Monday, December 31, 2012

A look at 2012

January ~                 
JR turned 2
Jeff took part in a conference in Chicago
I met my annual medical deductible

February ~
JR and Mama took trip to Iowa to see our cousins
JR had her first visit to the dentist
Jeff attended a conference in Denver

March ~
My first attempt at 108 sun salutations
JR hosted her first annual Tea Party: A Chamomille Tea Party
I celebrated my third Lebanese Mother's Day

April ~
A family trip to Seattle
Jeff went to work in Vancouver, BC
JR planted her garden
JR brought fish home

May ~
Jeff turned 42
I decided to start blogging again
We spent a weekend in Charlottesville
JR and I had our third Mothers' Day photo shoot

June ~
Jeff flew to San Francisco
We got pregnant
JR, Teta, and I had a girls' weekend in Charlottesville
I did my second round of 108 sun salutations, and completed the challenge
JR held her second annual Tea Party: A Lemonade "Tea Party"

July ~
Our marriage turned 8
Jeff presented a paper in Hilsinki
JR had her first ever chocolate chip cookie

August ~
A family weekend in Colonial Williamsburg
A long weekend in New Hampshire

September ~
I turned 35
Our pregnancy turned 12 weeks
JR and I spent time in Seattle, Jeff stayed home

October ~
Our pregnancy turned 20 weeks
A family get-away to New York
Bed rest began at 18 week
We survived Hurricane Sandy

November ~
Jeff pulled off Thanksgiving dinner single-handedly
JR hosted her third annual Tea Party: An Apple Tea Party
Our pregnancy became "viable"

December ~
I did not pass my one-hour glucose test
We spent one last family of three getaway in Charlottesville
Jeff finished his second to last semester of classes for his Ed.D.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Being all things...

"One of the most difficult parts of maturing as a parent is realizing that you can't always be all things to all of your children. Parenting is a juggling act where you try to give each child what he needs according to his stage of development and your energy level. Although mothers seem to defy many laws of mathematics, you just can't give one hundred percent to each child all the time. You may need to call in some reserves."
Dr. Sears

JR painted this mug for Jeff for Father's Day

Friday, December 28, 2012

In "her" shoes

Everyone says they grow up so fast.
 They say you will miss those days.
Enjoy it while it lasts.

I try to hold on.
To make it last.
To stretch it out longer.

But in the end, the day is the day.
It is here, then it passes.
It becomes yesterday.

You can try to capture the moment.
Keep it in a frame.
 Commit it to memory.

Try as you might.
Others have tried, too.
The reality remains;
This passes, too.

They grow up.
Fast or slow.
They grow up.
And one day (today),
JR will too.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Lessons from Bed: the Wheelchair

Each year brings its own blessings and challenges.

Last year I was able to escort Jannah-Rae to most of the activities she was invited to, or that I arranged for her. Towards the end of this year, however, I had to relinquish my status as her primary companion and depend on the generous assistance and wonderful company of our loving friends and family. It was not easy giving up the upper hand nor was it fun to miss out on the activities that still went on around me. I was never one to sit beside the driver and yet I found myself being forced to sit back, relax, and watch as the world unraveled in front of my eyes and JR continued to discover the world around her without her Mama at her side.

God has chosen me for this role, I continue to learn valuable lessons as I recline on one couch, then the other, and move from there to the bed, and at times the wheelchair.

I learned that some people are inherently gracious and went out of their way to treat help us as they saw me being wheeled about, while others were just oblivious of the world around them and actually chose to get in through the other set of doors so as not to hold them open for Jeff and I.

I learned that asking for a four-top at a restaurant was okay if it meant I had somewhere to put my feet up and stretch them out.

I learned that accepting someone's offer to carry the extra tray was not a sign of weakness. And that help with shopping bags was a treat.

I learned that being physically "unable" did not make me "less" of a person. And that I did not have to apologise for my state of being.

I learned that not all customer service assistants were indifferent and that the lady behind the desk really meant it when she said, "I know you will get better soon."

