Sunday, May 25, 2014

Trip to Abu Dhabi

A few weeks ago we took a day trip to Abu Dhabi. I have always believed that travel was an essential component to a child's education, but now I am slowly starting to see the difference it is making in my children. While at Abu Dhabi we visiting the Abu Dhabi Grand Mosque. This was actually the first time my kids and I have experienced a mosque of this magnitude, grandeur, and beauty. Until this point we have been traveling around Europe and have only been able to see beautiful Cathedrals and churches, but to actually come face to face with a holy place our your background and religion is an incredible feeling. One that makes you feel proud and thankful to be who you are and to know that you are not alone, when sometimes it easy to feel that way, even though it is a known fact that there over 1 billion Muslims world wide.

Since arriving in Dubai my kids have become obsessed with Masjid's (mosques). They never fail to point them out as we pass them, and if you have ever been to Dubai, then you know that you will pass a mosque every 2 minutes :). We were able to pray inside the Grand Mosque, explore, and take in the beauty, and the smells of the incense. Children reading Quran and praying besides their parents. Even the bathrooms were made of marble stone and had flowing fountains for making Wudu (the cleansing ritual before prayer). Its a shame that in the USA we weren't able to be in such amazing homes of worship.

But being here was important in solidifying our roots and beliefs as a family. It is something tangible to show my kids that our religion is beautiful, it is serene and peaceful, and clean and demands attention. And I didn't have to sit down and giver my kids a lesson on these facts or a lecture. All they had to do was observe, and use their 5 senses to gain an understanding of these important concepts and to gain a respect for their identities. Hopefully, our next stop will be Mecca and Medina inshaallah. Religion is something that is often very abstract for children. But as Muslims, we live our religion day in and day out. We praise and seek guidance in our creator in everything we do and every thought that we have. The daily obligations are easily seen and learned so that it becomes apart of the children as they grow up. It becomes a natural habit for example to pray 5 times a day. But there is a bigger picture to paint, and by seeking out these kinds of experiences and taking these sorts of trips aids in instilling this larger message in a child's mind.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

A loss for words

Sometimes I feel like I should have so much to say and experiences and thoughts to share with the world, yet my mind is a blank slate. My thoughts are jumbled, my emotions unstable and these days I seem to feel mostly like I am drowning in a sea of confusion and indecisiveness. We have been in Dubai now for 4 months and more than ever I find myself constantly questioning my decisions. Knowing that I could somehow make better ones and do more.

It's a strange feeling to have no control over something. And while there are certain things that will forever remain out of our control, there are others we can control. For me, I feel like I have lost control over my daughters education. I have placed her education in the hands of others. And although I am happy with her school as is she, and while she is visibly learning so much everyday, I cant shake the fact that somehow I could provide her with more, with a better education, more experiences and learning opportunities and that  I am limiting her. There are only so many hours in a day and only so many days in a week, months in year, and so on. I am losing time with every day that passes. All I notice is how much she has grown as a person and physically of course. But is she growing into the person I want her to be? Are our priorities for her education being placed above everything else? Most of the time the answer I come up with is NO! And that causes me to feel like I must make immediate changes.

These changes will not come easy either. Making the decision to pull her out of her alternative school and homeschool her full-time would mean a major life transition and adjustment. Especially with a 3yr old and a baby on the way. But I have been unable to school her at home the way I used to when she was only in school until 12:30. Now the day has extended to 2pm as she has gotten bigger. Although I have managed to fit in a couple of extras such as swimming and Quran, I don't like to put too much into the week. I like the kids to have lots of free play time. Hopefully I will continue to make improvements in their education that I believe in and that these changes are the right decision.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Our New Home

A couple of months ago, we received the news that we would be leaving Luxembourg and moving to Dubai. It was a bittersweet news. Although I was ready to move on, I fell in love with Luxembourg and wasn't quite ready to leave. Then of course all the stress of finding a new home, new school and new friends settled in and weighed heavily upon me. But as an expat these are the realities of everyday life. You move a lot and you have to build a new life at the drop of a hat.

We decided it would be best to go to the USA for a month or so to spend time with family before the new transition, which I believe is really important for young kids if you travel, or move around a lot. Kids need security and need to feel grounded, and being with loved ones is an easy way to help kids build strength for big change. We have been in Dubai for almost a month now, and adjusting to a new country is always difficult, but it was easier than the first move. We were able to make a friend or two within the first few weeks which always makes one feel more settled. So far the kids have not expressed any moving woes which I am very grateful for, although Ameera does usually ask when her Luxembourg friends will visit and says how much she misses them.

