” outfit – no Angry Birds, Skylanders, monkeys or monsters, for the big game today.  What should have been a 30 second exercise took at least 10 minutes and was laced with crying, shouting, exclamations of wanting daddy, throwing, flailing on the floor…and he did all those things too!!!  Oh boy.  And there was still one more child in the house to get ready…

I take a moment to collect myself…brush teeth, wash face, moisturize…wait, what’s THAT?!  I swear I am being mocked.  Not only did I wake up with an extra bushy head of frizzy hair (which the shower took care of) but a gigantic ZIT in the middle of my nose.  And OUCH, it hurts!  It’s not even a superficial zit.  What if I’m on the jumbotron????  OMG.  Now I’m really going to start identifying with those girls on 90210…

But, I manage to put it aside. And I catch my breath.  And after a very quick 15 minutes I can actually look in the mirror, admire my quick work and say, not bad.  And in the meantime, the 7 year old gets dressed without hesitation and my little guy apologizes, unprovoked, for his earlier tantrum….could things be turning around?

I know I can be crazy.  I know I can get angry and bitter, unmotivated and disenchanted.  And I also know I can be brainy and ballsy along with sweet, naïve, flighty, artsy and indecisive.  And given the time, I can pull it together like Kelly Garrett too…and I’m not alone.  As a renaissance woman, which so many women are, we are charged with so much and if we’re going to thrive, we have to be able to play not just one or two characters, but so, so many more…

I’m feeling good, I’m feeling like Carrie, Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte all rolled into one…except, when we head down for a late breakfast they both declare:  “We want to stay home today.  We don’t WANT to go to baseball!!!” @#$%.