December 31, 2012

The New Year resolutions you know you won't keep

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Yes, I know. It's something we all do every year to amuse ourselves, hanging on to the vain hope that things will change one day. The new year resolutions. I  admire those who resolutely write them down or mentally think them through. But you've got to admit. There is something comical about the whole thing. Like these resolutions below. I bet one of these is already on your list and you are already seeing it fade away.

These are the resolutions that everyone makes, and no one keeps:
  • I will eat more healthy food/cut out the junk food. (Right after the new year celebrations, and Valentine's Day, and Easter etc)
  • I will exercise daily. (For one whole week that is. After which I will only become defensive of my watertight schedule)
  • I will save more/spend less. (Until the next big sale, that is)
  • I will spend more time on gardening/baking/writing/painting/other hobby. (There's so much prep involved that I'll wait a while...)
  • I will get a better job. (I hate my job but what if I get a worse boss? I need time to think)
  • I will quit drinking/smoking. (Not unless you don't wait for New Year to do it)

What I do wish is that people made resolutions more like these:
  • I will do one act of kindness everyday, to make the world a better place.
  • I will think of the environmental impact of my daily routine.
  • I will not drink and drive. Ever.
  • I will stop saying things that demean or wrongfully judge others.
  • I will be considerate of others in a public place.
Whatever your resolutions, all the best to you! Just remember, it's easier to keep a resolution if you are specific about it. Mine? I just want to keep blogging!

Happy 2013!

(Pic source: Katy Xyz)

    December 26, 2012

    Parenting in the age of Pinterest

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    Check out the Kids category on Pinterest and you will be bombarded with images of home baked pumpkin cookies and hand crafted playroom art. It can be overwhelming and sometimes, useful. But you've got to remember, you don't have to do ALL those things to be a good parent. Amy Morrison has written this wonderful article (via Huffington Post) about how it has become tough to be a parent nowadays. She says:
    "There were no flashcards, there was no sign language (unless you were deaf), there were no organic, free-range bento boxes -- your job was to just see a kid through to adulthood and hope they didn't become an idiot."
    Hehe! So true! Yes, old timey moms did bring up multiple children seemingly effortlessly, but think about it, most of us were brought up with zero childproofing and chips for school lunch. I don't blame our parents because they did their best with the resources they had and limited access to scientific information and parent support groups. Back then, as Amy says, it was only about keeping the kids fed and clean.


    Today, on the other hand, we have to worry about milestones, stimulation, nutrition and sleep patterns. All the while, we are under pressure to do the 'right' thing. Parents are the most judged creatures of all, and to see the evidence you have to visit any online forum where the slightest comment can get you shot to smithereens! Either that, or you will be made to feel totally inadequate because you don't know how to bake oatmeal caramel bites or your child can't juggle three balls on one foot (just kidding, but you get the point!). Then, there are people who will fling weight and height stats all over the place and scream and shout about how their baby was 'walking' at seven months (is that physically possible?).

    Of course, there's a lot of support on the web too. This is especially useful for people staying without family help in places like Dubai. I couldn't have made it through the first few months without the information and support I got online. It's just important not to let it overwhelm you. And some of that stuff on Pinterest, like the one above, can actually help you stay sane!

    December 23, 2012

    A mom's Christmas wish-list

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    Dear Santa,

    I know I'm late but I wanted to share my wish-list with you anyway. Being mom to a toddler is hard work, so maybe you could give me some gifts to make the task easier? Here's what I want for Christmas:
    1. For a start, a cup that warms itself so that I can have my cup of tea at my pace.
    2. For that matter, how about a plate that warms itself because the same applies to food.
    3. A hovering chair so I don't have to make a screeching noise to sit when Little Dude is sleeping. Plus, I can use it move around the house quietly.
    4. A mechanical arm extension so I can pick things off the floor with Little Dude in one arm.
    5. An elf who cleans the house at the snap of a finger. Everyday. 
    6. A video monitor inside the washroom and shower.
    7. A robot that follows the Dude around and catches him if he falls.
    8. A toy that will distract the kid long enough to stay still during diaper change.
    9. A tiny elf who can pull out toys from little nooks and crannies.
    10. A little blanket that pulls itself up every time it is pushed down.
    Between you and me, Santa, I know you can't really get me these things. But thanks for listening anyway!

    - A mom

    (Pic: By Jacob Windham from Mobile, USA (Flickr.com) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)

    December 20, 2012

    Hijab fashion and the liberated Arab woman

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    Many won't consider Arab women as 'free' or 'liberated' in any sense, but staying in Dubai has opened my eyes to how emancipated they actually are. Now, I speak only for the UAE and not some orthodox Arab countries, but even then, it's worth sharing.

    'Hijab fashion', for instance, may sound like an oxymoron but these women have really turned it to their advantage. Hijab means 'cover' in the context of covering their body. Now, there is a debate whether Islam asks women to cover up from head to toe at all, instead asking them to dress modestly. But most Arab women do cover up completely, leaving open only their faces and hands. But take a lesson in fashion from them! The glittering abayas (like burqas) are as good as any evening gown. The others, who wear scarves, wear literally any fashion garment, cleverly using body suits to cover up. So, you can find the Arab women in jeans, tops, jogging tracks and even riding habits, without too much skin show.

    It's sad that women in non-Muslim countries cannot comfortably adopt hijab fashion because they would be looked upon with suspicion. Why are democratic countries so intolerant about something as simple as covering the head?

    Delving deeper, the Arab society segregates men and women but that may actually be a good thing, as I have experienced. Firstly, women (of all nationalities) are treated with respect whether at the airport, the park or at the mall. This is something so lacking in India, especially North India. I have benefited so much from women-oriented facilities, especially for women such as mother's rooms everywhere and prayer rooms. Additionally, there are special seats for women on buses and special days for them in the parks and beaches. Sometimes, it's a good thing to not have strange men constantly scanning you.

