Monthly Archives: January 2014

Really a medicine can do that?

I have never discussed or talked about health matters on my blog. I stick to what I know: being a writer, a dancer, an animal lover, an American expat in the Middle East, and most of all a mom who like many struggles through the management of chaos on a daily basis. However, a recent experience we had with our dog Oscar served as an eye opener for our family.

Oscar is an epileptic. He has been for four years and takes medication for it. Back in October Oscar went through a bad spell with his seizures and was put on an additional drug. We were told that it would take about three months for the medicine to start making a difference.

Three months later Oscar was in boarding while we were out of the country for the Christmas holiday. The vet notified us that Oscar was having some difficulties walking. He was dragging his back right leg so severely that it was wearing down his toenails. When we picked him up from boarding he could barely walk and didn’t even seem to know us. Within a day he could not walk at all and we had to carry him outside and hold him as he went to the bathroom.

The list of what could be wrong with him wasn’t a pleasant one. We heard things like brain lesion, ruptured disc, spinal cord injury and a severe adverse reaction to that new medication he started three months ago. We were told to immediately eliminate Oscar’s newest medication. He was still on the old drug he’d been on since he was diagnosed with epilepsy. Slowly we saw a change in him.

Natalie-Oscar headshot 1Within a week he could walk on his own. He was unstable and could not climb the stairs or get on his favorite leather sofa but he was improving. That same week we began to see signs of our Oscar. His usual sweet facial expression returned and we saw the blank, sad stare he’d had less and less.

Now a month later Oscar is almost fully recovered. He is even once again getting into trouble by stealing food. Oscar had a severe adverse reaction to his new medication. I was amazed that a pill given twice a day could create such troubling and terrifying side effects.

To me this was proof as to how much medications or anything we put in our body can affect us. I certainly have rethought and evaluated every thing including food that goes in my body and my family’s.

Again, I usually don’t write about this kind of thing but as a mother and an animal lover I thought it important to share.

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Disney Magic Preschool Style

I still remember a few of my thoughts when I first saw that positive pregnancy test. The moment was wonderful and surreal but I remember thinking:

1.   I can’t wait to tell family.
2.   We must decorate the nursery with Baylor University accents regardless of gender.
3.   I can’t wait to take my baby to Walt Disney World.

Baby Markey is now three and a half years old and we took her to Walt Disney World this past December. I don’t think I’ve ever been so SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESexcited for a vacation in all my life. For me going to Disney is like looking at pages of the story of my life. I’ve been too many times to count and have precious memories there from various ages and stages of my life. This includes memories with grandparents that are no longer with us. I couldn’t wait to introduce my daughter to a place that I found to be so much fun, special and just down right magical.

Even with all my excitement, I knew that planning a Disney vacation with a preschooler would be a different ballgame then what my family was used to. The last time we went to Disney my husband and I had been married over a year. It has been a very long time since anyone from my family has been to Disney with a young child. The last time was when my younger brother was little and for this trip he would be going with his wife! So a lot of research was required to pull off the perfect family vacation.

The Planning
To make this the best experience for my daughter we began what I called her “Disney training” nearly a year out from the booked trip. This included watching any animated Disney movie or reading any Disney books that I thought she would like. We focused on the classics and the most recent films, this way she would know the characters when she saw them. We talked about the movies and how she would meet the characters when we went to Disney World.

In planning our time at Disney I took into account Baby Markey’s schedule. Every young preschooler needs a break in the day especially at Disney when so much stimulation is being tossed at them. I scheduled breaks for her in the afternoon. I also know the benefits of taking advantage of the extra magic hours you can get when you stay at a Disney resort. I learned what parks opened early and scheduled for us to be there when they opened. Baby Markey does best in the morning so I knew we could get a lot done then. I was right. Really, when planning a Disney trip keep in mind your child’s schedule. They set the pace and the tone. Make the fun work to suit their needs.

I made sure to book all dining reservations just as soon as I was able to. This way I could get the character dining experiences that we wanted. You can also book sessions at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique 90 days out and I recommend doing this. Plan ahead. Know the reservations that you and your child want and then have a plan B so if anything is full.

Let the Fun Begin
Our trip to Walt Disney World was as magical as I wanted it to be. My daughter loved it all. In my opinion she was the right age. The key to going to Disney with any small child is to know that they are a small child. This may seem obvious but it really isn’t. It’s easy to be tempted by the fun and keep going but you must take that mid-day rest or the evening will be hard on everyone.

