Category Archives: lavender

the ouchie.

January 3, 2016

My mom is here in Riyadh for a visit, and I am thrilled. Obviously. I always miss my mom, but I was especially in need of a mom hug after the week we had before she arrived.

Shortly before Christmas, after my plans with a friend got cancelled, we decided to make an impromptu trip to Bahrain for a few days of relaxation and holiday cheer. We were enjoying our time, soaking up the Christmas music and decorations. And then disaster struck. (A pretty mild disaster, in the grand scheme of things, but it was still somewhat traumatic for all of us.)

Since we arrived in our hotel room, Lavender had been fascinated by the bidet. She loved to run into the bathroom and play with the bidet and call, “Wash hands! Wash hands, Mama!” See, the bidet was exactly Lavender’s height, so she just thought it was a cool sink that happened to be exactly her size. Needless to say, we weren’t super thrilled about the idea of her playing a hotel room bidet, you know? It didn’t seem super sanitary. Not to mention that she seemed to be fascinated by everything in general in the bathroom, and she kept trying to stand on the bidet and boost herself up onto the bathroom sink/countertop. And that didn’t seem super safe at all.

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what i’m thankful for.

November 26, 2015

Today, on this Thanksgiving morning in Riyadh, I’m very thankful for Miss Lavender.

We’ve had a rough few nights, she and I. Despite a few promising attempts to remedy the situation (last week she actually went to bed at 10 o’clock at night—nothing short of a miracle), her inner clock is persistently telling her that one or two o’clock in the morning is an appropriate bedtime. She sleeps until eleven in the morning or so, wants to go down for a nap around four in the afternoon, and then stays up until the middle of the night.

I’m exhausted. In the morning, I usually wake up a little bit after Mr. Mostafa does, or right before he leaves for work, and of course, I stay up with her at night, because Baba needs his sleep on a normal schedule; he has to go to work in the morning. But I haven’t been able to really sleep in or nap with her, mostly because I’ve got work to do and even if I didn’t, I’m too keyed up to rest because I feel like if I can’t get her to sleep on a normal schedule, I should at least be taking advantage of the time she’s asleep in order to work uninterrupted.

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how to (not) wean a toddler, part two.

October 1, 2015

Since I wrote about attempting to wean Lavender from the breast, I’ve received a few emails and messages asking how it’s going (or how it went). So…here’s an update. Because I know everyone is just dying to know what’s going on in my bra (that was sarcasm, just to be clear).

Some may find this oversharing (heck, as long as we’re there, I guess some might find the entire blog oversharing. Oh, well. My response is the same); it’s okay. I don’t mind. As much as I respect women who feel empowered by posting breastfeeding selfies, I’m certainly not going to be among them any time soon (although you can be sure I have taken lots of them for purposes of private memory-keeping…my favorite was taken back when Lavender was maybe eighteen months old or so. With a Hello Kitty calculator in her hand, she crawled into my lap, settled in, latched onto the breast, and promptly fell asleep there…with the Hello Kitty calculator placed right on top of my boob, just above her head, as though it were sitting on a desk. As a piece of art, that photo would probably be called something like, “Future Accountant in Repose”…which, naturally, made Mr. Mostafa very proud), so you can consider this detailed but illustration-free discussion of how my boobs are currently being utilized as my small, ironic contribution to the ongoing struggle for nipple freedom.

So, as I already disclosed, day weaning went swimmingly. Lavender never nurses during the day anymore, and she never even asks to, either. I’m baffled by all these moms on the Internet who say that night weaning was easy-peasy, and that it was day weaning that was tough. This is so not how it has all worked out for me. Who are these women?! How do they get their children to sleep without the boob? I mean, I’m really confused and amazed. We’ve tried everything. We’ve read books. We’ve watched videos on the iPod. We’ve sat up with her and watched TV. We’ve stuffed her full of food (that’s supposed to make her tired, I guess? Eating like that sure makes us tired, but if there’s one thing we’ve learned about parenting, it’s that children can be such illogical little creatures) and then did all of the above. We. Have. Tried. Everything.

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hills and valleys and such.

