Friday, March 18, 2016

O light, return to me!

Lately, this motivational phrase has been running through my head every morning when I wake up, "March. Spring. Not much longer, now. I can do it."

I’ve never been a person to get the blues, and I usually live my life enjoying the moment, cherishing each day and what it brings. Although I’m not particularly unhappy at the moment, this year, I’m really looking forward to the summer.

I feel like I’ve been running on fumes since September last year. The past fall and winter appear as a never ending stream of weekdays, where morning fatigue never quite went away until I’d drop down exhausted at the end of the day. Week after week went by and ended in uneventful weekends around the house, because things needed done, or someone was sick, or I just wanted to sleep. I feel like I spent more time watching Netflix than hanging out with friends. Dinners and parties required more energy than I had; even mundane every day things seemed daunting. I can count the days on one hand where I feel like I actually accomplished something.

The darker months have an impact on mood and energy, but it seems like this winter was longer than usual, even though it wasn’t very cold or rainy. For me, I think the main reason was because I didn’t really have a good summer last year. It was the first summer for as long as I can remember that I didn’t travel anywhere, and although I had several beach moments, I mainly worked. All. Summer. Hence, when fall came around, I didn’t start my descent from that high summer peak, but rather, I started in the valley, without a booster. As darkness and cold descended upon us, I had nothing to hold on to.

Still, I endured, and it’s almost over. Spring is here, with Easter, and soon it will be May, and we will travel. All. Summer. And I will refill my energy pool, and recharge my spirit, and nothing will seem daunting again.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Grocery shopping in Beirut - Thank heavens for Spinney's Online Delivery

It’s a beautiful Monday morning, and somebody just had the last of the milk that was in the fridge. But not to worry; my Spinneys delivery is on its way: 16 bottles of milk, 8 bottles of juice, four boxes of cereal, 6 packages of pasta, four baguettes, three dozen eggs, four kilos of meat/fish, three bags of flour, and a ton of veggies and fruit. We should be all set for the next week or so, with the help of frequent trips to the local produce guy.

I am so thankful for the convenience of online grocery shopping. It has transformed our lives! Since we don’t have a car here, getting large quantities of food (I have four growing boys, remember?) into our home would in the past involve dealing with taxi drivers in Arabic (not my strongest language), trying to figure out the correct address, paying large taxi fares, handling carts full of grocery bags, etc. not to mention the taxi driver's remarks when he'd see how much we bought (They must be really rich, right? Hello! We don't even have a car, and you do!) It wasn’t fun. Sometimes I would be able to go shopping with my neighbor, who has a car, which was like heaven. Mainly though, we had to spend an unpleasant afternoon every two weeks or so, getting out food.

Now, I order online, and the next day, groceries are delivered straight into my kitchen. Although I can’t get everything – there are certain things I like to get that this store doesn’t carry – I can get most things, and whatever else I need, I can walk up to one of the shops in Hamra for. Or go with my neighbor to get. I don’t even have to have cash in the house, because the delivery men bring a remote machine for payment by credit card. It’s simply perfect!

Friday, January 1, 2016

New year: new resolutions, new attempts, new energy

I've been thinking for a while that my life needs a reboot of some sorts, or at least a boost in a slightly different direction. I've been stuck in a rut, if you prefer I speak cliché. And what better time to do this than the first day of the year?

My first step was to watch this short, but inspiring TED talk by Matt Cutts.

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Next, I'm working on a list of things I want to change/end or begin. So far, it contains the usual; diet, exercise, write more, read more, etc. but I'm also trying to think of things that I can add that would make my life more fun - like every-day fun. What would you add to your list?

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Vomiting and dehydration in children - my experience

This was not the first stomach bug to hit our family, and not the first time one of our children got worryingly ill. We have some experience. Every time though, there’s always that moment when you are uncertain about what to do, and you turn to consult external sources. Like many other parents do when they are worried about their children, we use the internet, however we are also fortunate enough to be surrounded by a well-educated support network, including some medical doctors.

As most of you are aware, the biggest concern when it comes to a stomach bug is dehydration, and severe dehydration is very dangerous. Our focus, therefore, was on determining how dehydrated our child was, and at which point we would need to seek medical treatment (intravenous fluids).