I do wish we would have practiced waiting in line prior to the trip. My daughter did not like that part but who can blame her? She was prepared to see the characters but that first dining experience when she realized the characters weren’t just there for her was a tough one. I wish I would have explained to her in advance how the characters go around to all the tables. This may seem obvious to us but of course it isn’t for her.

We were correct that she did best in the mornings. Sorry morning haters but this may be the best time of day to get the most out of your Disney trip with a young child.

One thing that we did as part of our preparation was show her some of the shows and parades on Youtube. You can find so much online these days. Showing her shows like “Fantasmic” did not spoil them but prepared her for the sudden sounds and lights. This took a potentially scary moment and turned it into a magical and anticipated experience.

Experiencing Magic
At Disney World magic is everywhere but nowhere is it so strong then in the awe-inspiring expressions of your child. My favorite moments were looking at her and seeing her look of wonder. As adults it’s easy to get caught up in real life and forget about wonder. As an artist, both a writer and a dancer I need wonder. I want those who see my dances or read my words to feel it. Feeling the wonder and magic in life is just like being a kid at Disney World. Unfortunately we can’t always be at Disney World. I love spending time with my daughter in her playroom because she gets excitement over the littlest of things. That wonder is contagious. Play with your child and capture the essence of magic. Use it in your work and daily life. Getting to be a kid again with your kid is one of the best parts of parenthood.

Our Disney trip was a success and an experience we can’t wait to live again in a few years. For now though I play around the house and look for the magic in my daughter. We’re back to “real life” here in our Saudi home. Life is busy but there’s always time for a little magic!

Have you recently taken your children to a Disney park? Are you planning a trip? How do you experience the magic of childhood wonder at home?

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Let it go part two: The writer

Lately I’ve struggled with my writing. I just seem to have lost that spark and I lack the excitement that I once had. I know I’ve become too analytical when it comes to my stories and that I’m the queen of over thinking EVERYTHING. So not only can the amazing new Disney ballad “Let It Go” apply to the mommy in me but it also is exactly what my writing career needs.

Yes, I’m still working on edits for my middle grade but the tedious line edits really serve to stifle my creativity. To answer this problem I’m letting it go. No, not the edits but I’m playing around with a few new projects. I’ve drafted a few extremely rough outlines and I’m writing the first chapter for two new YA projects. No I will not write them simultaneously while editing a middle grade and maintaining freelance projects. Oh and then I do teach dance here in Saudi. I’m not crazy but I desperately need to let it go and rediscover my creative side.

In writing the first chapter of two different projects I’m getting to know the universe and decide which I want to work on and which I want to shelve for another time. I’m really excited about this and believe it will help to break the current rut I’ve found myself in.

What do you do when your creativity seems to be lacking? Do you let it go? In the last post I shared the video of Idina Menzel’s character in Disney’s “Frozen” singing “Let It Go.” The link below has a different version where you hear the amazing song in twenty-five different languages! This is really cool!

“Let It Go” Multi-Language Sequence

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Let it Go part one: The Mommy Me

So while we were in the U.S. for the holidays we took Baby Markey to see her first movie. We saw Disney’s “Frozen” and I need to start by saying that if you haven’t seen this movie then GO SEE IT! It’s amazing and not just a movie for kids. I’m not sure who loved it more.

One of the film’s highlights comes when Queen Elsa (Idina Menzel) performs the Oscar nominated song “Let It Go.” This song is about freedom and the Snow Queen’s celebration of finally being free from hiding who she really is. She really is letting it go.

As a working-from-home-mom there are many times throughout my day when I want to just let it go. There are moments of great frustration when I’m torn between playing with my demanding daughter and meeting a deadline. So this song really represents two parts of my life. “Let It Go,” my new self-designated anthem for 2014 applies to the mommy me and the worker me. This is why this blog post is split into two parts.

These days nothing makes me happier than watching my daughter perform “Let It Go” while wearing her Queen Elsa gown. Of course she includes all hand gestures and foot stomps in her rendition. For such special moments like this I can most definitely afford to let it go. It’s easy to get caught up in work, or at least that’s how it is for me but we’re never too busy to experience those wonderful moments with our children, especially if you are fortunate enough to work from home. Let it go and be the mom/dad that they need in that moment whether that role is watching a performance or fixing a play-doh cake.

