Let’s talk about how much TV children should be watching

How much TV consumption is deemed health for children varies across cultures. As a mum raising bicultural kids in Germany, my thoughts about TV consumption have evolved over the years. 

In Germany, families are quite strict about the amount of tv kids watch. Of course, as is usual there is a spectrum. It varies from strictly regulated TV consumption to extremes where kids are carefully shielded from watching TV by parents who are anti tv. Here in Germany, the pediatrician will ask you how much TV your child is watching and give your clear recommendations. They are also vocal with their disapproval if they think your child is watching too much TV. 

We started off with no TV and by the time Tee was 3, she watched 1 hour or so of TV a day. She was only allowed to watch a particular kids channel, where there were no adverts as one of my personal pet peeves is adverts targeting kids.

It gets trickier with a second child. My son started to watch TV much earlier than his sister, because by the time he was born, she was already watching her hour a day, including Sandmann, that German kids bedtime story phenomenon. 

I remember when E was 2 and we had his annual check up. The pediatrician told me with a disapproving gaze, that I needed to treat each child differently and age appropriately, even with TV. Of course that’s easier said than done. 

We have tried many things over the years, but our general family philosophy with respect to TV consumption has been to allow the kids watch tv, but in a restricted manner, that does not hamper their creativity and creative development. Our TV is installed in a big cabinet, which can be closed as we don’t want to make the TV the key focal point of our living room. We also do not have any TVs in any of our bedrooms. 

Having a dual working parent home, we found about 2 years ago that TV consumption had crept up slowly from 1 hour a day to a point where our son was bargaining to put the TV daily on after completing homework. That was at the high point of my business travel and daddy was a bit more relaxed so he sometimes allowed it. 
They also slowly started to move to Disney and Nickkids etc which had adverts on them. My daughter, indoctrinated from birth about the evils of advert, would change the channel or switch the tv off until adverts were over. Baby boy was not so consequent and sometimes just watched the advert, getting drawn into knowing about all the latest toys! 

We noticed that they had less urges to draw, do crafts, read and role play and just wanted to watch tv. So we had to act. Two years ago we banned TV during the week cold turkey. The funny thing is that it took them less than a week to adjust. It was so much better for the whole family and without TV, we found that the kids could let their imagination wander fully again. 

We did notice a testing of the boundaries, with E wanting to put the TV on at 3pm on Friday since “it’s now weekend......”. This year we have restricted TV even further to only a couple of hours each weekend. 

 Many child health advocates have urged parents to limit screen time to no more than one or two hours a day for kids ages 2 and up and that is also similar to German paediatrics recommendation. Spending too much time on screens has been linked to not getting enough sleep, poor grades, and a greater risk of obesity. 

For me, what i noticed most is that when kids watch too much TV, they lose their creative ability, they are easily bored and it seems they fall into self soothing behaviours using TV. It’s amazing what creative stuff your kids will come up with if they don’t have the TV aka electronic grandmother to occupy them. Many people talk about what the kids can learn from educational programs, but I would argue that there are many other ways to learn, including reading. 

I tend to find that many of my British, American and Nigerian friends have a more relaxed attitude to how much tv their kids are watching than I now do, thanks to my German culturalisation. I do realise that every family is different and in times of extreme stress, I must admit, it was a blessing to be able to keep the kids busy for a bit. 

What are your thoughts about TV for your kids? Which of the following groups do you fall into?

A. I must admit I have never given it much thought 
B. TV is educational for the kids and good for my sanity 
C. I restrict TV consumption for my kids 
D. TV is of the devil 

I would love to hear your thoughts. 

Why your child needs sufficient sleep

Sleep deprivation in adults and it’s effects is a widely studied topic. Adults can usually recognise the effects of sleep deprivation in themselves and typically know when it’s time to take a step back and lie in. The effects of sleep deprivation on children on the other hand, is not very widely studied. There is a general feeling that children will show you when they are tired and will always get the sleep they need.

Generally most people agree on bedtimes for children between 8 and 9 pm, but wake up times are typically driven by our work or school schedules. Many of us would have had the experience of talking with a friend at 10:30 pm and heard children screaming in the background or perhaps it is your own children who jump all around until they fall into bed at 11 pm? So how much sleep does a child really need and will they show you how much sleep they need?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following average amount of sleep for children.

