Babes and Bellinis

Once again I’m reminded that Bellinis on Monday nights are exclusively for the twenty-somethings…and I’m not one. Why is it when you no longer have to carry around a fake ID card and can have access to all the alcoholic drinks you want at any time and virtually anywhere your body is the one that flat out says “no”?

Last night it was my best friend’s birthday. This particular friend is full of spontaneity: perhaps it’s because she’s also married to a Mr. Mocinho of her own (nice or good guy in Portuguese) and so she can afford spontaneity. In any case, she is always up for a quick jaunt out – be it a coffee date, manicures, dinner and a movie and this time, drinks!

BelliniSo on this particular Monday night, at Ms. Spontaneous’ request, we all agreed to ditch kids and hubbies, work and responsibilities and meet up for bellinis, a glorious concoction of ice and alcohol, in other words, a grownup popsicle – it was girls night out! I felt like I was back to my university days; drinks after a stressful exam well written or better yet, drinks for the sake of drinks. Better yet, “Thirsty Thursday” drinks – those random, raging gatherings that would often go well into the wee hours of the morning from which I’d have to do the quickest bounce-back so that I could function the following day as if the night before never happened.

Only it did. Only the bounce-back never came. Only I’m no longer a twenty-something.

Perhaps the conversation over the evening should’ve been the hint – rather than discussing boys or our favourite music bands, we discussed all matters of religion, child rearing, construction and careers. Rather than ordering that tipping point round, we thought better of it, cut the night prematurely and decided that at least 6 or 7 hours of sleep would be better than walking home.

No, I’m no longer a twenty-something. And I’m ok with that. With one more school year behind us, my rearview mirror is becoming full…

When I first starting writing this blog, the now double-digit 10 year old (actually, nine and just two days shy of 10 at time of writing!) was six and I was (as usual) complaining, rather, acknowledging just how cold my behind would get sitting rink-side while I waited for him during his hockey practice. My recent senior kindergarten graduate had only just turned two years old and had yet to make his debut in his mother’s ramblings.

Just two days ago, I convinced Mr. Niceguy and the boys to walk down the street from my parents’ house to a garage sale. I love garage sales. I find them so fascinating; just like I find playing with neighbourhood kids on the street a true privilege – something taken totally for granted in a peaceful, rule-driven, democratic country; growing up an ex-pat in Saudi Arabia I never experienced either.

Walking through garage sales I like to imagine the kind of life these articles for sale actually had…and the role they played for their owners: a lamp manufactured not in China but somewhere in Canada; a chair that came over on steamship from a great wood worker in England; and would I find that one piece of buried treasure? When my soon-to-be-10 year old bought me my very first present out of his own volition, with his own money, through no prompting of any sort – he created that treasure.

Within 30 seconds of browsing through this particular garage sale, Mr. Niceguy and the six year old announced that they’d prefer to “play outside” while the soon-to-be-10 year old and I sifted through collectibles, antiques, and lots of junk. Prepared to chalk our experience up to just that – as I normally do, we started to leave when all of a sudden, an old, run down, wooden chair caught my eye. The eternal project seeker in me decided that for five dollars, this would be a fitting pastime for me while I wait for my own large-scale renovation to be complete. It would add to my own story and years down the road I could declare that I bought this chair on that very hot day the summer we were living at my parents’ house at a garage sale. Only the story wouldn’t end there…

As I carried the chair towards its owner to make my payment, my son asked, “Are you buying that? That old dirty chair? Look at the paint on it – it’s all coming off. And there are spider webs on the bottom.”

To which I replied, “Yes. This is a treasure. Look at this solid wood; it doesn’t wobble, it’s strong. Someone built this with their hands – it didn’t get built in a factory. All I have to do is clean it and with a fresh coat of paint, you’ll see how great it can be again.”

old white chairAs I put the chair down and reached into my pocket for my money, unbeknownst to me, my son opened his play wallet and out of his meagre funds, bought me my chair. And when I handed my five dollars to the homeowner, she said, “your son bought you my mother’s old chair”. My son bought me my treasure.

Perhaps this story won’t resonate with everyone…perhaps it’s because you haven’t had your “treasured moment”. But in a week that started with just how much I longed for my twenties, for my spontaneity, for my bounce-back, I would not have traded the way it’s ended for the world.

As time forces us on, these little moments that fill up our rearview mirrors are the things that will define us – they are the markers of a life well lived. And as a mother of a now-10-year-old, I’m feeling the magic…I’ll enjoy a coffee on my new chair and take stock of a job well done.

