maandag 29 februari 2016

Adam`s travels: 8 busy bags for a young toddler on a plane

We recently made a trip to Belgium and this time I knew I needed to prepare a little more for the upcoming flights. During our last flight Adam was still more of a baby, less of a toddler, and it was only a 3-hour flight. I was also still breastfeeding him at the time, which has always been my go-to soothing method to get him to take a nap on the plane. With an active toddler of 15 months, a 7-hour flight and no more nursing to result to, I knew we needed to make sure Adam had some entertainment to keep him happy (And us sane ;-) ) throughout the whole flight. 

Of course you could rely solely on the in-flight entertainment system and we did take a tablet with us as well, but these things often don`t capture Adam`s interest for long. Most of the time what fascinates him about this technology is the actual equipment, not the movie played on the screen or the game he can play. I actually tried to have him watch something on the in-flight entertainment system, but all he was interested in was pushing the button that turns the screen on and off. :-D 

However, there was another toddler, similar in age to Adam, sitting just a few feet away from us that actually sat on her mother`s lap the ENTIRE flight, playing a game on the in-flight entertainment system! She definitely didn`t need anything else to occupy her, but... that`s not Adam. ;-) Some parents might have thought I was a little strange with my fully packed diaper bag stuffed with busy bags, but I sure was happy I took the time to prepare... :-) It really made a lot of difference and I hope our busy bags can serve as inspiration for you and your little one in case you`re travelling soon as well! 

1. Mini pompon drop

If you read this post you know that Adam has loved his pompon drop, so I decided to make him a mini version we could play with on the plane... 

2. Post-its

Post-its were Adam`s favorite throughout both flights we took! He loves taking them apart and peeling them from places I stuck them like the seat, the wall in front of us (We were sitting in the first row), ... 

3. Stickers

Stickers are also a great activity on the plane: you can stick them on any surface and have your toddler try and peel them off! 

4. Electronic gadgets

As I mentioned earlier, Adam is really into figuring out how technology works. He loves cables, wires, anything that has little buttons or flickering lights he can press and touch. This busy bag consisted of several (old) electronic items I had lying around the house: an old phone, an old iPod, old cables, a small flash light, ... 

5. Animals

I`ve felt it became time to start introducing Adam to some animals and their corresponding sounds. I used these animal cards for him to look at, while I named the animal, described it and made the corresponding sound. Fun! 

6. Key chains

In Qatar people travel frequently, so when friends or colleagues get back from a trip they usually bring some kind of souvenir and often it`s a key chain. Adam loves key chains, so I gathered all the ones we`ve had lying around the house and this made a nice bundle for Adam to explore and play with! 

7. Bubble wrap

I packed some bubble wrap and we had fun popping bubbles on the plane, or more so: I popped the bubbles and Adam was fascinated by the texture and sound of the bubble wrap! 

8. New books

If you`ve read our previous posts (here and here) you know Adam loves books. Most toddlers do! For this trip I made sure to buy some brand new books for him and this as well was a major hit and kept him happy and content for some time! 

If I`ld have to give you a top 3 of what turned out to be the most successful busy bags, it would look something like this: 

1. New books
2. Post-its
3. Mini pompon drop 

Did you make any busy bags for travels? I`ld love to read your ideas! 

dinsdag 9 februari 2016

Adam`s 10 favorites at 14 months

Practically all of our activities the past month have been Montessori-inspired. Parenting for me is an incredibly enriching journey in which I`m always learning! As I gradually read and learn more about Montessori education, I`ve tried to implement some of its principles into our activities. There are some great Montessori blogs out there from moms and educators with far more knowledge and amazing looking tools and home made *toys* than the ones I`m presenting here, but what I try to do is show what you can do when you 1) Don`t have easy access to all of these kinds of fancy materials (When you`re living in the desert, wooden toys and tools are not exactly easy to find, let alone reasonably priced.) or 2) You don`t want or are able to spend a fortune on buying all of those fancy tools and toys. (Because wherever you live, this stuff can get expensive.) :-)

In general, I like to create a lot of activities for Adam from stuff we just have lying around the house or from cheap craft materials. I`m honestly surprised when I enter most kid`s homes and I see so much (electronic) toys my head starts spinning! (Imagine what all of those toys would do to a child: sensory overload!) So my motto is: less is more! 