Infants under 1 year: 12-16 hours
Children 1-2 years old: 11-14 hours
Children 3-5 years old: 10-13 hours
Children 6-12 years old: 9-12 hours
Teenagers 13-18 years old: 8-10 hours

I can hear some people thinking, “my child is different, he/she does not need so much sleep”. I urge you to read further with an open mind.
While I am not a sleep professional, I started to study this topic in 2009. My daughter was around 6 months old and she had grown out of the infant phase and that child would just not go to sleep. As she grew older, it only got worse. In fact, she usually seemed even more awake at 8pm than at 8am. She would seem so super active and super awake and I tended to fall asleep while reading to her. She would wake me up, I would sing, massage etc all to no avail and then she would all of a sudden fall deeply asleep, leaving me exhausted and frustrated. That was when I started to read books about sleep and learn about how important it is and what impact it has on a child’s development and temperament.

There is a lot of research that shows that children who regularly get sufficient sleep have improved attention, behavior, learning, memory, and overall mental and physical health. Sleep contributes to proper physical and mental development and wellbeing of your kids. Sleep deprivation on the other hand has a number of negative effects.

Difficulty managing emotions is one of the signs of sleep deprivation. Sometime it’s obvious that your child is misbehaving because they are exhausted, sometimes it’s not so obvious. That clingy, whiny, anxious child might actually be tired. They can’t tell you what they need and sometimes they don’t even realise it themselves, so that they instead slip into the tone and behaviour of much younger children. All children have difficulty managing their emotions when they are tired, but more temperamental kids even more. If your child is hitting, biting or throwing unnecessary temper tantrums, beyond what is normal for their developmental phase, sleep deprivation might just be the culprit. If your child suffers from constant headaches or is susceptible to infections, it’s worth it tracking how much sleep they are actually getting. Sleep deprivation might be causing their immune system to be weakened. Older kids might have difficulty focusing in school, difficulty getting along with others and might be excessively forgetful when they are dealing with sleep deprivation. Not getting enough sleep
can also lead to high blood pressure, obesity and even depression.

It’s not always easy to recognize that your child is sleep deprived because the quest to stay alert is so strong for children that instead of getting drowsy, many of them get “wired”. Their behaviour will tend to appear wild rather than tired as long as the stimulation levels are high enough to keep them awake. This is sometimes the reason why tired children argue, fight their siblings, chase pets etc in an attempt to create enough commotion to stay awake. You can also recognise the signs when they insist on having the tv and radio turned on much higher and are shouting above the din! Sleep deprivation adds up and creeps up on you. That means that a child who missed sleep on Friday night might be misbehaving on Monday, but it won’t be obvious except if you are aware that sleep deprivation can
be cumulative, especially for children.

Studies show that up to 20% of the children who have been diagnosed with ADHD actually have a sleep disorder. According to a sleep researcher, an estimated 69% of American children are not getting enough sleep. Looking at the schedules in many Nigerian cities, especially Lagos, I am tempted to think the stats are even worse, although I don’t have any research to back this up.

For me, the first positive effect of understanding the effect of sleep deprivation was that it helped me be more patient. When you know your child is misbehaving, not because they want to disgrace you or because you are a bad parent, but because they are tired, you can deal with their behaviour in a more constructive manner. Rather than shouting or beating them, you should be doing the opposite. When you are calm and firm and provide sensitive responses to your child’s sleep related misbehaviour, you can help them calm down and actually relax and sleep.

Apart from a busy life schedule, tension can also prevent children from being able to go to sleep and sleep well. Tension can be triggered distress or excitement. Common triggers for distress include parental stress, separations, upsetting events, major life changes (e.g. starting school) and ironically, lack of sleep.
Common triggers for excitement include overstimulation ( too much input - iPad, tv etc), over scheduling ( too many activities in a day), anticipation, competition/pressure to perform and growth spurts.

Since some of these triggers cannot be avoided, if you become familiar with the things that distress or excite your child, you can take steps to help your child relax. As a result, the intensity of the emotions will not overwhelm him and he’ll be ready at bedtime for sleep.

