on being sick as a SAHM...MMs on a Wednesday.

My mind is foggy (hence the Motherhood Monday reflection on a Wednesday), my wit (if there was any) escapes me and I find myself wishing I would have rationed that last swig of DayQuil. (The drugstore seems like 1,000 miles away right now)

I promise I have a high pain tolerance and I'm not generally a "bad" or whiney sick person - my husband always uses the example of when we were in Morocco and a parasite ate a hole in my small intestines and I thought I just had a really bad upset stomach. Or when I was in labor with Elasia and thought it was just "Braxton Hicks" for so long that when I went in to the hospital, I was already 4-5 cm and Elasia was born 4 hours later.

But man, this cold/flu/virus/whatever-this-is has really wiped me out - and for like 6 days already!!!  I thought I was more hardcore than this! I can't think straight, there are piles of tissues on every surface in our apartment, I'm generally exhausted all the time. The coughing, sneezing, headaches, stuffed nose...it's all wearing away at my "hardcore-ness". It's the tediousness of this ....I don't know WHAT it is....that's killing me!

Besides coming to terms with my mortality (ha ha - which is age appropriate now that I'm in my 30's, right?), I realized another rather beautiful thing. 

1 week ago, I felt fine. I also felt rather stressed.  Nothing out of the normal though, just that low-grade stress that most mothers must feel. "Am I forgetting something? What is that smell? Shoot, I didn't take something out for dinner! Why is she crying? Where did she hide my keys? Did I remember to call so-and-so-back or did I just imagine that?"  And the list goes on and on. I believed that I had to hold everything together: in my life, these little dependent lives, and for our family. I'm the team member who "holds down the fort" at home.  It's a lot of weight to carry around (real or exaggerated by my personality) but I didn't mind much. But it was slowly wearing me out.

Then I got sick. Just a silly common mystery cold-flu-virus thing, really - nothing MAJOR. And all of a sudden I could do NOTHING. Seriously. Like on Saturday - it was a major accomplishment to put on my winter coat (over my PJs) hobble down a hill to pick up our girls from ballet and slowly walk back home. I felt like I had just summited Everest. Now, Saturday was the worst of it and every day I've been getting progressively better. But I'm still waiting for that morning when I wake up and feel......normal. 

It's not here yet.

So living on a steady diet of toast, DayQuil/NyQuil cocktails, and lots of water/apple juice, I've realized something.  Life has been happening. The show is going on.  Now this is NOT to underplay the FANTASTIC job my husband is doing at catching EVERYTHING that I'm unable to do in addition to all that he does already. (Babe, you were STELLAR this weekend!!), but I LOVED realizing I'm not that big of a player in regards to the welfare of all of mankind.  Phew. That's a relief! :-)

  I can eek out enough energy to feed the girls, get out a little, clean up a bit after us, play with them/do school with them, heck - we even went ice skating last night. (I was much slower and a lot less daring, but it was bona fide ice-skating!)

I realized that despite my daily tasks that make up the very real job that I have (and no one else can fulfill), a lot of that "stress" I was feeling was unnecessary.  Yes I have to take something out of the freezer by 3 PM if we're going to eat dinner, but if I forget - really - is the world going to end? Exhale, Evita.

Maybe no one else thinks like I do, and you're reading this thinking I'm crazy - but I tend to take responsibility for everything...and if no one is doing something that needs to get done - well I have to do it!

So while I don't enjoy being sick, I'm grateful for the perspective it's helping me have. Because for someone like me - knowing that "it all doesn't depend on me" is EXACTLY what I need to hear to motivate me to take personal ownership and challenge me to revolutionize this world.

...one poopy diaper at a time...;-)

Vacation Recap Part "Uno" :-)

Today was our first day "back" in 2 weeks. My, how time flies when you're having fun. For those who've been asking "How was it?" or "Did you have fun?" or "Did the girls do okay with international travel?"  this post is dedicated to you! Here are some pics from our first week of vacation - which we spent in Playas del Coco, Guanacaste, Costa Rica.

After spending our first night in San Jose because most of the major roads to the coast were closed (record-breaking rain caused flooding, mudslides and all sorts of fun-ness) we set out Sunday morning - hoping for the best!
Such a gorgeous country!

Yes, baby those are cows. No, baby, we won't fall off the cliff that the driver is getting so close to.

a bad pic of a rock slide that closed the road we were on for a while. We had to just wait while some locals and tractors cleared out one lane and then take turns with the on-coming traffic to get by.