I learned that while I so desperately wanted to go on each outing, each play date, each breakfast, and each carousel ride with JR, that it was alright for me to tell her I could not. Alright, but not easy. Alright, but still heart-breaking. Heart-breaking made worse when she says: "I wish you could come with me Mama," and my knowing that this is one wish I cannot grant her. Despite that, though, I learned that I can still be a good Mama, a great Mama even, even when I am stuck in bed. And that there are still numerous ways JR and I can learn, play, grow, connect, even in the confines of four walls.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012


"Starry, starry night.
Paint your palette blue and grey,
Look out on a summer's day,
With eyes that know the darkness in my soul.
Shadows on the hills,
Sketch the trees and the daffodils,
Catch the breeze and the winter chills,
In colors on the snowy linen land."

It took until I had a child of my own with whom I wanted to share one of my favorite songs, for me to understand the real meaning of that song. It also took me until last week to find out its real name. Up until then I thought it was called Starry Starry Night but upon searching for it I found out that its real name was Vincent, after Vincent Van Gogh.

I first heard this song during my teenage years in Lebanon when I was a fan of the oldies channel. They would play it time and again and I found its lyrics and tune quite appealing. It is a sad song, but never really made me sad. It made me think, and stop and listen. It captured me and kept on playing in my head for years after that. Its memory would come and go but never completely leave me.

One day, I looked at our blue wall that was transformed into an ocean during the summer and thought that it was time to dress it up in a more season appropriate attire. Turning it into a night scene came to mind, and moon and stars started dancing in my mind. And then the song came racing back. It was time to share it with JR, and have it as background music while we worked on our craft.

How surprised I was to find out that the song was not just a "song." It had a story, a history. It was a tribute. It stood to honor the life of a person and not merely to sing about love and life. It was a song about a life, and a death. I was left stunned and now even more fascinated by the song. I was also left feeling glad I was able to share something so precious with my precious and leave her with something to appreciate beyond the simple lyrics of everyday songs.

Monday, December 24, 2012


I could not resist sharing this photo.
JR a couple of weeks before she turned 2 listening to a story
at the Central Library while attending the
annual Winter Open House.
It came as an unexpected gift on a cloudy day
and brought back sweet memories.
I still remember the book she was listening to,
 and remember loving it and being pleasantly surprised
when she later received a copy in the mail from
a relative in MN for her birthday.
It is easy to forget the small things in life,
the fleeting moments,
so I am always grateful for the reminders.

Friday, December 21, 2012

High Risk Pregnancy "Favorite" Things ~ 3

... In alphabetical order

Belly ~ I am so blessed to still be growing one.
And reamain anxiously monitoring its continued growth.  

Friends ~ who have been seeing me through this time in my life, both in person and from a distance.
They cook, clean, watch JR, bring treats and gifts, keep me entertained, hear me complain,
listen to me cry, and make me smile. They sympathise and empathise.
They text and call and email.
They keep me going.

Journal ~ because handwriting has become so scarce.
Nothing compares to writing out my words and thoughts. 
Typing them comes close but when the computer is out of reach, or broken, or low on charge, I can trust that my pen and paper will come through.

Little Girls ~ if Mama has a baby in her belly, so does JR!
When the day comes JR will have a baby sister, a baby brother, a dog, a cat, a fish and a pet lion.
Mama will just have one baby. Who wouldn't want to be JR!
Motorized shopping carts ~ how else would I navigate the aisles getting ready for JR's birthday!
I miss walking. I miss browsing. I miss being "able."
But when I got a chance to be "more" involved, I took it,
even if it meant relying on "wheels" in the store.

Teta ~ who lives conveniently close.
Without Teta JR would be sporting dreadlocks (and enjoying them!)
we would be eating frozen meals every day (and gaining more weight than we need to),
and the apartment would be covered with inches of dust (in addition to all the toys, books, and dolls that are already strewn all around).

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


V is for very; very fortunate, very blessed, very grateful, very happy.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Getting ready for JR's 3rd ~ the invitations

 Before I send out the "formal" invitations to any even JR is hosting,
I always like to send out a Save The Date email. Above was created from a Clipart image I found online.