I am thankful for all of the fun we`ve had the past month and the new skills I saw Adam acquire with these easy and budget friendly activities... 

1. Pompon drop

When my husband went for umrah last year, he brought soms big bottles of Zamzam water home with him. I knew at the time one of these bottles would come in handy one day, so I kept it stored away and I`m so glad I did. Dropping pompons in the bottle has definitely been Adam`s favorite activity throughout the whole month!

2. Home made play dough

This month I`ve introduced Adam to play dough! It`s so easy to make and we`ve had some fun exploring the texture. Adam especially loved pushing his fingers down on the dough and of course he tried to eat it. ;-) Luckily our play dough was home made!

Here`s the recipe we used: 

* 2 cups of all purpose flour
* 1 cup of salt
* 1 cup of water
Mix flour and salt. Gradually add water and knead until you reach the proper texture and the dough isn't sticky anymore. 

3. Sensory play with dried flower petals

This activity consisted of 3 parts: 
1. Exploring the dried flower petals in a sensory basket. 
2. Adding the dried flower petals to some water for sensory play. 
3. Making a sensory water bottle with some dried flower petals.

I used dried rose and hibiscus flower petals that I found in the spice section of our local grocery store. Adam was really fascinated by the petals as he had never felt or seen this type of texture before! He was really engaged through out the whole activity.

I loved it as well as there was so much sensory play involved and we really stepped outside of our comfort zone with this tone. :-) 

4. Smelling jars

Adam has been really fascinated by these smelling jars I made for him, although he didn`t really seem to get the *smelling* part that much yet. I`ll be introducing this one again in a couple of weeks, but wanted to share it anyway. I got the idea from this amazing Montessori blog. 

I filled up our smelling jars with fresh mint, cinnamon, clove and oudh. 

5. Opening and closing boxes

This has been a daily activity for Adam the past month: opening and practicing closing boxes and jars. Throughout the month I introduced boxes in different materials: cardboard, plastic, metal, glass, ... Practically all of them were boxes that I had lying around the house or recycled from cream or cheese containers. 

6. Mess free painting

Adam and I did some painting before and although it`s such a fun activity, I, -like most moms- don`t really look forward to cleaning the mess afterwards... That is why I loved this idea!

Here`s the recipe we used for the paint: 
* 2 cups of water
* 1,5 cup of flour
* 1 tsp of salt
Whisk everything together.
Divide into equal parts (f.ex. 4)
Add a few drops of food coloring to each part. (f.ex. 4 colors)

(Unfortunately, I don`t remember the source!)
We used just 2 colors in this activity. 

7. `Coin` collector

For a while now Adam likes to *drop* things into a container of sorts. He absolutely loves his pompon drop, but I decided we needed to change things up a little. I have a little coin collector for toddlers and Adam loved it, but dropping actual coins in there is still too difficult for him. So we recycled a tin can, some lids and made a toddler-sized `coin` collector! 

8. Pens

9. `Soccer`

All you need is a ball. :-)

Adam and his dad (and sometimes me and bump included.) have had loads of fun playing `soccer`. Adam isn`t walking yet, but just like last month he loves chasing after balls and throwing them to his dad who then scores goals! (With our front door being our `goal`) 

10. Books

One of my plans for the following months is to create Adam a reading nook: a little cozy and comfortable place in his room where all his books are displayed and he/we can read! This child seriously adores books. He loves to be read to, he loves to read small board books himself and he also loves flipping through big books. (Which results in a lot of shredded pages, woops.) `The Very Hungry Caterpillar` is one of Adam`s new books this month. 

donderdag 21 januari 2016

Preparing for postpartum (3): building a strong support network

One of the most important things you have to prepare for after giving birth (Nope, it`s not buying the newest model of Phil and Teds) is... Building a strong support system. 

