Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016

Stop watching what you say

We live in a world of constantly watching what we say, making sure we are not offending anyone and being politically correct.  I agree, we should be mindful and ensure that any language we use does not offend or disadvantage any group of people.  However, what can happen is this mindfulness creates situations where we tend to watch everything we say and we stop being truly open about what we think and feel – in a way we censor ourselves.  I’ve always been someone who speaks my mind and although I have toned down my directness, I never have been one to hide away from how I feel or what I think.  Being a Mom in this current global environment I feel the need now more than ever to stop watching what I have to say.

My last blog post that touched upon raising kids who will always be a minority received some interesting reactions.  There were many comments of support and the re-posting of the blog globally.   Not surprisingly other parents feel the same way and have been faced with challenges associated with this.  There were parents who have reached out to me and want to meet, want to discuss the details more etc.  The other reaction was the more interesting one.  These were from parents who felt that I was creating a situation and making my kids more aware of diversity then they should be.   That I should be telling my kids that everyone is the same and everyone should be treated the same.  That by wanting our kids to be in a more diverse environment it meant our current friends did not value diversity.  I was asked why I seem to have an issue but other parents who were part of a minority group didn’t feel that way.  That if my kids were not being bullied because of any issues related to diversity then maybe I was making this more of an issue that it was. Really? Do people think that because they don’t hear someone talking about issues that they don’t exist?  Can I really raise kids with blinkers on?   Can the best environment for my kids be one defined by whether they are bullied or not?  In 2016 do people still think diversity refers to only color?  Does it mean just because my kids and I are happy and have great friends that I should be okay with the status quo?

dreamstime_xs_48843498Once again I will be open and direct.  We will not raise our kids with some fairy tale notion that everyone is the same.  If this means that I am creating an environment where my kids become activists then so be it.  I would prefer this then them not being aware.  Embracing diversity is not about everyone being nice to each other. It is about acknowledging differences and then ensuring we include all of them. Without the acknowledgement there is no real inclusion.

We all walk to our own beat especially when we are parents.  The beat I choose to walk to will be one of open, direct parenting.  One of discussing what is happening around the world with our kids at the dinner table and allowing them to watch the news.   I want them to question what they see and what they hear.  I want them to have a social conscience.  They may choose not to be interested in any of these discussions and that’s okay.  My goal as a supermom is to raise them to be mindful but never to stop stepping out and letting the world know who they are and what they have to say.

 

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Monday, July 11th, 2016

Raising kids who will always be the “minority”

There is so much going on in the world that makes a person feel so unsettled especially having young kids who have so many more years of growing up to do.   For me the past few months have brought so many questions to light in terms of where do we actually belong and what is the best place for my kids to be.   The realization is we will always be the minority race group especially as we don’t really fit into any one group,  we are Muslim in a world that fears Islam and we have raised kids who openly express themselves.   So, what does this all mean?  It means acknowledging we will always be unique from the rest of the “group” and that we are more than okay with that.

I notice my kids being excluded in the communities we live in.   I notice the school system initiate programs that don’t take into account the small group of kids who are not white.  I notice sports coaches with such an unconscious bias that not only do they not realize their actions but get offended when you raise it with them. While all of this drives me crazy and at times to the point where I think living on a remote island, home schooling the kids and running a surf shop would be the best solution;  I know that is not realistic.  Discussions about diversity is part of our everyday dialogue at home.  We need our kids to know the type of world they are facing and how to deal with it and not to shy away or walk away from conflict about who they are.  We cannot hide from the many families around us who think race is not an issue because they really don’t need it to be.   It always amazes me when friends in my community seemed shocked at the idea that the notion of embracing diversity and ensuring inclusion does not always exist around us or that we may have felt the impact of racism in this picturesque village we live in.

dreamstime_xs_41380672Like every other parent out there we make a decision to live somewhere with great schools, safety and opportunities for our kids.   We then have to make sure that in this world where many will not accept our kids based on what they look like or their religion that they will be strong enough to stand up for themselves and be proud of everything that makes them who they are.  I cannot be responsible for the behavior and actions of others but I can make a difference to my kids by making them aware.  We choose to do this because our kids lives matter.