Tips for improving your child’s sleep behaviour

1. Start the day slowly with a calm breakfast. Avoid blaring TV or radio at breakfast so your family can start the day peacefully.
2. Take time out to just listen to your child. Listening instead of responding diffuses tension. Children usually have a lot to talk about after school, my own son likes to tell me about his day at bedtime
3. Slow down the pace of your day - if the kids are over scheduled, reduce one activity. Try to avoid major exciting events in the evenings or close to bedtime. If you have to take your child to a party at night, keep in mind that they will be sleep deprived the next day except if they get a chance to sleep longer and have a calmer day, so keep in mind you will need to bemore patient with them the next day.
4. Create special downtime’s during the day - time without TV or iPads when the kids craft or  read novels or play with Lego. In our household, TV is completely banned during the week.

5. If possible, make the room a nest, serene and solely for sleeping and not jumping up and down on the bed.
6. Hold, touch and hug your child often. Touch has a healing and calming effect, even on adults but it’s vital for children.

I encourage you to try and identify the patterns in your child. Discovering their unique pattern is like solving a challenging puzzle and you’ll be delighted by the success have.

It’s also good to keep in mind that each child is different. Unlike my daughter, my son found it easier to go to sleep and was more in tune with his sleep needs from the beginning. I remember he would ask to be put to bed like clockwork at 7:30pm each day and would be asleep within 5 minutes of his head hitting the bed. While he now goes to bed at between 8pm & 8:30pm, he still rarely has difficulty falling asleep.  The fact that by the time he was born, I knew a lot more about the effects of sleep and how to help children get the sleep they need has obviously also helped. My son needs more sleep than his sister and cannot handle a sleep deficit as well as his sister can. So my approach to the sleep needs of both kids is individual. I teach them to be self aware of their needs with respect to sleep and how sleep deficiency affects them and I encourage you to talk about it with your kids.

I wish you good luck on your own journey of better sleep for your kids. Please let me know if this information was helpful.

On working mums: A baby or a cat? Why not both?

I remember that day in Cologne. It was 2006 and the German football World Cup was playing in Germany. A few of us from work would leave work during the early evenings to watch matches at the various viewing locations across the city. I can’t remember exactly which countries had just played, but it had been an exciting match and we were chatting on the way to the cars.
I can’t clearly recollect what we were talking about, but it was likely about children because a female colleague suddenly turned to me and said “you have to decide what you want, children or a career. If you want a career get a cat.”
I carried the anxiety along with me for years since I am an ambitious woman and I love to push boundaries, but I have always wanted to have children ever since I can remember. So I it was difficult deciding on the right time to have a baby without having to automatically end my career ambitions.

Yes I can finally say it aloud without feeling ashamed that I have a fierce drive for achievement inside me. I was almost 38 when I started to own this part of me that has always been with me since I can remember. I am ambitious and I own my fierce ambition unapologetically. As long as I don’t have to do anything illegal, dubious or harmful to my family, I will give whatever I have to bring whatever I set my heart to to fruition. And I have set my heart to quite a bit. Watch this space.

Luckily, the decision was taken out of my hands and I found out I was pregant in 2008 and I had my daughter. I absolutely loved and love being a mother and she quickly became the center of my life. I took time completely off work for 8 months. At some point I decided to go back to work and I was grateful to work for a company and live in a society that gives parents the opportunity to work part time. Once I started work though, at 10 hours per week, I found that those number of hour were too limited for me to be able to work on anything too exciting or challenging. So I started to increase the number of hours I worked. Eventually by year 2 of my parental leave, I was working 30 hours a week and I was finally working on something exciting, tasking and challenging. I became pregant ith my sn that  year and up until 8 months pregnancy I was commuting once a week and I was often mind numbingly tired but was never bored and never regretted going back to work.