Whether you`re a first time mom or you`re pregnant with a second, third, fourth, ... umpth member of the family, let go of that supermom ideal and accept the fact that you will need some help. None of us are doing this whole mom gig by ourselves and neither should you. Especially not if you`ve just given birth. 

Ever heard of the saying `It takes a village to raise a child`? Now is the time for that village to start mobilizing itself. But wait... What village are we talking about here? In today`s society families live scattered across the country (Or even across the globe) and we hardly know our next door neighbor by their first name. In a perfect world (Or maybe not so perfect and maybe just a little more rural or indigenous. ;-) ) new moms would be able to count on the support of their close family members: their mothers, sisters, mothers-in-laws, sisters-in-law, ... They are able to play a vital role in this major event in their daughter`s/sister`s/... life and in most cases I believe they are very eager and willing to step in. They might need some nudging here and there though. ;-) (And if you`re reading this as a mother, a sister, a mother-in-law or a sister-in-law, please, realize how much of a support you can be and step up your game: your help is much needed and appreciated.) 

Unfortunately we live in a not so perfect world and some of us have family members who have already deceased, that we are not on good terms with or are living half way across the globe and that`s where friends can play an important part. As an expat mom myself I know all too well how other expat mothers are lacking much and in most cases any support from family. In situations like ours friends, acquaintances and neighbors are worth their weight in gold. One of the ideas I came across when one of my friends was pregnant was to set up a `meal train`: together with a group of friends make a calendar to drop off ready made meals in the days and weeks after birth. Everyone picks a day or days on which they will drop off a meal (Or two or three) at the new mom`s house. Looking for a way to get started? Check out this website. If you`re expecting: engage your friends in setting up a meal train together. If you`re a friend of someone who is expecting: don`t underestimate the value of some home cooked food to a new mother. She`ld rather have you bring her a home made dish of lasagna than another set of baby clothes next to the 101 sets she already got. ;-) 

If you`re not around family and your friends don`t really seem eager to help you out (Or are drowning in work with little kids of their own.), it`s time to accept the idea of getting paid help. Now that`s a difficult one, isn`t it? Repeat after me: `It`s okay to pay for some help around the house.`
Ever since my son was born I hardly ironed any clothes. I honestly like ironing, but I find it very time consuming, so I decided to outsource that chore. My items that need ironing get picked up and delivered back a couple of days later all wrinkle free. 

Here in Qatar it`s very normal to outsource chores like ironing, cleaning, ... All of my mom friends get help in some area. (And yes, they are all stay at home moms. Because well yes, we deserve a break too...) 
In western culture (But I guess it`s a global phenomenon.) however it still seems difficult for a lot of women to accept outside help. (I know I do.) There`s this very strong ideal of a woman having *to do it all* all of the time. Recently however, I read a great post from DramaMama about this exact topic and I wanted to share an excerpt: 
`It's not feminism to say women can "do it all" and then hand over the heavy burden of those expectations onto the shoulders of women trying to rise. "Doing it all" is a philosophy that hurts women. It's an oppressive tool masquerading as a rah rah call to action.
If you're feeling overwhelmed, chances are you are. Take a look at your life and see how you can make it easier on yourself and free up some time. And then do it. Without guilt. You have no reason to feel guilty. You're a human being, not a super machine.
Try saying no thank you to doing it all. You'll find yourself able to do a lot more.
And just so we're clear I'm not even talking about work outside the home or building a career (though there's absolutely nothing wrong with that given that our role models like Khadija (ra) or Ayesha (ra) had plenty active a public life.) I'm just talking about simple pleasures like reading a book or playing with your kids. Would you believe I hear from women that they have no time to read to their kids or play with them even though they really want to because, well, they have to wash the bathrooms everyday? And these are wealthy women mind you. For God's sake hire someone to clean the bathroom. There is nothing wrong with that. Circulate your wealth a little, sheesh.` 

