Hooked and booked

It will be silly on my part to try and glorify the benefits of reading for kids. Even a 19th century parent would know that. Huh. Instead, I’ve decided to take on an even bigger mandate. My objective today is to depict what I am doing in my personal capacity to support the UAE government’s initiative to promote 2016 as the year of reading. So, read on 🙂

To begin with, meal times in my house have taken a completely new dimension these days. Every plate of food is now accompanied by a book. So, while my little girl is fussing around at the dinner table, mommy dear is busy trying to distract her with the antics of a Mr. Impossible, Mr. Muddle, Little Miss Wise and/or Little Miss Stubborn. In fact, this approach is working so well that there are times when we read a couple of them back to back, while trying to finish the last few bites on the plate.

Taking this new-found enthusiasm to a whole new level, the last month has also witnessed both mommy and daddy take on the role of reading volunteers at school. So while I went and read ‘Little Lucy goes to school’, my husband tackled the more macho subject of ‘Noddy and the Clockwork Mouse’. The questions that followed gave us some wonderful insights into the minds of little children. It also made us realize how having an INFINITE degree of patience is an absolute pre-requisite for a teaching job involving a bunch of 6 years olds!!

A major lifestyle change in the direction has been the daily ritual of switching off our internet connection at 9 pm sharp. Willingly or unwillingly, directly or indirectly, this has prompted me to read before I go to bed. One might argue that there is the TV; however, lets not forget that once my husband is back home after a long, tiring day at work, he gets the  exclusive rights to this medium of entertainment. Honestly, I’m not complaining.

Reading at bedtime is a an excellent sleep-inducer. Secondly, its great for enhancing my writing skills. And lastly, it can be such an addiction, I end up doing it during the day as well. And that’s when my child is watching me.

A wise man once said, ‘Children are great imitators. Give them something great to imitate’.

Mission reading – accomplished.

A tiny little heartache

One fine day, my 5.5 year old daughter came up to me and said, ‘Mommy, my chest hurts’. While her statement made me a tad uneasy, in my brain I dismissed it as a muscular spasm (or something!) and went on with my thing. Having said that, in the days that followed, I was consciously alert of any more such signals from her. Lets just put it like this- it will be an understatement to say that I was watching her as a hawk!

The next couple of days passed peacefully. And just when I had convinced myself that this was a one-off thing, there she was again – ‘Mommy, my heart pains’. OK enough. First, I was uncomfortable about my little one using words such as chest and heart, and that too, not in a happy way. Second, just like any other paranoid mum my age, my mind was full of a million things that could possibly be wrong. Anxiety had definitely set in. And that’s when I decided to book an appointment with her pediatrician.

Fortunately (unlike adults), chest pains in children are very rarely due to a cardiac condition. Also, in over 95% of the cases, these pains resolve itself completely with time. However, they are a REAL thing and any such complaints should be evaluated, diagnosed and treated specifically.

Sometimes, it can be something as simple as an injury. Typically, an injury can result in pain in the ribs, muscles, tendons or bone. The area around the chest can feel tender or inflamed. Be on the look out for symptoms that get aggravated with play, strenuous activity or lifting anything heavy.

At other times, it can be an actual illness. Bronchitis is known to cause chest pains along with a fever, cough and shortness of breath. Asthma, which is another very common condition in children may also result in pain, wheezing and difficulty while breathing.

If the pain is felt at a particular point (specifically at the center of the breast bone) and is accompanied by heartburn, it is often gastro-intestinal in nature. Such pains get exaggerated after a heavy or spicy meal, or if the child has a habit of eating too fast or too much at once.

And finally, as real as it can get, chest pain in children is often caused by anxiety. Some children exhibit very definite symptoms such as nail biting, hyperventilation, tingling in hands and legs and restless sleep. However, there might be others with no external indications at all. In fact, if no known cause of chest pain is established, it can more-or-less be attributed to anxiety of some kind.

Besides evaluating the overall health of the child, the pediatrician will conduct a thorough physical examination of the child who complains of such pains, including listening to his/her heart and lungs. If abnormalities are noticed, chest x-rays and electrocardiograms may be ordered for further investigation.

In the case of my daughter, it turned out to be a gastro-issue. She has a condition known as ‘acid reflux’ which cause the contents of her stomach to back up in the esophagus, resulting in a feeling of heartburn more than pain. To treat this, she was prescribed an anti-gas medication (Maalox syrup) suitable for kids. The medicine has worked as a dream.