I also use the “Let It Go” phrase when picking battles with my three-year-old. Let’s face it, sometimes we’re asking them to do something just so our lives can be a little easier. For example, I love to cook. For me my kitchen time is right up there with my gym time as far as relaxation goes. If I don’t have something in the slow cooker I usually cook our meals around 4pm after Baby Markey is home from preschool and settled into watching a movie. Sometimes however she doesn’t want to watch a movie or play in her playroom. She wants to help me cook. The problem is that when Baby Markey is in the kitchen I’m anything but relaxed!! But let it go! This is not a big lesson moment where she must mind. I normally take a deep breath knowing that I’ll have relaxing kitchen time again another day and I let her help me though it takes longer.

In most aspects of our lives we can afford to let it go. Relax and be ourselves rather than focusing so hard on what we feel is expected of us.

And now for your viewing pleasure, “Let It Go!”

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Be quote worthy

I want to be that person that people will one day quote. There is nothing wrong with thinking big! Our kitchen has a boring, blank wall in front of the sink. When we moved in I hated it. Every time I did dishes or was chopping veggies I was bored. So I released my inner decorator and fixed it. And guys this is an accomplishment. I’m not a great decorator, however I know what I like. I love being inspired by quotes. Our kitchen is painted grey to match the appliances (I didn’t particularly care for “Fifty Shades of Grey.”) I bought a large stainless message board and use it to display quotes.

To me the kitchen is the most important room in our house. I love preparing healthy meals for my family and seeing the hustle-bustle of my family grabbing food or snacks throughout the day. Now our kitchen is inspirational and of course the mighty Martin Luther King Jr. frequently is featured.

Martin Luther King’s quotes and inspiration are timeless and can apply to all of us. Now I’m in no way comparing myself to MLK but I think we should all strive for a quotable life no matter what we do. Release your inner greatness and try to inspire others, even if it is just your family. We can all make a difference.

In honor of MLK Day below are some of my favorite quotes of his. Do you have a favorite MLK quote?MLK

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”

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When you spend New Year’s in an International airport lounge

Hello and happy New Year! Yes, I’m perfectly aware that I’m late on this; I should have long ago posted anything related to New Year’s. However, one of the biggest things I’ve learned being an expatriate overseas is that our lives often run on a different timetable. This was especially apparent to me when we celebrated the New Year in a lounge at the Dubai International Airport, something I would never have done before we became such globetrotters. I had to sit back and marvel at how exciting my life has become.IntlAirport

This year November we took our first repatriate trip. Due to our visas we have to be out of the country (Saudi Arabia) so many days a year. However, we saved vacation and took one long trip! We were away from our home for 37 days. And yes, I call our house in Saudi “home.” That is where we live now and where our things and pets are. It was wonderful visiting family and friends in the States but living out of a suitcase and taking care of a homesick preschooler gets very old and tiresome.

For us returning from the U.S.A to Saudi always comes with a week of adjustment. If you’ve ever traveled internationally towards the East then you know exactly what I mean. For some reason I find the jetlag much harsher when traveling this way. Then we also dealt with a jetlagged preschooler so that adds to our “getting settled” equation. Bottom line, it took a while to return to “real life” after our trip.

With that being said I now feel like this is my New Year. I have the giddy excitement like the first day of school. Why, you might ask? Well this week is when I returned to work. Yep, it’s been a week of cleaning my office, reevaluating my schedule and setting goals.

Life overseas can be alienating especially for writers and then add a child in that mix and WOW, it’s amazing I’m sane! But this is how I become stronger, better at what I do and what I want to do. I take time to plan, evaluate my current situation. I take the time to see how lucky I am to have spent New Year’s at an airport.

If you didn’t start your New Year on January 1, if you feel like you’re off to a slow start to the year STOP STRESSING! It’s not about how much you do more so than how you do it. Because of this I’m glad I didn’t even attempt to reach a word count on January 2nd. I’m glad I took the time to get everything in order and feel organized before really diving into work. Take time to see where you are and plan for the year even if this means not really starting your New Year until later in the month like I have.

Most of all I’m a believer in looking back at your year. Are you happy with your life? If not, how can you be? Ask questions. Use that to plan your year.

I’m happy at where I am in my life physically and thrilled at the prospect of my future both personally and professionally. It feels good to be back in a routine and back at writing. Repat was fun and tiring. I’m feeling refreshed and ready to tackle 2014.

Happy New Year!

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