February 26, 2013

How well do you know your kids?

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The other day, my mom made an offhand remark to someone that I never liked babies as a kid. This was a bit appalling for me because, as far as I can remember, I have always adored babies. I have no idea why mom thought something about me that just wasn't true. It also made me think about how we may be misinterpreting our children's actions. Would I end up making a mistake like this? I hope not.

It's very easy to generalize children's behaviour and assume our kids are thinking a certain way when they are really not. While kids are great at sharing their thoughts out loud, they are not as good at articulating their feelings. As parents, it is up to us to help them verbalize those feelings.

Very often, kids behave differently with adults than with peers. A child who appears to be shy and introverted may in fact, be outgoing with friends.This is the kind of disconnect that parents should avoid. The old school of thought is that parents should be 'authoritative' and children should 'fear' them. Though few explicitly follow this, many parents who believe in strongly 'disciplining' come from this line of thinking. Usually parents of bullies or mischief makers display surprise when told of their children's actions because they just don't 'know' them as well as they think. My thoughts are that while kids are not always capable of making sensible decisions (they tend to be impulsive), parents should steer them in the right direction whenever they need help. I wrote more about my parenting 'style' in 'How I became 'that' kind of parent (and not 'that' one!)'. I also believe that a child's personality develops early in life and we, as parents and educators, should learn to accept them that way.

Bottom line: try to observe your kids closely rather than relying on what they say. It may help you discover a hidden talent or pick out warning signs that something is wrong. The more time you spend on 'knowing' your kids, the more you will understand why they are the way they are.

How do you observe the non-verbal cues in your kids?

(Pic: Not Hear, Not See, Not Speak by George Hodan)

February 23, 2013

Toddler Tales (4): First Steps

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I am on vacation, hence been slow in posting. Apart from the fact that I don't have enough time and resources to write, ideas have been evading me because of a hectic schedule. I hope be back with a bang when I get back home in seven days!

Not long ago, I wrote about how Little Dude is moving towards independence. Now that he has started taking his first steps, I realize that he is now physically separating himself from me. Though he always comes back looking for me, he is relishing his freedom and is overcome by curiosity in the world he is exploring. Time doesn't necessarily go by fast with a little baby, but when the toddler stage arrives, it always seems a little too soon! I can't believe I'm already at the point where my little baby is walking on his own two feet!

(Toddler Tales are snippets of what I'm learning every day from my little one.)

February 15, 2013

How I became 'that' kind of parent

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It's very easy to attach labels to different parenting 'styles' - crunchy mom, hockey mom, green mom, tiger mom and so on... These terms are used casually, especially in online conversations, but do we ever stop to think whether those parents intended to be labelled so in the first place? (I've written about the social pressures of parenting earlier.) Nobody really starts off thinking, "I'm going to be that kind of parent". Every baby is different and all parents are distinct individuals after all. Circumstances determine what we really end of becoming.Nine months of pregnancy gives ample time to think about how we are going to be as parents, and everyone wants to be perfect. But things rarely work out as envisioned.

There were many things I was determined to do 20 months ago, but today, mom to a 16-month old, I am a very different person. I don't know how I got here, but I just went with the flow without clumsily hanging on to my idea of 'the perfect parent'.

What I thought: The baby should sleep in the crib. It's best for everybody.
What really happened: This resolution barely lasted two days. Apart from the fact that I was recovering from a c-section, the baby would wake every hour, sometimes sooner. I threw all caution to the wind and just took him to bed with me. I didn't sleep great, but I slept at least! And Little Dude slept much more comfortably. And that's the way it has been since. It was only later that I learned that co-sleeping is actually considered safer, especially with newborns.

What I thought: I won't need a lactation consultant.
What really happened: There is nothing as 'simple' I thought, as nursing a baby. After all, that's the natural order of things, right? Turns out, I should have had a LC on speed dial. We did manage to work things out after a week, but even that would have been easier had I looked up breastfeeding support groups in advance. I eventually did find a lot of support online, but being prepared for it would have been better.

What I thought: There should be a fixed bedtime for the baby.
What really happened: This one is making me snigger! From the beginning, I've always followed my baby's lead for sleep. So, even though he won't sleep at a fixed time everyday, he always gets enough sleep by napping as often and long as he wants to. Now, there are ways to schedule a baby's sleep, but I never got around to doing it. I used to scoff at children who stayed up late and believed in an early bedtime, but that just hasn't worked out for us. Maybe once Little Dude starts school, we'll work it out (fingers crossed).

