My Fourth Son…

It is indeed incredibly amazing how each and every child has a special place in a mom’s heart. When I had my first boy, I thought I could never love any other being as much as I loved him. 

I was wrong!

Soon enough, came our second one, and that love increased doubling with more joy and pride. I could feel my heart swelling up with attachment and affection towards both of them. I was delighted to have given my first boy a lifetime buddy to hang out with, play with, fight with, and do whatever boys do together. Then sooner than expecting, the third one proudly arrived bringing much charm with his captivating smile and easy going character to our family. He quickly formed a special bond with his brothers, and soon they constituted a clan.

What a bless, I would tell myself!
AND I thought it ended there; a satisfied mom of three adorable boys.

Again I was wrong!

As our fourth boy and little girl were born, I was deeply concerned about him being ignored by everyone. After all everybody was waiting for the girl – even us as parents!

I was afraid of failing between them, focusing more on her needs, and losing it with all of the responsibilities I suddenly had. It is true that we have always wished for a girl, but I did not want him to be treated any differently than his brothers or her for the matter.

To ease my worries, I read books and articles related to twins, sibling rivalry, and whatever came across my way. I also had a full supportive team at home where we discussed our worries and concerns. 

However, what really helped me the most was my fourth boy himself.  I will never forget his looks at the age of 32 weeks, only a few days after they were born. Just by looking at him peeking at me through the incubator, I could easily tell that he has come with a unique character, just like the others, and was more than ready to prove himself. It kind of soothed me seeing his determination at a very young stage in his extremely early life.

An independent little fellow who insists on doing things on his own is the main characteristic of our little Mr. R. As I observe him at play, I enjoy his jubilant attitude and carefree spirit. He not only enjoys kisses and cuddles, but asks for them as well whenever he feels like it. I also love his thirst to knowledge and learning where he asks me to work together on different age related activities. I adore his attachment towards his sister and brothers, and his comic side when he enjoys a joke with them. 

It does not really matter if you have an only child or five of them. It does not matter if they are all girls or all boys. It does not matter the order they come in. What matters is the love, the innocence, the purity, and transparency they bring. Our way of reacting to these needs and our approval form the basics of a child’s character in the future. This reminds me of what my dearest grandmother used to tell us, ‘Raise your children with love and affection.’

So how much can a mom’s heart equally love? Well I would say definitely infinite!

Back In Time!

Twelve years ago, exactly around this time of the year, my hubby and I landed in Abu Dhabi International Airport.  We have left France for a one year contract, and we were so excited about the journey ahead of us. With my fully grown belly I was totally aware that I would not be able to travel or make any major moves as I graciously moved into my third trimester of my first pregnancy. I was young, energetic, and full of delight to start a new page in the new short chapters of my life as a married woman. 
After living for two years in France, I was homesick and I knew that Abu Dhabi will compensate for all the loneliness, solitude, and inner struggles I passed through the day I left my family, relatives, and hometown to start a new stage with the man of my life!
To add on top of that I was eagerly anticipating the moment I would meet my little baby boy. 
Funnily enough I was really anxious about the delivery and the medical services provided, especially because we did not have a lot of options at that time. Still I couldn’t but surrender to what fate has designed for us and had to go with the flow.
Every single year since then, we would think that we would soon return. Looking back on those years I am gratefully aware of how much Abu Dhabi has given us; and to that I am thankful.

It is obvious that there is definitely no ‘perfect’ place as the word implies.  We all get tired of our exasperating routine, our never ending responsibilities, and our poisoning uncertainties.  However, we can always find a  way out that directs us to meet other goals and build up on previous experiences.
During those years, I have experienced being both a stay at home mom and a working mom. With both roles, Abu Dhabi has and still provides me with all the basic needs, luxurious facilities, and abundant time to live and enjoy my family.
Abu Dhabi endorsed me with a cocoon, a home, and a sanctuary that engulfs us with tranquility and peace of mind. With its cosmopolitan regime, it offered me unique opportunities in meeting supportive friends, amazing colleagues, and great people who taught me a lot. It even increased our circle with close and far relatives from different parts of the world.
Moreover, it continues to give our children educational and recreational opportunities that hopefully will open new horizons later in their future.
The beauty of its desert and the blue azure that proudly engulfs it, make our children appreciate nature with all its perfection and flawlessness.
Last but not least, our presence here was the main reason behind having our beloved five whom we might not have even considered if we were still living in France.