Once the email goes out and I hear back from the guests,
I start working on the traditional paper invites.
For this party, I decided to create multi-colored invites to match the multi-colored balloons
JR will have at her party.

What you need:

* Craft paper cut into 5 X 7 rectangles
* Multicolored plain balloons
* Ribbon
* Stickers for extra decorations
* Sharpie pen, I went with red
* Scissors

The invitation itself will be written on the balloons.
To do that, blow up the balloon just a little, and while holding it shut with one hand,
write down the details of the invite with the other using the sharpie pen.

You will end up with something similar to the above.
The writing is not exactly straight, but that comes with the fact that the balloon itself is not!

Deflate the balloon.
Puncture two holes in your craft paper and thread the ribbon through both sides.
Insert the tip of the balloon between the ends of the ribbon, tighten and tie the ribbon from the back.
Decorate with stickers and add any fun phrase you want to the invitation.

I decided to put the address on the back of the card so as not to crowd the front
or have too much writing on the balloon itself.
You now have yourself a fun, creative birthday invite
the recipients will enjoy until the birthday itself.

Monday, December 17, 2012

A "physical" reminder

What you see is bed rest at its best. While I was admitted to the hospital on 12/4, the wrist band is yet to come off*. You might call it laziness. I call it intentional.

Although I have had multiple occasions to have it cut off, I chose to keep wearing it a little longer. I feel like it is the materialisation of my inner voice telling me insistently to get back in bed, and stay there. It serves to hold me accountable to what I am signed up for, both willingly and unwillingly. It accompanies me when I am alone with my thoughts and whims.

It speaks of a time when time stood still and life came to a screeching halt. On December 3rd, I thought I hit the end. I saw my life flash before my eyes and prayed that this was not "it." I was not ready for this pregnancy to be over, and yet all the signs were pointing in that direction. On that sunny Monday in Arlington, my contractions grew stronger and closer together and I imagined myself being wheeled in to conclude this phase of my life. My senses heightened and panic struck in. It surely isn't time. It couldn't be time. I didn't want it to be time. All I could do is pray.

An email, a phone call and a trip to the pharmacy later, modern medicine kicked in and saved the incident. My contractions slowed down, but my mind continued to race and my body continued to change. I found myself paging the specialist early Tuesday morning: something was not quite right and I needed solid proof otherwise. Proof that could only be furnished through monitoring, prodding and probing. The 2 hours Jeff and I spent in L&D that morning were nerve-wrecking and eye opening: life changes so fast, anything can happen, and hardly anything is under your control. Then, the machines stopped and we got sent home.

Since then, I have been taking it even more easy on myself. When I thought that I could not slow down any further, I found more ways to shed off "must do's," "should do's," and "to do's." Again some people might label it laziness, but here again I call it intentional. We expect so much out of ourselves and the people around us, it is amazing we ever sit down and look around. Even on bed rest I was thinking up ways to make sure life around me continues the way I had "organized" it. But what I realised is that letting go, loosening the grip, and allowing others to do things differently is okay. In fact, it is more than okay; it is enriching. And while I had been working for a long time on "changing" myself, my perspective, my behavior, I had made little progress. Now, though, with my forced bed rest, the physical reminder I wore, and the growing belly I am carrying, that change has come to me. It has sought me out and I cannot resist it anymore. I have to give in, and I have given in. Slowly I have become a different person, and this new person is someone I am proud of and hoping will stay even long after my physical reminder is shredded.

*My OB ended up cutting it for me at my last visit on 12/10.

Friday, December 14, 2012

High Risk Pregnancy "Favorite" Things ~ 2

... In alphabetical order

Cerclage ~ the reason I still have a baby growing inside of me at 26 weeks. A simple procedure with life-changing effects.

E-mail ~ and not just to stay in touch with friends. But also to get in touch with my OB when he is out of phone reach on the weekends, holidays and on travel.

Endovaginal Ultrasounds ~ the technology that allowed the doctor to discover my incompetent cervix, and the method by which we continue to monitor my progress. This is a shout out to machines!

Free parking ~ how I am getting rich! While I used to have to pay $4 per doctor visit just for parking, we now have access to free parking both at my OB's office and at the specialist's office. Talk about cost adding up when you have doctor visits almost every week.