In some countries, like Belgium, the government provides services to help out new moms during postpartum, called `kraamzorg`. (And I recently found out they can also provide services during pregnancy!) In Qatar we don`t have something like that, but you can hire a post-partum doula or a part-time or even full time nanny

In this time and age, wherever you are living, it`s up to you to build your own village. Whether it exists out of family members, friends, hired help or a combination of all three: the most important thing is that you are and feel supported, so you can focus on your most important job ahead: healing, bonding and loving that little one of yours. 

vrijdag 15 januari 2016

Preparing for postpartum (2): the importance of having a lying-in

After I made it through the first difficult weeks of postpartum and I started talking to other women about their postpartum experiences, a dear friend of mine who is partly Asian, told me her story. She related how in her mother`s culture it was very normal for a new mother to be taken care of by family members. She herself had stayed with her mother during the last months of pregnancy and the first months after giving birth and her mother helped her in every way she could. She even told me she hadn`t left the house for the first month after her son was born!

Although the idea of not leaving the house for a month`s time made the western feminist (I seriously wish she would remain quiet more often) inside of me roar with disagreement, I was however fascinated by this concept. And as I always do I started to read. The more I read the more my appreciation of what is called a *lying-in* or *confinement* grew. The more I understood the importance of such a resting period, the more I realized how much I missed out on with my son. 

So what is a *lying-in*? 
In a lot of traditional cultures around the globe (And something we have unfortunately forgotten in western society) the first days or weeks after giving birth the new mother is surrounded by a group of supporting women or family members who take over all of her household duties and caring tasks for other children so the new mother can rest and bond with her baby. She is usually literally lying down in bed, with her little one. Especially in the first few days the mother is encouraged not to leave the bed at all, unless to go to the bathroom or take a shower. Meals should be brought to her and she shouldn`t be engaging in any (heavy) work, all her attention and energy should be focused on healing and getting to know the newest member of the family. In some cultures this period can last up to 40 days. 

In a more modern and adapted version some suggest sticking to the 5-5-5 rule, in which you give yourself the time to rest and bond with your baby, gradually becoming more active as the days go by: the first 5 days after giving birth the new mom stays IN bed and focuses only on herself and the newborn. She only leaves the bed to go to the bathroom and doesn`t engage in any work. The next 5 days she stays ON the bed: the primary focus is still to rest and focus on baby, but she can engage in light work from her bed. (Like folding the laundry, playing with older siblings, ...) The last 5 days are spent AROUND the bed: she can move around, but stays mostly confined to the bedroom as rest is still a priority. After those 15 days have passed she can gradually slip back into daily family life, taking in mind that the body needs about 6 weeks to properly heal after a normal birth, she should still take it easy, focus on rest and getting to know this new little person and count on others to help out. 

At first I thought this was crazy. Me? A type A-personality lying in bed and doing *nothing*? It felt so counterproductive and *lazy* as it didn`t fit the image I had been portrayed by western society of women bouncing back immediately after giving birth. But when I looked back at those first weeks with my son and how sad I felt afterwards of not having been able to enjoy it much at all, I knew that this is exactly what could`ve avoided me from burning myself out. I knew that the second time around I had to apply some of this new found knowledge. 

So why is this important? Isn`t this some kind of old cultural practice that we don`t need anymore today? Can we, as western women, really lie in bed all day when society is telling us we should be back in the gym as soon as possible? 

Here are some benefits of having a lying-in:
* Your postpartum bleeding will last less long as you are giving your body a chance to rest and heal.

