Life, Uncategorized

Thursday Thoughts

What a week. It’s Ramadan – for those of you who don’t know what that is, here’s a couple of nice pieces explaining it – so the whole country is operating on an upside down schedule, which is always a great and not-so-great thing. Great because it means that we get to spend a lot more time with friends, eating good food (and let’s not forget the sweets!), and together as a family. Not so great because it means being social every single night, cleaning up and cooking (and eating) a ton more than usual, and sleeping/waking up later than responsible grown ups should. Also, Adam considers his 10 pm sleep a nice little nap that boosts his energy for the rest of the night.

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Ramadan sweets – @mama.fil

Spending so much time in the kitchen and cleaning up around the house can get really dull, so I really try to use it wisely and enrich myself spiritually, you know, filling up the cup so I can give to others, blah blah blah. TED talks to the rescue. If you don’t know what TED talks are, like, what? How? Where have you been? They’re great, short(ish) lectures given by inspiring(ish) people on cool(ish) topics. I add the (ish) because, as with anything, what you get out of them really depends on where you’re at mentally and emotionally and whether or not there’s a screaming baby tugging at your shirt or trying to eat/murder/love the cat. This week’s listens have actually inspired two blog posts, so it’s been really productive(ish).

The first talk was something that really hit home with me, because I have been going back and forth about whether to start a few projects for far too long now, and it really gave me the push I needed to finalllyyyyyyy get started. In a nutshell: Tim Ferriss is prone to depressive episodes that have left him teetering on the edge of suicide too many times, and the one thing that he said scared him the most after the most recent one was how everything just came down to chance. If he hadn’t done xyz, he for sure would have gone through with his plan. So, as a business-savvy man of logic, he decided to kind of study the things that were likely to push him over the edge – which, like most of us revolve mainly around the decisions we face and the likelihood of failure –  and came up with a set of worksheets to analyze each decision not based on what his goals were, but based on the likelihood for failure, and by imagining the worst-case scenarios for each decision. So, instead of defining your goals, he asks you to define your failures and kind of work through those scenarios in your head until you’ve got a grasp on what that reality would look like.

Wow. Now, I’ve heard of such an activity before, especially while researching activities in controlling my anxiety, but this is different for a couple of reasons. First, because he actually set out a plan of how to consider these scenarios and gives you something tangible to write down, a guide to think it through. This is important because a lot of times people make abstract comments like, “change the way you think,” or, “refocus your attention on the positive outcomes,” and it’s like, if I could do that so easily, don’t you think I would have? Tim actually coaches you through it, so it makes it a little more manageable.

And that brings me to the second reason why I think this is different: because while you’re going through these worksheets – asking yourself to fully explore not only the absolute worst consequences if you take action, but also if you don’t take action – it gives you a little space to kind of feel yourself out. Through all of this, you remove the pressure of having to listen to yourself, which gives you the distance you need to hear yourself and feel out your intuition, which usually provides all the insight you need to make a choice (under normal, mentally-stable circumstances, of course, which are not always what we’re working with). Sometimes trying to listen to your gut can give you even more anxiety because you’re so close to the situation that you can’t get a real idea of what you’re feeling, or because there are so many emotions mixed up that it can be really difficult to get a straight answer from yourself.

Check it out and let me know what you think.

Also don’t forget to follow me on Instagram @mama.fil, and Snapchat @kelisep

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Life, Uncategorized

Biting babies and emergency rooms

My boobie-biter is back to his original (and then some) naughtiness!