Just keep playing games...we're almost there!

best way to travel on long, windy mountain roads.

Finally we arrived in Playas del Coco - a small fishing village, somewhat newer to the "tourist" scene and OH-so-endearing and beautiful.  Right outside our condo/apartment place there was a....

SWING SET!! Bless the Lord, oh my soul.

and directly to the left - a two-level infinity edge pool!

 Where this little fishy (Elasia) spent a lot of time learning to swim all by herself. So proud of my big girl!

Some views from our place

Blackberry camera phone's just don't do it justice, sorry :-/

And that water/beach over there in the distance...that's where we spent our mornings.

we'd walk down this little path through a garden (full of butterflies and flowers)

down this little road through our mini-community

to this great undeveloped beach area. Blackish volcanic sand, jungle and mountains right next to each other!

again, apologies for the lame pics. We didn't bring our phones to take pictures 'til the last day and it was sunset. B+  for effort?

Back in the pool...

lounging pool side.

ate out a few times (tried to stick to "local" places and had some really great food!), but I mostly cooked once we discovered our new favorite grocery store - Super Compro! (The girls lived in their bathing suits.)

Elasia was fascinated by learning where bananas come from.

Two things sum up Costa Rica for her: Flowers and Butterflies. Her two favorite things and she saw hundreds and hundreds of each. She's pretty sure she was created for this country.

Qara's pic with a tiny little purple flower.

 When it was time to fly back to NYC we decided not to chance the drive from the coast to San Jose' (the captial where our tickets were booked for.) The weather was awful (in San Jose') and we were sure some roads would be closed. So we bought tickets on this...as Elasia called it... "Baby Airplane". A 45 minute flight in a 12-seater little thing.  Oh the adventures...

No, my rear is NOT that big - the plane is really just THAT small ;-)

 See, my 4 year old looks like a giant getting into it. Us grown-ups had to duck and scoot to get to our seats.
Looks like I'm the pilot, right? Nope - I'm in my seat. Eek.

No, I'm not in cockpit. Just leaning a little forward.

See. :-D

She's always up for an adventure - my little brave monkey.

And my daring Explorer.

that's a volcano!!
And once we landed in San Jose' there were still 2 more planes and a taxi before we were sound asleep in our beds.
And that's all - our time in Costa Rica was truly Pura Vida!
(ha ha - I had to....sorry)

can I introduce you to.....?

So we leave this Saturday for our much anticipated vacation to Costa Rica!! Life's been a bit of a whirlwind (hence the lack of the regular posts), but I can assure you we are all A-okay.

I wanted to introduce anyone who may read this blog to a dear friend and hero of mine. Her little family's story is incredible and their courage/humility is breathtaking.

Please, oh PRETTY please take a moment to meet the fabulous Lester Family.

We really can be a part of the change we want to see in the world. It just takes courage. And so does Motherhood.

We. Can. Do. This.


Monday came and went I totally didn't notice until today!!! (that is a window into the pace my life is running at these days.) Geez Louise. 

Enjoy this great video that I discovered thanks to my FB friend Betsy and I will be back on here soon- for sure!

High-five to all the mommies!

Motherhood Mondays: filled with wonder

My husband's youngest brother had a beautiful wedding this past weekend and both my husband and I were in it. We dragged our travelling circus down to Virginia (that's normally about a 7 hour drive, but with the kiddos it took about 9-10). For me, it was a wonderful yet busy weekend in surburbia, seeing family, crying a few tears of joy, going to a Starbucks (that had a DRIVE THROUGH WINDOW!!). But besides all things GORGEOUS and AMAZING about this wedding, I didn't think I'd have much to say about Virginia. But I do. Just not tonight...I keep nodding off at the keyboard. Stay tuned for a Ode To Lynchburg, VA post... :-)

You know who I loved watching explore "suburbia"? Elasia.  For her, our little trip to Virginia was magical.  And here's 3 reasons why:
  • there are Chick-fil-As !! (these amazing restaurants serve her favorite food - chicken - AND have playgrounds attached to them!)
  • we got in a car and drove to where we needed to go. No long walking, no trains, no buses, no taxis. Travel time with JUST mommy and daddy felt so luxurious.
  • People had their own private piece of grass, rocks and dirt (a.k.a. "yards") not just one central park or green space like NYC.
Watching my girls this weekend, with our extended family, and particularly in Virginia, I was sharply reminded at how boring I can let life be. This is especially a tragedy because when little opportunities come along to "stop and smell the roses" I tend to rush right pass them, shoo-ing my daughters along, insisting there is no time because we have responsibilities to tend to. Then at the end of the day I wonder why motherhood can be so lack-luster. 

