7 Reasons Why I Love Traveling with my daughter

travelling with Pristine

I’ve written about it before, having children did not stop me from wanting to travel. The time I told my husband I’m going to visit my parents in the Philippines (we were living in Japan that time) bringing a barely year old baby, he thought I was crazy and was only asking for unnecessary extra challenge in my life since he will not be there to support me (because of yeah, work commitments). My friends thought it was not time to travel yet, the baby won’t remember it anyway so could be a waste but I still believe that traveling with small kids is still worth it.

My daughter Pristine first traveled with me while she was still on the boob. It could sound horrifying to other moms but really, traveling with a baby is easier than traveling with a toddler. The toddler could run and you need to do some chasing or invest in a safety harness leash (gasp) but a baby is safely tucked with you. When a toddler is hungry, you need to find an available cafe/eatery. A (breastfed) baby has access to food 24/7 – mommy mobile cafeteria for the win!

The moment my baby was ready to fly and we were able to do so financially and physically, I brought her along and years after that hoping that by exposing her to these amazing experiences she’d love traveling as much as I do, and by her early teens we could go off and have some real adventures.

I did not have to wait till she is in her teens. Last year before she turned 12, we were off to Prague together, alone for the first time.

Traveling – we know it could make or break relationships. I didn’t know what to expect traveling with her and I lowered my expectations because after all, she is just a child. What if we she/we both hated it and it would be the first and last? Thankfully, long story short, we did ok!

And here are 7 reasons why I loved traveling with her and look forward to more.

1. She is already self-sufficient and I don’t need to wipe her butt.

travelling with Pristine 2

She was a few weeks shy of turning 12 when we first traveled alone together a few months ago. She can pack her own things, take care of herself, and because she’s past the toddler stage, I don’t have to worry about diapers (no more butt wiping, yay!), milk bottles, breastfeeding in public, look for baby friendly restaurants and most importantly, I don’t have to carry her around when she’s tired or sleepy.

2. She is eager to learn and learns fast.

at metro

I encourage her to read subway and metro maps and show her how to buy tickets using foreign currency. She quickly picks it up and immediately wants to try to do it by herself. She even lets me sleep on the train while she looks out if it’s already our stop.

And with that confidence, I feel that travel also makes her a little (street) smarter.

lead the way 2

I don’t want a child who is too much into books (there’s nothing wrong with that) alone and don’t know how to survive in the streets when the situation calls for. I want my child/children to be street smart. To be able to stroll in a new city and not become a victim of pickpocket,etc. To be able to navigate a new city using maps, common sense and most especially, guts.

3. She sees things with fresh eyes.

in Kolin 3

In the eyes of a child, everything is new. They look at things knowing they will find something new and different every time they look. Looking at her reminds me to become more like a child at times, no matter how old I become.

4. She’s always curious.

at theh top of Prague Castle

Pristine had been my little inquisitor way back then.She can ask a million questions. You think she’s through and then she’s got another million. I admit, I sometimes get tired listening to her seemingly endless banter when my brains turn into mental mush at the end of a long day but I know I should be thankful, she opens up with me, is honest and don’t keep things to herself only.

guided tour

She asked a lot of questions when we were in Prague. I readied myself for answers.

5. She’s genuinely happy to go to new places.

jump 2

jump 1

I’ll let the photos do the talking!

6. Someone is available to take photos of me!

grace 2

I don’t have to pull out a selfie stick (I don’t have any yet) or ask strangers to take photos of me when I’m with her. She’s more than eager to take photos of me, including those I am clueless about.

grace 1

7. Someone is there to comfort me.


Pristine’s empathy and concern for me is unbelievable. She is that person who can laugh when I laugh and cry when I cry. When I made several epic fails even before our plane took off from Dubai, she comforted me in ways I couldn’t imagine a 12 year old would do to an adult. Here’s a thing about Pristine, if you’re sad, she will do anything in her power to lift you up. Your problems are her problems.

Also? She calms me when I freak out during turbulence.

Confession: I love to travel but still have fear of flying.

Travelling in a group can be fun and solo travel can be one of the most eye-opening and rewarding experiences to have. But sometimes it’s also good to travel is just with one other person. But finding a travel buddy who’s compatible with you can be difficult. I’m glad I found mine in my daughter.

p and me 1

All the time we were in Prague, I dragged her everywhere and she did not complain except for one thing – her shoes were not keeping up with all the walking on our last day. Not her fault. Her mother was not wise enough to invest in good shoes (boo).

Note to moms: don’t buy cheap kids boots from Carrefour, LOL.

in Kolin 2

If there’s one thing I am thankful for, for having a baby at 27, it is being able to enjoy having a travel buddy before 40 when my knees are still young and strong enough to explore the world. And my travel buddy doesn’t complain with all the walking we do!

Do you have a favorite travel buddy? Tell me more about him/her in the comments!

Happy birthday, Pristine

December 23 will always be special to me because just before sunrise on that day in 2003, God gave me a wonderful gift – a precious little angel.

For the past twelve years, Pristine has made it easy for me to become a mom/parent. There were no phases of terrible two or three’s or fours (or it was too mild I can’t even remember it’s been hard).

 She was an easy child past that colicky baby stage. When people see how a good girl she was when she was 5, 6 or 7, they would tell me, “Oh wait till she gets to 10, 11 or 12!”

She was still good all those years. And now that she’s 12, they’ll tell me “Oooh, you better be prepared for the teenage years! Next year!”

I wish these kind of cursing would stop.

A few weeks ago, I asked her what she wants on her birthday and Christmas since these days are so close together. She could not point out what, saying “but I have everything I need, mama, so I’m ok with anything you like to get me.”

We all know the most difficult gift is that anything thing.

I asked her which restaurant she would like to go have dinner and she pointed out a very modest, inexpensive place, the restaurant where we go for our weekend lunches. We’ve dined in some fancy restaurants but these never even crossed her mind right now. Either she doesn’t know fancy or did not want us to ‘splurge’. Or should I believe when she said, “but I really like the food in that (modest) restaurant!”

I am proud to have a very sensible, loving and caring daughter, my best friend till forever.

I don’t know what I did in a previous life to deserve a daughter like her in this lifetime. Whatever it was, it must have been incredible for me to end up with an incredible daughter like her.

To Pristine: You give me what no other person on this planet can give – you. I feel so lucky to have you as a daughter (may you never change, ok, you can change but only for the better!). Happy 12th birthday and I wish you many, many birthdays to come!

Pristine graduates from Primary School

Pristine grad pic

Just like that another school year ends for us. And our oldest child graduated from primary school.

I have so many friends the same age as I do who has either just given birth, still breastfeeding babies or has toddlers. I, however has a child who just graduated from primary school and about to enter Middle School. Cue feelings of being ancient. I will be 39 this year so it’s not like I married really early but still when Pristine’s school sent me information about the coming graduation ceremony, it got me thinking: how did we get here?

Related read: Primary school in Dubai (what’s it like)

She was only 3 when we moved to Dubai from Japan. I still remember when she could only converse in Nihongo and it was so funny because as a very bubbly toddler straight out from Japan’s daycare center, she thought Nihongo was the universal language and everyone could speak it. Her teacher would tell me, “Pristine seems to have so many interesting things to say (judging from her flailing arms and hands while she talks) but I can’t understand the language she’s using!”

Pristine in 2007

The above photo was Pristine and me in 2007 during her first few days at the new school in Dubai. After a few days and weeks, she began to pick up English (and Arabic and French) and as they say, the rest is history.

best in english

Here is Pristine holding her award, Excellence in English during this year’s awards ceremony. Since the school started giving out awards, we have been called every year to attend and be surprised since they don’t tell us what the award is. We’re proud of her achievements in school.

As much as I am excited about my oldest going to middle school soon, I am a little bit anxious. (Yep, because anxiety is truly my middle name) Pristine is entering into a new phase in her life. Well, not just her but all of us. Probably a new school (we are in the process of applying to other schools), new friends, more challenging lessons in school.

Teenage years.

Puberty. Crushes.


I have a lot to say to my daughter on her graduation from primary school. But I was too lost for words (more like I found myself swimming in nostalgia of the years that’s gone by) and was only able to manage a few: I reminded her how proud we are of her, that there’s a bright future ahead with unlimited possibilities. As long as we live, she will always be safe, will always be protected, and will always be loved.

Now, we have at least of 8 weeks until the new school year starts. Pristine loves school so much that her dislike of summer vacation landed us on the national paper. We’re spending four week outside the UAE soon though so at least it’s half the misery.

Kids, grades and homework


I got an email from Pristine’s teacher a few days ago asking for a preferred date to meet. No, she is not in trouble or something. The school reports have been sent home so the school is setting up dates and times for parents to meet the class teachers so they can voice out their respective concerns. I looked at the dates and times – all are on weekdays and of course, on hours where my butt needs to be: at my chair at work.

I’ve attended the previous parent’s meeting by asking permission to go home earlier than my 6pm time off. I got the permission but not after hearing some words I didn’t want to hear. Not really harsh but also not too considerate. What can a working mom do?

This was the general comment of the class teacher of my daughter:

“Pristine is a pleasure to teach. She has a kind, caring and bubbly personality. She enjoys riddles, jokes and puzzles as well as reading and playing with her friends. She has a very good relationship with her peers and adults in school which is based on respect. Her mature approach to her learning and the high expectations she sets herself means she takes ownership over her own education and making very good progress.”

Those words. Suddenly, the steep school fees were worth it.

Additional comment from the teacher in his email to me this morning when I said I couldn’t meet him for the parent’s meeting:

“No worries at all. Pristine is progressing well. She is a talented mathematician and is beginning to show some flair in her fictional writing which I am quite happy with. She continually contributes to lessons and shows pride in the work completed in class.”

Her highest mark is Mathematics which I could not, for the life of me, get any credit for. Math has always been my weakness and until now, I am not friends with numbers. From all her teacher’s comments, I can only vouch that the “bubbly” part is from my DNA. The others, from her dad.

Pristine and dad

~ don’t look at him too hard, he is not used to being featured on this blog! ~

That said, our young student is not perfect. No one is but there is a flaw that puzzles me and I still don’t know how to approach this: it seems that sometimes, her home work is incomplete.

“…she will need to fully complete her homework for submission on Tuesdays as there are times when some parts are omitted.”

So how does that work? She is excellent in doing everything required during class, but slacking in homework? Don’t I check? Great question and I will not lie.

I don’t check everyday.

When I get home from work, I give the other kid a cuddle, attention, bath and have dinner. I ask Pristine if everything is fine and if she says ok, I leave it at that. I have had too much faith. But now seeing her report card and her teacher’s comment about her homework, I told her this needs to be corrected. And I hope she does because yep, I can’t check every night. I could but sometimes I am a lazy mom. On some nights, I just want to recharge so I can tackle another day. Or else, I feel I’d break.

(Where is the other parent in this equation, you ask. Good question again. His work time doesn’t allow him to be always there before our bed time, and we all have accepted that. The Math DNA is enough contribution.)

But part of me says, “Don’t be too hard since she is doing well at school”…but homework is important too, right? I never miss completing my homework when I was still a student and my parents never had to nag about it. My husband, on the other hand, admitted he slacked with the homework part when he was young (But he excelled in every subject and was a constant honor student.) so Pristine probably got this from him.

Can you see the pattern? We are playing the “from which DNA” game.

* Apart from homework which they are given grades for too, her grades for all other subjects are excellent.

Anyway, are you a parent? What will you tell your child without discrediting about incomplete homework if he/she is doing very well in school (in terms of grades)?

Pristine is eleven


It can’t be helped. I have a preteen under my wings now. My oldest child turned 11 just before Christmas. It’s always difficult around Pristine’s birthday – year end hectic schedule at work, last minute shopping for presents, preparations for Christmas, etc. Year after year, I tell myself I should plan early but year after year, I break that promise.

At least this time, 3 of Pristine’s friends came to our little party to greet her. It’s always heartbreaking for me to see her sad on her birthday after inviting friends and many of them won’t even show up even after saying yes, they’d come. It’s the busiest time of the year so I understand, most are out of the country too but for a young child? She once told me it seems that none of her friends want to celebrate her birthday.

She got some gifts from us and her friends but I was moved by this handwritten letter from one of her close friends, a girl who joined her class last year. Pristine said they instantly became friends and she constantly talks about her every day.

ajwa letter 1

Has anyone told you that “nothing can ever be combined to make someone like you”? Maybe when you were 18, from a prospective boyfriend. But not when you were younger, from a girl friend. This girl – how very sensible! The last two lines on the next page stopped me at my tracks.

ajwa letter 2

The words got heavier and heavier on the third (and last) page.

ajwa letter 3

I like what she has written in the last. I think, she meant it like this: “TRUE friends are like stars. You may not see them everyday but you know they are just there. ALWAYS.”

This is a girl who speaks and writes what she feels, intensely. She is only eleven. I am already looking forward to all other written notes from her sent to my daughter in the years to come. Now I know why daughter cried when she read this letter, and the two friends tightly hugged each other. It’s easy to say, this was a very memorable birthday for her.

My daughter might want to become a nun


It’s been a while since I talked about my daughter here. Her name is Pristine and she’ll be turning 11 before the year ends. Where did all the time go? Yes, I ask that question once in a while. She was only three years old when we moved to Dubai almost 8 years ago and now, she’s almost as tall as I am and on her way to becoming a teenager.

That said, I think she is undergoing some internal transformation. She still snuggles up to me and her dad randomly, in the middle of the night, “I had a nightmare, can I sleep here?” nights still continue once in a while but lately, I am surprised by her bursts of “comments” around a specific “topic”.

I was changing my shirt after doing my workout in the room where my husband was in bed, reading a book. Pristine was also there. I don’t know about you but I don’t care about changing my clothes in the presence of the man in the house.

(Is that weird?)

Pristine: “Mama! Stop changing your clothes in front of papa! He’s a boy, you know?”

My husband and I looked at each other and almost laughed out so loud. Pristine did not understand why. It may take a few more years for her to understand why it is so funny!  

Then also while I was cleaning up my closet, Pristine picked up a couple of lacy underwear of mine (which I rarely use because I am more comfy with cotton grandma panties, thankyouverymuch). While the lacy undies hung from her little fingers and she looks at it like it’s an item straight out of Area 51,

Pristine: “What are THESE? Why did you buy THESE?”

Me: “Oh, those. They’re beautiful, don’t you think?”


Pristine: “No. They look like they can’t cover all of your…bits and butt. They’re pointless underwears!”

…and a follow up question.

Pristine: “So, what is the real reason you bought these?”

*silent panic attack*

Me: “Umm, they really dry fast, you know? (compared to my grandma panties)”

She relaxed her face and said, “Oh, right then, they’re handy sometimes but only wear them when it’s raining and the cotton undies don’t dry.”

Where do you think she got these ideas of being so conservative? Like being so conscious of the opposite sex (she says, eww and looks away when my husband and I kiss – like kiss goodbye at the front door as he leaves for work). Is she an old soul (gosh, even the hair style she did a few days ago is straight from 1970’s Good Housekeeping magazine) or just starting to become a teenager?

* Just a little background, she is fascinated with the Victorian era and reads books about that time in history. *

The dangers of kids wearing eyeglasses


Our ten year old got her first prescription glasses last Saturday. She was beaming with joy saying, “finally, I can see everything clearly now!” Her vision is not perfect anymore, as I would have hoped. My husband is practically blind without his glasses. I think Pristine got the bad vision DNA.

She had her glasses on Saturday night after a visit to the eye doctor.

Less than 48 hours after she got the glasses, she almost went blind because of a freak accident.

MONDAY 23 June 2014
She fell down in school (details I am not really sure), face first and the one of the glasses broke. She had a wound on her face, just above her eyes, below her eyebrows, near the nose. The nurse called me and said there was some bleeding otherwise my daughter was ok. She “suggested” you might want to check with a doctor or surgeon later. My husband picked up Pristine and they came to my office. She was fine with a bandage near her forehead.

She didn’t want me to touch that part or open the bandage to see the wound. She slept fine Monday night.

TUESDAY 24 June 2014
Next morning, we didn’t send her to school because anyway classes are over, they just need to officially end it this week. They just play and do French day, etc until Thursday. I got a call from the nurse: “Did you take Pristine to the surgeon?” There was a sense of urgency and fright in her voice, unlike the day of the accident when she was in a relaxed tone as she told me my daughter is ok. I said no because she is ok.

“You MUST take her to the doctor, she needs Tetanus shot!”

I was scared and immediately picked Pristine up and we went to the clinic near my office. When the general practitioner doctor opened the bandage, he was like, “WHOA!” and I almost fainted. The doctor told me to go to Rashid Hospital emergency unit.

At Rashid Hospital, the doctor was furious why she wasn’t rushed to emergency on Monday, when it happened – the wound was that bad! It wasn’t “just a scratch” or a “simple cut” or “because of friction against surface” as what the school doctor and nurse told me and my husband (who picked Pristine from school on the day of the accident), it was a deep scrape. Some flesh was scraped, not just skin. It was a horrible sight.

The emergency doctor called the in-charge of plastic surgery because he thought it needed a more specialist opinion since the scar is in the face. Luckily, the plastic surgeon said since Pristine is still young, her skin is still flexible, stitching should be ok. She got SIX stitches! That’s not a minor wound in any parent or doctor’s dictionary!

kids and eyeglasses danger

My husband is furious with the school nurse and doctor.

We know we are also at fault why we didn’t check our child’s wound (I swear to God, she didn’t want us to touch it or open the bandage). She was ok so we left it like that. And we left it like that confident of what the school’s medical professional’s story that “it’s not that bad” and “nothing to worry”. They did tell us to “go to a surgeon – just in case” BUT there was no urgency nor impact with the way they said it, like it was only an option. I wish they could have implied it more , fiercely that she needs to be taken to the doctor immediately because they were the one who saw it first, saw the severity of it.

They were there immediately after it happened. I don’t want to put the entire blame on them but I really think they didn’t handle the situation well. I wrote to the school principal requesting her to have a word with the nurse/doctor to never hesitate to rush children to the emergency if they see and feel the need for it. Or tell the parents the real situation, never mind we panic. It is so much better to think of the worse rather than relax and wait for the worse. I still thank the nurse though for following up with me yesterday but I wish she could have urged me more to take Pristine to the doctor last Monday.

I felt so sorry for Pristine. She was screaming and crying at the surgery room. She almost crushed my hands squeezing it so hard like she’s holding on to dear life. I saw needles, bloody gauzes and heard cold screams from my child. It still sends shivers down my spine to recall that moment when I had to be strong for her and I am so weak with these kind of things.

Pristine is ok now, resting at home. Glad that school is over but after all this, I think of how the scar would affect her. It will be a prominent one, right near her eyes – right where people see you first. While I am still thankful that it wasn’t worse (like the piece of broken glass could have gone inside her eyes God forbid!!) but still, my beautiful daughter’s face will never be the same.

Pristine and Laila

Saying goodbye, until we meet again

Pristine and Laila

Countdown to broken heart: T-2 days.

They both knew this was coming but they didn’t want to think it was coming this fast. Pristine’s first friend in Dubai, whom she knew since she was three at school is going to relocate to Canada with her family. They will leave in a few days.

The hardest thing about expat life is that, all of us are going to say goodbye – it’s just a matter of who says it first.

They met when they were three – the time and age when we build genuine, deep friendships regardless of age, gender, size or even language. Pristine didn’t know how to speak English when they first met, yet they immediately clicked and have been inseparable ever since. They breathe each other.

My daughter wants to send off her best friend at the airport. But is it even a good idea? Won’t she be hurting more? At this age, it’s difficult to understand that saying goodbye is part and parcel of expat life. Sometimes, I envy people who have remained in the same town their whole lives with family and friends on their doorstep, for whom the airport is about the excitement, adventure and holidays.

hot weather Dubai

Dubai summer is well and truly here

hot weather Dubai

Yesterday’s five word weather should be: “Not advisable to go outside!”

I walked for only 10 minutes outside at midday and I thought I’d die. No exaggeration! Yesterday was the hottest in Dubai since the start of summer with the temperature tipping at more than 40C (104F). Next stop? 50C (122F) as forecasters say (with very high humidity levels that kill). Think you’re inside an oven or a steam cooker plus bonus of hair dryer in your face!

When I got home, my daughter Pristine who goes to school here was not feeling well and telling me:

“Mom, we were made to stay outside during our break, for 40 minutes!”

WTF. What kind of school and teachers in their sane minds would allow children to be outside during this hot summer season in the desert?

To make matters worse, she said older students from Year 6, 7 and 8 were inside the temperature controlled buildings (aircon overload), along with most of the teachers. BTW, most of the teachers seem to don’t mind the sun or the heat – they are from cold countries and they came here seeking the sun!

This is simply unacceptable.

I was forced to write a strong email to the teacher that if they insist on letting the children stay outdoors for the sake of “getting some sun” or “outdoor air”, we will be pulling out our daughter earlier as planned (school will end on the 25th June yet) because we cannot afford for her to get sick before our long flight next week!

But seriously, REALLY, children sweating outside (the school ground where they eat their snacks/lunch is covered but it is still hot!) and then coming into cold air-conditioned classrooms? That is like inviting cough and colds with open arms.

I could get used to this elf-like surprise!

This will be short and sweet.

Baby Ben and I took a nap. It was Friday and there’s only three of us home. Me and the two kids, as most Fridays. We have no house help on Friday, a weekend here in the UAE where people go have their day off.

And because our house help is having her day off, I don’t have mine.

The living room looks like there had been a hurricane that passed.

There’s something is piling up in the laundry room.

Don’t get me started on the kitchen.

Baby Ben is extra clingy on my day off, because six days of the week, I am an absentee mom at day time. I gladly spend time with him and with Pristine (our other child, 9 years old) because the dirty dishes can wait.

And the sun is always shining in Dubai so I can always wash the dirty laundry tomorrow.

In short, I am exhausted on Fridays. So I take a nap in the afternoon. That is my sacred hour. And I feel I’ll nearly die and won’t survive another work week if I don’t have that important Friday afternoon nap.

Baby Ben and I went to the room after I cleaned up a partial amount of mess and Pristine was in the living room, reading something on the internet. I told her she can take a nap too if she likes. She nodded.

I woke up after two hours to…. a very clean house!

There were no objects on the living room floor, the baby books have been kept back in the shelf, the laundry outside had been taken in and folded, the dishes on the kitchen sink washed too. And I saw her with the biggest, proudest smile.

When I asked her why,

“Because I saw your blog post mama. Not minimalist enough but at least it’s cleaner now.”

That moment, I felt I am the luckiest mother in the world.