September 2, 2015

This is probably going to be a really basic, boring post. I’ve really been shooting for the goal of publishing a post per week, but lately I’ve been feeling like there isn’t that much to write about. My days aren’t amazing, nor are they terrible. They’re just…routine. The same. I hug and kiss my kid. I hug and kiss my husband. I write. I read. I cook dinner. I crave random things that I can’t find in Riyadh, like wild berry Pop Tarts (no, I’m not pregnant). I miss my mom and dad (am I allowed to say that again? I know I talk about it a lot. But the truth is, I do miss them. Very much. Especially since we had a bit of a health scare in this past month. Thank God, everything is absolutely fine now, but that sort of thing can sure shake a girl up). I have conversations with my toddler while she sits on the potty, patiently waiting for something to happen. I get super excited when it does. And then she gets to flush the toilet, which she considers one of the greatest honors in the history of the world. BUILT-IN POTTY INCENTIVE. And to think there are kids who require a candy reward for doing their business in the toilet. How did I get so lucky?

I’ve got a few blog-related projects and plans in the pipe (down the pipe? In the pipeline? Down the pipeline? Why can’t I get this saying right?), but for the present, it can be a struggle to cobble together a post full of things to say, even on a weekly basis. You know what they say about how life is full of uphills and downhills and valleys (that doesn’t sound quite right, but you know what I mean…seriously, I’m really having trouble with idioms right now)? Blogs are the same, I think. Right now I’m in a valley (or maybe, I’m slowly trudging uphill? Idioms and analogies are really not my strong point today. But to be fair, English is really weird about these things. Like the way “it’s all downhill from here” means that it gets easier, while “it all went downhill from there” means it got worse and worse. Ugh, my brain hurts. No, literally–I have a headache as I type this). Sometimes I’m just firing on all cylinders and other times I can’t even get the engine to turn over. So not only am I in a valley (or going uphill, whatever makes more sense), I’m parked there.

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toddler app love.

June 11, 2015

Here’s a confession nearly tantamount to literally having a skeleton in a closet: we are not, and never have been, a “no screen time” family. Lavender has been exposed to children’s TV shows since before she was a year old. We’ve never encourage her to just park herself in front of the TV, but when she was smaller and would throw a fit when she had to sit in her car seat, we consistently chose to load an episode of Peppa Pig on an iPhone for her rather than let her cry herself sick. To this day, even as an educator, I’ve never felt bad about that. She also loves Bubble Guppies, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Doc McStuffins, and Super Why! In Arabic, she loves In the Night Garden, Special Agent Oso, and Jake and the Neverland Pirates (which show on Baraem, the Arabic preschool channel…nowadays, they’re also showing Doc McStuffins in Arabic, and she loves it in both languages). Again, we don’t park her in front of the TV for hours at a time, but if she’s playing like a madwoman around bedtime, I’ll put on an episode and sit in the rocking chair with her to wind her down. Or if she is having a fussy day, sometimes a treat and a show and some snuggles are all it takes to calm her down again.

Despite research that suggests that children don’t retain anything from television prior to the age of two, my personal experience has demonstrated otherwise. One time, when Lavender was about 18 months old, we were out and about and we came across a puzzle of farm animals, and as I was pointing to the animals and saying their names, she pointed to the horse and announced, “Neigh! Neigh!” I looked at her, shocked; I hadn’t taught her that. Then she pointed to a cow and said, “Moo! Moo!” And let me tell you, I felt like a failure as a mother. Because Bubble Guppies had taught my child animal sounds.

So, yeah. We watch TV in our house. But beyond TV, we also use apps with Lavender. A lot. Usually not when we’re at home, but when we’re traveling, absolutely. She has her own iPod Touch (which used to belong to me, but got transitioned to toddler use), and let me tell you, it was a godsend when we were traveling to and from the other side of the world. Not to mention on our cross-country road trip. And when she does use apps at home, she’s usually sitting in either my or Mr. Mostafa’s lap, and we’re interacting with her about what she’s doing or watching…and research has shown that such experiences, academically referred to as joint media engagement, can make screen time beneficial for kids.

Again, I don’t care what anyone says…apps are wonderful. “But Nicole,” you might say. “Steve Jobs didn’t let his kids play with iPads!” True. But that doesn’t mean that such tech is necessarily completely bad for little ones.  Steve Jobs was undoubtedly a man of ridiculous genius, but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t have been a bit shortsighted when it comes to the technology he unleashed on the world. Can you imagine Johannes Gutenberg saying, “Yeah, I invented the printing press, but I don’t let my kids play with books”? He probably would have said that, actually. Because when the printing press was invented, folks were alarmed and worried that civilization was headed on a massive downslide because no one would memorize anything anymore. When the radio was invented, everyone worried that no one would read books anymore. You see how this has historically gone down, right?