Glucose tolerance test ~ both because I made it this far in my pregnancy to be able to take it, and because I am able to take it home! The test itself is unappetizing, but what is stands for speaks volumes.

Nurses ~ they are heaven sent. I have loved all the nurses that have been involved in my care. I honestly do not know how they do it.

Speed Dial ~ unlike most people I have my OB's and MFM's phone numbers on speed dial. That's how I can get to them with a click of a button instead of going through my phone book.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Story: What happens next ~ Weaning

According to Dr. Sears, weaning is not “something that you do to a child. Weaning is a journey from one relationship to another.” He goes on to explain that “the key to healthy weaning is doing it gradually.” Through weaning, mothers are helping their children move into a new phase of development, “not forcing him into it.” He warns that weaning by desertion is “traumatic.” And yet, that was the only option for JR and I.

I could have told you then, and can tell you now, that neither one of us was ready to let go of the other. You can call it codependence, you can call it mutual need, you can call it attachment. Whatever you call it, it was one of the strongest rings in the chain and all of a sudden it had to be cut off. It still breaks my heart to recall how it had to be done. You could not have bestowed a harsher sentence on either one of us at that time, and probably still cannot do. Being asked to let JR go in that way, after having just been asked to let go of her potential sibling, was more than I could take at once. As for JR, the poor little girl did not know what hit her. One day she was attached to my breast and the next she was being forcefully removed from it. And it took no less than 5 people colluding together to do that.

Those were long days, and even longer nights. Friends and family offered their support in every way they could. Some took JR out, others distracted her when at home. People brought me literature, breast compresses, and cabbage. I took showers, sat through engorgement and lived through the pain. I heard JR’s cries, saw the look on her face, and felt her reaching out. But I could not reciprocate. I had to let her go. I hardened my heart and distanced myself from her. She had to be physically removed from my company, and she resisted. She was fighting for what she knew best, and wanted most. She cried when she saw me and she cried when she saw her Grandma and Teta walk in the door; she knew they were there to take her “away.” She did not want to go, she did not want to play. But the one thing she wanted, she no longer could have. It was a sad time in the Mike household, but we all needed to make sacrifices. It was too bad that JR had to do it at such a young age.

And one day, it was over. Everything I had worked towards in the realm of breastfeeding came crashing down. All the research, the worries, the talks with the lactation consultants, the hours with the pump, the stash in the freezer, everything became a distant, a memory, an icon of another time and place.  My supply dried up, my breasts stopped aching, my pump was put away, and JR learned to live without. But my heart still hurts and my eyes still well up when I think back. We were not ready, it was not fair, and it should not have happened that way. I wish I could go back and undo it, redo it, or not have to do it, but I cannot. It was a tough lesson, but maybe it was for the best. It was crash course introducing me to the art of “letting go.” Maybe it is time I let go of that time.  Maybe it is time I threw out the last of those frozen compresses that, at the time of writing this, still calls my freezer “home.” I had been holding on to it for all this time, but maybe I should let go.

Monday, December 10, 2012

I want her to remember: A letter to Jannah-Rae

I want JR to remember the hours I spend in the kitchen making meals for her and us. And how much I enjoyed spending these hours in the kitchen.

I want JR to remember how I would sit her down in the kitchen and let her "help" me put some of these meals together. And how fun it was.

I want JR to remember how I would rush to make her a dish/dessert/snack she would ask for, right then and there.

I want JR to remember that her requests were, and always will be, very important to me.

I want JR to remember how I wear my hair up, my nails bare, and my face natural.

I want JR to remember how I dress simply and practically.

I want JR to remember that she always had nice clothes to chose from, but that when she asked to spend the day, and go out, in her pyjamas, Mama said yes.

I want JR to remember that essence is more important than show.

I want JR to remember how even when Mama is busy, she always tries to make time for her. And how I try to maintain a conversation with her, even as I am driving.

I want JR to remember how I drop everything I am doing and bend down, open my arms, and take her in when she comes toddling out of the room when she wakes up in the morning. And, how I do that whenever she walks in the door after being gone without me.