`During the first hours, days, and weeks after you give birth, your uterus does an enormous job to contract the open blood vessels that fed the placenta and to clot off and form a “scab” on the uterine wall. So every time you stand up, twist, and create internal pressure in your torso through exertion, you are causing disturbance to the wound healing process and bringing excess circulation to that area.` - Bear Mama Medicine 

* By confining yourself from the outside world you give yourself the space and time to heal emotionally in the comfort of your own home. Our hormone levels undergo major changes after giving birth which makes a lot of women feel emotional and weepy. A woman is at her most vulnerable in the first days and weeks after giving birth and needs the love and care of being supported in this often rough transition. 

`Hormonally, the first week postpartum has been likened to a drug withdrawal. Part of the placenta’s job is to produce a huge cocktail of hormones (which still isn’t totally understood), and as soon as it is expelled, those hormones drop. This explains why you might feel weepy or moody for the first several weeks, and why it’s normal to feel sad despite otherwise lovely circumstances.` - Bear Mama Medicine 

* It is easier to establish your milk-supply and kick off breastfeeding with a good start as you`re always in close proximity to your baby. Right after birth your newborn will be drinking colostrum, a yellowy substance which is a wonderful source of nutrition for your little one. It usually takes a couple of days before your milk will start coming in though (Mine did around 4 days postpartum). Vital to this process is being in close contact with your baby, preferably skin to skin, and latching your baby on as much as possible as nursing triggers the hormones needed for milk production to kick in. 

* You will get more rest and (hopefully) sleep.
Before I was a mother I never valued sleep much at all, it was only during postpartum that I came to realize how important sleep is to your overall wellbeing. Taking care of a newborn is exhausting work and a new mother needs enough sleep. I also noticed that sleep had a profound impact on my milk-supply. Proper nutrition does too, but in my personal situation sleep had the most effect on boosting my supply. So getting enough of it is not only vital for your own physical and emotional health, but also in establishing a good milk-supply for your baby. 

* Being close to your baby, cuddling and performing skin-to-skin triggers the production of the hormone oxytocine, the so called love-hormone. Needless to say that this is necessary in building a bond between mother and child and to experience the overwhelming sense of love for your newborn. 

* Your little one is brought into this world gently. After having been confined in the womb of his mother where everything was dark, warm and safe, your little one arrives into a cold and very bright world. By being close to mom, limiting visitors and exposure to the outside world, your little one can ease into his new home more gradually. 

Needless to say that taking time to rest after birth has nothing to do with being lazy, but everything to do with self-care and bonding with your new little one. Although it might seem like a luxury in today`s world, I believe it is of vital importance for both ourselves as mothers and our babies to try and implement this concept. Every situation is different however and many of us don`t have the support system or means to stay in bed and get pampered for 40 days, but I am convinced that it`s important to change our mindset about postpartum. By telling you about the concept and benefits of lying-in, I hope I can help trigger the change we, western women, so desperately need in taking better care of ourselves and our families. 

`The birth of ourselves into motherhood is our birthright, and is not something that happens merely at the moment of birth, but is the most divine unfolding over a period of tender time.` - Bear Mama Medicine

(I will soon be writing more about my preparations for my own lying-in.)

Sources and recommended reading material: 

donderdag 14 januari 2016

Preparing for postpartum (1): mothering the mother

After my son was born I didn`t exactly take it easy. Less than 48 hours after giving birth, I was literally wheeled out of the hospital in a wheelchair, still wobbly. To be quite honest, I was happy to leave as I hadn`t been able to sleep during my stay there as every hour of the night someone would come in to check some of my vital signs. (Like seriously though...) I knew I would be more comfortable and able to get some rest at home. 

Although that was true, I did try to *bounce back* immediately. I thought I was supposed to. My son was only a few days old when I strapped him to my chest in a carrier and went walking to the grocery store to get us some things. Every day during the first week I had to get outside the house because of a doctor`s appointment for my son or for some administration that had to be done as we would be travelling in a few weeks time. When I was home and not nursing/changing/cuddling my son, I was folding laundry and doing the dishes. I thought I was supposed to. 

