Friday, February 29, 2008


Around two weeks ago Ibnat's classteacher advised me to reinforce the alphabet letters and sounds with her at home, because apparently she is lagging behind her class in this area. And so began my efforts in trying to help Ibnat recognize the letters in the the alphabets. It is not easy because the moment she realizes that it is "work" and not "play" she will just refuse to pursue the activity and move onto something else.

Therefore, I have to make learning fun for Ibnat. She loves finger painting and so I take print outs of the letters (from that I teach her and let her trace her finger , dipped in water color, over it. She sometimes colors the letters using wax crayons. Also when I associate the letters with something she likes she seems to remember the letter. For example she does not forget "z" as "zebra" begins with it. I also use flashcards which Ibnat loves playing around with.

All children are self-centred and so I use her name to teach her the letters. I also use the names of other family members and her friends and this captures her attention.She must be wondering how some letters can actually convey names.

In the montessori schools they make their own flashcards with construction paper and sandpaper. They cut out the letter in sandpaper and paste it on rectangular construction paper. When I asked why they use snadpaper, the teacher said that the montessori approach believes that learning is sensorial and so the child has to feel what she is learning with her hands. Wow! I never knew all this before!

So every evening after Ibnat comes from the playground we sit together with the alphabets. She loves music and movement and so we start with the nursery rhymes and then we move onto stories.This is when I sneak in the alphabets such as telling her the letters with which the names of her favorite characters start. I am also planning to buy alphabet blocks and magnetic letters to stick on the refrigerator.

Other mums......please do share your experiences with me and also give me ideas on creative ways to teach the alphabets.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Chewing Gum in Singapore

Yesterday Faisal and I were discussing how clean Singapore is with a very good friend of ours. That is when I first came to know that chewing gum is banned in Singapore because the city-state was having a lot of problems controlling the litter from chewing gum. Imagine my shock and surprise! How can something like a chewing gum be banned....something which is a staple for many people?

When he told me this it occured to me that I have never seen chewing gum in any of the stores in Singapore. But how come I never noticed that there is no chewing gum on sale anywhere?

Today when we were coming back from "Mustafa" in a car, our friend offered us chewing gums. We gladly accepted the "rare commodity" when the cab driver gave us all an angry look. He asked us , "Did you bring this from Malaysia?". To this our friend answered that he had brought it from the States. The cab driver replied that if he had been caught then he would have been jailed for six months and fined $S2000. Our friend ofcourse was unaware of the ban and he vowed that he would never carry chewing gum in Singapore.

We had a good laugh over this while enjoying our chewing gums. We covered our mouths trying to hide the gum because the cab driver very coolly informed us that we would be heavily fined if we are seen chewing these forbidden items.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Celebrate your Language

Today is the 21st of February- a day of great significance in the history of Bangladesh. On this day the nation pays homage to the Language martyrs who fought, more than half a century ago, to establish Bangla as a state language.
This is the language movement day and on this day in 1952 the Bengalis protested to the Pakistani government's order to make Urdu the only state language of the country. The people of Bangladesh( the then East Pakistan) vehemently opposed this decision and demanded that Bangla be included amongst the state languages of Pakistan.The Pakistan government, ofcourse, did not give in easily and tried to suppress the movement. Salam, Barkat, Rafiq and Jabbar andf a few brave young men sacrificed their lives in the movement. The day has since been observed as the Language Martyrs Day which the UNESCO later declared as the International Mother Language Day (I think around 1999), thereby giving it a more universal appeal.

The Language movement is a turning point in history because it reinforced the identity of the Bengalis and gave rise to the spirit which ultimately led to creation of Bangladesh in 1971. Afterall, a language is what reflects a culture.

I am missing Dhaka because in this month there is a different kind of spirit in Bangladesh.The Bangla book fair is also held in this month in Bangla Academy and I used to be a regular visitor there till last year. The book fair or "Ekushe Boi Mela" is the place where a lot of much awaited new books are launched.

So since this is also the International Mother Language Day, let's celebrate our languages and appreciate their uniqueness. No matter how much English we speak in during the course of the day, the fact remains that no language can be as close to our hearts as our mother tongue.