I want JR to remember how she brought happiness, and stress, and challenge, and innocence, and fun. And, how raising her is both a source of joy and worry.

I want JR to remember the hours I spent holding her, cuddling her, reading to her, singing to her, and sitting by her side till she fell asleep. The months she spent in the baby carrier, strapped to my chest or my back. The years she spent to my side, holding my hand, asking me to hold her.

I want JR to remember the times we sat together, and how she would look me in the eyes and say "Mama, talk to me!" or "Mama, let's talk."

I want JR to remember the bubble baths we took together, with me sitting in the tub with her. And, the tears she shed when it was time to wash her hair.

I want JR to remember that no matter how old she grows, how far she goes, or how much she changes, she will always be my Jannah-Rae.

I want JR to remember that no matter what happens, I will always be there for her. Always be her Mama.



Saturday, December 8, 2012

Lessons from bed: Eating Mindfully

When was the last time you actually savored what you were eating? Took a good look at what was in front of you before you stuck it in your mouth? Smelled it? Inspected it? Appreciated it? Do you ever notice how a baby ponders new foods before introducing them into her system? Look at Jannah-Rae and remember how it was with first foods: a discovery, an adventure, an experience for the senses, an exploration.

Before bed rest I was lucky to even have time to eat. I was constantly rushed through meals, skipped meals, or ate whatever was on hand at the time. Like most moms, sit down meals were a luxury, not a right. When I had a chance to eat in silence, I would scarf down whatever I had microwaved and move on to the next item on my list. Eating was just "another" thing to get done, nothing worth "engaging" in, "appreciating" or "talking about." Even when Jeff and I went out to eat, I was in a hurry; in a hurry to order, in a hurry to get my food, in a hurry to eat, and in a hurry to get the check. It was never about the experience; food served one purpose: sustenance.

That was then. Now, I have all the time in the world, and pretty much nothing to do. So, what I get a chance to do, I do well. No more cutting corners, rushing through tasks, or running on empty. When I eat, I do it with purpose: to nourish my body and the growing body inside of me. I pace myself, take small bites, chew slowly and swallow consciously. I actually put the fork down between mouthfuls, and carry on a conversation during a meal.

I now start and end my meals almost at the same time as Jannah-Rae, when in the past I would sit waiting for her to finish her meals. This has made meals more enjoyable. I no longer feel like it is a "waste of time" to eat, but rather look forward to sitting at the table for however long it takes for the two of us to finish our meals joyfully.

I am eating less, I noticed, and differently. Although I have always been aware, and picky, of the food I eat, I now choose my food even more carefully: more rainbow colors, less medium rare; more fresh, less fried; more natural. less refined. What I eat matters for two, and being on bed rest is a constant reminder to bring mindfullness to every aspect of my life, including food.

Friday, December 7, 2012

High Risk Pregnancy "Favorite" Things ~ 1

... In alphabetical order

Bed (with or without JR!) ~ the hours I have spent here: eating, drinking, snuggling, sleeping, resting, reading, writing, playing, thinking, praying. But this bed is not coming with us on our next move. I think it has served its purpose and needs to be replaced in our next phase in life.

Couch ~ yes, it is dressed up with a sheet. So much of life happens on this couch lately that I needed to preserve some of its integrity by covering it up. This couch was sent to me from Lebanon and I want to stretch its life span as much as I can.

Insurance ~ what has saved our savings through the numerous doctor visits, hospital stays and sonograms.

Laptop ~ when I don't want to get up to the couch, I use it as an alternative to the TV. JR and I also spend quality time in front of it "reading" books online.

Money ~ while being pregnant with JR, I was actually "making" money. This time I am "spending" it. But its all a small price to pay for what the future holds: another little miracle that will one day grow into a wonderful human being.

Online Shopping  ~ the only way JR acquired warm boots and pants for the season.

Prescriptions and OTC medicines ~ for someone who has a personal dislike to pills, I have become a devoted "pill-popper." I have 3 that I take daily, 2 that I take multiple times a day, and 1 that I call upon occasionally. I even have a list of medications that I now carry with me, lest I forget to report one or two.

