My 2022.

When a new year begins it’s the human thing to try change things up a bit right?

Clean the house, declutter, new year resolutions we will not keep to, and on and on.

This year has started on a low for many because of the pandemic, loss of incomes and natural disasters. The world seems to be on a downward decline and no country has been spared.

It is easy to get depressed as there is almost nothing to be happy or positive about. But hold up! Let us stop looking at the bigger picture for the moment, and focus on the little things that matter.

Those moments that one is able to take pause and be grateful for being alive, being healthy, being healed, being near loved ones. Being present in yourself.

There are many things around us that we may not seem to appreciate and take for granted and I want this to change for myself this year.

This year I want to begin and end each day in gratitude. I want to reconnect with God and express my sincere desire to be in His presence at all times, to thirst for divine guidance, to make amends to those I have wronged and to strive to be a better human.

I know it will not be easy, but I am going to be easy on myself. One day at a time, one prayer at a time, one step at a time, one quiet moment at a time.

I will not try to fit in others’ perceptions, categories of what I should be or how I should behave. I want to be me, as His plan for me intended. I want to explore and know myself as the person my creator intended me to be. I want to be fine and accept myself as a work in progress, and be receptive to how I will be led into my divine purpose.

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What about you?

What does this new year mean to you, and what do you want to get out of it?

Parenting: Supporting our children’s friendships.

A couple of incidents that happened some time ago made me think about this more than usual. I have had to stop and ask myself how supportive I have been of my children’s relationships, both within the family and with their friends.

With the pandemic, there has been less physical interaction with their friends due to off campus learning and social distancing. The kids have adapted fast and are ok playing with each other but there is still something missing.

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With schools opening in January for face to face learning here, the kids are looking forward to seeing their other friends and planning for playdates.

Children generally make friends with those closet to them; neighbouring kids, church mates, classmates, or in extra curricular clubs such as music, swimming or gynmastic classes. When we moved away, they had to start from scratch, which was not easy as we did not know many people here, and those we did, had kids much older than them. Our immediate neighbourhood doesn’t have kids their age too, but thankfully we were lucky to meet up with some family friends who had also moved here.

One of the things I am always keen on is knowing who their friend’s parents are, and their contacts. Play dates can be arranged but no sleepovers.

Playdates are good as one gets to observe how the children are interacting with each other. It can give one an idea of what values their friends have, by how they behave when in your home, my assumption is that the other parent is doing the same (though we know this is not always the case).

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Some of the ways we have been trying to support their friendships in this social distancing times is by having them invite a friend over, letting them use my phone to record voice notes for their friends, scheduled video calls, emails and even cards or notes left in class cubby holes, so their friends can pick them up when they go collect their schoolwork.

I am learning to be intentional in this; speaking to them about their friends and what they like or miss about them. I also talk about my friends, and how my friendships were at their ages. Keeping communication lines open is important, they will be more willing to speak up when things are not right and be more confident in sharing the good experiences too.

Parenting includes recognising and supporting our children as individuals. They have their own likes, preferences and dislikes, and we need to teach ourselves how to acknowledge their desires in creating social bonds for themselves as they grow. No man is an island. As adults, we take pride in our social relationships, why do we forget that our kids need it too?

Children learn from us. The pride and fun they see us enjoying in our friendships adds to that appeal for them, and they yearn to get the same recognition and enjoy their friends company. Obviously we do have to discuss boundaries, safety and respect, but let us be supportive of their positive friendships.

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Kids’ Lunchbox and Snack Ideas.

The kids have been home for the better part of this school year due to Covid protocols where we live. Hopefully, face to face classes will resume in January and I for one cannot wait.

It has been great having the kids learn from home, but it is not easy. From longer screen time, not being able to physically interact with their teachers and schoolmates, a larger school work load…online learning is taking a toll on everyone involved.

The kids have always carried snacks and lunch from home. This has worked well for us so far- in terms of cost, being able to know what they are consuming and it doesn’t take as much time as one might expect.

Planning ahead is the greatest tip I have for this. As a Mum, my prime concern is for them to have healthy and tasty food, but I also need to take into consideration what is easier for them to consume in school; what is not time or labour intensive for me, we and will go well with the main family meal plan.

When my eldest child started carrying food from home, I worried she might not like what I have packed, so I decided to include her in the planning process. This has been working well for us so far.