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Wednesday, June 29th, 2016

What is the “normal” family?

Firstly, there is the word “normal” – a word I constantly have a problem with.  The definition of normal is “conforming to a standard, typical, the usual”.   What I am hoping most of you would ask next is – What is standard, typical or usual?  In the world we live in there is no Leave It To Beaver family and there is nothing standard about a family.  It is time everyone realizes that there is no definition of a perfect family and all that matters is what works for you!

As someone with a husband who constantly travels and is more often than not spending weeks, and sometimes months without him not around I feel the constant questions and judgement about our family arrangement.  Yes, he is away;  yes, we miss him and yes, we are okay.

dreamstime_xs_34273318This blog piece would be too long to mention all the different types of families – same-sex parents, grandparents raising grandchildren, uncles and aunts raising their nieces and nephews, single parent homes, stay at home dads, families with diverse religions and ethnicity etc. etc. etc.   While you may think that your family environment which could be a home in the burbs, a stay at home mom, a 9-5 dad, a mini-van and a dog is perfect and ideal,  that may not be what everyone wants to defines as a their family.

All I am asking is to stop the judgment and realize there is no normal.  Just as each person is unique so is every family situation. What is important is that kids are raised in an environment where they feel safe, loved and protected.   Would I love to see my husband every day? Of course I would, but that does not mean that we don’t have a family and home that works best for us.  To all the Supermoms out there just remember that our kids mirror so much of what they hear and see from us.   Help them realize that there is no judgement in choices they make especially if their choices are what works best for them.

 

Sunday, May 22nd, 2016

How you can help women around the world

Chances are you have purchased from a Fair Trade store and may not even know it.   Does it really make a difference if you do purchase Fair Trade?  How can you, just one person impact a woman in India or Kenya or Guatemala just by purchasing a scarf for $15.00.  As a Supermom I always look at ways in which I can support other moms or small businesses.  I have nothing against the big retail stores and I do shop at some of them when I need to. However, when I have the opportunity of supporting a small business, then that is the route I go and I encourage you to do the same.

So, how do you help people by purchasing Fair Trade products.  Fair Trade is an approach to business and to development based on dialogue, transparency and respect that seeks to create equity in the international trading  system.  In simple terms it’s a way to help people in many countries who don’t have access to a market to promote and sell their goods.  Not only are you assisting the one person who created the product, but in many of these countries that 1 person is supporting a multitude of people.  You could be supporting a family of 10 with your $15.00 scarf purchase.

asia-slide1How would it feel knowing that when you purchased a bowl, a toy, chess board or jewelry that you have helped educate people on the need for reforestation to enable the products to be available for years to come and offer a sustainable income for generations.  Or the few dollars you spend at a Fair Trade store instead of a large retail chain promotes employment by training unskilled craftspeople, and by assisting the independent artisans through the introduction of new designs and a new market.  I am sure you would love to know that some jewelry you bought for $20.00 has improved educational programs for women in India and sent their girls to school.

It may sound very “save the world” but you can make a difference – every small act of thoughtfulness does impact africa-slidemany.   I’ve recently launched an online Fair Trade store and of course I would love you to be one of my customers.  Whether you visit my store or any other Fair Trade store I encourage you to do so and I know you will be hooked- both by the beautiful handcrafted products and by the knowledge that you are making a significant difference.  My store Worthy Origins is about being part of the journey of creating possibilities for others.  Wouldn’t you want to contribute to this journey of creating possibilities?

 

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Sunday, April 10th, 2016

Advice from a special needs mom to other parents

I am sure that many of you either know of a parent of a special need child or are one yourself.  I have tried my best to understand the wide spectrum that exists under the words “special needs”.  The best thing that I have done is to speak to parents who are open and wanting the rest of the world to understand what they go through on a daily basis.   I recently asked one mom if she would be willing to share her thoughts and advice on being a parent of children with special needs and what would she tell other parents going through the same thing. Below is her response verbatim.   I know this is longer than my regular blog posts – but trust me, everyone should take a few minutes and read this.