I am certain that each family and every person who had lived and still lives here has a great owe to everything they have achieved. Those who came fifty years ago and those who have been here for a few years, leave with a special imprint in their hearts deciphering the unique beauty of the Arabian life. We find ourselves enjoying our life, our difficulties, and our bewilderment all at the same time. This is how we rejoice in loving this ‘home’ and we are bound to it for all eternity.

I felt the urge and need to express my appreciation and thank our lucky stars for having us live in the splendid UAE. Without it we wouldn’t have been bestowed with all those blessings.
Would like to hear from your experiences as moms living in Abu Dhabi and how fruitfully living here has been on you and your families. 

April 27, 2005

A Mom’s Kinda Vacation 

“How did you spend the spring vacation?” is the first question people ask on your first day back to work. We usually travel and spend the vacation at my parent’s house or they come over to spend some time together.

Unfortunately, this spring break we could not meet, and I realized that in fact I did not have a break in the real sense of the word!
I mean how could I when I have five to keep entertained and busy for two complete weeks? To add on top of that I have different ages with somehow different interests.
As a result, I found myself juggling between play dates, meeting friends, and arranging activities for them. It was mostly fun and we have really enjoyed those moments, but I haven’t really had the ‘me time’ pause! Those few moments where I wished I could just recharge my batteries to keep going with the same zest and tranquilty.
I somehow took a break from physically going to school very early every morning. However, I had to pass a few nights preparing lesson plans and working on some corrections. Unlike other professions, a teacher brings piles and piles of schoolwork along. You do not just leave your office and forget about all those obligations. That is why as a working mom I had a semi interlude.
On the other hand, we all agree that being a mother is a 24/7 job with no vacations or real downtime unless the grandparents are around – which is exactly what I missed having this Spring.
During this short vacation, I found myself reminiscing over my young age when I had no worries or responsibilities. When I could drink my coffee and enjoy its warmth till the last drop. Or when I used to relish eating my food, savoring the taste of each and every bite. Not to mention sleeping until I got tired of being in bed!
At the same time, having my beloved children around me fills my heart and soul with life. They are my joy and pride. Despite the fatigue and exhaustion motherhood brings, I would not have imagined my days without them.  They are a blessing and I am lucky to be bestowed with such a bliss.
Like every other mother, I would wish to have a break and escape from my duties every once in a while. Nevertheless, once alone I would find myself thinking of them, feeling them, and longing to be with them again. Those never ending ironic notions every mom experiences where she has to balance her sanity and rejoice in being a mom as much as she can.
So how was my kind of vacation? Well it was filled with happy special moments, some arguments, laughter, a passing by sickness, lots of chores, silliness, game playing, partying with the kiddos, homework, and tons of action! Just to mention a few of any other day in a diary of a mom, and to that I am always and forever grateful!
So mommies how was your spring break? 
NB; if you relate in any way to this article please share on your social media to reach out to as many amazing mommies out there.

What Would I Tell Myself If? 

TOSHIBA Exif JPEGBeing surrounded by a few new moms and hearing the various struggles they are going through with their little ones took me back twelve years ago. I was able to relate to a lot of the difficulties they are currently facing and was assuring them that this too shall pass. Listening to them also gave me the chance to reflect on the path that I have been on and was wondering what message would I have sent myself if I was able to go back in time?

Avoid perfection:

First,  I would lower my expectations to be the perfect mom with a perfect baby. At that time I thought I could maintain an organized routine the way I have always done.  So instead of napping when he did,  I continued to tidy up the house,  cook, and do the never ending laundry. Moreover, he wasn’t the type of babies who slept through the night. I used to spend my days and nights indulged in feeding,  diaper changing, and more of those inexplicable heartbreaking cries!  The result;  I was drained due to the excessive pressure I have put on myself by aiming to seek perfection.

Learn to accept reality :

I learned through my experience that I needed to be more patient and to happily accept the sudden changes that quickly became our daily routine.
I also learned that those long nights and endless cries will come to an end.  It is only a stage before you move on to maybe yet another more complicated one.