So, yeah. This is the world we live in. That being said, apps should never, ever replace books and the experience of reading to your children, and it’s important that parents are involved with their children’s media consumption, rather than just sitting them down with a device for hours on end. (And quite frankly, we adults shouldn’t be sitting in front of devices for hours on end, either.) And because of apps, Lavender can already identify letters (I haven’t sat her down and quizzed her on all of them, but when I’ve asked her to name a letter in a book or on a sign or something, I’ve yet to point to a letter that she can’t name). She can identify numbers, colors, and shapes. She’s working on learning the Arabic alphabet now, as well. Despite my background in education, I didn’t sit her down and teach her these things. All I’ve done is read books to her…and I reviewed apps, loaded them onto her iPod, and handed her iPod to her when she was having a meltdown about having to sit in her car seat or stand in an airport security line. That’s it. I feel confident that her time spent on the apps we’ve chosen for her is not in any way wasted. As I’ve pointed out, research is starting to back that up, as well.

So, if you’re interested, here are the apps we keep on Lavender’s iPod. Especially since it’s summertime and that means lots of traveling, this list may come in handy.

20 learning apps for toddlers.

I think this is a great selection for toddlers on up to around preschool age (Lavender started really interacting with apps at around 18 months or so. It will depend on your child). Of course, as with anything, moderation is key. At home, she’s usually so busy playing with me or her baba or with other toys that she doesn’t think about her iPod much. And I tend to limit heavy use of the iPod to car trips, restaurants, and other times when it can be asking a whole lot of a toddler to expect her to sit still.

First Words Deluxe. There is a free version of this, but it’s well worth the five bucks to buy the full app. This is the first spelling app that Lavender ever used, and I love it because it can grow with her. At first, I had it set to only phonetic, three letter words; now I’ve changed it to the random setting so that she spells words of various lengths. You can also set it so that the child has to place the letters in the order they are spelled in the word; I haven’t done that yet. It’s a great app to start out teaching little ones the concepts of spelling and letter placement, because when the child moves a letter anywhere near the correct spot, it automatically sucks the letter into its place. It’s a great precursor app for…

Endless AlphabetEndless Alphabet is a much cuter, more colorful, more creatively developed app than First Words Deluxe, but it’s also a pretty simple, straightforward app; for each word, you move the letters to their correct place in the word. It’s a bit more difficult than First Words Deluxe, because the words are more complex, and the child has to move the letter to its place and drop it where it’s supposed to go. But Lavender prefers it over First Words Deluxe, because as you move the letters, they yell out either their names or the sounds they make in a very silly way. (To be honest, my mom and Mr. Mostafa both find this entertaining, as well.) Like First Words Deluxe, there is a free version, but it’s totally worth it to spring for the paid version (you get all the words, plus automatic updates as they add new words).

Endless 123. This app is designed with the same aesthetic as Endless Alphabet, but it teaches numbers in various ways. It has kids count in different sequences (twos, threes, tens, etc.), and it also has them complete math problems by moving letters and symbols (plus, minus, etc.) to the correct place in an equation. The free version only goes up to 5; the full version (called the “School Edition”) goes up to 100. Definitely worth it.

Endless Reader. Have you caught on that we love the Endless apps? They’re made by Originator, Inc., and everything they make is worth a download. Not even kidding. They have a free version of all their apps, and although the paid version of their apps can be salty, we’ve found them to be worth it. Endless Reader is the most expensive one (the “School Edition” costs $30, unless you buy it in a bundle with other full versions of their apps). It’s a whole lot like Endless Alphabet, except after the child spells the word, the app then offers a sentence using the word and asks the child to place words in the correct place in the sentence. Lavender has been working through the words and sentences in the free version, so even though it’s a hefty chunk of change (I mean, for an app), we’ll be pulling the trigger on the “School Edition” soon. There’s also an Endless Spanish app that is just like Endless Reader…except, you know, it’s in Spanish. We just downloaded that one a few days ago.

YouTube KidsThis is a version of YouTube that is specifically designed for kids–no ads, no questionable content, which means you can let your little one scroll through the options and choose for themselves without worrying they’ll stumble upon something you’d prefer they not see. It requires wifi, so it’s mostly limited to naptime/bedtime for us.