The last week has been one for the books. It started out with what we thought was a really horrible bout of teething; we could actually see the little tips of the canines poking through and of courseee I had prepared for some sleepless nights and clingy days, but what came next was the kind of thing that makes you want to sink into a bubble bath with Netflix and a cigarette for the foreseeable future. First there was the night waking, which made any possibility of A sleeping in his own bed actually impossible and seem like a distant fantasy that I could expect sometime between the ages of 3 and 23. But then there was a fever, which I also knew could happen with teething, but this thing was relentless. Fevers scare me, and fevers that don’t go away – and keep rising, like up to 102, 103.1 – no matter what we do scare me even more.  So it was off to the ER for us, which brings a whole new set of fears when you live in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia has many great things to offer expats and locals alike. Unfortunately, organization, professionalism, and up-to-date technology in hospitals are not typically among them. Each doctor we saw had a different course of action to take, a different suggestion, and by the time we were back in the ER two days later with an even higher fever, the doctor who looked at him for an entire 12 seconds decided he was dehydrated because he was crying but there were no tears and that he needed a full blood work up. 7 nurses and 4 pokes later, they couldn’t find a vein and I was holding my kid like some rabid mama bear and wouldn’t let anyone anywhere near him.

Mamas, when something like this happens – and this can happen anywhere, in any country – and you feel uncomfortable, or you want them to stop and take a moment to breathe, speak up! It doesn’t matter if they’re nurses, doctors, the president (or especially if it’s the president these days…); ask questions until you’re comfortable, and ask them what other options you have. One doctor (on the third trip to the ER when Adam hadn’t peed in over 13 hours) saw how upset I was and, instead of calming me down and reassuring me of the situation, flippantly suggested that we admit Adam to the hospital and give him IV fluids until he peed. If I hadn’t calmed down (OK, OK, hubby forced me to calm down, but still…) and asked what other options we had – which included just waiting it out because it actually wasn’t an urgent case yet – I would’ve been subjecting poor Adam to even more than he’d already been through completely unnecessarily.

Too often our intuition gets squished down because it ‘doesn’t make sense’ or because there’s no ‘real’ evidence of what we’re feeling. But that doesn’t mean what you’re feeling has no place in the discussion. You know your baby best, and if something feels off, it probably is. Social decorum and not offending someone who has an MD after their name should take a backseat when it comes to taking care of your baby.

Anyway, we’re on the other end of it now, thank God, and if you’re wondering what it was that made little A so sick – German Measles! I didn’t even know it was a thing that kids could get, and was super upset to know that he would have been vaccinated for it at 9 months, which he turned yesterday!

Also, did you ever notice baby’s personality changed after being sick? I swear the kid has developed some new not-so-desirable traits, some more grouchiness, aaand some extra rude nursing habits (aforementioned boobie biting being just one of them), all of which I’m hoping mellow out in the near future so this mama isn’t so mentally drained by the end of the day. Is there any hope? Also, any tips to get the biting to stop, please and thank you!

Life

The baby is OK. Usually.

Some days I mess up. A is OK by the end of the day, thank God, but I’ve had many of those too-close-for-comfort, wow-what-was-I-thinking moments. The last time was when he decided to flop around like a fish until he was within an inch of falling off the bed. He had just gained the amazing and exhausting (for me, never for him) ability to be able to move around pretty well and I left him on the bed for nap time, thinking that the fortress of pillows on the sides of the bed would somehow deter him from falling down. And they did, kind of. Until they didn’t. In usual psycho-first-time-mommy-style, I ran back to the room as soon as I heard him make a sound and found him flopping around like an oblivious, chubby fish on the nightstand on hubby’s side of the bed. He had traversed the entire bed including one wall of pillows, and somehow managed not to topple over onto the floor. Moments like these make me wonder why the hospital let him come home with me without some kind of test (like, seriously, did you know they just give you the baby once you’re discharged? No strings attached, he’s just yours to keep and take care of, and they don’t even ask you if you know what you’re doing!) and they also make me grateful that we’ve made it this far.

It hasn’t been a perfect 7 months, and I’ve had plenty of self-doubt along the way (read: every. single. day.), but I take comfort in the fact that he will literally not remember any of the stupid things I do. What he will remember, though, or rather what he will carry with him throughout the rest of his life is a sense of confidence, love, independence and the bond that we have and that we’re building every day. So that’s why instead of focusing on the dumb things I do (seriously, Krystle, leaving a crawling, rolling, MOVING baby on the bed by himself?!), I focus on the silly moments we have, singing songs and playing tickle monster, the fun we have at bath time, the way he looks up at me for assurance when he tumbles over as he learns to stand, the way we snuggle close as he nurses or sleeps; these are the moments that leave lasting impressions on the core of who he is and who he will be, the times that matter in the long run.

