Seize the day: Welcoming 2015

In three days we will be folding away 2014 and welcoming a new year. When I am asked about my wishes for the coming new year, I look back and take the opportunity to share the experience I passed through. Then, maybe, my dear readers you will understand why I have reached such a conclusion.
If I want to paint 2014, I would picture it as a wide deep ocean with waves crashing loudly on the seashore. Each wave carries with it a different sensation. Some are tough and painful, filled with rage and anger. Others are soft and refreshing, filled with warmth and serenity. It is ironic since the same ocean is providing me with contradictory emotions, but in reality they actually demonstrate the experiences we passed through. Around the beginning of the year, I was urgently admitted to the hospital and had to deliver my premature twins; 6 weeks before their expected date of delivery. By God’s graciousness and fate’s generosity, we took our healthy twins home – just after two weeks of intensive care.
Forty days later, a very close and dear family member lost his battle with cancer who stole him away in less than 6 months since the day he was diagnosed with this monstrous sickness.
It was devastating especially because he was still a healthy and active person who loved life and rejoiced in it. Yet, destiny takes its way whenever it decides to do so.
People and acquaintances did not know how to behave and react to our exceptional situation. They didn’t know if it’s ok to give us their condolences or to congratulate us on the arrival of our delightful birdies.
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Being the rational and positive person I am, I knew that I could not control what happens on the outside, but I definitely can control how I will react to any difficult situation. In fact, I looked at the lesson that I could learn from such a heavy experience. I knew that extreme happiness misleads a person and creates illusions that are not real as it is limited to the here and now. On the other hand, extreme sadness poisons a person’s mind and spirit, and limits his voyage on developing himself.
I learned that we should not be grateful only for the positive things that we get, but we should also take advantage and learn from the
harsh experiences as they make us stronger and develop our Mind. I also learned that health is the most important thing as it’s the only way where we can set our minds at ease and focus on working on becoming better persons.
Life will continue to throw rocks on us, but it all depends on how we react to those painful blows and how much we learn from them that forms our character and self confidence.
I knew that I can not be the mom who dwells on the perished past and waits for the unknown future. It is tiring and simply a waste of time. Why worry about something that ended or even worry about something that has not happened yet?
So what would I ask from 2015? Honestly, I would ask for nothing but to remember to live the present moment. I would seize the opportunity to cherish the time I spend with my beloved husband and adorable children. I would continue to laugh more, play more, share my secrets and morals with them. I would appreciate those instants as what we have now ends in the second that comes after. I would express my love and gratitude and teach them about positive thinking.
Last but not least, I would keep appreciating what I have, and give thanks to all of those who have been with me and stood by us while we were in the midest of our difficulties.
Finally, for 2015 I would wish you all a healthy new year filled with an inspiration of becoming a better person.

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Gingerbread Man and house recipe

With the holy season and merry festivities, the most wonderful part is to make recipes with our children. Here is an activity that children adore.

Gingerbread man and house
100 g butter
200 g soft brown sugar
6 TBS honey
550 g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
3 tsp cinnamon powder
3 tsp ginger powder
1 egg yolk lightly beaten
8 TBS milk

Heat the butter, honey, and sugar while mixing until well mixed and the sugar melts. Set aside until cool.

Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, ginger, and cinnamon powders.
Add the egg yolk and the honey mixture.

Knead into a fine dough.
Wrap with a cling wrap and let it rest in the fridge for around 40 minutes.
Spread some icing sugar on a flat area. Using a rolling pin, spread the dough and cut into the needed shapes.
Bake in the oven for 10 minutes.

For the icing;
2 egg whites
500 g powdered sugar, sifted
1 TBS lemon juice
Cake decors

Beat the egg whites in a medium ball until frothy. Gradually beat in the sugar to make a thick frosting. Best in the lemon juice.

Assemble the house and have fun with your children.

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Maman, is Santa real?