When my son came in the spring of 2012, I was sure I would not be working part time. It was either I was working in a challenging role, which typically meant working full time or I was not going to work at all until I was ready. I had  sent in my application for parental leave for a period when I happened on the perfect role for me. It was exactly what I had been looking for, but unfortunately the timing was a bit off.  As I had expected there was no chance to do that job part time. I had a 5 month old baby and I had to decide what to do.
I spent time in prayer asking for a signal that it was the right job for me to take. For me in the that period, the right signal needed to take the form of flexible childcare. Someone who would come in and watch the baby at home while I worked so I could continue to breastfeed. God answered my prayers and R came into our lives. She had just turned 60 and had been recently widowed. Lonely and grieving, we were as much an answer to her prayers as she was to ours. She has become like a grandmother to my kids, gone on business trips with me and the baby and become a part of our extended family.
I now have the baby and the pet ( in our case two hamsters) and a job that challenges and excites me.
Has it been easy and without bumps? No I wouldn’t say so. But we have found our own solution that has helped us ensure having a successful career and children are not mutually exclusive for me. 
I remember reading a section of an biography of Michelle Obama and she said something to the effect that you need to get it all done, but you don’t need to get it all done yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask for or get help in your quest for work life balance. I can confidently say it has not made me a worse mother of less connected to my kids, just a less stressed out working mum. Don’t be afraid to look for your own unique solution.

Good networkers are born

I am an excellent networker. In non work situations, that is. I find it easy to converse with absolute strangers on a whole range of diverse topics and even where I know nothing about said topic, I always manage to walk away learning something new about said topic and have a nice time while doing so.
Some of my closest friends are people I met because I decided to say hello and make small talk in situations where on the surface, there was no reason to "talk". 
Let me share a few examples:
I met O at the hairdressers. She was getting her hair done and engrossed in her book. I ended up chatting her up, found out that she is also Nigerian. We exchanged business  cards and I got in touch. 
 We have become close friends and 10 years down the line, my husband and I are godparents to her second daughter. O also now belongs to my lean in circle and we are sharing tips for career advancement. 
A and I crossed paths as I was leaving the library and she was going in. We smiled, said hi, started talking and decided to go grab a drink together. 
Over a decade of friendship has followed and we get along so well including with our spouses. 
A is an amazingly talented woman and she coached me very successfully when I had two key interviews. Being that I'm an engineer, I am not very good at self marketing and her coaching really helped me learn to tell my story better. 
Apart from the fact that she is a fantastic coach, we value her friendship and that of her husband and in spite of the fact that they moved back to the US, we hope to keep in touch more often in the future
When I lived in Moscow, I made two key friendships in this manner. 
The first one was Sergey. Sergey and I met in a bus on the way from Novomoskovsk to Moscow. This was in the spring of 1998. At that time, I was in Russian language school and I could not speak good Russian yet. Sergey saw that I was reading an English book and struck up a conversation with me. He ended up showing me the Red Square for the very first time. We have kept in touch over the years. 
The second person was Alexander aka Sasha. He just randomly started talking to me one day on the Metro in Moscow ( Russians do that all the time " Devoshka, mozhno s Vami poznokomitsa?" Can I get to know you? is a common refrain any woman who has spent a bit of time in Moscow will recognize). 
It turned out he was a photographer and I ended up doing some modeling for him for some sports and car magazines, which was a cool way to make some money as a student.
 I met his family and also developed a good relationship with them. Just writing this brings back memories of tons of shashlik (grill) parties in the forests of Moscow.  Sasha and I are also back in touch thanks to facebook. 

So why am I writing this seemingly  random post? The fact is that I am not as effortlessly adept as I am in Networking on my private time, when it comes to professional Settings.
 I have been giving a thought to why that is the case and have come up with tips that will help you as well if you struggle in the same manner.
1) be authentic: I know it may sound like a cliche, but this is really key. My authentic self likes people. I enjoy learning about people collecting their stories and I am never too upset if they decide not to share. However, in my experience, sometimes we tend to put on 'work personas' which dictate what types of behaviors are appropriate at work and what are not. 
I have committed to being myself absolutely in every networking situation. That means if someone catches my fancy I won't hesitate to try to get into conversation. Just try it and you will see most people are intrigued and you will be chatting on before you know it. This is how I met my best career mentor to date.
2) take the first step: I just read something recently about giving a little first. Many people feel just as awkward in professional networking situations so smile first and say hello first. You'll be surprised at the responses you will get. 
3) make eye contact. Not in a threatening manner, but in an open friendly manner. I find that many times when I'm preoccupied I tend not to make eye contact and it automatically creates a barrier and puts people off from talking to you. 
4) Small talk can lead to interesting discussions, so don't be afraid of small talk. 
5) cultivate a friendly welcoming exterior. Even if you are too shy to take the first step, looking welcoming will embolden others to take the first step in talking to you. 