All too often we put pressure on ourselves to be perfect, to get it right the first time. Instagram, Snapchat, mommy blogs, and any other social media we’re exposed to on a daily basis don’t help the anxiety; the way they all portray curated images that make it seem like perfection is so easy to attain, when in reality, those moms are struggling and learning as they go, just like us.

So take it easy, mama. Slow down, enjoy the moments that matter, and don’t be too hard on yourself for the ones that don’t.

Life

Hospital beds and laban – and a charcoal face mask

So here’s a funny story to kick your week off: my husband and I weren’t at our own wedding.

Now, if you know anything about Arab culture, it’s that they know how to get down when it comes to weddings. And the entire family/neighborhood/sometimes district comes to eat cake, dance a little, and, obviously wish the bride and groom well. But hubby and I? Ya, we couldn’t make it that day.

Rewind to a month before the wedding – we didn’t even want to have one. We were torn because while most of his family is a quick two hour flight away in Lebanon, mine is all in the US, meaning that at most only a few of my people would be able to attend our big fat Lebnani wedding. So we decided to nix the whole thing and just host small, intimate dinners for each of our families when we saw them.

But, once we arrived in Lebanon it was clear that EVERYONE was expecting a wedding, and we did not want to be the ones to let them down. We had a week, which, with everyone offering to help, didn’t seem like such a challenge. And then I got food poisoning. Now, this wasn’t an isolated event. The sickest I had ever been in my life was the first time I visited Lebanon, after my then-fiance had already left, which meant his parents were tasked with nursing me back to health. It was awful. I thought I would die. They kept feeding me laban (sour yogurt) with raw garlic and I wanted to scream, but it did the trick.

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You would never guess that I was throwing up between takes

So, 3 days before the big event, I came down with another case of food poisoning that was quickly taking over as the sickest I’d ever been, and it sucked. Aside from the whole experience of wedding planning being something so different than what I’d imagined – which was simply because I was from California and not in California, so it was just a whole other ballgame – I just didn’t have the energy to really get into it. By the time the wedding rolled around, I barely had the strength to walk, let alone smile, dance, and interact with people.

Now let me just say, even though the fact that the bride and groom were stuck in a room inside the venue didn’t stop anyone from partying, everyone was so understanding and really sympathetic. There was some speculation that it was one of the cousin’s who had bought the raw meat the day before the wedding for this Lebanese specialty – it wasn’t! I was sick a few days before that – so he felt horrible and kept apologizing. There was a sea of faces in and out of the room wanting pictures and to give us their well-wishes, family doctors bringing syringes full of different cocktails to stick me with to help stop the vomiting, and a whiff here and there of the delicious food being served. Then the time came to cut the cake and I used every ounce of strength I could muster to walk out in my 5 inch heels and wield the traditional sword to cut a slice of cake (that I couldn’t even eat, btw). To my credit, I lasted about 7 minutes before throwing up in front of everyone and making the final call that we needed to go to the hospital ASAP.

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The night ended with hubby and I both hooked up to IVs (he was sick too!) in separate beds at his parent’s house, laughing about how ridiculous the whole thing had been.

 

From that moment on, I decided to be proactive when I visited Lebanon and ordered an arsenal of supplements that would toughen up and flush out my stomach, should the need arise. One of those things was activated charcoal. Since I was pregnant the next time we went to Lebanon and couldn’t use it, I had a whole bottle just sitting around, and decided to see what other uses I could find for it. Which leads me to today’s DIY: charcoal face mask!

This mask is one of my favorites and it’s so easy to make. I open a few capsules of the charcoal tabs, mix it with a drop or two of essential oil – lavender or tea tree, depending on how my skin is feeling that day – and a tiny bit of aloe vera gel, paint it onto my face, wait about 10 minutes, then rinse it off after exfoliating with my clarisonic and a drop of sweet almond oil. You can also add some rose water if you have it laying around.