As we approach the month of December, we all get into this magical feeling and live in a dreamlike state, counting on our hopes and wishes, dreaming of having them fulfilled. Grownups, like children, enjoy the celebrations, the Christmas shopping, the decoration, and the enchanting beauty of this month. We, as parents, get extremely excited and thrilled to provide our children with the best experience in meeting Father Christmas, or more known as Santa Claus! To our surprise, not all children get carried away with this myth, and keen questions are raised.

When my second son was not yet five years old, we were having a Christmas celebration with our friends just one week before Christmas. We agreed to have the children meet, decorate small Christmas trees, make their own gingerbread man cards, and sing some Christmas carols. At the end of course, we had someone dressed up as Santa and gave the children their gifts. It was a lovely afternoon and everybody enjoyed it.

That same evening, as I was tucking him in bed, with eyes wide open he asked me, “Maman, is Santa real…for real?”

I thought time has stopped for a while as I was thinking of the right answer to my son’s unexpected question. But at the same time, my mind was wondering why pose the question that early. Couldn’t he wait for a few more years just to live these wonderful sensations?

“What do you think?” I answered back.

Without hesitation, he replied, “I think he isn’t…Tell me, maman!”

His insistence about knowing the truth gave me no choice. I strongly believe that when a child asks about a certain topic no matter how embarrassing it is, I have to tell the truth. And so I briefly told him the real story of dear Santa Claus, and this is how it goes…

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“Long time ago, in a village called Patara, there lived a wealthy family who had a son named Nicholas, They died due to an epidemic that hit the area leaving little Nicholas with his faith that he should care for the poor and share all his belongings with them. He dedicated his life serving God, and used all his inheritance to assist the needy and the poor. He loved children and many stories were told about how he used to throw golden coins into the houses. Maybe by chance or on purpose many of those coins were found in children’s shoes – which is where the tradition of hanging stockings on the Christmas trees came from. His death in December became a day of celebration of Saint Nicholas who came to be known as the gift-giver due to his unlimited generosity for the people. He became the symbol of benevolence and contribution to people.

By time, people changed this simple gesture into marketing and took advantage of having people use this time to buy gifts. Soon it became related to Christmas, and people’s imagination grew wild. Then they created an imaginary toy factory in the North Pole where sleds, elves, and reindeers waited eagerly for Santa to ride the sleigh and spread joy, merriment, happiness, and love into the hearts of children. ”

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I tried my best not to include more details, as the topic is sensitive, but at the same time, I hoped I have satisfied my son’s shrewd curiosity.

“So, tell me,” I asked, “does it make sense to you now?”

He nodded thinking more seriously, “Then, why do parents lie to their children about Santa. Why can’t they tell them this story? I like it.”

That question took me off guard, but I also had to satisfy his thirst for knowledge without making any damage. So I simply stated that parents do not want to lie to their kids. Their main intention is to have them live a fantasy and magical moments that help in building their imagination. They only want their kids to be happy and enjoy such special moments. I added that now that he knew, he should keep this secret between the two of us, as we don’t want to spoil anyone’s belief about Santa. He agreed, but I knew that he will share it with his brothers.

I left my satisfied son in bed, feeling dizzy. My mind was full of so many open ended questions. Is what we are doing to our children good for them? Are we actually brainwashing ideas into their heads? Do we really need to invent stories about Santa, the tooth fairy, and the like to build their creativity? I never thought about it as “lying”, but children have a different way of thinking.

I know of a super dad who would arrange with his children a thoughtful surprise to Santa when he dropped by; a glass of water and a peeled clementine next to the Christmas tree. In their belief, the children knew that Santa would be tired, thirsty, and needs to rest for a while. That daddy would wake up very early in the morning, drink half of the glass and eat the clementine. His children adored the fact that they also shared something with Santa in return. That devoted dad followed this tradition every year for more than seven years.