Monday, February 18, 2008


I first gave play-doh to Ibnat when she was two. I had high expectations that it would really spark her imagination and fascinate her. However, she just took the clay in her hand and kind of tore it into miniscule pieces.Then she started putting those pieces inside her mouth. Though I showed her how to create things out of it, she became more interested in putting bits of play-doh into her ears. Since putting play-doh into ears could be dangerous I just diverted her and took the pots of play-doh away. That is why, though some sets of play-doh says 2+, I personally think that at 2 children are two young to enjoy play-doh.

For her third birthday one of the gifts that Ibnat got is the play-doh party set. It consists of a plastic jar with pots of play-doh and moulds with which the child can different shapes such as heart shapes and star shapes. There are also cake moulds and blunt knives and plates on which the cake can be served.

This time I showed Ibnat how to make a "putty" out of the play-doh and how to mold it into different shapes. I made a cake out of the mould and served it to her on a plate. She became "charged up" and was very eager to try it herself......we had one hour of fun making things together.It was fun for me too and it kind of transported me back to childhood.

So Ibnat has started enjoying playing with play-doh. The play-doh website says that it gives mothers "me time" as it keeps little hands busy. However, Ibnat just wants me to play with her and so I didn't get any "me time" like the website promises!

A sick baby

Yes yet again I have a sick baby; and I have come to understand that every bout of flu he has it drives me to my maximum capacity and tests me in every way possible. Not only do I have to keep up the nutrition intake, add some more nutrition, help all those medications go down the at-times reluctant throat, keep him cheerful, let him watch his favourite movies...make sure he gets all his sleep, and rest, stay up all day and wake up at night to check on him and the much dreaded fever, is just endless. That's why I say that it tests me to the maximum possible limit and every time I think I cannot take it anymore the limit increases on its own & I again seem to have limit-less patience in me. But honestly at the end of the day it all tires me down. This time we're batteling flu for almost 2 weeks now, now ofcourse things are much better with only a dry cough and a runny nose. Optimistic am I not !!!
One thing that I do is make him soups, more than solid food, as soups provide fast nutrition, they are easily absorbed and we can add all the necessary vegetables or meat into them. The taste also makes them more appealing than solid food, a bit of salt, pepper, a dash of lemon..roasted groud jeera.
I also stock up on chocolates as they are another way to give the kids that much needed energy and calories to help tide over the weakness that accompanies sickness.
Fruits is another major thing that needs stocking up. I must say here that I have found that bananas are extremely useful to supress that last bit of nasty dry cough after a cough bout. But before trying it out do remember that I live in a hot climate. So anyone in a cold climate should not indulge in banana-treatment unless you have a bright sunny day.
Tea also helps in a cold, cough. In making tea we can add a bit of crushed ginger, a pod of cardamom (elaichi), black pepper and a cinnamon stick-piece. Add in very little milk as milk makes the throat itchy and makes the cough worse. But yet again nothing beats a warm glass of milk with tumeric in it. I boil the milk with the tumeric and then cool it off till the drinkable-temperature.
All the medicines that need to be given are given to my son just before serving the meal, this way the medicines do not make him want to throw up. What I do is give him his medication, then help him to a glass of his favourite juice, then after 5-7 minutes the meal is served.
I found this way to be much better as he used to throw up if I gave him his medication post-meal. Although the doctors tell me that the medication should be given only post-meal; but I do it this way as it saves me a lot of cleaning up and my baby has no trouble.
Another thing I have realised is that we are not getting enough of sunlight on ourselves, I mean we are not getting vitamin D, and I read somewhere that if we expose ourselves to sunlight for 15 minutes our body makes 1000 IU (or was it 10,000 IU??) of Vitamin D and this surpasses all the external forms of Vitamin D that you can take. So now we have a time in our sun-window where we sit and play in the sun. I must mention here that Vitmain D is the most important of all the vitamins our body needs after all we are here only because the sun shines, and life began that way.
I do want to know what the other mommies do to treat a sick baby, so mommies do drop in your experiences and tricks of the trade so that we all help one another in being better care-givers during those frighful times that our babies are sick.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine's Day

It is that time of the year again when everybody acts and feels romantic. You see hearts and red roses everywhere.