As we were staying far away from family and friends and my husband was busy studying for exams at the time, I felt like I had no choice but to immediately bounce back and continue life like I didn`t just go through a labor marathon and had a newborn. I thought I was supposed to. 

I continued to keep up my new supermom-act in the weeks to come: when my son was 3 weeks old we had to travel across the world and through time-zones. After a 24 hour travel and having just had a baby you`ld think I would just crawl up in bed and sleep, right? Instead, I made myself coffee and started cleaning. I thought I was supposed to. 

I think you`re getting the picture here. During the whole transition of becoming a mother, I made sure my son was very well taken care of. But I forgot someone very important along the way. I forgot myself. And because I was so far away from family and loved ones, there was no one who would notice how much I was slipping away. How much my needs were being neglected. How I wasn`t being taken care of. 

Being an expat mom made the situation tougher in the sense that there was nobody to *step in*. I hardly had visitors and simply had no one to call to come over to lend me a helping hand as everyone that could have lend a hand lived thousands of miles away. This made the pressure of having *to do it all* mount to a boiling point. 

And I would suffer the consequences both physically and mentally for months to come. My nifaaz (postpartum bleeding) lasted even longer than the usual 40 days, which can easily be contributed to the fact that I really did not take it easy or grant my body the rest it needed. I suffered from issues like constipation for quite a while and severe postpartum hair loss as I wasn`t nourishing my body properly. Because of travelling through time-zones and not taking it easy afterwards, I developed insomnia which resulted in panic attacks and some serious postpartum blues that would carry on for several months. The saddest part? It would take a long time before I actually started to feel connected to my son. That overwhelming sense of love that is supposed to knock you off your feet once that little bundle is placed in your arms? I only started to experience that type of love when my son was already a couple of months old. Not exactly how I expected motherhood to be... 

When I finally made it out of the newborn stage I honestly felt battered, disappointed and I felt a deep sense of loss. A loss of not having been able to enjoy much of those first weeks and months of my son`s life. I felt like something had been stolen from me. And I felt angry. Angry at our western society that doesn`t teach us anymore how to properly support a new mother. A society that thinks mothers should *do it all* all of the time. A society where we have forgotten that (new) mothers also need *mothering*. 

Gradually I was able to accept those feelings. Process them. And let them go. Gradually I put the pieces of myself that I had lost along the way back together and started to make *self-care* a priority in my life. Gradually being a mother became the greatest source of joy in my life and alhamdouliLlah, it still is today. 

However... I promised myself that I would help other women avoid getting caught up in a similar situation. (Which is exactly why I am writing about this.) I also promised myself that if I would ever be pregnant again, I would do things completely differently. 

And so I am. Already half way through my second pregnancy I have been busy preparing for my postpartum period. Where most mothers are focused on baby gear and choosing colors to design the nursery, I have started to prepare for my *lying-in* (More about that later.), am reading on proper nutrition, gathering information on natural ways to heal both physically and emotionally and stay in balance and most importantly: I am looking for a cleaning aid. ;-) This time around my priority is self-care. 

If you`re a mom-to-be or pregnant with a second, third, ... little one, I urge you to do the same. Self-care does not mean being selfish. I had to lose myself in order to realize that self-care was not a luxury, but a necessity. It means making sure your own cup is filled before you`re going to fill up those of others. 

dinsdag 12 januari 2016

Adam`s 10 favorites at 13 months

Since I`ve now got a hyper little toddler crawling and cruising -no, not walking yet- around, it was time to step up my game to introduce some more activities to Adam. I always try to have a variety of games and activities available for him to explore, but as he also decided that morning naps are not happening anymore, we`re dealing with VERY long mornings nowadays in which variation is key to keep both Adam content and me sane. :-D 