On the other hand, I remembered my friend’s daughter who suffered a lot every time December came along. She was frightened that Santa might take her as a gift to a family who had no children. She suffered insomnia, insecurity, and cried her head off every time she saw a Santa. The only solution the mom had to do was to blurt out the truth in order to save her daughter from the terrifying imagination she has been submerged into.

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So what is the right thing to do? Did we actually ruin the magic of this tradition since we have abused it in many ways? For example, nowadays you can find multiple “Santas” at the same time in the same mall! Moreover, many of them do not look like the real image found in books and videos! What makes things worse, is that we actually force our children to take a picture with one of those “Santas” where they will be crying, while we are pleased, and on top of that we ask them to smile for the camera!!

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I honestly do not know, but I am aware that things are changing really fast every year. When I was around five years old, we used to have one Santa whom we were eager to meet, sit on his lap, assure the fact that we were really well behaved and have our gift.  It was simple, straight to the point, and magical. I do not feel it is the same with our children’s generation.

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Why can’t we truly teach them about the real lesson which Saint Nicholas has started with ages ago? Is our way of celebration showing them his magical side? His was all about giving unreservedly and wholeheartedly, and not about getting all the time more and more toys and stuff. That by itself is priceless.

Until this moment I do not know what the right thing to do is. So I continue to wonder and as my boys grow older, I continue to stress on the idea that we should persevere the belief in helping and thinking of others. My husband and I are in constant efforts in trying to make our children attain that magical sensation of brining joy and happiness to those who suffer in life and do not have the blessings that we enjoy. We try to explain that it does not have to be restricted to materialistic gifts. We want them to know, that like Santa, life can be wonderful, magical, and delightful when we decide to pursue that way of living and when we contribute to the needy with all our hearts. Yes, let them believe and have them merge the magnificent fantasy with the delightful reality.

With this merry season and joyous period, I pray for a peaceful future, and I hope our children will attain such an admirable aim.

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Pictures: pinterest and personal

 

Easy and Practical Lunchbox Ideas

 

As caring mothers, we spend a lot of time thinking about the healthy snacks we want our kids to have at school. We hope our children are both enjoying their meals and attaining a balanced diet at the same time. What makes things harder and more complicated is when we have fussy eaters. I know many moms, like me, who try to make different shapes and funny presentations just to make sure her children eat, but many of them do not. That is why I thought that I would share with you what I do with my youngsters, hoping that it will be of good help to you as well.

Get your children into the habit of having breakfast:

Breakfast is one of the main meals that must not be skipped!

“Breakfast provides the body and brain with fuel after an overnight fast – that’s where its name originates, breaking the fast!  Without breakfast you are effectively running on empty, like trying to start the car with no petrol!” – See more at:

http://www.shakeupyourwakeup.com/content/why-breakfast-important-1#sthash.zZlYqy9R.dpuf

By doing so, you know that at least they have eaten something early in the morning, even if they come back with a full lunchbox.

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Involve them in preparing their own lunchboxes:

Before going to bed, give your children the chance to choose their snacks from a diversity of items which you have already set. This makes them want to eat their snack as they feel that they were the one who selected them. At the same time, this will be a good chance to talk to them about the importance of food variety and the benefits it has on our bodies. It is never too early to teach your children how to build healthy habits and introducing them to the food pyramid can be a starting point!

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Finally, have them try different types of nutritious food at home, make sure they enjoy eating it before sending such items to school.

Use silicone cupcakes:

Silicone cupcake bags serve as a barrier between different types of food. By doing so, you will be able to put different types of fruits or vegetables without taking a lot of space.

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Use tiny coolers in the lunchbox:

If you live in countries where it is hot and humid, like here in Abu Dhabi, it is always better to insert a cooler in the lunchbox in order to preserve the child’s snack. You can find different sizes of coolers in supermarkets. Have them in the freezer the day before and it will be ready to use for school the following morning.