So this reflection is short (partly because I'm nodding off with exhaustion  - loooonnnnng car ride) but I want to "bookmark" Elasia's pure ability to be facinated by things that would seem so common to me. This weekend I tried to see things through her eyes and became fascinated again with butterlies, jumping on one foot, strip malls, glittery rocks in gardens, sour pickles, and bubble-wrap packing material.

I think if I can keep reintroducing "wonder" into my adventures as a mother, not only will it help me understand my children better, but it'll make this whole journey A LOT more fun.

So here's to being amazed more frequently, being surprised more regularly and allowing wonder to fill my mind even in the midst of mundane tasks.

Happy Monday, fellow Mommies!

Motherhood Mondays: Futility

Kids are funny little creatures, aren't they?
I think because I know my own kids so well they can have the ability to press my every button to make me scream out of frustration and yet the next SECOND they could have me laughing so hard I'll nearly pee my pants.

::sigh:: ah kids. Sometimes when life doesn't make sense and I'm sure they're going to need years (and thousands of dollars worth) of therapy after they leave home, I stop and realize how FUNNY these children are.

A little while I go, I started emailing my family (all of whom live very far away from us) funny snipets of things the girls would do or say. I noticed a series of one-liners developing...I decided to name it "Futility".
Here's what I've compiled:
  • Futility: Being given a choice by Elasia.
    • Example -
      • Elasia: "Qara which purse do you want? (holding up both a pink and a purple purse)
      • Qara: (pointing at the pink one) That one!
      • Elasia: Nope.
      • Qara: okkkk...(pointing at the purple one) That one!
      • Elasia:Nope (and walks away with both purses)
  • Futility: Trying to get work done on the computer when your two-year has secretly run off with the cordless mouse and is still within range. I would be typing and windows started popping up/closing, things were getting highlighted - I thought our laptop was possessed. 'Til I looked over to the corner, and there was Qara with a BIG smile on her face, laughing. :-)
  • Futility: playing "I spy" with Zaqarah on the subway.
    • Example -
      • Qara: I spy my liddle eye somefin' BLUE!!
      • Me: Is it that big blue sign?
      • Qara: NO! It's yours backpack!! (note: the backpack is LIME GREEN!!)
  • Futility: staying frustrated at Elasia on a packed subway ride.
    • Example -
      • Me (through gritted teeth): I. told. you. to. NEVER. let. go. of. my hand. EVER.
      • Elasia (very loudly): I knoooow, Mommy, but that man's big belly was in the way. I think he has a baby in there! (pointing right at the man...)
Gotta love 'em, right?
Do you have any "futility" moments that make you smile at their innocence, laugh at their perspective on life or just reveal how silly they are?  Please leave a comment so we can all take a breather and remember that we DO, in fact, love our jobs.

And big "high fives" to each of you Fabulous Mommies!! You are changing the world one diaper change, one tear wiping, one disciplinary moment... one sleepless night at a time.

Motherhood Mondays: the gift that "grace" is.

**Bits of my weekend is on a bit of a hiatus. Stay tuned - it'll come back one of these days**

Tomorrow (erm...today, I guess as it IS 1:?? AM) Zaqarah Grace Gahagan will turn 3 years old. I remember, like it was yesterday, double and triple checking that pregnancy test.  Surely I wasn't pregnant!! Elasia was still nursing all. the. time.  What's a "period" anyway?!  But after the second test I swallowed the fact - we were having ANOTHER baby.

I felt like I was drowning in the crushing expectations of motherhood already, barely catching my breath in the mornings to charge head-long into days of the tedious demands of mothering 8 month old. I didn't think I was doing anything right. Anything. And here I was, going to have another one.  Most of what I was feeling (which now I know was Postpartum Depression) was chemical. Things went wacky in my brain and cause me to distort reality.