And honestly? I also just love trying out new things together: it is both a challenge for him and for me. :-) 

So here are Adam`s 10 favorite activities at 13 months! I hope they can serve as an inspiration for you and your little one. Keep in mind that some of these might be not interesting/too difficult/too easy/... for your particular child. I try to observe Adam closely and try to base new activities and games on what he shows interest in. :-) Some of these activities are Montessori-inspired as I`ve been really fascinated by the teachings of Maria Montessori, others are inspired by Pinterest and some I make up as we go along. :-) 

1. Throwing oranges 

Adam has loved throwing and chasing after balls for a while now, so I decided to change things up a little and give him a basket of oranges to play with. He loved picking them up, throwing them around, rolling them, collecting them back, ... 

2. Sorting pompoms

Every toddler mom needs to have this in her arsenal of games and toys: pompoms. :-) You can use them in such a variety of ways and tots really find them fascinating. (They might try to eat them though, so keep an eye on your little one here!) Adam loved sorting the pompoms in an empty egg container. 

3. Post-its

All you need are a set of (plastic) post-its. Adam loves pulling them out and sticking them on anything. :-) A plastic surface usually does a perfect job!

We also play a little game with post-its in which I will stick post-its on several body parts, let`s say eyes, nose, mouth, ears, ... When Adam pulls one off I tell him what that body part is called. :-)

4. Pulling off tape

Some cardboard and some washi-tape make for some easy play!

5. Lids in a jar

Another easy and inexpensive activity: you just need an empty plastic jar and some plastic lids. Adam gets so excited when he is able to drop all the lids into the jar that he jumps up and down with joy! :-) 

6. Pasta sensory box 

Fill up a box with some dry pasta, cups, spoons, etc. and you`ve got yourself a fun sensory activity! :-) This is not for neat freaks as your whole living room floor will be covered in pasta. ;-) 

7. Pull toys 

These pull toys (For lack of a better word...) have been his favorites for the past 2 months now. I just took some metal jars and made some cuts in the plastic lids. You can fill the cuts up with colorful wooden ice sticks or pipe cleaner like I did, but you can also use different types of fabric, yarn, etc. 

8. Books

Adam has loved being read to since he was really little. He loves books in general and enjoys *reading* on his own as well. He can be quite content for a while just flipping through books. As he will be a big brother soon, lately I`ve been reading to him about welcoming a new member to the family... 

9. His personal wallet 

This has proven to be a great activity for outside the home. I usually give Adam *his* wallet when he is in the car seat or when we are in a restaurant and we need to wait a little while for our order. This is basically a wallet that we had lying around the house (And my husband got it as a gift, but never used it.) and I was about to throw away until I remembered that Adam loved playing with MY wallet. ;-) I filled up Adam`s wallet with old plastic bank cards and membership cards, passport pictures of me and my husband and I attached some colorful key chains to it. 

Adam loves playing with the key chains, taking out the cards, flipping through the wallet, ... 

10. Playing outside 

The weather in Qatar is great at the moment and we`ve been having lot`s of outdoor fun the past couple of weeks. I try not to take too much toys with me, but I just let Adam crawl around and explore his surroundings. (Who needs toys when you`ve got twigs and rocks to play with?) 

zondag 13 september 2015

Our winter bucket list: 10 things to do in Qatar

We`re finally emerging from months of dreadful weather and I can`t wait for winter in Qatar... Qatari winters are actually more like Belgian summers: with average temperatures of 25 degrees celsius and occasional rain showers it`s the best time of the year for outdoor trips. Last winter mr. Blueberry was a newborn so apart from a trip to the park and an outing to the beach (Yes, I actually went to the beach with a 5 week old...), we hardly went out. There are some exciting things to do and to see here that I haven`t been able to yet and I am really longing to head out there and discover those remaining treasures! 

Here is our winter bucket list... 