Leave tiny notes in the lunchbox:

Every now and then write on post-it cards tiny messages where you can encourage your children to eat the snack, share healthy information about the food you put or simply express your feelings towards them.  My boys simply love to find a post-it in their lunchboxes and when they don’t have a note for some time they do ask for it. For my younger child, who still does not know how to read, I draw images for him. He learned how to decipher the message behind the drawings. And by the way, a nice note to Daddy as well makes his day.

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Wet wipes and small tissue packs:

You can add small tissue and wet wipe packs in the lunch box as many children eat fast in order to have some time to play before going back to class. I bet they will not bother going to the toilet and have their hands washed. So just to make sure they do, have things under hand.

Usually our boys come back home at 2:00 PM. That’s why, I mainly send a snack with them and not a meal. Here is a list of the types of food I usually put for my children to school. We always work on trying new things and different combinations even if it is not always successful.

Fruits: (organic if possible)

Watermelon wedges, papaya cut in small cubes, pineapple chunks, whole apple, seedless grapes, sliced strawberries, blueberries, kiwi cut in circles, seedless clementine, and diced nectarines.

Vegetables: (organic if possible)

Sliced carrots, cucumbers, a few peeled fava beans, cherry tomatoes, baby corn, broccoli florets, peeled lupine grains, steamed snow peas, celery sticks, beetroots cut in circles, steamed asparagus, courgette sticks, sliced red, green, and yellow capsicum.

Dried Fruits:

Raisins, apricots, and dates

Chestnuts (seasonal)

Sandwiches’ Ideas:

Hommos spread with cucumber

Tuna with lettuce and cucumbers

Turkey and cheese

Labneh with thyme or olives

Homemade jam and butter

Every now and then, whenever there is time, I cut their sandwiches into different shapes using cookie cutters. They simply love it.

Homemade Pasteries:

Crepes with Philadelphia cheese with honey

The Lebanese Manakeesh (thyme, Keshk)

Mini pizzas

Dairy Products:

Yellow cheese (Emmental cut into cubes, Edam sliced) with Organic Rice Cakes

Cheddar cheese strings

Babybel cheese

Rachel Ray Organic Greek Honey/Regular Yogurt

Actimel Drinks

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Homemade muffins and cakes or cupcakes:

These can be either salty or sweet.

Egg muffins are a great snack for school and there are plenty of recipes online

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Chocolate (if schools allow it) or milk muffins

Slices of olive cake

Regular sponge cakes

Salads:

A healthy salad adds variety to a child’s lunchbox.

Pasta salad: any type of small sized pasta with cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, lettuce, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper

Quinoa salad: Quinoa is the most popular “super food” that is rich in protein, fibre, iron, magnesium and other essential nutrients.

Check the link below for delicious quinoa salad ideas:

http://allrecipes.com/recipes/salad/grains/quinoa-salad/

Pasta mixed with Geek yogurt and dried mint

Cooked chick peas or small white beans with lemon dressing, olive oil, cumin, and salt

Water:

Whether it is hot or cold, I got the boys used to drinking water and enjoying it. They do know now of its importance to their bodies and how it keeps them hydrated.

What I Avoid:

1. I avoid processed soft cheeses as much as I can as they contain huge amounts of preservatives. In fact, all items that remain intact when kept outside the fridge, especially those that are supposedly made up of milk, are extremely dangerous to your health. I also avoid chips, crackers, and salty sticks as they contain lots of salt and hydrogenated fats. That is why, you will see me reading the labels in the supermarket before purchasing any product.

2. A few years back, I attended a workshop that was held by a dietician. To my shock, she informed us that most cereals, if not all, are not as healthy as we think. In fact, they are toasted at very high temperatures which result in hazardous effects on a human’s body. I know it is very difficult not to have our children eat from those tempting cereal boxes, especially those with free gifts, but I try my best to reduce the amount as much as I can. At the same time, I explain to them the facts that I know of.