6) you are as good as everyone else: in certain types of upbringing older people or more successful people are the top of the pack. So younger or more junior people would typically wait to be approached or try to be introduced to them. Shed that behavior and attitude fast. It will not help you advance in your career. Always feel on equal levels with everyone.
Of course I am not encouraging you to be inappropriate, so learn to recognize the thin line between inappropriateness and self confidence. 
If these tips help you, please let me know and share any tips you may have with me in the comment section. 

Stay safe, x.

Read this article on Networking: https://www.thebalance.com/top-career-networking-tips-2062604
Book tip: 'How to work a room. Your essential guide to Savvy socializing.' - Susan Roane

Random musings: on my love of languages

Yesterday night at a work dinner somewhere near the Donau a colleague complimented me on my German. She had been surprised to hear I only moved here as an adult after university. I was tickled, as I am sometimes when German friends calling our house phone are sometimes surprised that it's me on our end because my phone voice apparently sounds very German, lol. I don't think my German is perfect though (lemme write a disclaimer here)writing work emails in German is a painstaking task, probably has to do with having a streak of perfectionism in me.

The Walhalla

I never knew I had a gift for languages while I was growing up. I spoke only English until secondary school. I understood Yoruba, because my parents spoke it at home, but I only really started learning it in JS 1( I did have it in primary 5 where I was even worse than my Filipino friend). I loved learning about Yoruba culture and was absolutely fascinated by Yoruba proverbs. I eventually took the subject for my SSCE and even made an A!

I had French in junior secondary. I wasn't too bad, but I wasn't too good either. I think I got mostly comfortable Cs. I do have mildly fond memories of my French teacher. She was from somewhere in French speaking west Africa, married to a Nigerian man and had a fascinating foreign way about her. I still retain some words, I can say hi and introduce myself and say I only understand "en petit peu" ( a little bit) of French.

So I didn't see it coming that I would become fluent in Russian and German as an adult. I love languages, I love the understanding of a culture and the mentality of a people that comes with knowing their language, culture, history and proverbs. It might also have something to do with the fact that the half of my personality that I got from my dad is absolute extroverted.

If you ask my dad, I got it from him: he likes to tell us the story of how he went for his youth service in the north in the 70s and mastered Hausa in the one year that he was there. So perhaps it's a genetic trait?

My professor in University was a huge fan and widely propagated the fact that African students learnt Russian so quickly so well. My theory is that because most of us grow up bilingual, we have an ear for languages, especially when immersed in it.

The immersion bit is important, or at least has been for me. I have tried learning Dutch while not living in the Netherlands, it hasn't worked as well sadly. I'm just too lazy to study a language just because. I know enough to show off though, lol.

If you happen to live anywhere where a different language is spoken, I would encourage you to learn. You never know when you might need it, plus, frankly it opens up new fascinating worlds.

BT stories

He got on at Halfenbach strasse tram stop. Dressed in a light black summer jacket, in spite of the cold winter rain outside, he immediately caught her eye.

As her eye ran slowly up and down appraising his light jeans, partly pushed up on one leg to expose his ankle, and the grey with speckled ankle socks which looked like they were stuffed with some material to prevent water or cold air from entering his worn out black and red Nike shoes, she began to feel sorry for him. 

"Poor guy, I wonder if he is getting off at the same station I am at." 
"Perhaps I should offer to buy him new shoes. But how does one approach a complete stranger and offer to buy them new shoes?"

Then she stopped in her mental tracks, struck by the prejudice- the pre-judgement that she had undertaken. 
There could be many reasons after all, and perfectly legitimate reasons too why he was dressed as shabbily. 

"Maybe he is off to the football pitch"she thought, "people sometimes dress down to play football." 
"Or maybe he is painting his new apartment this evening and of course has dressed down to avoid damaging good clothes. Hmmmm, but he doesn't have any baggage that looks like painting supplies. Just a cloth gym bag. 

Perhaps he is a drug addict and spends all of his money chasing that next high. That would explain it, and well I would be willing to buy him new shoes but definitely not give him some money.

As the different thoughts went through her mind, each new thought more ludicrous than the previous one, the tram rolled slowly to a stop. 