    So, not only are the Arab women fashionable (you gotta' check out the designer bags and shoes!), but happy and most importantly, safe in the knowledge that are being cared for and respected by the society they live in.

    (Pics: 2Hijab, RabiaZ)

    December 19, 2012

    Vent! Vent! Vent!

    Posted By:
    So, there's a new website in this part of town called Secret Vent. Here, people can anonymously vent about what's bothering them. It doesn't say so, but this is a Dubai-based blog. I'm totally for this site  but some of these wouldn't even qualify as 'problems' back in Delhi!

    Which makes me grateful for whatever time I have in this country. I don't have to worry about being killed over a car accident, or shot at randomly, or being kidnapped etc. I don't even have to worry about the electricity going out for hours, or there being no water in the taps, or having to suddenly pay an arm and leg for tomatoes because of a transport strike. Sure, the customer service is Dubai sucks but that's pittance for the comfort of living in peace.

    And I know it's unfair to compare Dubai to Delhi, and I am hopeful we'll get there. My optimism keeps getting bogged down by the ever-increasing rate and intensity of the crimes there. There are no clear-cut solutions for the heinous crimes being committed against women, especially in North India. The real change will only come with a change in mindset, but with the way things are moving, my estimate is that it will take at least 15-20 years for that to happen. I hope our kids have a safer environment to live in.

    December 18, 2012

    Let's return to all-natural play

    Posted By:
    Most of us didn't grow up with a lot of fancy toys and gadgets, but always found that there were not enough hours in the day to play. Our minds were constantly churning out new games and building new toys right out of the resources we had. And no, this isn't a 'those good ol' days' post'!

    Playing is very crucial to a child's development and so are toys. But a good toy, in my opinion, is one that leaves wide space for the child to imagine, explore and create. So, I absolutely like the trend of returning to all natural toys and unstructured play. Wooden toys, for example, are making a comeback. Not only do they look great, but there is a focus on the simple and hassle-free, not to mention environment-friendly. A company called Plan Toys makes them, and so does IKEA, among others.

    Unstructured play is a term being tossed around too,where kids are given a few simple tools and resources and left to explore 'play' on their own. A favourite blog of mine is Play at Home Mom LLC, which has dozens of ideas on this.

    I'd like to get back to papercraft and other art projects as a way of not only playing but bonding with our kids. Loads of ideas on Pinterest on this.

    What really irks me is those noisy, electronic siren toys that just wail on for what seems like hours on end! Except the ones that are informational, like teaching the alphabet or spelling. And what's the deal with toy guns? What message are we sending there? They should be banned!

    Really, handing a gadget with unlimited internet access is really easy but also puts a cap on a child's cognitive development, no matter what their age. Gadgets do have their benefits, including television, but supervised usage is the key here.

    Let's focus on getting those little hands and feet dirty instead!

    (Pic source: Plan Toys)

    December 14, 2012

    School admissions gone wild!

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    Dubai is crazytown in many ways than one. The other day I was shocked to read in an online forum that some coveted schools here (read 'Western') have a waiting list that goes into years! True, I swear. Such is the madness that people are now registering their infants on the waiting lists. One woman said that she just placed her three week old on a school list! Another placed her 18 month old on a list and was already on number 200.

    To add salt to their wounds, each of these torturous registrations cost about AED 500 ($ 136). So, not only are the schools making money out of this outrageous situation, parents are incurring school costs soon after their child is born.

    Indian schools are not far behind. I have been told that people have spent nights under the stars outside the school gate to secure a place for their children. Most schools have since resorted to a lottery system which actually sounds more reasonable than the rest.

    Really makes me wonder, what is it about Dubai that makes things go to extremes? It's not like they can't afford to set up more schools. Or do people crazily drive up demand just because they can? It's one of those mysteries. Probably why most top rated Christmas brunches were all booked over back in August. No, really!

    Train the parent, not the child

    Posted By:
    Whether you call it controlled crying, sleep intervention, sleep training or cry it out (CIO), it all sounds the same to me. Unnecessary pain to the baby and parents. I have never really understood this 'technique' which has so many followers in the Western world and elsewhere. Letting babies cry for fixed intervals to 'train' them to sleep through the night is a strange concept.

    "Let me be me!"
    I believe in instinctive parenting, that is, do what feels right. Indeed, mothers in particular have been programmed to do the best for their offspring. Therefore, CIO is not only illogical, but unwarranted, in my opinion. I know there are many staunch supporters for this school of thought, but hear me out. When parents can no longer cope with sleep deprivation, they turn to sleep training as an end-all solution to their "problems". But why make the baby cry it out? Why don't the parents go wail in a corner of the house to end their frustration?

    The thing is, parents need a break too. But it doesn't have to become the baby's punishment. They are ones blessed with a mature brain, and they should think of ways to deal with it. Whether this means hiring extra support, asking friends or family or one of the parents staying at home with the child. When you become a parent, you really can't have it all. By 'training' the parents, I mean that doctors and health care officials and professionals should shift their focus on helping prepare parents mentally for what to expect. So that they are better prepared and can come up with solutions in advance of having to deal with sleep deprivation.

    This is a very deep subject and I have barely skimmed the surface, but the point of this post is to talk about change a perspective. Yes, you may be tired as hell, but you can't make a baby do something as unnatural as not communicate by crying or to sleep all night before time. It's not worth it.

    More reading:
    The Worst Baby Advice Ever
    Dangers of “Crying It Out”
    Letting Baby "Cry-it-out" Yes, No!

    (Pic: Petr Kratochvil)