What I thought: I'll get a babysitter after the baby is a year old.
What really happened: There were many reasons why I didn't go out much in the beginning. But I had decided to start going out without the baby after a year, probably by hiring a babysitter. I used to wonder why couples with kids didn't spend more time by themselves. Turns out, it's harder than I thought. For one, we stay away from our extended family and I am just not ready to leave the little one with a babysitter. Secondly, I just can't leave him behind! I guess I have more separation anxiety than he does! It's great that parents do manage to spend time away from their kids once in a while, but I'm not ready for it...yet.

What I thought: I'll only feed home made, wholesome baby food.
What really happened: I did manage to make my own baby food for a year. But now that Little Dude is a toddler and more picky about what he eats, my aim is to just get some food in his tummy. I still make food at home, but I don't deny him Cheerios or a sugary biscuit, when he won't eat anything else. 

What I thought: Parents should instill discipline early on. 
What really happened: Little Dude has started resisting all that I want him to do, but I can't bring myself to 'discipline' him. Like many ignorant people without kids (some, with!), I used to frown at that toddler having a meltdown at a public place. Not so now. I totally understand that children should not be expected to behave perfectly. I believe in guiding, not disciplining.

People would probably say that I am an 'attachment parenting' or 'natural parenting' kind of mom, but I am not really worried about the label. Being a parent should not be about a set philosophy or set of rules. It should be about realising the dreams you have for your child and yourself.

(Pics: Petr Kratochvil; Curtis Newton at de.wikipedia [CC-BY-SA-3.0-de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)], from Wikimedia Commons; Ilya Haykinson (Flickr: hopscotch) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)

February 10, 2013

Toddler Tales (3): Family Values

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Being an expatriate means there's the annual ritual of a vacation back home. We're on Little Dude's second trip to meet the extended family and it's always a huge change for him. From just seeing mom and dad, he is introduced to a plethora of relations and new faces. His reaction is always mixed: from bawling when someone says 'Hi' to playing happily with them. I am a firm believer in family values. My entire childhood was spent away from our family and I always regret not growing up with grandparents, uncles, aunties and cousins around. I don't want the same to happen with my son and I hope we can return home soon.

(Toddler Tales are snippets of what I'm learning every day from my little one.) 

February 5, 2013

I received a Liebster Award!

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Thank you Tracy of Whispers from a Working Mom for bestowing the Liebster Award on 'Sand In My Toes'! This is pretty exciting and I am happy to choose the next set of bloggers to share this award with!

The Liebster Award is given to new upcoming bloggers who have fewer than 200 followers and passed along to other bloggers who meet the same criteria.

The rules for the Liebster Award are:
1. Each blogger should post 11 random facts about themselves.
2. Answer the questions the tagger has set for you, then create 11 new questions for the bloggers you pass the award to.
3. Choose 11 new bloggers (with less than 200 followers) to pass the award to and link them in your post.
4. Go to their page and tell them about the award.
5. No tag backs.

 So, here are eleven random facts about me:
  1. I'm a big time foodie and I also love cooking, no matter how elaborate the recipe. I only wish I could bake!
  2. I used to be very studious as a child and was totally unathletic.
  3. I spent most of my childhood in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates.
  4. I totally shun horror movies because I'm a scaredy cat!
  5. Public speaking makes me most nervous but I worked hard on overcoming that.
  6. Destiny is something I believe in deeply.
  7. Chocolate can calm me down anytime.
  8. I used to be a shopaholic, but now I only shop for my little boy!
  9. I love beaches and hills make me seasick!
  10. I have never seen snowfall and really want to.
  11. I was a voracious reader until I became a mommy and I can't wait to get back to my books.

The following are my answers to the questions Tracy has asked me here:

1. How long have you been blogging?  
Since 2005, but I took at two-year hiatus and returned to blogging in December 2012.

2.What is your favorite shampoo?  
Herbal Essences

3.Name a song that reminds you of high school?  
Baby One More Time

4.Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years? 
In five years, a more prolific writer, hopefully! In 10 year, mom to another little one, perhaps?!

5.What accomplishment are you most proud of?  
Hosting a digital media conference session.