Reality: I was a pretty good first-time mom. I was tenacious with breastfeeding, even though I had to really work on that latch and Elasia had reflux. I was meticulous at filtering through all the propaganda information out there and deciding what would benefit our little family. I wasn't a germ-o-phobe, but kept things relatively clean and safe. Elasia seemed like she had the potential to be a happy person despite the eternal bouts of colic.

But I didn't see this. I would whisper prayers through tears during late night feedings, "Oh God help. Oh God help."  Nothing theologically complicated, just the plea of a young mom whose mind had turned on her. 

Adam, who was struggling with his own expectations of what parenthood would be like versus our reality, was really amazing during this time. But that's a whole other post in itself. He saw my deer-in-the-headlights look when we talked about this second pregnancy and did what any dreamily hot church-going guy would do. He prayed. And a few days later he came to me a said something like, "Babe, I know it seems like life is crazy, but I feel like this baby is a gift. Not generically, but specifically. I feel like this baby is a reward. God sees all the details of our lives here in NYC and is telling us He's proud of us." 



I chose to believe that. We searched and searched for the perfect name and when we found out, around 27 weeks or so, that it was a girl, we knew she would be called Zaqarah Grace - which means "God's Gracious Reward."

On August 24, 2007 - from that first breath at 9:40 PM on a Friday night, she was (and continues to be) exactly that. Now, I know there are actually medical explanations for this and here's my I'm-not-a-doctor-but-googled-it-enough-to-say-it-with-authority explanation: The post-partum hormones I experienced after Qara actually kicked my brain back in gear rather than compounding my PPD.  I felt like I snapped out of it. I had "space" for Elasia's tantrums (as she was 17 months old then) while nursing a newborn with one hand and sweeping the floors with the other.  I still (even now) have days when I feel like a thick dark fog is threatening to swallow me, but they are so few and far between compared to what I thought was normal motherhood before Qara came.
I feel able to truly enjoy the complex creature that Elasia is. I look at her and see a phenomenal world-changing girl who kids will read about in their history books one day...probably. Instead of seeing a tornado of chaos I (usually) see two sisters enjoying each other and discovering the world together.

Besides the science, I can't help but see Divine fingerprints in this. It's like He heard my midnight cries and saw all those tears and gave me a life-saver: A baby who would nurse/gain weight just fine. Who would grow to be a toddler with PERFECT comedic timing and lots of hugs to spare. Who liked to smush her face on my cheek just because.  Who had an infectious belly-laugh and a spritely little nature.

Who would cause me to have a heart attack at LEAST once a week because of her fearlessness at the playground. Who might not revolutionize nations in the same way her sister would, but will, nonetheless, with her own uniquely endearing charm.

I was given "grace" in the form of an unexpected baby.

Dictionary definition says it so well - each definition seems so specific to what her birth brought into my life:
grace (grs)
1. Seemingly effortless beauty or charm of movement, form, or proportion.
2. A characteristic or quality pleasing for its charm or refinement.
3. A sense of fitness or propriety.
4. a. A disposition to be generous or helpful; goodwill.
b. Mercy; clemency.
5. A favor rendered by one who need not do so; indulgence.
6. A temporary immunity or exemption; a reprieve.
7. a. Divine love and protection bestowed freely on people.
b. The state of being protected or sanctified by the favor of God.
c. An excellence or power granted by God

I'm going to enjoy celebrating her tomorrow and watching her round little face light up when she opens her presents. But I'm also going to try to remember the gift I was given called "grace".  I don't have to drown in this thing called "motherhood".

If only I could remember that every day...

Happy Birthday, My little Mugga-Moo.

Motherhood Mondays: On being a nostalgic mommy

Maybe it's the anesthesia from the intense dental appointment I had earlier today, maybe it's the fact that my parents are heading back to Florida after a WONDERFULLY long and indulgent visit, maybe it's because overnight (!) my youngest daughter can suddenly string long sentences (that make sense!) together...I dunno. Whatever the reason is, I'm feeling nostalgic. 

Forgive me, I'm really not trying to be corny. Reality is, I'm profoundly grateful for the life I have right now and I am most definitely looking forward to the years to come. So I can't help feeling the twinge of guilt when I catch myself longing for "yesterday".  It makes me laugh, too....I know.  I JUST turned 30. I don't have many "yesterdays" to my credit. But in my defense, I see this in my daughter Elasia too. She's only 4 and she already keeps a "treasure box" where she puts sentimental things that are important to her - so she can look at them whenever she wants and ....remember.