Here are some tips in no order of importance:-

  • Focus on healthy, colourful, tasty food, that is easy to pack and keep. We do many cold meals, though the kids can warm from school, but cold lunches are great in this Kampala weather, they are quick to eat and clean up. No soup spills and the like.
  • Have a variety of meal options. I usually have 10-15 main meal ideas the kids like and approve, so I plan their meal choices around those options.
  • Include the children in planning for their meals. What would they like to carry? You can make a plan with them (keeping in mind the main family meal plan), so you are sure of less food wastage, they will eat what they chose and like, and you have less labour in shopping and prepping.
  • Make what you can ahead, if you can peel and chop or boil earlier it becomes easier to assemble in the morning.
  • Involve the children in packing the snacks and lunches too. My kids have become so good at this, I am really proud of them. Since they know what is on their menu, it is easy for them to pack what they are carrying for the day. For example, Fridays is a day for fries and a kachumbari salad for lunch. The kids are quite firm on this, but flexible enough on me to make plantain, green banana or even sweet potato fries, instead of the normal Irish potato ones.
  • Partitioned lunch boxes are a great option. One is able to separate the fruits and veggies, or main meal and salad. And I am also able to portion according to how much I know each kid is able to eat.
Portioned lunch boxes make work easier.
These lunch bags that come as part of the school backpacks are handy.

In terms of cost and nutrition. Fruits are a necessary snack. For this, I always put what they like and a fruit that is in season at the moment. For example, there are plenty of mangoes available at the moment, so their price is lower than other fruits not easily available at the moment.

Uganda’s great weather ensures we have plenty of sweet fruits available year round, so homemade juices are a great option too with the passion fruits and oranges that are easily available.

Basics for me in their bags are a bottle of drinking water, a small bottle of juice or flavoured milk, fruits and a healthy meal and snack. For example, a snack box for break will include a small sweet banana, popcorn, a muffin and some nuts. Popcorn is easy to make from home and doesn’t take too much time. Lunch can be rice balls, a simple salad and the fruit option can be grapes (sliced vertically), pineapple slices, or apple slices with some peanut butter on them.

Do not forget to pack some serviettes (paper towels) and cutlery for them. IKEA and many supermarkets have hardy plastic or melamine ones so you can keep your silverware safe. LOL.

This is a basic setup for the kids. Lunch boxes are at the bottom, then snack boxes and extra fruits. A water bottle and juice bottle are a must for them too.

Family main meal leftovers are also great for their lunchboxes. Leftover pasta makes a great pasta salad with some added veggies, tuna and mayo or yoghurt dressing.

Leftover steamed rice is great for rice balls, or fried rice which can be had warm or cold. Having canned tuna, chickpeas, sweetcorn and quinoa in the pantry is great to add to salads and sandwiches.

Simple sample meal : rice balls and an avocado salad.

Pancakes can be spread with jam, Nutella or peanut butter to make them more interesting and sweeter for the kids. Leftover veggies are great for savoury muffins, sweetcorn, zucchini and cheese make great options for this.

Other food options we like are :-

  • Salads- potato salad, pasta or quinoa salads are great with added cold meats such as tuna or leftover chicken. Veggies to bulk them can include chickpeas, sweetcorn, carrots, cucumber, red cabbage, beetroot, or even roasted zucchini and eggplant.
  • Fries or potato wedges. These could be sweet potato fries, green banana cutlets, plantain or yam fries.
  • Beef kebabs with a yoghurt sauce.
  • Orzo pasta is a fave here and can be used to bulk up a lentil salad.
  • Amaranth cereal bars
  • Sausage rolls.
  • Pancakes both sweet and savoury. Sweet ones can be spread with their favourite spread and sweetened with fruit. Savoury crepes work well with a veggie and cheese filling.
  • Leftover pizza.
  • Leftover chapati can make wraps of quesadillas, even frittatas.
  • Rice can be a salad, or fried rice. the kids also love beetroot pilau and celery rice which they can warm at school if they want to.
  • Carrots, cucumbers, celery stalks are great as a side salad with a small yoghurt sauce.
  • Quickbreads and muffins; banana bread, chocolate muffins, cheese and herb rolls are great options too.

Using what you have on hand and that which is easily available makes your work so much easier as a Mom.