It will be safe to say that in the last few months, whenever we have had an incidence of greasy, heavy, oily, spicy or just too much food, it has been Maalox syrup to the rescue!

My kinda dad…

Enough literature on Mums. I’m in the mood to write about Dad’s today.

They come in different shapes and sizes with varying levels of expertise, functionality and eccentricities. Some are great, some not-so-great while the majority fall somewhere in between. However, there is no denying the fact that they form a very important component of this complex machinery called FAMILY.

Based purely on my keen sense of observation, here is a list of the various categories of Dad’s that exist today:

  1. The excel-sheet Dad: Closest to my heart (as my husband is one of these), this dad is the man with a plan. He loves to have a ‘project’ to work on, spends hours on the computer doing research and is hell-of-a-lot organized. Result-he has an excel sheet for everything. Banking records, home expenses, vacation planning, college applications. Quite like the yellow pages except in excel format 🙂
  2. The well-intentioned Dad: This is a tricky one. And also the smartest. You shall see why. These dad’s actually offer to help with the housework. They genuinely want to make your life easier. Except, they ask soooooooo many questions in the process, you rather do it yourself!!
  3. The uber-cool Dad: Toned body-√. Fashionably dressed-√. Latest smartphone-√. Cool car-√. Since these dad’s are so clued-on to the world, you can have a conversation with them on a variety of topics – health, fitness, cars, gadgets, celebrities, what’s trending and so on. Definitely one to show-off among the youth. And among the ladies. Ahem 😉
  4. The mentor-Dad: It might seem that their single-most motive in life is to sit you down and give you a spiel on grades, sports, personality and life in general. Well guess what, it is! However, since it comes with years of experience and an inherent, almost over-whelming desire to protect you from any kind of trouble in later life, it might do you good to be all ears to them.
  5. The super-Dad: And finally, we welcome the super-dad. Or should I say Superman? After all, check out what all he does – goes to work, earns a living, plans vacations, helps with the household chores, cleans, cooks, takes care of the children, reads to them and even tucks them into bed. All of this, in an ideal world, of course 😉

The top 5 things I hate about Women’s Day

I know, I’m a woman/daughter/sister/wife/mother myself; how could I possibly be saying this? If at all, I should be standing up and supporting my brood, loud and clear. Not that I don’t but it is what it is. All I can say is, don’t judge me AS YET.

  1. Because my mobile phone has over a gazillion completely annoying, mostly irrelevant, some derogatory and other loud and tacky messages on Women’s Day! Don’t get me wrong, I value the simple one-liners I get from my family and loved ones, but lets face it – over 90% of the material on my multiple whatsapp groups is nothing but recycled junk. 
  2. Because the media hype surrounding days like these is overwhelming, to say the least. We are certainly not opposed to the PINK and the BLING, but there really is so much more to us than just that. 
  3. Because just 1 teeny-tiny, miniscule little day to celebrate the achievements of women all around the world is just not enough.
  4. Because the day after Women’s Day, all the hooplah about women equality, their issues, achievements and honors takes a back-seat and life suddenly comes back to normal.
  5. Because somewhere we recognize the fallacy of this and yet, come 08th of March the next year, we are back to celebrating this day again.

Someone has rightly said, man is a creature of habit. Not a very good habit this one eh!

Wassup…B?

If SUSHI = JAPAN and

JAPAN = LONG LIFE,

Then, SUSHI = LONG LIFE

This is a no-brainer. There must be something in this food of theirs that contributes towards enhancing the life expectancy of these people.

On another note, something tells me I should float this concept amongst top advertising agencies, who knows I could make truck loads of money 😉

Well, that thought’s for a later date. At the moment, lets unravel a sushi roll, one ingredient at a time and figure out why it rates higher than the quintessential BLT sandwich or double-cheese burger with fries (and diet coke, if I may add!)

  1. Fish is low in calories and an enormous source of omega-3 fatty acids at the same time. Know what this translates to? A curvier mum, a flat-stomached dad and a brood of healthier and happier children. Win-win, I say!
  2. Rice gives us a bit of carbs and a bit of protein but loads of magnesium, phosphorous, iron, folic acid, thiamine and niacin. What’s more, in keeping with the current fad, it is completely GLUTEN-FREE so particularly suitable with those with wheat allergies.
  3. Vegetables such as carrot, cucumber and avocadoe are sushi staples.  Imagine a world that is devoid of paranoid mothers literally forcing vegetables down the throat of their children. Sigh! Even if for a moment.
  4. Seaweed is not the prettiest of ingredients but a powerhouse of iodine and essential vitamins such as A, B1, B2, B6, niacin and C. Also, given the fact that its name has an exotic sound to it (nori), children with their adventurous natures are more likely to end up trying it. And loving it too!
  5. Ginger is your child’s best friend. LITERALLY! I mean, look at all its properties – antiseptic, digestive, immunity booster and cold and cough reliever. Its like, ginger has read my mind – word by word, that is 🙂
  6. Wasabi is one strong and FIERY ingredient, much like the older, teenaged children in the family. Tsk Tsk. Having said that, with its anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and anti-arthritis health benefits all rolled into one, this HAS to be part of every anti-unhealthy diet in the world!!