Learn to accept advice:

I learned that advice coming from experienced people could be taken into consideration. For example,  I completely refused to give my boy a pacifier thinking only of its disadvantages. I was also afraid that he might get attached to it, leaving me unable to control it later on. Instead, I would nurse him every time he started crying, wondering if I had enough milk supply!

Be less anxious:

I admit with my first,  I was kind of worried about small  and unimportant details,  despite the fact that he was a healthy baby. By experience, I learned how these worries and anxieties can be felt by my babies.  So why would I reflect negative feelings when I can supply them with excessive positive love?

Give some time for myself:

If I look back at how I neglected myself and my appearance at that time,  I would be surprised.  A friend once told me how important it was for me to go for a walk alone,  have a Mani-padi every once in a while.  Of course, I did not as I thought I would be that bad and egoistic mummy if I don’t sacrifice every single minute for him.

Give some time to my hubby:

In the same talking,  I indirectly neglected our relationship focusing mainly on our baby, his needs, and then I would be too tired to even consider an outing or to spend some fun time with my hubby.

The good thing behind this, is that I have drastically changed throughout the years.  I learned from my mistakes, as I matured into motherhood. Thankfully, I succeeded in avoiding these inconsistencies with my other children, and I learned to enjoy being a mom of five. After all nothing is worth all the stress, the guilt, the pain, and even the physical fatigue. What really matters is the loving positive message we can provide our precious children with, right from day one.

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Life in a Village

Our beautiful Lebanon provides children with plenty of natural and nurturing experiences that help in their growth and development. Last weekend, I took my precious five to their father’s hometown village where we decided to spend a few days – unlike the previous times when we only completed a few visits and left. Like most of the “international” children of this generation, we work hard on having them develop that sense of love and patriotism to the countries that not only nourish, feed, and support them, but also the one country that has given them their roots and carries their family history along with it.

During those three days I did not even worry about an entertaining activity to occupy their time. I made a point to leave their iPads back in Abu Dhabi and the perfect opportunity was presented to even avoid the TV screens as well.  Personally, I also enjoyed the ‘online detox’ as I eased my mind, soul, and thoughts when I decided to be disconnected and enjoy the calmness of the village. We were all experiencing the simple life which replenished our souls and allowed us to listen to our inner selves away from the chaotic and luxurious modern life.

On our way back to my parents’ house, the boys and I discussed what they enjoyed doing the most, and I felt delighted by the outcome they have experienced.

Sense of security:
The minute we arrived, I asked the boys to go on their own and knock on a few doors of relatives and friends, to inform them of our presence. I could see the surprise in their eyes so I explained to them that here they can enjoy the sense of security and explore the freedom of discovery in peace. Very early the next morning, just as they finished breakfast they directly asked if they could have a morning walk around the village. They were more than happy to discover the true freedom which every individual dreams of.

Free play:

Although my children get the opportunity to discover free play on many occasions, this time they have experienced it with other children and in a new setting. As a matter of fact, undirected free play has multiple advantages:

  • It helps children learn how to work collaboratively, to share, to negotiate, to resolve conflicts, and learn self-advocacy skills. It even helps them tolerate pain, ignore the blisters and cuts, and continue enjoying their play.
  • It helps children practice decision-making skills, move at their own pace, discover areas of interest on their own, and ultimately engage fully in the passions they wish to pursue.
  • It develops children’s imagination and self-confidence since each one of them formulates and lives in his/her own world. It also boosts their self-image seeing themselves like grownups given the freedom to roam around their village with ease.

Sense of belonging:
They understood the real meaning of what a village is; the traditions, the hospitality, and the affection amongst its people. I was more than delighted to have served in building those memories with them. When they look back, they will live those unique moments again jumping over garden beds, running through the narrow alleys, skipping over rocks, and hiding behind trees and bushes. They might never return to live there, but at least they know they have a “home” that will last forever.

 

I believe that children who get the chance of discovering free play are fortunate and privileged. I salute all the parents who make it a point by bringing their children from far away countries, every summer, to have them live Lebanon’s beauty and uniqueness. It is true that we are dispersed all over the world and many of us might have one or two other nationalities, but we want to keep that bond, have them cherish those memories, and make them take the advantages that Lebanon still offers to the new generations.

 

Sicily: The Multicultural Connection between East and West

Traveling and visiting new countries has become part of our daily lives. With all the sophisticated lifestyle we take pleasure in, it is easy now to go out and discover the world.