After a quick google or two here's what I found:
This beautiful painting by Mirjana Gotovac and a handy definition.

1. A bittersweet longing for things, persons, or situations of the past.
2. The condition of being homesick; homesickness.

"Bittersweet". Yep. I agree. Bitter = we can't recreate those memories and, besides, they're probably glossed over and exaggerated a bit in our flawed mind's retelling of the story. But that longing, that homesickness is sweet too. Nostalgia almost always brings a smile to my face. And I think it's playing a critical role in my ability to "mother".
Life can seem so overwhelming to me sometimes. Motherhood can tend to require EVERYTHING that I'm not good at - all at the same time. Every. day.  And I don't have the mental fortitude to "leave it all at the job" most days. If I screw up, I'm acutely aware that little lives are affected.
Nostalgia comes to the rescue.  Like a tiny cheerleader (but less annoying) inside my brain I hear, "Remember the sunlight hitting on Elasia's face when they were happily playing in the garden?!"  "Remember that vulnerable little newborn cuddle-bug that you named Zaqarah?!" "Remember how much fun you had as a kid just 'playing' with no developmentally appropriate stimuli forced on you?!"
yes. I remember. And I can do this. 
Whenever I feel nostalgic I like to look through pictures. It's entirely self-indulgent, but why do anything halfway, right? :-)  I'll spare you the family slide shows - but I can't wait to go through quite a few later, after I put these kids to bed. Beside the obvious "remember when my kids did..." memories, random memories help keep my life in perspective. Pictures of my favorite spots in NYC, the bike I learned to ride when I was little, beautiful people I've had the privilege of  knowing....When I'm drowning in the sea of mommyness, these things frame my current story. And they provide a pretty riveting plot that my kids get to be a part of too. (Does that make sense? And I'm getting too artsy-fartsy? Sorry. I blame this whole entire entry on Dr. Masaiah, D.D.S.)
It's good to feel alive and "in the moment" and yet nostalgic. Hm...I think that anesthesia is wearing off. Time to go pop some Advil and lay down.  I'll leave you with few memories that are bringing smiles (crooked, half numb smiles) to my face today.
This is a beautiful, crowded and dusty bookstore in the Upper Westside. Stores like this give me a sense of adventure. (I've always been a bookworm, though). And the anonymous person's rear-end is added comedic relief.

This beautiful lady was once a well-know ballerina here in NYC. She now lives in a nursing home, but is still so gracious in her movements and a great lunch date.

my "regular" subway stop by Rockefeller Center when I used to teach ESL

love these girls...

and I love laughing and living life with this man.
(we were trying to bulge out our biceps to make it look like we were buff.)

I'm grateful for memories. They get me through difficult days and put an extra bounce in my step during the good days.

Happy Monday, fellow Mommies.

Bits of my weekend - Volume 14

Because Sunday was a blur of church, meetings and projects around the house - I've decided to redefine which days I would call my "weekend". The winners: Friday and Saturday. :-) Here's a peek:

I took the girls for a short walk around our neighborhood and we ended up right alongside the Husdon River. Elasia was brave and ventured out on to the rocks. The "concrete jungle" DOES have bits of nature, we just have to have the eyes to see it.

Our grape harvest from Maggie's Garden.

Dinner Friday night: fresh Chesapeake Bay blue crabs....yum.

This is where Qara goes when she needs "alone" time. There's not much space in our apartment. It works well for her.


Isn't it pretty? My fabulous friend, Amber gave me this monkey bread pan from Cracker Barrel for my birthday. Love it.

this TOTALLY counts as breakfast, right?

I <3 NY. This is one of the reasons why: Hong Kong Dragonboat Festival in Flushing Meadows Park in Queens.

Looking through the reeds to get a closer look at the races.

They're neck and neck coming up to the finish line!

Besides the boat races there were preformances, arts and crafts and LOTS of good food. (and an overwhelming amount of corporate sponsers' paraphenalia EVERYWHERE)
Qara seemed more interested in her lolipop than the dragon behind her....

field of kites!

Elasia's making a paper dragon boat. (It was REALLY sunny.)

This, friends, is my dad's DREAM car. :-)

Ended the great day with a BBQ in Maggie's Garden.

And that was my "weekend"! Hope yours was wonderful - Please, don't forget about all the Arnold family is going through. They've set up a trust fund in honor of Ryan and you can donate/learn more here.

Much love from Hamilton Heights.