Please note, as any website will tell you: if you are not sure about how dehydrated your child is, you should contact your doctor.

Yes, I am using a double moral here. Because, 1/ we did speak to at least one medical doctor friend, and 2/ the hospital here will almost ALWAYS use maximum intervention, in my (limited) experience. I knew that if we came into the ER with a sick child, even if his dehydration was only modest, it would be treated with an IV, overnight hospital stay, blood tests, and other invasive methods that would brutally bother our already miserable child. So I wanted to make *really* sure I wasn’t overreacting.

Most articles or websites on dehydration in children will give you a list of things (most of the below are from one of my books by my favorite pediatrician, Dr. Sears) to look for, such as:
  • Dry or sticky mouth, chapped lips.
  • Dry, cool skin.
  • Few or no tears when crying.
  • Eyes that look sunken into the head.
  • Lack of urine for 8-12 hours in an older child (or only a very small amount of dark yellow urine)/ Urinating about half as often as usual, urine concentrated like apple juice.
  • Fatigue or dizziness in an older child, less active and playful, but will make eye contact and respond to you.

I found this other really great article however, that gave us some more concrete ways to determine the extent of our son’s dehydration:
  • Prolonged capillary refill time of more than two seconds.
  • Abnormal skin turgor.
  • Abnormal respiratory pattern.

You can look these up if you don’t know exactly what they are, but it’s pretty straight forward. By going through these lists and checks, we were able to determine that indeed, our child showed signs of dehydration, but at worst only moderate. The article helped us not rush to the ER at this point, since, 

“Oral rehydration therapy is the preferred treatment of mild to moderate dehydration caused by diarrhea in children. Appropriate oral rehydration therapy is as effective as intravenous fluid in managing fluid and electrolyte losses and has many advantages.”

We got some Pedialyte, and we knew that as long as our son was drinking water and not having any diarrhea, even though he seemed to vomit up the water as soon as he drank it, he was getting enough fluids to stay, “mildly to moderately dehydrated.”

Again, please note: We are lucky enough to live in a community surrounded by doctors, and the ER is just a few minutes away, practically free, which is why we felt safe to make a close call like this in this situation. If you are in a different situation, you may want to play it safe!

What would you do in a situation like this? What do you usually do when you are worried about a child’s health?

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Warning: This post is about broken fingers, vomit and diarrhea - not for the faint of heart

It is 10 o’clock in the morning, and it’s… Wednesday, I think. The past week and a half has just gone by – disappeared.

The Kant scholar left for a well needed conference, the International Kant Congress in Vienna, last Sunday morning, and almost immediately, thing started happening.

I thought I had invested well in an active day so that the evening would go smoothly. We had a long swim in the sea, a good late lunch, and then the boys went to the movies (Scorch trials, something: a law movie, I thought at first, how educating! But I think I would have been disappointed in that regard…).

That very evening though, the boys were rough-housing before bed (not unusual) and I had just settled down with a glass of Rioja, thinking I might actually be able to manage an entire week with four active boys, when the 12 year old came crying, hand held high. The 13 year old had kicked his hand and hit his right index finger in such a way that it was most possibly broken. Oh, Lord. It was almost 11 pm, already late for the boys to be up, and worse, the toddler was still awake, barely. But there it was. I grabbed the phone and called my friend and neighbor on the off-chance that she was still up, to see if she could be “on call,” in case the 13 year old needed an adult while I was in the ER with the 12 year old. Luckily, she was on her way home from a dinner, and as we started walking up the hill to the ER, she drove into the parking lot. In fact, she ended up taking some reading to our apartment, and spent most of the time we were away right there in the living room.

In the ER, the 12 year old’s finger was X-rayed and confirmed broken, however it did not require surgery or resetting, luckily, but just a splint. We were home by 1:30 am. The toddler and 6 year old had fallen asleep while the 13 year old read to them, fairly quickly, but the 13 year old was still awake, worried.

Most of Monday was lost, as everyone was really tired, and the 12 year old was in a lot of pain. Tuesday, Wednesday we were playing catch up. The 12 year old was having trouble getting his schoolwork done with his dominant hand out for the count.