And that’s how i roll!

My little girl has been a sushi fan since she was two. As a parent, I had my concerns since it contains ‘raw fish’ until good sense prevailed and I finally decided to check with her doctor one day. And her doctor, in his typical, oh-so-matter-of-fact manner dismissed my seemingly, BIG concern with a statement as simple as this – ‘Children in Japan grow up eating sushi!’. Once the words were out of the horse’s mouth, I reasoned, and reminded myself to chill.

So anyway, taking her love for sushi to another level altogether, I decided to enroll her for a Sushi Masterclass. The class was conveniently scheduled after school hours so there I was with my tot in tow, ready to learn the art of making sushi with a couple of life lessons thrown in as well 🙂

The class was a mix of adults and children of varying age-groups huddled together, guided by a group of 4 chefs.  The table on the center had a couple of ingredients on it – several sheets of Yaki Nori (dried seaweed), a big bowl of sushi rice seasoned with sushi vinegar, a plate of vegetables including cucumber and  avocado and another plate containing crab-sticks. Once the participants were armed with their aprons and gloves, the chef’s began with a brief introduction on the origination of Sushi. This was followed by an actual demo of how to make the perfect sushi roll in a few, simple steps while the others heard, watched and followed suit.

For all those who wish to make fresh, delicious and deceptively simple sushi rolls at home, I will try and replicate the procedure as close to the original as possible.

  • Place the nori on a bamboo mat with the rough side of the sheet facing upwards. Wet your hands and take a clump of rice. Start by spreading the rice on the nori such that the entire sheet has been covered evenly. Leave about an inch of nori without rice at the top.
  • Place your chosen ingredients in the middle of the rice. It could be only vegetables or  combination of vegetables and crabstick, depending on your preference.
  • Roll the mat upwards while the nori sheet is tucked under . Apply pressure with your index finger until a cylinder is formed out of the sheet.
  • Take the roll out of the mat and place it on a chopping board. With the help of a knife that has been moistened with water, cut the roll into even-sized pieces.

It was an enjoyable evening, no doubt. By the end of it, we knew how to make our very own yummy, Japanese rolls. What we did not sign up for but also learnt in the process was the importance of spending time with children, art of communication, cleanliness and innovation.

Watch out for my next blog on the health benefits of eating sushi.

0, 1 or 1 plus ton?

At this particular point of time in my life, everybody around me is having babies. And mostly, their second. It probably has got to do with the age group these women are currently in, together with external factors such as societal pressure, family demands, fertility (or rather infertility) alerts and so on and so forth.

For starters, the all-important decision of having ONE, TONS or even NONE of them  is extremely personal. Secondly, as cliché as this may sound, there is no right or wrong here. And finally, whatever your decision might be, it can have a life-changing magnitude. My point is, with something as huge as this, none of the external pressures should matter in reality.

Based on my interactions with people around me, here are a couple of interesting observations and opinions on the subject:

  • Not wanting kids is entirely normal. In today’s day and age, it is believed that raising kids is no longer a pre-requisite for leading a fulfilling life.
  • A record percentage of women don’t have kids. Some do not want it, some cannot have it and some are still searching for answers. Whatever be the case, a woman’s choice to live child-free is not a readily-accepted one.
  • There are some women who want kids, just not right NOW. Technically, women hit their fertile peak between the ages of 23 and 30. After which, fertility levels start declining steadily.
  •  In complete contrast, women successfully have children till their 40’s and 50’s (given the advancement in baby-making technology). Hence, there seems to be no right age. Although, there is a right TIME.
  • The only right time to have a baby is when you and your partner are ready – physically, mentally and hopefully, financially 🙂
  • Although our culture propagates the idea that an ideal family should have 2 kids in it (preferably a boy and a girl), the number of one-child families is statistically higher today.
  • The most obvious benefit of having a single child is that much more time parents can give to it. The most obvious disadvantage – having no sibling to grow up with 😦
  • Rising expenses and sibling squabbles aside, there is research to substantiate claims that families with more children are likely to be happier that those with one or none at all. After all, parents with 2 or more children in their brood would agree – wherever you go, life is one, big PARTY!