" This station is Zurich Central" please be careful when leaving the train" announced the driver as the tram drew slowly to a stop. The doors opened and the young man left the train leaving her with many unanswered questions. 

But she didn't have too much time to brood because the next station was hers and she hurriedly scampered out and promptly forgot about him. 

My skincare regimen.

 Top tips for caring for my oily combination skin. 

I have always had oily acne prone skin. At least since I became a teenager. Since I had my kids, my skin has changed such that it's not only oil and acne I have to battle, but now dry patches of skin as well. Sigh. 
So I've been doing a bit of research on how to improve my skin condition. One of my aims for this year was to go for a facial every 6 weeks or so. Alas with a busy work schedule and trying to spend every spare moment with the kids, I just don't have time to go for facials. So the last time I had a facial was in April or so. 

So here are the basic things I've learnt

1) Never sleep in make up. Unfortunately, I've had to break this rule more than once due to sheer exhaustion. However, it's immediate obvious whenever I have slept in make up. Pimples start to pop up all over. Keep a pack of facial wipes for when you are too exhausted. 

2) have had very good experience using an oil balm to first dissolve the make up before washing it off. I highly recommend Clinique "take the day off" balm. 

You can also make your own cleansing balm, there are many tutorials on YouTube. 

3) Do not use a soapy/foamy face wash even if you have oily skin. These dry the skin excessively and don't really help the acne problem. Instead, use creamy cleansers. Thoroughly massage your cleanser on slightly pre wetted face and then take of with a face towel that had been soaked in warm to hot water. You will find that your pores open more to get the impurities out. 
I have used creamy cleaners from the body shop, Dawn Lorraine (in the cover photo of this post), Mary Kay etc. I used all may left over foaming or soapy facial washes for my body. 

4) Use a toner after cleansing your skin. In fact, use two toners: a moisturizing and an exfoliating toner. You can also alternate with the moisturizing toner in the morning and exfoliating toner  at night or vice versa. The "lotion P50" from Biologique Recherché is one I can recommend. Clarins Duox exfoliant is also a good one, albeit slightly irritating for my skin. 

5) Use facial masks at least once or twice a week. In addition to clay masks, I recently discovered yeast masks. 
Masque Vivant from Biologique Recherché seems to be a cult favorite. I have tried it twice this week as recommended for acne prone skin: mixed with a bit of water and baking soda. I am surprised at how open my pores are. 

6) At least once a week, use a moisturizing mask, or start using night creams designed to infuse moisture into your skin, especially as you approach your forties. 

7) Cleanse your makeup tools regularly, especially your foundation brush, otherwise you are only incubating bacteria to recolonize your skin. 

8) Let your skin breathe every opportunity you get. For me, that means staying make up free when I'm at home. As I work half a week from home office, that helps a lot. 

9) Last but not least, sleep well and at least 7 hours daily. Sleep is the best facial. Still working on this last tip myself ;)

I hope these skin care tips were useful. Comment below and share your own tips.

Copyright: Tolu Lush

How to pack for business travels

I have been a regular business traveller for 3 years now. While traveling for work was something I thought was exciting when I didn't have much business travel, I must admit the excitement wears off pretty quickly. Nights in hotel beds is overrated and it's rare to get the opportunity to actually see much of whatever city I'm visiting. 
Anyway, this post is not about the pros and cons of business travel, but about some tips for packing for business travel. 

1) Being a mum of fairly young kids, I want to get fairly in and out, which means that for short trips, I almost always stick to hand luggage.
 Waiting for luggage can cost you precious time, especially if you have a connecting train. 

2) if you are going on a long trip and need to check in your luggage, make sure you carry some essentials in your hand luggage. A couple of years ago, some female colleagues had to attend a Monday morning meeting in their trainers and comfy clothes ( which were not even close to business casual :) because the airline lost their luggage between London and Amsterdam. It took so long to get their luggage that they had to do some clothes shopping. 

3)most hotel chains have good basic toiletries, so most times you only need to take the barest minimum with you. My facial care products, deodorant, toothpaste and brush and make up. I also carry a dense cream or Shea butter in a small repurposed Vaseline tin because I have dry skin and most hotel creams are light. 

4) even if you will be wearing heels for the office, always pack a pair of flats. You never know if you might have to walk a lot. If possible, travel in flats because God  forbid, if there is an emergency, your heels might hinder you. 