Babes and bellinis

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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

What to expect when you’re expecting…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me:  Mom, it’s still NOVEMBER!!! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wishing you the very best in 2014!

mother-and-daughter-holiday

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

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

me and zoom

Pride and Prejudice…the spincycle version

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

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

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

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

Beep-beep-beep-beep…

Ooooooommmmmmmm…..

Beep-beep-beep-beep…

OOOOOMMMMM!!!!!!!!!…..

BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PRIDE-AND-PREJUDICE-1995_400

Humanity…never ceases to amaze

Champagne?  Don’t mind if I do…ooh, it’s Cristal!!!  Of course!  Only the best for my uncle’s 65th birthday! I can’t believe it!  This party is totally high class:  great band, great food, fabulous looking people and just look at my dress!  I’m wearing the most gorgeous black and white ballgown – it’s enormous!  Fantastic!  Magical!  Ooh, and now I have a mask on.  It’s a masquerade ball, oh how elegant!  And my hair is so long and gorgeous and shiny.  My lips are ruby red.  I never want this to end…

Thump, thump, thump, thump, thump.  “Mommy, I cold.  I wanna eat something.  I wanna change.”  These were the words of my 3 year old this morning…at 5:25 am!!  A whole hour before my alarm was supposed to go off!  And poof…there went the dream.  I jumped out of bed and started walking with my eyes closed.  Sensing my clumsiness, he held my fingers with his little hand and guided me to his room…at which point I was really debating a detour to the bathroom given my sense of urgency!  But he’s one of the loves of my life, trusts me implicitly, loves me unconditionally, and I would never let him down.  So on I went.

This was a morning like every other – preceded by a typical Wednesday night (Survivor night!)  Tired mom, comes home from work, rushes to get kids fed and ready for swimming classes.  Then back home, bathe them, feed them again (I swear they are machines), read one a bedtime story and then the other, then run downstairs for some QT with my cutie!  Forget that I haven’t had dinner – a handful of almonds, the rest of that half-eaten Aero bar and some fruit gummies will suffice.

In any case, after my “rude awakening” this morning, I was treated with the gift of walking to the subway by myself and the luxury of buying a latte before hopping on the train – no kids to take to school, no bags to pack and no lunches to make!  Had I won the lottery???  Yes sir!

And there I was, latte in hand, watching Twilight: Breaking Dawn on my iPhone (for the fourth or fifth time) when suddenly I started to feel like I lost my breath.  My head started to get very, very warm – my body actually felt like it was on fire.  I put my hand on my chest and it felt very cold and clammy.  My legs felt like they couldn’t support me – I felt dizzy – I couldn’t think – what was I going to do?  With what strength I could muster, I squeezed my way off the extremely overcrowded train and as I was walking, I started to feel tingles and like my surroundings were just fading away…

Luckily I made it to a bench and put my head between my knees.  And the next thing I remember was being so grateful for the humanity of the two women on either side of me.  There I was, a complete stranger (albeit well dressed in my cute little summer dress, faux snake skin ballet flats, and gold hoop earrings) looking ready to be sick or pass out; perhaps a great inconvenience or a complete lunatic.  And in my most vulnerable state, these two women didn’t appear at all worried about who I was or what I might do to them.  They didn’t think about whether or not they knew me, trusted me or whether they could get something from me.  They just wanted to help.  They just wanted to make sure I was ok.

All I could think of while I tried to regroup and pull myself together to get back on the train was how I could repay their kindness…and how I regret not asking for their names.

It’s times like these that really make me feel grateful.  That help me to forget about all the craziness in our world today:  from pressure cooker bombs, to injustices, and perpetual inequality.  It also helps me to forget about the little things – if only I was 7 pounds lighter, if only my butt/arms/legs/stomach were more toned, if only I didn’t have soooo many greys (I do a good job of hiding this fact…most days).  And it makes me feel connected outside of my immediate circle.  It makes me feel like we’re all part of one big whole – which although has some ugly bits, is full of greatness too.

Whoever you were, the girl in the cute summer dress with the faux snakeskin ballet flats and gold hoops that almost fainted at the Bloor Street subway stop thanks you.  Thank you for the reminder.  I know that because of your kindness, your humanity, I was able to have a moment of weakness in a safe environment.  And thanks to you, tonight, when I put my head down after a long day at work and after chasing my two boys around, I can continue my dream at the masquerade ball, unscathed.