YouTube. Even though YouTube Kids is much more kid-friendly when it comes to letting your child navigate the app and choose what they want to watch, regular ol’ YouTube is also a really terrific source for children’s videos, and it’s worth a download, as well. If Lavender isn’t watching something on the Super Simple Learning channel, she’s watching something on playlists curated by Mr. Mostafa and me. Mostly, those playlists are full of clips we loved watching as kids and really want her to appreciate, too…especially old Sesame Street sketches (a couple of Mr. Mostafa’s favorites are here and here; if you grew up watching Sesame Street in English, you might recognize them. As for me, I’m really partial to Jelly Man Kelly and A-B-C-Cookie Monster! Luckily, Lavender seems to love them as much as we do). Like YouTube Kids, this app requires a wifi connection.

PBS Kids. Like the YouTube apps, this app also only works when your device is connected to wifi, so it’s mostly a bedtime app. It shows ad-free episodes of some of Lavender’s favorite shows, like Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood and Super Why.

Fisher Price Storybook Rhymes. There are six different Fisher Price Storybook Rhymes apps, and one in Spanish. We have them all (some are free, some are paid apps). Each app presents two different nursery rhymes in sections where kids can follow along with the words and turn the page on their own. Lavender has loved them for ages. They’re simple, tried, and true.

Little People Player. I hate the title of this app. That being said, it has several little song videos with the Little People characters (you know, Little People is a set of toys from Fisher Price) that Lavender loves, and I don’t mind letting her watch them because the songs are just adorable and have a good message. Like, “It’s great being silly!” And, “You don’t have to be a girl to twirl, twirl, twirl…spin, spin, spin, and do it all again! You don’t have to be a boy to jump for joy…jump, jump, jump, jump in!” Yeah. I like that. Also, even though this app is all videos, you don’t need a wifi connection for it.

Daniel Tiger’s Day & NightLavender loves Daniel Tiger, and I don’t blame her. It’s such a cute, sweet show! (In fact, one time, as we watched it, Mr. Mostafa said, “This show makes me sad that she’s not going to be this little forever.”) In this app, you get to help Daniel go through his morning and bedtime routines. Lavender’s favorite thing to do is help Daniel tie his shoes and help him brush his teeth.

My First Alphabet PhonicsThis is a great, straightforward little app for learning to write both uppercase and lowercase letters.

Little WriterThis is another lovely tracing app, with the same concept as My First Alphabet Phonics, except that kids can trace numbers, shapes, and words, in addition to uppercase and lowercase letters. Even though it has many more things to trace, I actually recommend starting with this one before My First Alphabet Phonics, because it breaks the tracing down into simpler steps that are less overwhelming to little ones.

Don’t Let the Pigeon Run This App! Do you know the Pigeon books, by Mo Willems? If not, go buy them. Now. (In fact, go by anything by Mo Willems.) Because they are wonderful. They’re simple and brilliant and Lavender loves them. And go buy this app, too, because in it, you get to make your own Pigeon stories.

Now, obviously, these are all English apps (and a few Spanish). However, we do have several Arabic apps on Lavender’s iPod, as well. These were vetted by Mr. Mostafa to ensure that they teach at least reasonably native-sounding Arabic (because, well…a lot of Arabic learning apps don’t).

Zee’s AlphabetThis app teaches Arabic letters, in addition to vocabulary words that begin with that letter. I like the music, too. It’s very jaunty.

Learn Arabic Shapes & Colors GamePretty self-explanatory, right? It’s simple and fun!

Learn Arabic Numbers GameMade by the same developers as Learn Arabic Shapes & Colors game, this app follows the same concept. Except this teaches both Arabic and English letters. Pretty great! (Especially for me, because even though my Arabic is getting stronger every day, I still get Arabic numbers mixed up! I think my brain is just not wired for math, in any language.)

Fun Arabic Learning for Kids & Toddlers. This is the Arabic app that Lavender spends the most time with, hands down. She especially loves the Arabic letter puzzles. Some of the sections require you to pay (colors and other vocabulary), but others (letters and shapes) are free. Either way, it’s definitely worth a download!

So, there you have it. These are the apps that are currently on the front home screen of Lavender’s iPod. I’m sure the lineup will change over time, and probably sooner rather than later. But for now, these are the apps that keep her entertained…and learning!