I have always had mixed feelings towards Valentine's Day. The romantic in me likes the concept of one day of the year dedicated to love. However, when I think over it rationally I feel that there is too much of a hype over valentine's day.It has become too much of a commercialised event (I read somewhere that valentine's day is also jokingly referred to as the "Hallmark Day").Even companies who want to make a profit out of it should put more emphasis on love rather than on their products. Afterall there is much more to love than diamond jewelries or greeting cards.
However, cynicism aside, we can all celebrate valentine's in our own way. After all there is no harm in proposing to the person you love or cherishing the love that you share with your partner.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Photo Albums in the age of filmless cameras!

A few weeks back when we were in Dhaka, Faisal and I were looking at some old pictures in photo albums. That is when we realized that we had taken the greatest number of pictures in 2007 but developed the least number of pictures in that very year! This is the reason why Ibnat has a beautiful photo album whereas Nayaz's photos are only soft copies in the PC.

That is when we decided that we would create a picture album for Nayaz by developing some of his photos. So my hubby developed some of the younger baby's photo while I was away in Dhaka and last weekend we completed pasting the pics in his album.

As we looked at Nayaz's newly pasted pictures , we were glad that we had compiled the album.There is nothing like looking at photo albums to relive old memories. Clicking "next" in the PC and looking at pictures does not give the satisfaction that we get from turning the pages of an album.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Ibnat's Birthday

Day before yesterday we celebrated Ibnat's third birthday with a small party. I did not call her friends in school because I presumed they would be busy with family obligations because of Chinese New Year. So it was just our cousins, Ibnat's friend Ashita and her family and a korean neighbour and her daughter.

The three families that were invited did not know each other so we were a bit apprehensive about the guests feeling awkward with each other. But surprisingly the guests got along quite well much to our relief. We talked about careers, children and South Korea (our neighbour gladly fed us information about her homeland). There were four children including Ibnat and Nayaz and it looked like they were having great fun. They were all very fascinated by my gym ball and they were all trying to bounce it together.
I served some finger food first like chicken nuggets and noodles and it was followed by dinner which consisted of "pulao", roasted chicken, kebabs and vegetable. Everbody relished the dinner except our korean neighbour who ate very little as she thought that the snacks that I served earlier was all that dinner consisted of.

The cake was cut after dinner and everbody clapped and sang for Ibnat. We took a couple of pictures. After dinner we sat down to chat while the kids continued to play with the huge gym ball. I did not arrange any games for them because the kids were in any case too young to understand games but I had made goodie bags for them. After distributing the bags I realized that in a hurry I had forgotten to put the "goodies" inside! We had a good laugh over this.

The korean neighbours left first and our cousins stayed back for a while. We had tea and chatted about how we spent our vacations in Dhaka.

Late in the night we opened the gifts and had chocolates. I was relieved that the party was a success.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Penguin Tales

What a day it has been so far - not even finished half of it and its already upto the brim with adventures for little Mihir and (ofcourse, not to be left behind) me.

To being with, we spotted a fox on the communal lawn, from the balcony. And it looked quite small - not sure if distance was playing a trick on our eyes, but we would like to think it was a baby fox. That kept us occupied for a good fifteen minutes. It was time to get ready for messy play. Because it is the Chinese new year celebration fortnight - Mihir dressed up in his little red Chinese shirt. So off we went to messy play - there was shaving foam, and sopy water and a sand trough, some paints and sticky glue. Mihir had a go at everything and then after being quite messy decided to take a break and play some music instead - so he rummaged through the music box. Then it was time for some fruit and he had bits of grapes, banana, apple and pear.

While the children were eating their fruit, Sue (the early start play lady) had a very interesting story - it got all us mothers astonished and laughing - it was one good bit of stress busting. It started with Sue's friends visiting their friends at Edinburgh for Christmas. So during the vacation, because the kids were getting quite bored indoors, the adults decided to take them to the zoo. So off went 4 adults and 6 kids (all different ages) to the zoo. They had a nice time and as the trip progressed the adults noticed that the kids were behaving a little funny - they thought that they had had enough for the day and decided to return home. The kids were quiet on the way back. Once home, the kids headed straight up to their room and the adults thought that to be a little weird. After a while, it was time to snack and they noticed that the kids were not very interested and would keep coming down one by one. Finally having had enough of this funny behavior, one of the adults went upstairs and to the kids room and guess what - there was BABY PENGUIN in the middle of it. It turned out that the kids just picked him up and put him in the rucksack and kindly fed him some fish fingers. In the meanwhile the zoo authorities were called and they came by immediately to get the little penguin back and the adults were fined £500. By this time, the mothers had gasps of astonishment, admiration, shock, horror and of course all of this punctuated with generous doses of laughter. The kids finished with the fruit and we headed back home. Mihir slept on the way back and i couldn't wait to get to the computer and type out this one for you to enjoy.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Organizing the house after a vacation