3. Despite the healthy benefits of raw nuts, I do not send them to school simply because it could be harmful to children (allergy, choking …)

4. Juices and soft drinks are definitely not included in our lunchbox list. The only time I send juice is when there is a celebration in class, and I make sure I buy organic ones.

Finally, I hope that these few tips will be of great help to all of you and good luck to all caring mothers out there. I will be posting some of my favourite lunchbox ideas on Facebook and Instagram… stay tuned.

 

 

P.S: It is important to make your children aware of the fact that not all children can have the same types of food due to food allergy. Thus, it is better that they do not share with others or take from others’ lunchboxes.

P.P.S: Pictures are taken from Pinterest and from home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is a Helicopter Mommy?

When I first started my blog, many people asked why I chose such a title, taking only the negative side of the word “helicopter parents”. And I say parents here, because Dads, like moms, play an essential role in parenting.  By definition “A helicopter parent (also called a cosseting parent or simply a cosseter) is a parent who pays extremely close attention to a child’s or children’s experiences and problems, particularly at educational institutions. Helicopter parents are so named because, like helicopters, they hover overhead.”

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In fact, helicopter parents are not those who strangle their children with their care. They simply pay close attention to their needs, and there is a very thin line between hovering over our children in a positive or in a negative way, which is the challenge of all super parents out there.

There are red lines and boundaries which I simply cannot allow my children to cross. After all, I want them to be honest, well behaved, respectful, and well rounded social beings characterized by confidence, contentment, and high self-esteem.  Though these goals seem to be easy written down and said, applying successful strategies to reach them, needs a lot of hard work, patience, persistence, and determination. In addition, the ironic part of all this, is the fact that you get the results of parenting after 20 years. If we succeed, then we have attained the bliss we have worked for all those years!

If we do not set limits to our children, then who will? My mother used to tell me that children need to hear their parents use the word “No” in many situations. Otherwise, how can they understand what is wrong and what is right? In fact, the word “No”, of course when used properly, gives them the sense of security they seek. They will understand that their parents do care for their well-being.

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So am I being too pushy on my kids when I want them to learn how to be responsible? Am I being overprotective when I do not allow them to have a sleep over at a friend’s house? Am I being too firm when I do not give them soft drinks along with their lunch? Am I being too mean if I restrict the time when they play on the Ipad or the Wii?

I do not know if being extra careful, especially at our times, means that we are not giving our kids the freedom to explore on their own and learn about being independent without guidance. And what is it The Freedom people aim and seek nowadays? Is allowing our children do whatever pleases them, like singing while having dinner, answering back, lying etc. etc. correct and modern?

The secret behind setting those rules, as I mentioned earlier, is to find the effective strategies to reach them. Play, quality time, honesty, closeness, understanding, patience etc. form the basis, and soon these children will flourish.

In the hope that by hovering over my children like a helicopter, in the present time, will result in a fruitful future for each one of them, I will continue to be the mom I am now.

The second reason why I thought of adopting this name is because of the simile I found between a helicopter and a multitasking mom, like me, who has so many duties turning in her head. She is the mom, the teacher, the educator, the counsellor, the driver, the cook, the party organizer, the friend, the artist, the story teller etc.

When the propellers of a helicopter start to turn, you feel there are millions of them spinning and rotating just like a mom’s thoughts which are turning and twisting in her mind with a super speed.

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As I move on with my journey, I know I have many new and tough challenges to face. There is always a choice of dropping out and missing on what I can learn from these challenges, or grasping any new opportunity that will open new horizons. Aren’t we, after all, in the process of acquiring new lessons every day in our lives?

Finally, I want to thank you dear readers, likers, and followers because of you I have a voice that can be heard, an idea that can be shared, and an experience that can be attained. I hope my writings are of help for you as well.

P.S: First two images are taken from Pinterest. The image of the helicopter was made by my cousin.