Other tips to help the school mornings and school runs easier are:-

  • Having a good sleep routine. It is important for both you and the children to have a good night’s rest. Especially the kids who are still growing and need to let their minds and bodies rest and replenish lost energy. Having set times for bed and waking up is great for this.
  • Be prepared. Be stocked up on essentials to make mornings move faster. If you have to stop at the store on your way to drop them, chances are your kids will be late for school.
  • Have a morning routine for the family. Not a strict military style one, but a basic one that you and your family members have discussed and agreed upon. Simple ones like making beds immediately they get up, breakfast then shower and brush their teeth, oil themselves and dressed up work. This is how we teach our children independence, decision making and basic life skills.
  • Pack ahead for co- curricular activities. Sports and swimming gear can be packed the night ahead. Imagine looking for a swimming costume in the morning when they need to be out the door? it leaves everyone frazzled and not a good way to start the day.
  • An evening routine is great too. Once they get home from school, what is the first thing they do? When I pick them I always ask them to check if they have all their stuff with them. Once home, it is shower, a bit of play and tea time, homework then they can play some more before dinner is ready. Do not let them get way with dumping their shoes and bags at the door. I am firm on this. As messes such as these will end up with someone tripping on them and getting hurt, and also not teaching them how to be responsible for their things.
  • Check their schoolwork and let them also pack the books and stationery supplies before they go to bed once they are done with their homework; less chance of forgetting their homework at home or diaries.
  • Always keep the kids involved. Listen to them, talk to them, discuss with them what is going on in their school life. It makes them feel heard and seen and improves their self esteem.

As a parent, I am the adult and should lead by example. The kids being late is not their fault, it is mine if I did not take the time to ensure they are well prepared for the day ahead.

Let me also add that there is no perfect parent. We are all trying to do the best we can.

I will not lie and say I have all this down pat. No! I am still learning and I do drop the ball from time to time. However I cannot emphasize enough how much being organised has saved me time, money, energy.

Sure it’s easy for me to say do this and you will all be a calm, happy family. But as any parent will tell you, there are no guarantees. We can make the effort nevertheless. Nobody likes yelling or being yelled at in the morning to “hurry up!” And being more organized will reduce those frazzled mornings, don’t you think?

What do you pack in your child’s lunchbox?

A Good House.

What makes a good house?

Would you prefer to build your own or buy a complete unit?

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There are many properties in Kenya for sale at the moment, and options to suit different clients. From luxury apartments to beachside villas, sprawling bungalows to basic housing; there is almost something for everyone.

However that does not mean it is a straightforward process. There are other factors to take into consideration. From the cost of the unit, financing options, proximity to social amenities, types of finishing, and many more.

There are a myriad of YouTube videos showing these properties and let me tell you guys, I am calling out lies on some of them.

First of all, the words “luxury” and “executive” are so overused folks, it’s appalling.

Basic amenities, such as a good parking spot, a paved driveway are the ones being touted as luxury. Nope, noppity nope. The lies have to stop.

A good property; a basic habitable unit, in my opinion should have some things done as a basic, not as an incentive. Is it too much to ask for non- skid flooring in wet areas such as the bathroom, laundry area and kitchen? Large windows to bring in natural lighting and great air flow. A garden with trees and some nice grass, a paved driveway? A covered parking area?

Recent housing developments do not value free unstructured spaces our children can play in, building on them instead. They have small gravelled areas with hard plastic slides and a couple of swings and call it the kids play area.

While I do understand that it is not possible for many to build their own homes, but when buying a property, let us be a bit more keen in how habitable it is. There are things that come up once you move in, but there are also a few things one should take note of when considering to buy a property. In addition to the due diligence on the legal paperwork, also check and ask around how the security is around that location.

There are many beautifully constructed housing developments popping up all over the place. That bungalow or villa you’re about to pay for, may not be as damp proof as they claim. Look at the corners, sniff the air in that house in all the rooms and cupboards.

Check for loose fittings and signs of mould inside and outside. Are the tiles, inside flooring or outside paving blocks warping or loose? Visit with a qualified person not connected to the project and let them give their opinion. We are paying too much money for real estate, it will not hurt to take your time checking them out thoroughly.

I saw a recent YouTube video of someone house hunting and there was one unit that had obvious water damage and no proper drainage in some areas, (can you imagine a flooded balcony?). When buying land or a house in certain areas, it is good to check out the geographical history of the place. If you can, visit during both the rainy and dry seasons to see the difference. Some properties being sold are located on dried up waterways. With recent climatic changes, flooding is on the increase worldwide; that river that dried up fifty years ago will find its way back and carry whatever is built in its path with it. Some unscrupulous people are filling up old stone quarries, and selling off the land as quick as they can. Due diligence is important and quite wide.

Beach or waterfront properties are beautiful with breathtaking views, and an amazing breeze.