Start…

1.- Join a support group. Whether it is a local support group or a social media support group. Because, let’s face it, we live surrounded by neurotypical children and their families. We all believe that we are not making comparisons, but deep inside the brain, in some hidden unconscious place the comparisons are happening… we need to remove that “normal” baseline as often as possible, and remind ourselves that we are not alone in this journey.  Plus, support groups can be a great source of information.
2.- Read. Learn as much as you can about your child’s condition. This will help you understand their world much better, set the right limits and goals, and advocate for them with confidence. When my oldest one got his evaluation results I was a full time working mom with a  4-year-old and a 11-month-old. Reading was close to impossible. I read one book, but was it the right one. I revisited the book when the youngest one got his evaluation. My life is in a different place now and reading is easier for me. I continue to read and learn more about their old and new diagnosis. But I get it, finding the time to read and the access to the books can be hard some times. I also listen to videos (TED, youtube) on my cellphone while driving to work and take five minutes here and there to read a short article or check my social media support groups. Stay informed and on top of things.
3.- Find those other parents.  As a mom of children with invisible disabilities I’ve got a lot of eye rolling and shocked expressions from other parents. You don’t need those… But those other parents…The parents of neurotypical children who think that your kid is awesome. The mom who says “I think he is so polite and smart, and you guys are doing an amazing job” and you know she is being honest. The dad who sees your son trotting through the house on his hands and feet and says “Wow! That is so awesome! He is so good at doing THAT!”. In a two hour play date they see their strengths so much more than their challenges… and you need those comments because when you have been there all day, day after day, in the mist of it you may lose that perspective. Those parents and their kids are invaluable.
 4.-Take no-thank-you-bites. Don’t be afraid to try new things, but be ready to quit if needed. We pressure our kids to not be quitters, but sometimes quitting is not just ok, it is necessary. In a family outing or vacation, the ideal situation is to quit just one minute before they hit the sensory overload, meltdown stage. Sometimes is better to try to avoid the situation all together, but sometimes it is good to push your child just a little bit out of their comfort zone.  The same goes for after school activities. We tried soccer and gymnastics for a few weeks, T-ball was a one-and-a-half practice session thing… Swimming? That one hit home.  Learning to read the signs of when is time to quit takes time. There is no manual, you just have to get to know your child. We get it wrong many times before we start getting it right. Because of that…
5.- Do the “self-care” thing, including forgiveness. Forgive yourself and others, and move on with a lesson learned. Embrace the five minute self-care choices out there. Get yourself a cup of tea, read two pages of your favorite book, call a friend… just do something that you enjoy, as simple as it may be, and write a mental note-to-self: “I’m enjoying this”.
6.- Make your partner a true partner. I think this is actually from “Lean In” but it applies here just as well. My husband knows when I am my wits’ end and he takes over, and the other way around. In a family outing, a trip to the supermarket, the farm… we split the work, “I’ll keep an eye on kid number one, you watch kid number two”. The buddy system works.  We both can read the signs of when it’s time to quit. We have both gone down this path together. Communication is key.
7.- Be thankful. I am thankful for a bazillion things: I am thankful for the other moms who post in the support group, for those people who took the time to write books about these invisible disabilities, for our school district, teachers and especial education team, for all the help that we are getting, for being able to write these lines after 8+ years of learning from and with my wonderful especial kids.
End….
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I really do hope that the 7 points above has either opened your mind and you have gained more insight into this world.  If you are a special needs parent, I really think the holistic approach of being thankful, making your partner a true partner and focusing on self-care is great advice.
To my friend – thank you for your time for sharing this…
Wednesday, April 6th, 2016

Not everyone is okay even when they say they are…

When you see someone you know the conversation normally goes, “Hi, how are you”,  “Okay” is the response and on we go.   Do we really listen to the answer and give some thought about if the person really is okay especially if they don’t look it.  Or is it more just a part of the busy life we all have and don’t really pay attention?  Let me give you one reason to sometimes stop, look at the person and when they say “I’m okay”  ask yourself, do they really seem okay.

