What really matters

April has been a hard month. I lost my uncle this month and a dear friend is currently in hospital battling for her life.
As you can imagine, much of my mind has been taken up with pondering on what really matters in this life. More and more people now live till a hundred years and beyond. In fact my husband's first Cousin once removed turned 100 at the end of March and we were there to celebrate with her. However, this doesn't negate the fact that some people still die young and in their prime and that no one knows when the owner of life will call that life back (thats a literal translatio from Yoruba by the way).
This means that we need to live each day as purposefully as we can and always remember that there is no guarantee that we will have a tomorrow. It is a miracle that we get up each day, a miracle that should be celebrated and a miracle that we take for granted all too often.
We make medium and long term plans, and forget that no one knows tomorrow or even if there will be a tomorrow. We plan for what we will do after retirement, we leave what we should do today until tomorrow, we clutter our lives with material substances.
I had the sad priviledge of helping sort through a deceased persons properties and also last weekend of cleaning my sick friend's apartment. Believe me it is not a good feeling and I know that I would hate a third party to go through my belongings. Yet that will happen to us all one day. Many are lucky that it will be a loved one doing those duties, like I with my mother's things. Some will not be so lucky.
The Parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:16-21)
 16And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: 17And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? 18And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. 19And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. 20But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? 21So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.

It might be macabre, but never forget that life is fleeting. Let us alway remember what matters and make it central. It might mean we need to turn our lives around or make drastic changes, but I believe living purposefully gives joy and peace beyond Imagination so that whenever the end comes we can go without regrets. For me as a Christian, I believe that Christ died for me and because He lives I will have everlasting life. Nevertheless, I will strive to better use my Talent for the purpose for which He has given it to me for as long as I am able to.

Stay blessed and safe and never forget what really matters.

Be present when present 2: How to improve the quality of time spent with your kids

As discussed in the previous post, children are good at showing signs that they are craving more Quality time with Mummy or Daddy. Click here hereto read the previous post if you have not read it yet before continuing with this post.

Of course it is best that you spend quality time with your kids as a matter of fact, however, even if your kids are already showing some of the signs that they need more time with you including those signs mentioned in the previous post or other signs, it is never too late to retrace your steps and make deliberate efforts to improve the quality of the precious time you spend with your kids.
Children grow so fast and now is the time to build those great memories and create a warm enduring bond with your child or children so that the grow up wholesome and psychologically balanced. This is also the time when the foundations of your future relationships with your adult children will be laid.

Even if you are a very busy mum, you can find ways of incorporating your children in your daily activities or having special mummy and me time with them. Below are some ideas of how to get the kids involved in daily activities in a qualitative way.

tastytouring / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Cooking with your kids
I let my kids help me when I am cooking - in fact I say we are cooking together. There is nothing kids love more than helping chop up vegetables or storing the pot. I remember a couple of years ago when my then almost 2 year old and my almost 5 year old helped make ratatouille. They were so proud and had loads of fun. It might take you much longer to cook if the kids are helping, but it's rewarding. It's also a way to develop their motor skills.

Reading to and with your kids.
We read to our kids everyday. It's typically at bedtime but we read for about at least 20 to 30 minutes everyday. Reading helps develop your kids vocabulary and expands their imagination. And if they get to cuddle up to mummy and daddy while reading, even better! My husband and I are avid readers and we are really pleased our kids love to read. And we are so proud that our daughter who will be starting class 1 in September can read now, so that is an added perk!

Although I just want to get bath time over and done with sometimes after a full day's work, it makes the kids day when mummy or daddy joins them in the bath tub for bath time. They especially love to wash papa's hair. I don't let anyone near my hair for fear of tangles lol.

Bicycle tours
One of my daughters greatest wishes is for the family to do a bicycle tour together. It can be a nature hike or a maze or an obstacle course but a family that sweats together stays together.

Our Sunday walks.
Last summer, we took a walk every Sunday around the neighborhood, got some ice cream from our local ice cream parlour and walked back home. The kids loved this and looked forward to it.

Spend time with each kid
Our kids are 3 years apart and sometimes the older child has to play along with what her little brother wants and vice versa. We have had a couple of mummy and me time and daddy and me times which the kids loved. On one occasion I went into the city to shop with my daughter while daddy and little brother slept. Another time, we went to a cafe where I had a hot chocolate and she some warm whipped milk. The boys went food shopping to metro and the little man loved it. Just this last weekend, my husband and my daughter went swimming and I took my son to the local natural history museum to look at some dinosaur bones and a chameleon. He loved it. It is good for kids to have one on one time with each parent sometimes.