5) You can either hand wash your tops or use the hotel laundry service, so you don't need to pack too many items of clothing. 

6) invest in a small card holder for the minimum number of cards you will need on your trip. Always have some cash on hand, you never know where you will need an out of pocket expense. 

6) even if it's an easy going trip, always have a blazer or jacket with you. You can dress it up or down, but it will help you look polished. 

7)always carry a tampon or sanitary towel in your luggage. I am so busy I often don't realize it's that time of the month. I have had cases when Aunt Flo decided to visit when I was away from home. Get some diaper disposal bags for used sanitary products. They usually smell so nice. 
8) always have some hairpins handy. You never know when you might have a bad hair day. For the same reason, also have a small tub of hair gel. 

9) I always take some teabags with me. I love to drink tea. 

10) a silk scarf can be used for many things. I always pack my favorite blue silk scarf when traveling. 

11) fold a cloth or plastic bag and keep it in your luggage. You might need those for dirty clothes. 

12) rather than carry books, you should download an e-reader and buy Ebooks. That will help you save space in your luggage. 

13)if possible, get your boarding passes and any tickets via mobile apps. This saves you lugging papers around or losing your ticket. Some apps I use are passbook, DB navigator, my taxi etc. 

14)since you will be using your mobile a lot, get yourself a power bank. Or at least make sure your phone is fully charged before setting off. 

15) also on the issue of electronics, get yourself a travel charger for your laptop. They are slimmer, can be dismantled for easier packing and the one I have also has a usb connection so I can charge my phone and other devices on it. 

16) where possible, book your trips via your company authorized travel agencies. If, God forbid, something happens on your trip, it would make it easier to trace you. Also, it helps establish who you are. I recently forgot my wallet with my IDs and credit cards in my car at the airport in another city, but I had no problem checking into my hotel, because I had done the booking properly and I could even check out without my card as the number was given in manually and I signed off. 

I will be updating this post regularly should other tips occur to me. Cheers. 

Obamas welcome Pope Francis and.....

....what instantly struck me about the first set of pictures is that I love the skirt the younger Obama daughter, Sasha was wearing ( I'm not usually this shallow, but I love great clothes ;))
Image credit: Tony Gentile/Reuters
I have since found via Google that the skirt she is wearing is the Kate Spade Colour block skirt. 

Off to search for a warm dupe.....

SWM and how to go from idea to actually doing stuff

I started this blog with the idea to have content for mothers juggling career and family. I have had this idea in my head for the longest time, but didn't think I had enough time or willpower to push it through by muself, so I asked a friend to do it with me. She didn't share my dream, so after one post 3 or so years ago, she kind of faded off the scene of this blog. I have tried to keep the blog going, not as successfully as I could be arguably as I really do have a busy life and multiple interests.

So I was delighted and impressed when I stumbled on the Super Working Mum Facebook page over a year ago. From what I can see, she had a similar idea to me, but she actually pushed it through! I was amazed at how large the group became ( over 2500 members and counting, before she moved to the new Empowering Christian Mums group which is also rapidly growing). She had published a Super Working Mum book ( amazing book, check it out on Amazon HERE ), has a paid inner circle of ladies she moderates, holds regular retreats, takes on clients for one on one coaching, does tech and design work and is currently working on a journal, while juggling her family life with two kids! Talk about a Super Working Mum!

I have learnt a few things from why SWM succeeded, which I think might be helpful to anyone embarking on a project irrespective of what type of project it is. 

1) Invest in a mentor/ coach: I had several months of coaching this year and it was really helpful. Coaching and mentoring is something which is done very often in the corporate world and I wonder why many of us do not consider it in our private businesses and day to day lives. It helps you learn from someone who has gone on a similar path before and has good insight. No need to reinvent the wheel from scratch if you can just get a plan to start off from someone else and build up on it. Way more efficient. 

2) Outsource everything you can: if you are reading this blog, you are likely a mother who is also busy either in your career or business. Learn to outsource where you can and focus your energy on areas where you can bring true value. This relates both to business and daily life. There are many e-companies that you can outsource various elements of your projects to. I will do a post on that soon. You should also get help around the house if you can afford to so that you can focus your energy in your family and be able to spend quality time with them. I wasted valuable time designing a banner and logo for this blog. Next time I update, I will be outsourcing the tech bit. Someone else who does this on a daily basis will be able to finish this quicker and faster that I ever could, while also doing a better job. 