Picking up my son from school I ran into another mom and got into the normal picking up kids conversation  – hello, how are you etc..  Her response was obviously I’m okay.   I looked at her and she seemed anything but okay – she looked completely exhausted – more than us moms usually seem.  We are all juggling so much but she looked weary and drained.  This is not a mom who I would say is a close friend but more just someone I know because of school.   But, I still kind of pushed it a bit and said “are you sure, because you don’t look that okay, you look exhausted”.   She mentioned her son hadn’t been sleeping well and we chatted for not more than 2 minutes when the door opened and kids came streaming out.

dreamstime_xs_34145046Guess what I received the next morning?  A thank you email from her.   Her exact words “I wanted to say thank you…thank you for asking and pressing how I was yesterday. I think we all move so quickly these days, that when someone says, “I’m okay”, we take it for face value and just walk away. Just hitting the surface. Thank you for not walking away :)”.   Turns out she is going through a lot with her little one being diagnosed with a sensory disorder.  I just happen to have a great friend who has 2 kids with the same disorder and has a wealth of information, support groups etc.   After chatting to each of them separately – I introduced them and they are now going to help each other out and share what they’re going through.   I’m not saying I solved a huge problem but by not just accepting the “I’m okay” response,  this mom may have one more person she can now lean on.

Sometimes being a Supermom means we have to look out for those other Supermoms as well.   Letting each other know we are not alone and sometimes taking an extra 10 seconds to really find out if someone is okay or not could make a world of difference.   It doesn’t take a lot to be more mindful, more present and more in the moment!

 

 

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Sunday, April 3rd, 2016

let them play with their toys a little longer….

Our weekend trip to Target always has the kids wanting to look at the toys and negotiate their way through what could they possibly get with their allowance.   Today was slightly different.  As they did their normal walk down the toy aisles, I heard a mom saying “But you’re almost 12 years old don’t you think you should stop buying this stuff”.   What she was referring to was an aisle full of Little Pet Shops, Shopkins, Monster High gizmos etc. as her daughter was looking at them.  The comment made me stop and almost want to turn to my 11-year old and say “yes, I will buy you anything in the toy section”.   When did being almost 12 mean you had to stop playing with toys.  I actually love it when my daughter,  who has already started developing that “tween attitude” is up in her room, on the floor surrounded by dolls, pet shops and little animals.   It’s not like this girl was looking at baby toys or something for a toddler – why pressure her to move on from wanting to play with mini pets for a few more years.

dreamstime_xs_49092844In a world that is constantly “on” with information from the internet and social media, maybe having them playing with old fashion actual toys is not such a bad idea.  Don’t get me wrong we live in a very techy home – with way too many devices and I do think technology is great but if I can stop my kids from being submerged in it then that’s a win.

What’s wrong with wanting our little ones to remain kids as long as they can.  To play with their Matchbox Cars, Legos, Calico Critters and dolls.  To have quiet time in their rooms while their imagination takes them and their toys to magical places.   Their time as a kid is so short that we should really be encouraging them to enjoy it and not try to end it too soon.  Next time you see them playing in their rooms why not take a break from whatever you are doing and join them on the floor for a few minutes.   It will lighten up your day and theirs!

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016

6 kids have this to say about the U.S. elections…

We all know that our kids listen to everything we say and often their opinions are created from a combined view of what they hear at home and what they see on television or online.  Now, I really try to avoid getting into politics on social media but how can we not avoid the political scene happening in the U.S. right now.  One encouraging aspect of it is that our kids are starting to pay more attention to the upcoming elections, who is in the running and even asking questions about what the difference between the candidates are.

In a recent carpool I was doing with 6 kids in the car – all girls ages 10-11 and my 7-year old son, it was fascinating to hear their views.  Firstly, they started the conversation completely on their own with one kid asking, who would you vote for in the elections.  These are the responses:

I would not vote for Donald Trump he is crazy.

I hate Donald Trump, what’s wrong with him.

And….his hair is weird (that was my 7- year old son)

I would vote for Hillary because we should have a female president.

But don’t you think our first female president should be a good female president?dreamstime_xs_27169053

Well, I think she is awesome and all women should vote for her.

I was born outside of the U.S. and we’re Muslim so if Donald Trump wins we would have to leave.

Really?  Is that really true?

Yes – she’s right – that’s what I heard as well.  If you are not from the U.S. and you believe in Islam you have to leave.

No one likes him, I don’t understand why is he on TV all the time and who are all these people voting for him?