Coming back home after a vacation is a lot like shifting to a new house (ok, maybe better because furniture doesn't have to be organized). The last few days have been extremely busy because I had to unpack everything that I had brought from home, organize them and make the house functional again for the kids.

I did a lot of shopping from hometown because clothes are really expensive in Singapore.So I have practically bought a year's supply of clothes for the kids. These had to be washed, dried and put in their places.

I was lucky that Faisal came earlier because he had dusted and cleaned up the house. So when I came I did not have to go through the trouble of cleaning up the house. So I utilized that time to stock up the kitchen with stuff like rice, dal, milk and baby food. I also had to buy stuff like floor cleaner, tissue boxes and toilet paper.

A lot of things have changed since we went for the vacation because my younger child Nayaz has started walking. Managing a household with two mobile kids is different than managing a household with a single mobile kid. Though I have a domestic help, the amount of household work that needs to be done still overwhelms me!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Life with a preschooler-Part I

Life with a preschooler seldom has dull moments. Yes, frustration and exasperation crops up from time to time but dull moments are rare.

These days my daughter is full of questions. I think this is a phase that all children go through. Yesterday she stared at my wedding photo and asked me "Maa, why didn't you take me to your wedding?". I was naturally in splits.

Bed times and mealtimes are a bit better now (because I guess the terrible twos are almost over) but Ibnat is still very fussy about eating. Sometimes I fear that she might be suffering from malnutrition. When Ibnat was two,everybody used to think that she was atleast three or four but nowadays many people can guess that she is three (her third birthday is just round the corner)......which means that her rate of growth has slowed down. Brushing her teeth used to be quite a difficult chore but after explaining to her why it is important to clean one's teeth before going to bed she is now more open to it. Ofcourse I have to be playful and imaginative during the brushing ritual. I tell her "Yes, I can see a big "poka" (insect) inside your mouth and so open your mouth wider otherwise it will destroy your teeth."

Ibnat wants her "baba" to take her to bed. They chat for a while and sometimes Faisal scares her with "Mamdo Bhoot" and "King Kong" so that she closes her eyes.

Another new development is that Ibnat is now quite friendly with her baby brother.She is still insanely jealous of him (her dad cannot cuddle the little one without risking an outburst from her) but now they interact and play with each other. She is still interested in wearing her little brother's clothes but I think the realization that she is a girl and therefore has a different set of clothes is slowly coming to her.

Ibnat loves school but she hates the "getting ready for school" part and ofcourse the breakfast part. My maid , very patiently, tries to make her eat by diverting her with "Mr. Bean" cartoon but most of the time her efforts do not yield any results.

The way she enters her classroom gives me a lot of is clear that she just can't wait to go inside. She becomes very indifferent towards me and sometimes even forgets to say "goodbye". After school she is very reluctant about coming back home and always says that she wants to go to "Thomson Plaza"(which is mall near our condo) instead.

Keeping a preschooler busy during the long afternoons is really a big challenge. Painting is something Ibnat likes but now the problem is that her baby bro Nayaz "attacks" the water colors and creates a mess. A few days ago he even licked some of the colors and smeared them all over his face. I keep her busy with books and peg puzzles. Cartoons do work at times but Ibnat is not a child who is fond of sitting in one place. In a way this is a blessing in disguise because I do not like the idea of kids being too addicted to TV.

I take her to the playground everyday because there she can meet the other kids and socialise. She loves the playground but is very reluctant to greet the other kids even when they greet her first. She takes time to warm up to them and I think language is also still a barrier to communication for her.

To keep up with a three year old you need a lot of energy and patience. That is why I have started going to bed earlier (I used to be quite nocturnal) and I am also thinking of taking up yoga (that is, if I get the time!).