1. Zekreet 

Zekreet is located on the west coast of Qatar and apparently there`s a lot to be seen there: it has an archaeological site (Woohoo!) with a fort, a film set in which an authentic Arabian village has been replicated, a beautiful beach and an oryx reserve. The oryx is a desert animal and very much cherished in Qatar. Ever took a closer look at the logo of Qatar Airways? That`s an oryx right there! 

2. Purple Island 

Purple Island is actually one of Qatar`s greenest spots with a large mangrove forest. `It owes its name to the ancient purple dye producing site that was situated on the island, which existed thousands of years ago. The purple dye was produced from a species of sea snails. This dye itself is special in that was only used for clothes worn by the ruling classes, and the elite.` (1)  
It`s located near to Al-Khor, a small town in the north. A trip there sounds quite adventurous: to get to the island you need to wade a little through water between the mangrove trees! After being stuck inside for such a long time I definitely need some excitement! (I just have to figure out how to get Adam to the island, lol!) 

Mangroves near Al-Khor. 

3. Banana Island

After an adventurous trip it`s time to relax! Banana Island is the perfect place to do just that! It is an artificial island just a short boat trip away from Doha. It`s got hotels, restaurants, spa`s, swimming pools, ... It`s more of a holiday resort, but if you make a reservation you can head out there for a day trip. The island welcomed its first guests last year and it`s nothing short of a wellness paradise. Want to take a look? You can here

4. Aquapark 

I`ve been wanting to go to Aquapark Qatar since... Forever! But 3 things were working against my plans of heading out there: I didn`t have a burkini, Ladies Day is every Tuesday (When my husband is out working which leaves me without a car.) and apparently they close for winter... I even read a couple of days ago that their last Ladies Day of the season is this week! This week?! The logic of their opening times is really beyond me, but I still hope to head out there soon... 

5. Shahaniyyah - Camel races 

At Shahaniyyah there is an actual camel race track! I can`t wait to take Adam there for a good old Arabian camel race! 

6. Dhow trip 

Dhows near the Corniche. 

A *dhow* is an authentic wooden Qatari fishing boat. Travel agencies organize dhow tours and it`s one of those typical touristic things here that I haven`t done yet. I`ve also been told that if you`re lucky, you might actually spot some dolphins out at sea... Seriously, folks, Qatar has dolphins! 

7. Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum 

I heard about this museum before, but it wasn`t until I read last month`s *Time Out Doha* that I discovered it`s really worth a visit! 

Time Out Doha about the museum.

It`s basically a collection of historical and cultural artifacts of Sheikh Faisal himself, but there`s a lot on Qatari culture and heritage and that`s what I`m most interested in! The longer I live here the more my fascination for Qatari culture grows so I`m really eager to learn more about it!

8. Al Wakrah Park 

Al Wakrah is a little fishing town right outside of Doha, but it`s not that far from us. We`re basically living on the way from Doha to Wakrah and I`ve been there regularly for both the souq and the beach. Some of my friends also used to live there, so I am quite fond of the place. I recently discovered that Wakrah also has a park and I hear it`s really family friendly and close to the sea/beach, yay!

9. Falcon Souq 

I`ve been to Souq Waqif many times before, but what I didn`t know is that there`s a Falcon Souq nearby! As the falcon is the number one Qatari pet, I`ld like to check out the stores with falconry equipment and of course the actual falcons... 

10. Al Thakira beach 

We love to go to the beach in the winter and BBQ. You can mostly find us at Al Wakrah Family Beach or at Semeisma beach, but this winter I want to head a little more north and discover a new beach. Qatar has a very long coastline and has many beaches, so why particularly this one? Well, apparently there`s a lot of bird life going on there and you can spot flamingo`s... The only time I saw flamingo`s was in a Belgian zoo, so seeing them in real life, *in the wild*, seems like enough reason to head out there! 

Wow, it`s going to be a busy winter! :-D