By Wednesday evening, both the toddler and the 6 year old came down with bad colds, and Thursday was spent trying to get through that, while finishing some work. In the evening, the toddler started throwing up, and Friday and Saturday were lost to buckets, laundry, bleach, rocking and nursing. In the evening, thankfully, as the toddler was feeling much better, my husband came home – exhausted after an intense Kant week, but well.

But wait, this wasn’t the end of our miserable week.

On Sunday morning I went out for a walk around town, all by myself, alone – sweet, lovely solitude! I had some lunch, and a bit of retail therapy. I say “a bit,” because since we are always nearly broke; there’s no room to splurge. I bought some eye shadow for $3 on sale at H&M, and some pajamas for the little ones at the surplus store. This may not sound very exciting, but after a couple of hours, it was enough for me to have regained some sanity, and I headed home.

At home, I was greeted by a vomiting 12 year old. As I made dinner that evening, I started feeling sick, as did the 6 year old, and soon, the two of us were decked out in the bathroom, throwing up. A rough night ensued. I would run to the bathroom, get sick (sickness was pouring out from all ends at this point) and then crawl back into bed, and the toddler would want me to nurse him back to sleep. Rinse, and repeat.

The toddler, now perfectly healthy,
dining alone,
after having made everyone else sick
By morning I felt better, but physically drained. It took most of Monday and a very long nap for me to get back on my feet. The house was a wreck though, and I had to somehow restore the order. The 12 year old was still sick, but was not serial vomiting. The 6 year old however, just kept throwing up. As soon as he put anything in his tummy, even just a few teaspoons of water, it would come right back up. By evening, we were getting worried. If he kept throwing up overnight, we would have to take him to the hospital in the morning.

This is when my husband started vomiting and other unpleasant things that come with a stomach bug. Could this get any worse?

Late at night, after everyone had emptied their stomach contents in more ways than you want to know, and had settled down for a night full of bathroom visits, I broke out the Clorox and went crazy: I declared war on bacteria!

In my experience, kids usually start getting better a few hours after you decide to take them to the hospital. Sounds silly? It turned out to be true in this case as well. The 6 year old slept all night, and in the morning, he started retaining some water. By lunch, he was able to keep some yogurt down, and in the evening, he even had some dinner. This morning, he looks much better.

Is it over yet?

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Part time working mothers

An ad for a real estate company in Washington caused people across the US to speak out against its representation of working moms.

As you can see, it depicts a woman in a chaotic situation surrounded by three kids on one side, and two business ready men in a neat office on the other. The ad is suggesting that you can't be a part time working mother AND a dedicated professional at the same time. Although the company has taken the ad down and apologized officially, the ad still stirs up emotion,

Not only does it make me mad because there are millions of women out there who are mothers AND professionals. And lets not forget about the working dads,

Worse though, the ad made me feel guilty. Sometimes the circumstances under which I work are even more chaotic than in the picture, and I fear that it affects the quality of my work. Maybe I can't do both? Maybe it's not possible?

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Staying focused while facing one distraction after another

One issue often discussed among homeschoolers is that of routine and schedules. Having a program – a curriculum, goals – and a plan for how you are going to reach these goals, is pretty much necessary, unless you are completely unschooling. However, while it is true that a structured regularity might make homeschooling easier, it is futile to think that you can maintain a strict schedule like a public or private school. If you homeschool in your home with a regular family, things are going to come up, planned and unplanned incidents, or sometimes illness, that will disrupt your schoolwork. The best way to deal with this is to embrace the distractions and learn to work around or with them while staying focused.

This our first week of school was extra challenging in this regard, as it was filled with a few scheduled (dentist visits across town and first week of teaching for my philosophy husband) and several unplanned events. I got sick over the weekend and was out of commission until Monday afternoon. We had a major plumbing problem in the bathrooms with raw sewage leakage (which had to be cleaned up once it was fixed). Then the sandstorm hit Lebanon, which you might not think would have much impact on homeschool activities, but we ended up housing or hosting a dust storm play date for the afternoon, with kids of all ages filling up the house. Last night, William went to bed with a stomach ache, and today he has been very sick.

One more day left of this week, Friday. What might happen tomorrow?