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How well shielded is that property from strong gusts of wind, underground dampness and are there screen doors to avoid bugs? I remember reading of a certain luxury property in the region that was bought up fast but the owners are now in tears. The fitted appliances do not work, the smart home system is ever glitchy and to top it off, some of the houses have had their balconies develop cracks. Scary!

Not all developers are unscrupulous, but well done houses with good quality fixtures and thoughtful finishing are not that common. It has become a preferred option by some to buy off plan or semi finished units, instead of a complete house that one will spend a lot of money repairing and refurbishing to one’s personal taste.

Location is another headache. Imagine buying a lovely apartment with a winding balcony only for a taller, sprawling high-rise to come up right next door! You now have a view of stone walls and the natural lighting in your apartment is dimmed. Or you buy a stand alone house in a quiet neighbourhood only for a religious institution or school to come up next door. There are some developments that have rules guiding what and how one can construct in that locality, which is good in such instances.

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Getting a good property that one can enjoy is not impossible, but will require a lot of commitment and resources. Time, patience, finances and an eye to detail helps. And don’t forget your gut instinct too; How you feel about the place.

What is a good house to you?

Out and About: Entebbe Wildlife Sanctuary.

The Entebbe Wildlife Sanctuary, popularly know as the Entebbe Zoo, is one of the places one must visit when in Entebbe or Kampala.

It is located in Entebbe, but not that far from Kampala; about a hour’s drive, which makes it an excellent family outing option.

We have been there several times already, but this time round was more special to us as we had yet to see the two Bengal Tigers the zoo acquired sometime last year.

There is a lot to see at the zoo. From chimpanzees, to beautiful lions, cheetahs, giraffes, elephant, snakes, otters and even the elusive Shoebill stork, usually found at Mabamba Bay. I have already written about our visit there here.

There were a few changes we noticed while there. Obviously, there are standard Covid 19 prevention protocols to be observed, the zoo is now charging parking fees, and there is a small vehicle to drive those who do to want or are unable to walk around, (at a fee of course).

There is a big playground filled with different activities for children, a restaurant (that serves some awesome fish) and an area one can picnic at on the shores of Lake Victoria.

This time round though, we just wanted to see the animals. We began at the tiger enclosure. Such majestic creatures.

The lions, cheetah and leopard were all asleep though, I guess it was big cats nap time.

Can you spot the leopard?

They also have a caracal and a serval which I find so beautiful with its black spots, long neck and long legs which make it a great jumper.

The zoo has two rhinos too that are so good at minding their own business, just grazing peacefully.

The kids were fascinated by the tigers, the rhinos which we were lucky to get really close to, the chimpanzees as well as the otters.

It was also our first time to see the otters up close as most times they hide out in the water.

Other fascinating sections were the reptile section, with the snakes and crocodiles.

If you are an avid birdwatcher, you will be able to hear and spot a few birds in the trees as you walk around the zoo. We spotted other animals too that are not part of the captive ones such as vervet moneys frolicking in the trees and a monitor lizard.

How many monkeys can you spot?

There is a botanicals section too, that is very informative on indigenous plants and their healing properties. Sadly this time round the guide was not available and the garden looked a bit rundown but I was able to get a few photos and information. It is one of my favorite parts of the gardens as we get to learn how many plants and trees around us, including some we view as weeds, were actually used in olden times to heal and manage various diseases and disorders. Quite intriguing.

The zoo has many other animals, warthogs, giraffes, baboons, red tailed monkeys, crowned cranes, ostriches, buffalos, waterbucks, a zebra, elephant and many more.

Rothschild giraffes
Ostriches.

PS: I know there are people who do not like going to zoos as they do not want to see the animals in captivity. Well, for me, I see it is a learning opportunity. We get to see many animals and learn about them without having to travel to do so. Travelling to see animals in the wild is not within reach for many. Some of the animals are also rescued from the wild as they are at risk of being poached or endangered, so it is part of animal conservation efforts undertaken by those entrusted to care for them.

Many of the trees around the zoo had signs indicating their names, both local and scientific and if they are indigenous to the region or not.

Some also have installations around them to promote conservation and how to reuse plastics that are a menace to the environment.

These used water bottles are being used as planters for tree seedlings.
These tree base has been reinforced with used soda bottles in the concrete and plastic bottle caps on top.

We all enjoyed ourselves despite being a hot day and the place being quite busy than all the other times we have been there.

When you decide to visit the zoo, wear comfortable shoes and clothing, sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses will not hurt too as there is quite a bit of walking around to do to see the animals.

Definitely worth a visit.