3) Define who your target audience is - where many people make mistakes is in trying to be all things to all people. In lean sigma projects you have to define strictly what is in your project scope and what is not. You also have to define what area this will be applied to. If you have a product that can do anything for anyone, it's not likely to do very well. Try to get a picture of your ideal customer and keep them in mind when designing your product. An example could be "Christian mothers that homeschool" or "mid 30s guys who likes to cook" etc. 

4) Pray - sometimes we have desires and it's important to make sure that they are aligned with the perfect will and purpose of God for our lives. Not a ideas need to be given life and we should seek divine insight and guidance in our decision making. 

5) Stop thinking, just do it: this is the area in which I struggle the most. It might have something to do with me being a perfectionist engineer. I always try to remind myself that "Done is better than perfect". There are many project that I have still birthed because of this. 
On the other hand, proceed cautiously and don't birth projects prematurely and without thinking them through. 

6) Do not be afraid to kill some projects: if you are like me and have many interests, you will generate lots of ideas. Some ideas are good and some are bad. Some ideas should never have seen the light of day. You can also finish a project by admitting that it will never happen and closing the page on it. Like that language you have wanted to learn for 20 years, or the quilt you started making 5 years ago or the dead end volunteering you are doing which is not bringing any joy or value to you.  Killing off dead-end projects is like decluttering, it helps you free space for more important things and also helps you breath better.  
Make a list of the dead end projects in your life and start killing them one by one. In fact we should do a "Kill a project today" challenge. Write in the comment box about a project you will be killing today. 

7) Do not be afraid of competition:  As Aloted wrote in the SWM book, the only person you are in competition with is yourself. Have the self confidence to be yourself and "Do You"!

Can you think of any further tips? If you are reading this and you can, please share!  

Ladies weekend getaway to Faro 1

I was away with some girlfriends for an extended weekend away in Algarve Portugal. My friend F turned 40 and she invited us all to join her on the trip there. 
Even though I travel a lot for business, this was my first non work trip without my  kids or husband since my daughter was born, so I was quite nervous. 
As we had finished boarding and were waiting to start taxiing, I suddenly saw that I had had a missed call from my kids kindergarten which never happens. I called them back only to be told me son had thrown up so needed to be picked up. My nanny had picked him up, but I had a panic attack as that had never happened. To make matters worse, the air steward was sitting right behind me and sternly told me to switch off my phone. So I had to. I spent the over 3 hour duration of the flight praying for the best and immediately we landed, first thing I did was call home. Thank God he was okay and hadn't thrown up again. 

Everyone else flew in from London and I arrived at the airport about 4 hours ahead of them. After a cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows from Costa, I decided to go out and explore Faro. I found the local bus, purchase a ticket to the city centre, which was about 5km away for 2.22 euros, dragged my luggage and off I went!!!

I really loved the architecture in Portugal. The old houses have tiling on the outside walls and they just look really nice. 

As I walked down the street taking pictures, I walked into a street full of old houses, many of which were boarded up. 

1878 Hostel is located right in the middle of that street of old houses.

The hostel door was open and as I peered through the doorway to look at the interesting architecture, a young man came out of the office and asked if I wanted a tour of the hostel. Of course I said yes and after dragging my luggage to safety, I followed him inside. 
The house is over 200 years old and was renovated and turned into a hostel a year ago. 

It's definitely something to keep in mind if you are looking for cheap accommodation in faro. It looked well planned and quite delightful. I took many pictures and will let you judge for your selves. 

After I said my goodbyes, I walked to the delightful harbor. 

There was lots of information on renting boats, boat trips and nature trips. 
I picked up loads of info material and then I headed back to the airport, with a few minutes to spare. 

The other ladies arrived soon afterwards. After we had done the introductions, we found our shuttle driver, loaded our luggage and drove off to Albufeira about 30km from Faro, where our villa was located.

Let’s talk about how much TV children should be watching

How much TV consumption is deemed health for children varies across cultures. As a mum raising bicultural kids in Germany, my thoughts ...