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My trusted and beloved Clarisonic, Now Foods Sweet Almond Oil, Nature’s Way Activated Charcoal, Lily of the Desert Aloe Vera Gel, and Woolzies Essential Oils

The ingredients in this mask are really great for acne-prone skin, if you have blackheads, or if you just want to get rid of the gunk that builds up over time. I would caution you to test it out on a small patch of skin first, especially if you’ve never used tea tree oil before.

Head over to my instagram @mama.fil for more pics of the products I used and to let me know how it worked out for you.

Enjoy!

Life

Get on the bus.

 

I had a History teacher in high school who told the most amazing stories. I can’t remember a time in my life where I was so captivated by the words coming out of someone’s mouth (aside from when I met my husband, of course!) than when Mr. Welch told us stories. Marie Antoinette, the Crusades, the Salem Witch Trials; things that your average high schooler wouldn’t really care about, except we did. A lot. Because we had a teacher who brought those tales to life. One of my closest friends in high school can still recall the time I animatedly narrated the story of ill-fated Queen Mary I and her hysterical pregnancy that ended not in a prince being born, but rather in a large, foul wind and utter humiliation.

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Me (left) in high school

Mr. Welch had a story for everything, but the thing that really set him apart from other teachers was that he listened to our stories as well. As high schoolers, not many people took us seriously, but Mr. Welch did. Not many people thought the events in our lives mattered – the every day he said/she said was seen as just unimportant fodder that we wasted our time on. But Mr. Welch cared. He listened to us, asked us about our weekends, our future plans, our families. He shared details of his life, too, and made us feel like he was invested in us. To the overly-emotional teenager whose single mom was busy with work much of the time, whose closest sibling was 8 years younger, and whose dad lived 2,000 miles away, this meant a lot.

So when Mr. Welch told us the story of the bus, I listened.

The story goes something like this: each and every one of us will go through life, day by day, slaving away at whatever dream-of-the-month we’re dedicated to at the time. If we’re lucky, we love what we’re doing, if we’re not, well, we still get by. But at a certain point in everyone’s life, a bus is going to come. The bus will look different for all of us; for some it will be a covetable internship in a field we’d never dreamed of, for others it will be an invitation to a party with people we’d never get the chance to socialize with that will lead to a big career break. To get on the bus would seem like the craziest idea in the world. You may not have the money, it may not be logical, your parents would probably get upset. But some part of you, no matter how small or how quietly, will be screaming, “GET ON THE BUS!” And that’s when you have to make a choice. Will you risk getting on the bus, and maybe make the biggest mistake of your life, or will you stay, doing what you’re doing, and keep on keepin’ on? Mr. Welch’s advice? (and I quote…) “Get on the damn bus.”

So I did. When the chance to go to Saudi Arabia to teach English presented itself, I went. It was crazy. It didn’t make any sense; I was from Roseville, California and had never traveled by myself. I had no business going to a country where women couldn’t drive and where even in the most liberal of towns we were expected to don the abaya. My parents were scared and furious, and tried every play in the book to get me to stay. But I didn’t. And you know what? It was the best decision I’ve ever made.

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Me and my sister, Katlynn, the night before I left for Saudi Arabia

I’m not saying it has always been easy, or that I didn’t want to run home a billion times over the last 6 years. But the hard times built character, and the good times hold amazing memories. I met my husband, forged strong friendships with amazing people, and experienced unforgettable journeys all over the world, from Amsterdam to Hong Kong.

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Adam, hubby, me September 2016

And the adventure isn’t over yet. As I enter into motherhood, I realize that the world is still my doorstep, and as each challenge presents itself, I can’t help wonder what kind of storyteller I will be for my kids. Will I leave the same impression as Mr. Welch? Will my kids feel captivated by me or just humor me because I’m their mom then laugh about it later? Either way, I’m determined to make our life one with lots of stories to tell. I may not end up telling my kids the most exhilarating stories, but I’m determined to be right there next to them making the most amazing memories.