For those who are interested in history and culture, Sicily is definitely the destination sought. Having been ruled and controlled by great powers and empires ranging from the Phoenicians, to the Romans, Byzantines, Greeks, and reaching the Arabs, and Normans, you will be dazzled by the beauty of its Cathedrals, and Fortresses. Each wall, each drawing expresses a multi-ethnic story. Although Sicily today is considered part of Italy, it still has its own distinct culture. In fact, Sicily is a melange of cultures set on an island, and to profit from its exquisiteness you need to plan your trip ahead of time.

italy view

 

We spent two weeks in a house with a pool in Balestrate, a small village next to Palermo, the capital of Sicily. As tourists with five kids, we wanted to make the best of our stay, and enjoy our time. We set our schedule and decided on the cities, historical sites, museums, and other interesting locations we wanted to explore and followed it. We always made it a point to have the children and us relax by the pool either in the morning or in the late afternoon.

pool

Many people wonder how we managed a vacation with five, but let me tell you something: Kids simply love to explore, even if they are toddlers. So the rule is easy; take the decision of enjoying it and positive vibes are spread around you. That is exactly what happened!

In old Palermo, there are many places to visit.  It is vibrant and even chaotic, with its labyrinth tiny roads, and the ancient buildings kneeling onto each other like ageless friends supporting one another. Palermo, on its own, is an eclectic museum of the Mediterranean and Northern European civilization. One remarkable memory was while we explored its tiny roads we could observe the Sicilian’s daily conducts by simply looking through their widely opened doors and windows. So in one house we saw an old man was fixing his bed and in the neighbouring one a lady preparing her lunch. Isn’t that extraordinary?

alley

Next, we went to Corleone where we visited the C.I.D.M.A. museum (International Documentary Center of Mafia and No Mafia Movement) in which we learned all about the Sicilian’ s struggles and fear during the most violent and brutal rule of the mafia clan between 1980 and 1992. Their rights have been abducted and so was their freedom of speech until 2006. It was great to undergo such an experience where our passionate guide could make us live those times through his words and narration. The boys were dazzled by the stories and learned a lot of interesting information.

mafia

Erice is a splendid ancient town located at the top of the mountains of Trapani district. We took the cable car to reach it, and the minute we entered its gate, we felt that we have been transferred back in time. You would think that a knight could come out of its narrow alleys on his white horse. I was delighted that the boys discovered the palace and touched the stones of that prehistoric monument which they have learned about in their history class.

erice

We also, visited Monreale, which is a typical old Sicilian village as well. The uniqueness of those miniature alleyways is spectacular. The twins were overjoyed as they roamed around and followed the pigeons with excitement.

dahlia and pigeons

The Cathedral of Monreale is one of the greatest prevailing Norman architecture. It is as if two churches coming from different cultures put together. It is simply glorious.

monreale

Mazara was our last destination. Like all the other Sicilian villages, it has been concurred by many civilizations and it was ruled by the Arabs for a long period of time. So it was not a surprise to hear the Arabic dialect on the streets.

mazara

This originally Phoenician city is now one of Italy’s main sources for fishing. We enjoyed eating freshly captured pink jumbo shrimps and of course the children could not let go on having different types of pasta plates.

No one visits Sicily and misses on enjoying the waves of the Mediterranean Sea. We spent a lovely afternoon with all five of them as they played with the sand and jumped into the vigorous waves. As the boys built a huge sand castle, the twins were busy filling in the buckets for them.

beach

With all those exploration we also devoured Sicilian food and gelatos. Aubergines, tomatoes, basil, and courgettes are the essentials of their cuisine. Being a person who loves vegetables, I savoured the food provided.The ice cream served in a brioche bun is simply mouth-watering.

icecream

We had an ice cream almost every day. The cannoli sweet is not to be missed either. It is a Sicilian pastry served during Carnevale season and it is a symbol of fertility.

cannoli

Finally, we admired the scenery as we moved around. Vine fields stretch along both sides of the high ways.  Meadows with cows and sheep grazing in them were like portraits in front of us.

paysage

We came back feeling physically weary, but happy and content and mostly fulfilled with new experiences and information. And most importantly we have built sweet memories along with our five.

image sicily