Keep calm….and travel!

When me and my partner had our first child (and the only one till date), I vividly remember the discussion about travel plans being off the table for a good 5 years at least. Much like other things which are off the table once you have had a baby, for e.g. a full nights sleep, a clean house, a date night or even the much desired ‘me-time’. However, looking back at the years that have flown by, I would like to believe that we have not done too badly for ourselves. Places that we have managed to cover with our little one in tow include several locations in India, Middle East, Singapore and Sri Lanka; with Australia and USA in our radar for the next 2 years.

Let’s get this straight. Travelling with children is certainly not the same as travelling without them. However, there is no need to avoid it altogether if there are a couple of things that you can take care of beforehand.

  • Be prepared: No matter how young or old your child is, every age group comes with its own set of rewards and challenges. Hence, travel plans should be designed keeping their requirements in mind. If your family has an infant or toddler, expect to carry items such as strollers, car-seats, bedding, toiletries and feeding equipment – formula, sterilizers, kettle, bottles and containers. A journey with preschoolers would demand backpacks, toilet equipment, ready-to-eat food and games and toys to keep them occupied. Similarly, older kids might want to carry their mp3 players, ipads or cameras with them. Also, irrespective of the age of the child, it is essential to carry a basic medical kit for that occasional fall or tummy ache on account of eating too much junk!
  • Pick the location wisely: Choice of location is very vital in determining the ultimate success of a family vacation. Hence, remember to choose wisely. Beach holidays are a huge hit with younger kids while the school-going ones would appreciate educational or recreational locales. Older kids with their more sophisticated tastes would enjoy rich, vibrant cities with scope for adventure, sight-seeing and shopping.
  • Keep your expectations reasonable: Any vacation typically involves a fair amount of travel, besides a drastic change of climate and food. Sometimes, this results in taking a toll on the health of our children. Keep your schedule as flexible as possible so as to tide over such hurdles smoothly. Besides, as concerned as a parent you might be, try not to be overtly fussy about food, cleanliness and other little things. Let them enjoy that additional waffle for breakfast, those unlimited hours in the pool or that tad-bit more of screen-time. Remember, a vacation is as much a BREAK for you as it is for your children.

 

What kind of adult do you want your child to be?

Last week, I was invited to attend an empowerment program for children. As luck would have had it (oh, did I tell you that I do not have a nanny?!), my little one decided to have a tummy ache bad enough to warrant a day off from school. Well, there I was nursing my girl to health while still thinking of a way to attend the event. Should I take her along? Nah! cause that would mean handing over my mobile phone to this overly-smart 5 year old for a good one hour of uninterrupted gaming (something she does not have the pleasure of unless heavens are falling!) Just then, I happened to chat with a savior-of-a-friend who informed me that her daughter was at home too on account of a school holiday. Within the next hour, after completing all that needed to be done around the house, I dropped off my daughter for a play-date at hers while at the same time thanked her profusely.

The empowerment program was conducted by a regional organization called ‘I Can – Self Development for Kids’ -a mastermind of 2 young mums who are also Life Coaches, namely Dana Barto and Rowan Atiya. Dana and Rowan explained that they decided to launch this venture once they realized that the Number 1 desire parents have is for their kids to have positive self-image and self-worth. With several years of experience in dealing with kids, the ladies joined hands with a common agenda – to work towards coaching kids and transforming them into confident, responsible and empowered individuals.

Final

During the event, topics of discussion included our expectations from kids, different parenting styles, critical life skills and the various ‘I Can’ programs that they offer. It is interesting to note that the institute does not hold programs for kids only, they also have specific programs for teachers and parents to empower them with tools and strategies which they can deploy to empower their kids in turn. All-in-all, it was a lively group of mums discussing their parenting challenges while the hosts patiently answered their questions one at a time.

Use 1

While the program itself was largely technical, My ‘Top 3’ (very-simply-put) learnings from it were as follows:

  1. While you may think that you love your child and do a lot for him/her, they might not think the same.
  2. Every interaction with the child, no matter how small contributes towards shaping their personality.
  3. Your child would appreciate you more if you act like a teacher/coach rather than a sergeant!

Their programs cater to children in the age group of 8-12 years. For all parents, caregivers or teachers who would like to give this a try, the team at I Can can be contacted as follows:

Website: http://www.icanbee.com

Email: info@icanbee.com