Wheelchair ~ my new form of transportation. Our building manager was kind enough to lend me one she had and saved me the hassle of having to go through the motions to get one on my own.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Getting ready for JR's 3rd ~ the inspiration

It all starts with an idea. Sometimes the idea comes to me, other times I seek it out. 

Last year, JR's favorite "character" was Frosty the Snowman. And so the "theme" of the party was snowmen. I needed a cake that was made of made "two" pieces and a snowman cake was just perfect for that.

The year before that was cupcake year and I made enough to spell out JR and draw out the number 1.

This year requires a cake with three parts. After much thought, I browsed the Internet. Balloons popped up (no pun intended) as the top contenders. Three cake "balloons" tied together with string and brightly colored with frosting. And that set the wheels in motion. Balloons it shall be. Next, the invitations. But before that, a Save the Date email need to go out. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Story: What happens next ~ Second D&C

I did not know what happened that day, but heard about it from Jeff and the doctor. A remote part of my brain remembers being in the recovery room once, then twice, but at the time I thought I was being delusional.  Apparently, I was not. I had been taken out of surgery and out of anesthesia only to be put back on both a short while later. I had continued to bleed profusely after my D&C and they did not know what the issue was. In fact, I had bled so much that I needed a blood transfusion, 2 units of someone else’s life serum has since been running in my veins.

When back under and in the operating room, the OB did not know firsthand what was causing the bleeding. His first thought was that he has ruptured my uterus my mistake, something that could easily happen during a D&C seeing how the operation is performed by feeling and not sight. To solve the mystery, my, until then, unmarked belly had to take a hit. I had been so proud of how well I had maintained my belly skin during my first full term pregnancy. I had taken special attention to butter it in the morning and oil it in the evening. My C-section scar had healed well and was covered with clothes, so I was not super conscious of it. And the times that I did think about it, all I had to do was reflect on what came out of it to make it fade in comparison. The scars left from the endoscope the OB had to insert through various points in my abdomen, however, did not leave a new baby in my arms. Although they did save my life, it is still difficult for me to look at them in the mirror without being overcome with sadness, regret and frustrations. Other people’s D&Cs leave their skins intact, why did I have to take this extra hit?
The scope was in, the monitors were on, and apparently there were a lot more doctors in the room than at the beginning of the day. Jeff recounts how my OB sought him out with fear, and worry, in his eyes; what news could the doctor possibly tell him when he himself did not know what was happening.  “We will take care of her,” was all he could say, “I called for backup.” And, Jeff was left in the waiting room again with his thoughts and fears, while I lay oblivious of everything around me.  When the word came back, we learned that I had had placenta accreta whereby the placenta had attached itself to the C-section scar and decided to cause damage to my uterus on its way out during the operation. The doctors did something or the other to take care of the situation and put a halt to the bleeding. To this day, I cannot recount exactly what they did, although I heard it so many times, all I know is somehow the blood flow came to an end and I was sent back to the recovery room. I think my brain just decided to cloud that information.
Once in the room that was to be my home for the next 48 hours, I was filled in on the details. I was put on pain medications, IV and a catheter. I had been under so much anesthesia that I had to wait hours before I could keep any food down and even longer before I got to seee Jannah-Rae again. Frankly, part of me did not want to see her, or rather did not want her to see me in that condition but she came anyway and I was thrilled about that. My friends came over, called and checked on me and I told the story over and over again and showed them the sketch the OB had penciled for Jeff and me when explaining to us what had happened; I still have that piece of paper.
Then I was given the blow. I was, in no uncertain terms, to stop nursing JR and to start using the stroller. I tried to protest, to voice my opinion, to hold my own, but I was outnumbered and outwitted. I was under too much stress, too many medications, too little strength to be able to take care of both her and myself. I had to make a choice and the choice to my husband, my OB, my friends and family was obvious: I had a responsibility to myself; JR would be fine weaned. But I wish it was that simple. I wish nursing was a one-way relationship and had only to do with weaning JR. I wish giving it up was easy. It was not, and still is not.


Saturday, December 1, 2012


U is for Unicorns; I still wonder whether they are real some days!