6. How do you relax?  
By writing!

7. If you had an extra hour in the day what would you do?  
Read more!

8. What is your all time favorite Christmas gift?  
A Jane Shilton bag.
9. If price weren't an option, what would your dream car be? 
A Jaguar

10. What is your favorite book?  
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

11. When was the last time you did a shot of alcohol?  With who?  
I don't drink!

Here are my Liebster Award winners, some wonderful mom bloggers:

And here are my eleven questions for you all:
  1. What was the most spiritual moment of your life?
  2. What remains your most outrageous buy?
  3. What do you do when the kids are napping?
  4. What would your dream vacation be?
  5. What film makes you cry the most?
  6. How do you  handle the stress that comes with being a parent?
  7. What moment do you most look forward to with your child, everyday?
  8. How do you indulge in some 'me' time?
  9. Do you like to cook? What's your signature dish?
  10. What is your happiest childhood memory?
  11. Is there something you secretly wish for everyday?
 Looking forward to reading your replies! Happy blogging and congratulations!

February 4, 2013

Street food from New Delhi: 'Chaat'

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I'm home for a month in New Delhi and one of the things I miss most about this place is the food, especially the street food. The 'chaat' is the most humble of the Indian capital's street foods and also the most complicated! There is no fixed recipe and everywhere you go, you will be presented with something different. One thing is for sure, though: it will be a riot of tastes and textures!

One of the places we frequent is near the UPSC (Union Public Service Commission) in Delhi. This very modest vendor is apparently decades old with a secret mix of spices (masala) of their own. Most chaat's that you'll find in this city consist of fried papdi (like tortilla chips, made with flour), bhalle (soft dumplings made from lentils) and umpteen condiments and chutneys (sauces). What I like best about this place is the freshness of all the ingredients, probably because everything sells so quickly!

The crisp and crunchy papdi jostles for attention with the melt-in-the-mouth bhalla. All the while, your tongue experiences a medley of sweet, tangy and spicy flavours. There are other types of chaat on offer as well such as the aloo tikki - fried and stuffed potato cakes or simply, fried potatoes mixed with spices. For the more adventurous, there's the gol gappe - puffed flour balls filled with spicy/tangy water - served one by one to you.

If you do visit Delhi, try to locate  this hidden joint. The ambience leaves a lot to be desired, but the taste makes up for it tenfold. And that's what street food is about anyway, right?

This post was featured in the 'Carnival of Weekend Wanderings' hosted by Grace, a fellow blogger at Sandier Pastures.

February 3, 2013

8 things to do in Dubai now that DSF is over

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The Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF) is over and I always get the same feeling every time - like guests who've been staying over have left and the it's a little too quiet at home! Dubai, the city which I reside in, is by no means 'quiet'. It's vibrant and alive all the time, but most visitors to the UAE prefer to come during the DSF looking for good bargains and entertainment. The city bustles with excitement and bubbles over with fun for 30 days.

If the 'what do I do now?' question pops in your head like mine, I offer some suggestions below. This list may also be of use to visitors coming to Dubai around this time (all is not lost!). So folks, here's eight things to do now that DSF is over:

1. Walk on the creek: I loved the carnival and festivities at the Creekside but it remains one of the best places to go for a quiet stroll or jog. Just a little ahead are some historical places and a souq, so it's worth a visit anytime.

2. Visit the Global Village: If you avoided the place because of the crowds, it's still open and you can browse souvenirs from around the world. You may also end up with good bargains.

3. Yas Waterworld: This is supposed to be an awesome water park that opened in Abu Dhabi during DSF. It's the perfect time too, with the chill receding. Definitely on my to-do list.

4. Visit the spa: Bargain hunting and shopping is hard work. And then, there were also those special events you just couldn't miss. Now's the time to take off the stress and let the muscles relax in the hands of a good masseur.

5. Watch your favourite sport. Dubai hosts some top-notch sporting events in golf, polo, camel racing, tennis and more. Nothing better than to catch the action live. Details can be found at the Dubai Calendar website.

6. End of season sales: You didn't expect this on the list, did you? But listen up, this is the time when stores are stocking up on their spring/summer collections. That means there will be clearance sales, very good ones. Stock up for next winter at the lowest prices.

7. Book V-Day dinner: If you celebrate Valentine's Day, hope you haven't forgotten to book a table in the shopping hullabaloo. Go do it now!

8. Take the kids to a park:Your kids probably had an overdose of fun during DSF, what with all the rides and entertainment shows. Show them the simple joys of life by taking them to the park or beach for a day of old-fashioned fun!

(Pic: By KlausF (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons, By Smathur80 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons )