Dealing with food allergies while eating out or travelling

b with shinkansen bento

My son Benjamin (6 years old next month) is allergic to all tree nuts – almonds, pecans, walnuts, pistachio, cashew, etc. We’ve had accidental ingestion in the past where he ended up in the emergency so we are very careful with his food but alas, sometimes even I fail.

The last incident was a year and a half ago when we were dining in a dimly lit restaurant and the staff served brown bread, not informing us that it was actually walnut bread. I didn’t check as well because I avoid eating bread and normally Benjamin doesn’t eat bread that much but that night, he did and boom.

We’ve survived a year and half without any allergy related incident after that, we even travelled and stayed at four different countries without any awful surprises.

WHAT ABOUT EATING OUT?

Whenever we eat out, we always stick to Japanese food – mostly because that’s what we like and prefer and because Japanese dishes are not too complicated. You’ll have plain rice, miso soup with some tofu or vegetables/seaweeds and a grilled fish or meats with vegetables. Sauces mostly consist of only soy sauce, some mirin. We have a Japanese restaurant we always frequent every weekend at lunch and not once he had some sort of allergic reaction to the dishes we’ve ordered so far for him.

However, this week, we wanted to try a new Japanese restaurant.

Benjamin said he wanted to eat ramen so we ordered that and he was looking forward to it with gusto. Japanese restaurants usually serve small appetizers at the start and the waitress brought in what seemed like harmless tofu with some miso paste on top. Benjamin took a spoonful and I did too. I realized that it’s a different kind of tofu – it’s goma tofu (tofu mixed with sesame).

A few minutes later, Benjamin fell ill. He is fighting through it telling me he is just tired (from his earlier swimming lessons) and that he is also sleepy. He leaned on me with teary eyes, asked for hot tea and water. I suspected something was not right and gave him Aerius, an anti-histamine that I always carry in my bag wherever we go. Two minutes later, he laid down and started to sneeze. His bowl of ramen came but he was surprisingly disinterested, though saying earlier that he was hungry.

A few seconds later, he gagged and my daughter was quick to carry him out to the restaurant, to the nearest toilet. I followed behind them.

We didn’t reach the toilet.

He projectile vomited just a few steps away, to the shock of the manager at the reception desk at the restaurant’s entrance. At the toilet, his small body was lurching forward, throwing up all the things his body considers as poison. When the vomiting stopped, nasal congestion set in and he wasn’t able to breathe from his nose.

While comforting him, I managed to do a Google searched about sesame seed allergy. And voila – it seems that people who are allergic to tree nuts could also be allergic to seeds. Who knew. It was my first time to learn about it, and we had to find out in a very scary and messy way.

Ambulance was called just to make sure his blood pressure and oxygen levels were not dropping. Thankfully, his vitals were stable and save for the nasal congestion and watery eyes, he was fine. He was tired from all the vomiting though so we stayed a bit.

WHAT ABOUT TRAVELLING?

Now you may ask, with my love for taking the kids to travel with me, am I not discouraged to go out at all? Was there a time I didn’t want to travel because of Benjamin?

I admit, I get anxious whenever I take him out long enough for us to eat outside during meal times i.e., travelling to another place, including plane rides. However, I don’t want this anxiety to take over me, restricting my son of going out and seeing the beautiful world outside.

We just have to accept and deal with this health matter and do whatever we can. We do not want this ‘disability’ to overwhelm us and keep him inside all the time, after all, Benjamin LOVES travelling – he loves planes and airports and now I just found out from our recent trip, hiking in the mountains!

b in Austria

b hiking in austria 1
p and b hiking in Austria 2

His allergic reactions so far had been rashes/hives, nasal congestion and vomiting. No anaphylactic reaction so far (thank GOD!!). It’s not life threatening now and hope it stays that way. But still we take precautions whenever we are out and about.

HOW TO TRAVEL WITH KIDS WITH FOOD ALLERGIES

1. Stay at accommodations with a kitchen, fridge or microwave, as much as you can.

It would be easier and safer to cook if the allergies are more complicated. When we were in Japan, we stayed in an Airbnb rather than a hotel so we make some our meals there especially breakfast. It does require some additional work, but I had piece of mind knowing my child is safe. Another bonus is that it’s very cost-effective.

2. Find a local grocery store.

After you have reached your destination, the first stop you need to make is the grocery store in order to stock up on safe foods for your child.

3. Research area restaurants.

There is nothing worse than getting to a restaurant with your hungry brood and finding out you can’t eat there.

4. When eating out especially in a new restaurant or in another country away from home, always ask what is in the menu.

5. Always order the simplest dish as possible.

No complicated sauces. When we were in Germany and Austria I just ordered sausages and french fries – I know, I know, not the healthiest options but when it comes down to food, I’d rather opt for a bit unhealthy but safe rather than healthy but unsafe or with questionable ingredients.

6. Pack safe foods.

For road trips, it’s more convenient to pack safe foods for your child with allergies rather than be wary what to give him during drive breaks. For airline meals – For people with food allergies, airline meals pose a particular risk. Many airlines will organise a special meal according to individual requirements, so mention it during booking and when they serve, check again.

7. Take note of emergency numbers at the destination and save it your phone.

8. Always pack allergy medication wherever you go.

To avoid problems at airport security, pack the medication in safe ziplocs and bring prescription, if available.

9. Don’t expect the general public to understand.

THIS. There’s so much stigma around food allergies that some people shrug it off as “disease of the rich kids” or “just an excuse for picky eaters”. Unbelievable because many people actually die of food allergies every year all over the world.

10. Despite all of the (minor) discomfort, ENJOY YOUR VACATION.

Food allergies don’t have to rule your vacation, but you do need to pay attention. With a little preparation, you and your family can enjoy your family time together in a fun and safe environment.

Ben in Niigata 1

Our travel experiences with Benjamin have been very positive so far. We understand the nature of his allergies and make careful choices based on this information. So far, Benjamin (6 years old next month) had been to Japan, Philippines, Singapore, Prague, Germany and Austria. Travelling with a child who has food allergies requires some extra planning, but the rewards of seeing him with sparkle in his eyes at each new place or new experience is well worth it.

Do you have a child/children with food allergies? How does this affect your travels?

Learning to swim with Speedo

the-palace-pool

We were invited to the Speedo Swim Squads event last weekend and aside from the beautiful venue at The Palace Downtown Dubai (one of my favorite places in Dubai), I know I needed to take Benjamin there for a more important reason.

The invite says, “bring little ones to join Speedo for a morning of swimming! The engaging and fun filled sessions aim to inspire confidence in the water.”

Now, if there’s one thing I really want my children to be able to do, it’s to be able to swim. Swimming is a life skill. It’s something the child will retain for the entirety of his/her life.

Speedo Swimsquads

Photo credit: Speedo Swim Squads

It’s such a pity that Benjamin’s current school do not have a swimming pool so they don’t have swimming classes. He is very interested but cannot be in the water without floating devices like arm bands. I am very impressed with the qualified and passionate instructors from Speedo Swim Squads who did a very good job in talking to the kids and making them do the basics: making bubbles, kicking in the water, etc. I couldn’t make him do the things they made him to do!

The short session was definitely fun and Benjamin wanted to do more in the end.

speedo-2

Benjamin’s older sister Pristine had swimming lessons at her former school since she was three years old (KG 1) and now, she is like a fish in the water. It’s second nature to her and she doesn’t fear water depth. I love looking at her swim.

I would want my other child to be able to swim too! And I may need to enrol too!

I had my first proper swimming lessons when I was already 18 and while it’s not too late, the short course did not relieve me of my fear of the water and because I am not confident, I wasn’t able to practice more and result, I think I would be helpless in the open sea or in a deep pool. What a shivering thought.

The kids (and parents!) had a really lovely and fun morning at the Speedo event. After the learning session, we had a day at the pool where the kids played and refused to get out till it’s lunch time!

speedo-1

speedo-3

Health, fun, and confidence are not the only reasons why your child should learn to swim. Learning to swim also opens up the door to a range of other activities. For example, your child can do the following sports ONLY IF they can swim: kayaking, canoeing, scuba diving and surfing, just to name a few.

But really the most important reason to learn to swim is that swimming is the only sport that can save your child’s life.

Thanks Speedo for the wonderful event and to The Palace Downtown Dubai for being such lovely hosts (as expected). Great service and food – we were served nibbles and fresh croissants and free flowing coffee!

Check out the Speedo Swim Squads on Facebook, Twitterand Instagram or visit their main website for more details about classes.

What happened to kindergarten?

benjamin-homework

I was talking to my friend this morning who wanted another baby. She has one who just turned five years old so at this point in her life, everything is fine and dandy. Most of the time, at least. The thing is, though she really wants to have another baby, there’s this pressing thought at the back of her mind how tough it must be to start from zero again. (I started from zero again after 8 years so yes, I can validate her concerns.)

The things you have to go through again: pregnancy, possible morning sickness, the destruction of a million body tissues during child birth, the recovery afterwards (and if her luck is fucked like mine ending in emergency c-section…sorry)…those sleepless nights, the crying without reason spells (possibly colic so look it up), breastfeeding, weaning, toilet training, yada, yada, yada.

The list is long and to be honest, could be an effective birth control.

But in spite of it all, that newborn smell and that total baby MAGIC. That small being empowering you, making you think you’re a superwoman and can do it all. Can do it all over again.

I am writing this in tears.

My five year old son started kindergarten this month. Gone are the days at preschool when they would just sing Five Little Ducks and If you’re happy and you know it day in and day out. He is five years old –  far from being an infant so we have gone through the colicky stage, the fight to win my breasts back, the toilet training madness but the wonder of this thing called “parenting” is that it’s like you’re visiting an unknown town without a proper map.

Somehow you’re confident you’re going to be ok but the moment you think you’re going in the right direction, there is a surprise at a random corner. ALWAYS.

I’ve been through this once a little long time ago and boy, I can’t remember if it was this dramatic. Most probably it was but it’s just too long ago to remember. You know how they say anesthesia f*cks with your brain.

I just spent almost an hour helping Benjamin with his homework. RIGHT. Homework for kindergarten. Is that even a thing nowadays? Well, it seems so! Today his carer said Benjamin refused to do his homework: lower case letters a-z. If I am five years old, I would be ballistic too. Can you introduce me to a five year old who is maniacal obsessive about doing homework every night? If that’s your child, I would hate you. Sigh. No, I am joking. You tell me how it is done before I lose my mind. And you have to tell me real quick because I am on the verge of losing it.

And how many times was I on the verge of “losing it” in this 13 year parenting journey? Probably too much and too pathetic to count but that doesn’t mean I am immune to the feeling of failure, of being not good parent enough.

Benjamin is picked up by the school bus at 10:30 for his 11:30 class and then comes home at 4:30 in the afternoon. After what seems to be already a long day in the world of five year olds, there is a homework that needs to be done. When we’re supposed to read books or learn a new song or do silly stuffs that are fun stuffs, we sit down and do the darn homework..while he is already tired and surely running out of batteries.

My five year old son is struggling to write the alphabet.

“Benjamin needs to practice more. He cannot do it at school without the teacher’s help.” resonates inside my head over and over at work earlier this morning but I shrugged it off, telling myself,

He’s gonna be ok. He can’t go on like this – unable to write simple small letters! One fine day, he will get it. He will be able to write! I will not stress about it!

Well, boo hoo. I stressed about it. Heavily. I look at Benjamin’s older sister, my 13 year old daughter and I think: how did she survive this stage? What did I do before? Are girls really easier and more advanced than boys?

Now Benjamin is sleeping. He showed full force of resilience towards my nagging, didn’t say anything and just continued to do what he’s supposed to do, to complete his work so he could sleep but then when we finished, he had a very emotional outburst like his pet cat died or something. I bet he’s putting me in the list of his top most hated person in the world because as his mother, I wasn’t nice. I wasn’t patient. And he is not used to seeing me get angry.

I feel bad that I can’t help him help himself. I feel bad that I can’t help myself. When you’re a working mom, the last thing you would want your day to end is your kids resenting you.

(This is why from early on, I already know deep in my heart I could never become a teacher or I’ll probably end up in jail.)

benjamin-art

While alone in the living room contemplating on what just happened (me losing it, forcing my son to write, and to be brutally honest – screaming…what a shame) I am recognizing there’s a problem with me and then there could be a problem with my son. And then most importantly, THERE COULD BE A PROBLEM WITH THE CURRENT EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM.

HEAR ME OUT – don’t you feel that the kindergarten now is what 1st grade used to be? Therefore, if your child comes to school not knowing his letters he or she will be behind and not do well in school. The expectations for a child in kindergarten and every other grade has dramatically increased. Teachers have no choice on what to teach – they are told the expectations the children in their classes must meet whether we agree they are developmentally appropriate or not!!

And what choice do we really have, as parents, presented with a child’s homework that needs to be done no matter what the cost?

When I was 5, I played, had fun, and learned age-appropriate things. Heck, I did not even attend kindergarten! Unfortunately, that is not the case anymore. Now, the kindergartners in most schools  are mastering things that I did not even learn until higher grades.

By the end of kindergarten, they are expected to learn how to read, to analyze shapes, to compose writing prompts and much, much more. The expectations of kindergartners are getting much too high that it’s become stressful and unrealistic.

When I look at my son now, with excessive amount of homework every night, I am terribly envious of the joyful, illiterate kindergartners of Finland.

And I bet there are no mothers there going mad and crying while writing blogs like this, you know?

Update on Benjamin’s school 2

March 3 wm

This is a follow up post about our challenge in searching for a school to enroll Benjamin. We are facing difficulties with how the schools are assessing the student’s kindergarten readiness.

We cancelled our admission to one school which he passed a strict assessment that included a session with the school’s resident speech and behavior therapist. The school fees were too expensive for us. I know, I should have known before applying right? Yes, but the website didn’t mention all the “miscellaneous fees” that added 35% to the base tuition.

I continued to look for another school. There must be one out there for my son!

Benjamin is turning five years old in October this year (2016) and will be in Kindergarten 2 class (FS2). This poses a challenge due to the fact that the slots are few, especially in schools with fairly affordable fees. If the school has existing Kindergarten 1 students, slots for Kindergarten 2 depends on whether there will be kids who won’t enroll for the next school year. Or if the school decides to expand the number of classes for KG2 (which is less likely).

Long story short, I found another school that opened admissions for KG2. I visited the school and liked what I saw and I also asked around some parents who I know has children there. I paid the assessment fee of AED500 and waited for the schedule of assessment. We went this morning, with high hopes.

After a few assessments on his belt, I am proud to say that Benjamin has gotten the feel of the whole procedure. He was very relaxed amidst the crying children at the reception/waiting area. I am so happy for my boy! He was taken to a room with a teacher and we wait outside. I saw him walking confidently through the corridor, with a stranger holding his hand and he did not mind. I crossed my fingers.

After 30 minutes or so, I was called to see the foundation stage head teacher. Benjamin was seated in front of her desk, just waiting. He was still, with eyes fixed at the globe on top of the cabinet. Benjamin LOVES maps. (I have delayed buying a globe for him. I suddenly felt guilty.)

“Hi, thank you so much. I have to tell you Benjamin is really shy at first…” I started to explain ahead. The head teacher interrupted my nervous banter and answered,

“Oh no, Benjamin was really chatty. He wasn’t shy at all! He was very social!”

I swear I saw rainbows and unicorns when I heard that. I felt my cheeks burning. I envisioned him walking through the colorful school corridors with his favorite Thomas bag. My boy finally found his place!

But my joy was short lived.

“However mama, we have a problem. We have given him a WRITTEN TEST and I’m afraid to tell you he did not do well at all.”

My heart sank. Benjamin was looking around and talking to himself, pointing at the colorful murals this time, counting 1, 2, 3 loudly at the objects on the walls.

The teacher showed me the test paper. He was supposed to write all the letters of the alphabet and the numbers 1-10. There was even a section where they blanked out the letters to test if the child knows what letter comes after a certain letter. He was EXPECTED to have mastered gripping the pencil and writing the letters and numbers perfectly. At four. From the nursery, from home. What were they doing at the nursery?! I was asked.

March 1 wm

Although he brings home his worksheets from the nursery with completed tasks, I am very aware that Benjamin still lacks writing skills. His pencil grip is weak and when I ask him to practice at home (which I honestly will admit, I dread having him do “homework” at this age!), he says he is already tired.

Moms with kids at the nursery, tell me: Do kids at your nursery school WRITE a lot? Is that how nurseries should work? I feel so LOST.

“We only have 1 year before he goes to Year 1. There’s not much time. The children in Year 1 will be writing sentences and essays (seriously she said THAT). He will be left out at his rate right now if we accept him as is.”

Seriously, since when did Year 1 students write long sentences. And essays?!

March 2 wm

“But we will give you another chance. Practice his writing at home and you can come back in a month. We will give the written test again.”

To be continued.

(Photos posted here are taken at his nursery school and posted at the nursery’s Facebook page.)

Benjamin and his love for maps

ben map 2

My kids – they don’t look anything like me. I’ve been mistaken for their carer instead of their mother so many times I’ve lost count nor care any more. Some won’t believe till one of my kids blurt out, “mama” to call me in public.

Most of their behavior are from their father too…well except one: love for geography, especially Benjamin.

Maps!

Benjamin started to show his interest with the map on our living room wall before he turned two years old. I guess he was attracted to the colors and I taught him the countries which he gladly, openly accepted. He easily memorized some of them, the big, prominent ones.

I took down the map when we rearranged furnitures in the living room and it has not been up on the wall for almost a year. The almost worn out map was rolled and kept in one corner in the bedroom, forgotten, gathering dust. Last night, when I moved some things, Benjamin saw it and exclaimed gleefully, “Mama, the map! the map! I found the map, let’s put it up again!”

Oh yeah. That map. I put it up near his bed and within his reach when he’s on top of the bed. So last night, instead of reading books during bed time, he had fun pointing at the map and oh my God, he still remembers some of the countries, even if he had not seen the map for almost a year! I love it when his face lights up every time I clap and kiss him whenever he proudly points to: America! Greenland! Italy! Brazil! Philippines! Japan! Australia! India! Madagascar!

Oh, Benjamin. The places you’ll go. When I was seven, my father gave me the most precious and memorable gift: The World Atlas book. I spent so much time flipping through the pages of that book while it laid flat on the floor (it was huge). My father would show me the countries and what’s in there, the history, etc. That opened up my passion for leaning about new things, love for history and travelling to places I have never seen.

Update on Benjamin’s school

So we went for the 2nd assessment for Benjamin. We were greeted at the school entrance by a lady at the registration office who called him by his name. She knows his name! I was surprised by this. Then they asked us to wait for a few minutes.

A middle aged man came holding a folder and showed us the way to his office. He is the school’s resident speech and behavior therapist/guidance counselor. Whoa. Hard core. After a few minutes of explaining to us about the procedure, we left Benjamin in the room with him.

We did not see our son for the next 40 minutes or so.

I was pacing back and forth outside the room. I can hear my son interacting with the school personnel and I’m glad he’s not crying. But my God, 40 minutes was so long.

The session ended and when they came out, he ushered us to go down to the Infant and foundation stage room, he spoke to someone there and said, “Congratulations! We think your child is ready!”

I felt so relieved. Benjamin will be able to attend kindergarten this September. My school hunt is now done. Or so I thought?

“Ma’am, you can now proceed to the Accounts Department to pay the fees.”

Fees…what? It is only February now and Benjamin won’t be starting school till more than half a year later! We went to the Accounts Department anyway to get the “payment schedule”.

There we faced another challenge.

The base tuition in the website shows AED17,000 (US$4,600) as annual fee for KG2 that’s why I chose that school because somehow, we could manage that. But then there were add-ons like uniform for AED850 (!), bus fees and the total school fees ballooned to AED26,000. We need to issue 4 cheques: CURRENT dated, August 2015, January 2017 and April 2017.

I repeat, school doesn’t start till September 2016, 7 months from now.

*****

Some might say, the fee I mentioned above is actually cheaper than “Dubai standard” (whatever that means) but for us, it’s not cheap at all. And even if we can afford it, I don’t think it’s worth it. Actually, I’ve been having a lot of second thoughts about so many things, some solutions would require very big life changing decisions.

It’s time we rethink about “kindergarten readiness”

Benja and Eli

The boy in red shirt is Benjamin. He is my 4 year old son. Does he look normal to you?

Yes, he looks normal because YES, he is normal. Except for lingering longer during the breastfeeding period, not knowing how to use the bottle and difficulty in potty training, I see nothing wrong with him. He is an active, chatty boy who is curious about everything, very lovable and very bright.

However, we have a slight problem. Maybe just a little bit of a late bloomer.

He is turning 5 years old late this year and it seems that no school (so far) wants to accept him for kindergarten. Why? Because they think that something is wrong with him. They have not made their concerns that clear and vocal but last year one of the schools we applied for told me, “he is not ready”.

We’ve been to a couple of schools for assessments if he is ready for the big school. The first one was last year to enroll him in kindergarten 1 (Foundation Stage 1). Prior to that, he was just staying at home so there were tears during assessment period and the school suggested we put him in a play school first.

So we did.

ben in nursery 1

After a few months at the playschool, his teacher says she thinks Benjamin is ready for the big school, he memorizes things quickly, he loves to play and can communicate his needs to his teacher and his play mates. She suggested we find a school for him so he can transfer.

We opted he spend the whole year in play school just to be sure (plus, it’s difficult to find schools that accept transfer students mid-year).

Now, registrations and assessments have started for the 2016-2017 school year. Benjamin went in for another assessment last week. Today I got a call and was giddy, thinking nothing but positive things.

But then they asked us to take him there again for FURTHER assessment next week. My God, he is not going to Harvard University! Why so rigid?

I already know the reason, the same as before – he is shy, not responding to any interrogation, maybe eyes on the floor, stiff and shy around other kids his age (that he doesn’t know), in an enclosed space of the classroom. Outside in the parks, he doesn’t care about the other kids but if you put him in a room with other kids, he will create his own world…until he warms up to them. It will take TIME and a few minutes of “assessment” won’t be able to see that he is perfectly FINE – if only they’d give him a chance! He also can’t write his name yet. Why? Because to be honest – I was not hard core in teaching him to write letters or color within borders or to memorize the alphabets or numbers (though we read a lot at home and play with maps because he loves it before he turned 2!).

I know so many parents becoming stressed out to get their child ready for kindergarten that sometimes they miss out on the wonderful moments of love, exploration, curiosity, and play.

ben in nursery 2

No matter how I explain to them that he is a normal boy at home and at places where he is familiar with the people around him (like in his nursery school), they will always judge the shy and aloof boy they see for a couple of minutes. I am upset because I don’t know what to do to make him less shy or to talk to strangers when they greet him hello (it’s very rare he answers back if he doesn’t know the person talking to him). But his nursery teacher says she finds no learning/behavioral disability.

I am afraid that at this rate, my son could not go to school because it seems that schools only accept the “easy” kids: immediately social and chatty and probably can already write their names. And Benjamin is not. It’s part of his personality that I cannot change, for now, even how hard I try.

Benjamin talks A LOT at home (up to the point of being noisy sometimes) and he sings the songs he learns at the nursery. He is ready for kindergarten, why would he not be? He even knows a lot of countries on the map through memorization since he cannot read yet!

Don’t you just wish all kindergarten teachers tell you, “The only thing I ask of parents is that they give their child all the love and care they can provide. I will teach them once they are in my class.”?

Potty Training could send me to therapy

potty-training

At the home front, we’re into this un-glorious phase of POTTY TRAINING. And it is not going so well. I’m telling myself over and over again, “It may take time but it won’t last forever.”

I pride myself for having the bigger bucket of patience in between my husband and I. I can bear difficult things. I’ve gone through a lot of trials in life and in parenting and have come out a survivor. I rarely yell at my kids and I don’t have to really, they are basically, incredibly and unbelievably great kids…most of the time. But REAL TALK: I am at the edge of my wits with Benjamin with regards to potty training. It was a whole lot easier with Pristine when she was younger but maybe I just feel that it was easy because it was more than 10 years ago and I have forgotten the unpleasant memories?

We’ve been potty training for quite a while now but with very little success. Do I need to read a lot of books and online articles to make this perfect? To succeed?

Some would say that if things are not working out for a week, the child might not be ready. And this is the fact that I am not ready to accept because Benjamin is already FOUR years old. As a background, he seems to be late in so many things: talking, weaning off breastfeeding only when he was over 2 and being social with people (he is still very shy).

I am frustrated. I am upset and I have lost my mood to do anything else than write this stupid post.

Right now, we are kind of succeeding with the pee part. Still “kind of” because we still have to take him to the toilet at fixed times to pee. He has not initiated he will go yet, although he would act strangely by holding his crotch so we need to pay attention to prevent leaks.

So there’s a small success in the pee part. The poo part, however, we have zero progress. He only tells us if he has soiled his underwear already and he gets disgusted by it and removes it himself, hurriedly, sending the poo rolling/splattered on the floor. {sorry if any of you are eating while reading this}

I’ve spent a few hours reading articles and experiences from moms but I honestly think this is one of those subjects where its hard to take advice from people because every child is different. This morning, Benjamin poo-ed in his underwear (again). I wanted to cry as I was cleaning him. I work full time but Fridays and Saturdays are my days off. He has a carer for the days I am not home but I could feel her frustration. I was crying while cleaning him up – because I raised my voice even I know I shouldn’t. And I was firm in telling his carer not to scold the kid when he messes up because it could lead to regression of the whole potty training process yet here I am, breaking my own rule.

After a few minutes, Benjamin was very quiet, he fully knows I am upset. I am upset with him but more like, I am upset with myself. Where was the mantra I always take into heart: “This too shall pass”? it flew out of the window the minute poo dropped on the floor.

I always gently tell him, where do we do this business? And he answers, “toilet”. Promise? “Promise” yet he never keeps his promise. WHY, why, why? And he looks at me with those apologetic puppy dog eyes.

Every child eventually learns. Potty training is frustrating, but I know AND hope it will have an end to look forward to. SOON.

Benjamin is turning 4!

benjamin

What are your plans for Benjamin’s birthday? my husband asked. Wait, what? It’s that time of the year again?! Benjamin, our not so little boy at home, my forever baby will be celebrating his birthday, turning 4 in a couple of weeks!

I suddenly remember the time I was in Austria last month. I stayed with a friend who had a baby and I spent moments of disbelief when I carried the small baby in my arms as I try to imagine carrying Benjamin in my arms now. How did time pass by so quickly? I remember my own kids’ baby days so well, and now here we are with Benjamin four years later!

So back to what I’m planning to do on his birthday which falls on a weekday (Wednesday).

A cake, a gift and just the family is my plan. A few balloons maybe. The cake had been pretty much decided and the gift…hmmm, what will we give him?

benjamin 2

We are not big on buying toys and if we do, we only give something we know he will truly treasure so it won’t end up as pieces of trash around the house. He just had a Lego Duplo (train) from my friend so no more Lego for now. My sister said she’ll buy him a book, so that is sorted out too.

I think he is not ready for board games yet.

He is attending pre-school and recently love to construct elaborate imaginative scenarios. I am sure he will love toys that inspire role play and imaginative play, including figurines (such as toy soldiers, pirates, farm animals), dress-up clothes, sock puppets but could get bored to it and it could end as trash.

It’s actually fun to think of what to give Benjamin because he is in the age where he really starts to show his preferences and interests. Plus, he isn’t sticking every little piece into his mouth any more and can play independently for a lot more time than his younger self.

When his older sister turned 4, we gave her a bicycle. And we kind of plan to give him the same on his 4th birthday. Dubai “winter” is around the corner and we could take him out with his bike to the park. I am sure he will love it! A bicycle for a 4 year old, what do you think?

Any other gift ideas you have for preschool children?

Travel bump: Toddler motion sickness

road trip

It was Mother’s Day last weekend here in Dubai (we celebrate Mother’s Day here twice – one for the UAE/UK Mother’s day in March and one for the global Mother’s Day as we know it, in May). We went for an out of town trip to Fujairah, one the UAE’s seven Emirates and a couple of hours drive from Dubai. We’ve been to Fujairah just a few weeks back and we love the place. The children love the change of sceneries too.

Nothing like a very “motherly incident” on Mother’s Day to make me feel like a real mom: my son threw up in the car mid-journey and I was covered with vomit.

I swear I’ve said before that our kids are rock star travellers. Never the ones to whine or throw a tantrum and always ready for an adventure. We never had major incidents while travelling with them – ok, once in Sri Lanka when the car was zigzagging down the mountainous region of Nuwara Eliya to Kandy in July last year. Benjamin threw up and I had to “catch” his vomit as much as I could so we won’t ruin the rented car’s carpet. I can’t blame him, I felt so nauseous too. The other child, the older one was perfectly ok. (She can even read a book inside a moving car! Cringe.)

ben motion sickness

* I scanned photos of him inside the car, the Metro and the public bus…and I don’t know, this could be over-thinking or paranoia but he really seems to be less happy when in the car! *

I thought that his motion sickness in Sri Lanka was a one-off unfortunate event, after all, the road was really tough, even for adults. And he hasn’t thrown up on our car trips since…until now.

This is when I realized I could’ve passed on the “motion sickness” gene on to my son.

I tried to recall the times he didn’t throw up: road trips from Dubai to Abu Dhabi which is just straight highway, or trips that isn’t too long, maybe less than two hours. And we had been to Fujairah when we stayed at Novotel Hotel which is just off the new highway, in the city center. (The trip was only an hour and a half max)

So what makes last week’s Fujairah trip different? For one, it was a long drive. We got off the new highway after an hour and a half and had to take the normal roads. There was traffic as it was the night before the weekend when everyone seemed to be on the roads. Next, there were too many road humps and ROUNDABOUTS!

We were about 50 kilometers from our destination when he vomited so we had to stop the car to clean up. He was ok immediately after that episode but I wasn’t. I was scared what will happen in the next 50 kilometers. I had my extra clothes ready.

When it was time to come back to Dubai, we stopped at a nearby pharmacy to ask for an over the counter drug to prevent motion sickness and possible projectile vomiting on the way home. It must have been laden with stuff to make one drowsy because Benjamin slept the whole way through until we got home after nearly two hours.

Great, right? We are vomit free!

BUT it’s kind of sad really, him just sleeping there, strapped in his car seat. Benjamin loves our car trips, he loves looking at all the vehicles around, the rich colors of the desert, the occasional camels we see far ahead, the mountains of Fujairah! And now, he wasn’t able to see anything.

Can motion sickness go away with age? I certainly hope so! I don’t want to medicate my child each and every time we go out for a long drive!