The main issue I had so far here was choosing a school for Ameera. She had an amazing experience at the Waldorf school and I wanted to continue her Alternative education, so I opted to send her to another Alternative School that is Waldorf Inspired but uses the Oak Meadow Curriculum. The mainstream schools did not sit well with me when I went to visit them mainly because it seemed overwhelming and not what we as a family are used to. As Ameera becomes older the decision of her educational path becomes more difficult for me, but I feel confident that the path we are on is the right one inshallah.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Travels with kids

I recently returned from a 10 day trip from Italy with my family and thought I would reflect a bit on what I learned while it is still fresh in my  mind. Our itinerary included 3 cities: Venice, Florence, and Rome. The journey to Venice was exciting to say the least and spectacular upon arrival. We found our way around using maps and asking around easily enough, but what we were not prepared for was the weather, which was very rainy and cold. In the interest of packing light, I went against my instinct and didn't bring the kids rain gear which turned out to be a huge mistake. One by one my kids got sick and had fevers for the entire trip but it didn't hinder us from exploring and going out everyday but it was really hard on my 5 yr old who was often cranky and exhausted by the end of the day. Some tips for those who plan to travel with young children is to check the weather of your destination and do lots of research to prepare in advance what you wish to see and do and how to get from one place to the next. Also pack light, but smart with lots of layering, and weather appropriate clothes.

One item I could not have traveled without was my Ergo baby carrier, and cheap ultra light umbrella stroller. Cities are very difficult for children and having means to ease their tired feet is always a must. I wouldn't discourage families from traveling with young kids, in fact I encourage it, but you need to be prepared to go at a very slow pace. Every morning we would have breakfast and then go back to our hotel to wait for Noah's nap time, which was at 10am and then leave for the day when he woke up around 11-11:30am. For us this meant well rested, happy kids. And we would often return between 5-6 pm to allow the kids to unwind, bathe, have dinner in hotel room and go to sleep at their proper bedtimes. Even doing so we still managed to do a lot of sight seeing and museum and park visits.

Although at times it was stressful and kids did have occasional melt downs, the one piece of technology that saved us was my iPhone which I had loaded with games and cartoons. So when Ameera and Noah could take no more art or architecture or sight of busy cities in general, I would whip out my phone and they could play or watch at their leisure which bought us often hours of uninterrupted exploration time. This tactic worked like a charm every time.

Some thing's I would do differently for next trip are:

1. Look for private apt rentals instead of hotels.
- it would be more comfortable for little kids
- allows you to cook, and keep snacks and drinks handy

2. Make sure weather in my chosen destination is going to be suitable for outdoor activities and Lil one.
- although I did see chances of rain in the forecast, it rained more than predicted and was colder than predicted.
- upon researching weather in Italy I found that March is a very rainy month.

3. I bought a lot of prepaid tickets to places such as the Vatican and Colloseum to avoid hour long lines which were a BIG help. But some tickets I purchased were not necessary to buy in advance.

All in all, a memorable experience with family that I greatly enjoyed. I will add pictures soon.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Winter Blues

It's been quite a while since I posted, and I have to say that I fell into the rut of winter blues. Winter here in Luxembourg has been harsh, with constant grey clouds hanging in the sky, frigid air, and endless snow. As beautiful as it looked in the beginning, I longed for it to end. We did get a chance to do some fun things like attend the Christmas Market in Trier, Germany and build a Snowman in our backyard. But in the end I actually packed my and my kids suitcases and flew back to NJ for 1 month. It was so great to be with my family and friends again and spend the holidays with them and just reconnect. And it also gave me a great sense of emotional support, being that I had been away from home for about 6 months at the time. One important lesson I did learn from going back home is that I had to accept my new life in Europe and make a valid effort to make a life for myself here that doesn't only revolve around my kids. That aspect was always hard for me to swallow, but in the end I realized you will always need a friend wherever you may be. Getting to know people and letting them into your life is not as easy as it seems. But as soon as I returned from the USA, I made it a point to start building relationships with people, not only for me but for my children as well. Spring is now approaching, and after just a few short months I can actually say that I have met some really great moms and have formed new friendships. This experience so far really has been bittersweet, but after Winter always comes the Spring.