I still think we should all vote for Hillary, she is going to be great as a president.

I don’t think she is and I will only vote for a female president when there is a good one.  We should vote for Bernie Sanders instead.

Yeah, my mom is a Republican but now she has to vote for Sanders because there is no one else.

Republicans don’t care about everyday people.

I don’t know about that but I don’t think our country is ready for a female president (this is from a 10-year old girl!!).

Okay, you guys are all boring me, who wants to go for ice-cream (my 7- year old again…).

Yes!!!  Ice-cream …..

And we are back to what 10 year olds would normally talk about – friends at school, having a sleepover and what are you doing for your birthday.

Here’s the thing – does this 5 minute conversation with 10-11 year old kids really sound so different from what we actually hear on the news everyday!   Do you know what your kids would say?  As our kids are becoming more intrigued and interested in the elections should we be talking to them about it more?  Should schools be playing a part in this?  Or do we keep politics at home like we are supposed to do with religion?

Why not ask your kids tonight what do they think about the elections, what have they heard, do they talk about it with their friends.  Here’s a tip – don’t say anything just let the conversation happen between them (obviously, that’s if you have more than 1 kid). Trust me,  it will be a dinner conversation you will always remember.

 

 

 

 

Monday, March 7th, 2016

never too late to take a different road…

No matter where you are in the world – summer is either coming to an end or spring is about to start- either way a new season is starting and the world around us is to starting to change once again.  This could be a perfect time for you to consider what you really would want to be doing in life right now and what is stopping you.  The road you are on could be steady and safe and filled with family, friends and love. But, is there something you have thought about trying but didn’t have the courage to do it?   A career change?  A start of a new fitness program? Maybe even starting a blog?  Have your friends all told you that you were really good at something and you could make a business or career out of it? What is stopping you?  We so easily fall into our routine and it’s predictable and keeps up moving from one day to another.  When did we stop living life to the fullest, full of all the adventure we wanted.  Waking up with excitement of a new day and new beginnings – stepping out of routine.

If you can’t make the big change right now, why not start small. Research what would you need to do to adapt the journey you are currently on.  Is there anything you can do while still continuing on your current path?   Sometimes that’s all it takes, the first step on that new road.IMG_0396

I know of 65 year-old woman finishing her Masters,  stay at home moms who have become fitness consultants and a corporate executive with a love for nature, started volunteering at a park. Small or big steps – you can always change the road you are on.  Supermoms, take the risk, have the courage, look at the road ahead and decide do you want to stay on the current course or venture off to a new horizon.

 

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Wednesday, March 2nd, 2016

learning to say no…

Are you one of those people who tend to always explain your actions – why you shop a certain way, why you have to say no to something, why you threw your kid an over the top birthday party, why you don’t want to go out with the girls on Thursday night….  Have you ever asked yourself why do you do this?  Why do you have a need to justify your actions?  I’m not a therapist and I would not do justice to any theories that I am sure exits as to why you have a need to constantly be explaining your actions.  Instead, this blog post will simply be about why just saying no is a great thing to do.

Saying NO can be very liberating and there should not be any guilt associated with it not do you have to explain why you can’t do something.  It does not matter whether it is a school activity, car pooling, looking after someone’s kids, hosting a play day or doing a group activity – if you do not want to do something you don’t have to and that’s it. No reasons need to be given to anyone.  The result is you will start creating time for yourself.   Time for you to just be.  When did you last have time to just be?  Just remember that saying no to many things you don’t actually want to be doing, allows you to say yes to the one thing you really want to do.  Why not start making a list of all the things you have wanted to do but told yourself you don’t have time for.  You will now have that time!IMG_3820

You don’t owe anyone any explanations – your time belongs to you and people will have their opinions of you regardless of what you do or don’t do.  We tell our kids to be confident and steadfast in decisions they make and to not base their decisions on what others think – well, shouldn’t we do the same thing?  Those little people in our lives are always looking at how we behave and they mirror what they see.  Being strong and determined in the decisions we make and allowing time for ourselves is being a positive role model for them.  So, Supermoms, I encourage you to let your cape fly in the wind and continue making decisions that make you feel liberated, free and more like yourself. Trust me, you will not regret saying no!