Play board games, do puzzles etc
My daughter has a few games she loves to play and it's more interesting for her to play with the adults than her little brother who never plays by the rules. She kicks our butts at memory, it's amazing how I can't remember where the cards are and she's picked everything. I also play ayo with her. Chose the right learning games and its a win win situation

The list of activities is exhaustive, we have picked nuts before, had picnics, visited the zoo, sewn together, baked together, painted and drawn together etc.

A lot of these activities do not require much time and in fact most times all you need to do is involve your kids in your daily chores. That way you will get to know your kids better and they will feel loved. So what if it takes a little bit more time? Invest the time now and you will begin to see changes. Even the kids will start asking you to play with them more.

One of the blogs I follow and find a valuable resource is DIY Corporate Mom she has loads of ideas for play activities and I love her idea of "leave behind play". Like me she is a busy mum and has ingenious ideas to help her keep the bond to her kid alive.

Also check out this article on the Globe and Mail which talks about having fun times with your kids

What are the activities you do with your kids to ensure that you spend quality times with them? Please leave a comment below and share.

Be present when present 1: Sígns that you need to improve the quality of time spent and interations with your children

There are a lot of debates on whether working mums or stay at home mums or work at home mums are doing the best for their children. My take on this issue is that what is best will differ from family to family and from sitution to situation. It is also important to remember that what is best will sometimes also have to be balanced by what is expedient. Many families are dependent on two incomes to stay afloat. Apart from that, many mothers, myself included need the challenge of work outside the home and that has nothing to do with whether or not they are good mothers.

I believe that the important thing is to be present when you are present, meaning prioritise your time with your kids so that your mind is also with them and it is quality and fun. I have seen many mothers (stay at home mums as well as working mums) who spend every free time on the phone or on the internet, keeping their kids in front of the tv or saying 'go to your room', 'don't disturb me', 'can't you see I'm on the phone?' anything just to be able to be by themselves unbothered by their kids and that is sad. Of course, there are cases where every mum will need to be undisturbed and have time to themselves, but when it is a constant occurrence, it is sad.

Someone once told me of a case of a 4 year old child who could not speak or understand her mother's native language because she spent most of the day at the child-minder's  - who spoke a different language from the parents -  and when she was home, the mother spent all her time on the phone and never really spoke to her child except to give her 'commands'. Unsurprisingly, the child never wanted to leave the child-minder's house and it was a daily struggle to take her home.

It happens once in a while for kids that are cared for outside the home to not want to go hóme, but if it is a daily occurence, some self-reflection on the part of the parents/mum is probably due.
So, what are the signs that you are not spending enough time with your kids or are not present enough when you are spending time with your kids?

Health issues - there are many health issues that you can only catch at home, no matter how vigilant your childcare provider is. Also, for older kids, schools are there to provide education and not to look after your children. That is your job. My kids kindergarten is located behind a school and sometimes when walking through, I see kids playing outside in the cold without their jackets, because the teachers are teachers and not child care providers and don't check that kids are properly dressed for the weather.

Irittability and agressivness - If your otherwise playful and friendly or toddler starts to get unexplainable aggressive and irritable, it could be that they require more attention from you. There will be phases where your children require more or less attention from you and you need to be attune to their non-verbal and many times subconcious for them means of communication.
Clinginess - clinginess is normal from time to time, but during those phases, your child probably needs extra attention from you. Sometimes, clinginess might be related to a developmental milestone.

Decreased appetite and uneasy sleep: These might not always be caused by physiological issues but can stem from a psychological need.

For older children and young adults, the signs can differ slightly from signs shown by  younger children and can include:

• Failing health and school grades
• Lack of sleep
• Loss of friends
• Depression
• Lack of interest in activities
• Doing drugs or picking up vices
• Showing unexpected behaviour

These signs listed above are just some signs that might indicate that your child needs some more time and attention from you. ‘Parents should understand that a child’s need extends beyond the basic food, clothes, comfort and sleep. They have psychological needs too, which can only be compensated by spending enough time with them,’ explains Dr Sonar.

In the next post, we will look at ways to ensure that you spend enough quality time with your children while ensuring enough private space for both yourself and the children.
In the meantime, please post any symptoms that might also indicate that your children need more Quality interactions from you.

Copyright @themummyjuggle.com. 2015

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 ...