Waking up the Kids: Buy Me That!

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When I was a kid we didn’t have all day long TV programs for kids. We waited patiently for Saturday so we could watch cartoons. Kids can watch all day, everyday now. They get way too much television. With that they get way too many commercials. Commercials that convince them that their lives will be incomplete without a certain sugar laden breakfast cereal or incredibly awesome action figure with high tech capabilities that require an endless supply of batteries or ugly doll with big head, disproportionately small body and questionable attire.

When we were kids we were simply told “no”. No meant no and that was that. Or there were the few much envied kids in the class whose parents never said no and their lives were complete bliss. We could never reach that unattainable nirvana that they had. Parents that never said no.  But when you have your own kids you realize that it was the parents who had it harder than us. I do feel they could have made it easier for themselves though if they had sat us down and taught us how big companies count on the gullibility of the (dumb) consumer. If our parents had challenged us to be smarter than the advertising professionals I think we would have been more open to accepting “no I am not buying that for you”.  At least that is what I think now that I have to deal with my own kids.

I am a big fan of Neflix.  No commercials and there are shows that I have okayed for my kids to watch that I don’t have to worry about being age inappropriate. Like the incredibly dumbed down or incredibly crass, even bordering on lewd shows I see on regular channels. Of course sometimes they do watch YTV, so they do have exposure to the wonderful world of advertising and all the material wonders that can cause parents to go bankrupt.

I too just give the “no means no”, occasionally treats are allowed on birthdays and special occasions. But I didn’t want my kids to feel the way I did when my parents said no and I saw dozens of other kids with parents that said yes.  I felt like I was a poor immigrant, because something being too expensive and a waste of money was the (if any) excuse given. Yes I want my kids to be tough to face the world tomorrow but if there is an explanation I want to give it to them so they can understand the world around them.

I started telling them how big companies hire smart people to fool kids into buying things they don’t need. They fool kids into pestering parents to a point of madness and the parents finally give in. So these companies win the game all the time because they outsmart the kids. The kids aren’t smart enough to realize they are being duped. This reasoning was incredibly more effective than what we got as kids. My kids understood why they did not need everything they saw on commercials or everything their friends had.

Today I took this to an even higher level. I searched for videos on YouTube that explained advertising tricks. I was once watching a documentary on the music industry and my girls sat down with me. I thought they would run away bored after a few minutes, they didn’t. They absorbed it with interest and now discuss what songs are not worth listening to and which are, they recognize the absurdity that some singers indulge in and understand how this is demeaning and something that should not be respected or idolized.

Anyways I was not expecting to find videos that were actually made for kids about the trap of commercials. But I found a series of them. They were really good, the girls were so engaged they couldn’t stop discussing and asking questions. It kind of did all the work for me, they started talking about commercials they saw and how they no longer wanted that product now that they realized how they were being fooled into wanting to buy things they didn’t need.

Society is becoming one big “I want this-I need this-I have to have this-look at this latest thing that I bought and have thus achieved a level of superiority” self-absorbed mess. It is our duty to make sure we are able to reverse this by teaching our kids to read between the lines, question things and make their own informed decisions rather than have the mainstream media do it for them.  We need to make sure our kids are wide awake on all levels. The thing is it is easier to keep them awake by teaching them at a young age than it is to wake them up when they are older.

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Place Masterpiece Here

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Most writers write because they love writing. It is not a big money maker for the majority of us, most of the time our payback is simply having people read and share the article or post. A comment that shows the reader actually read the piece is always greatly appreciated.

Not many people want your writing, you pretty much have to get down on your hands and knees begging for your piece to get published on websites and magazines. But writers keep writing anyway. Even if the only place their writing gets published is on their own little blog in their own little world of fellow unknown writers that appreciate the efforts. We try to keep each other motivated.

Writing just makes writers happy. We can’t stop. And sometimes some of us get lucky, then we all celebrate, like it was our own little victory. We get so happy we share the achievement wherever we can. I have had a bit of luck, a few posts I had written got featured. I was also approached by a couple of people to write some pieces for them. If you get asked to write something out of the blue when you least expect it, it is like Eid/Christmas/Hanukkah/ Diwali/fill in appropriate festival here.

Seeing your work somewhere is an amazing feeling. I wanted to help other newbies have that feeling, it is so motivating.  I didn’t have a whole lot of resources, the only thing I could think of was to put up a website and offer writers, artists and bloggers a place to share their work.  When the website was finally up I sent the link to my friends and asked them to share it with their friends and family with the message that anyone interested could send me their work to be put up. I started getting submissions and excited ‘thank yous’. That is a great feeling, being able to help someone. I also got some people ask me how much I was going to pay them for their submissions. They hadn’t even sent in a sample of their writing or artwork. It was kind of funny, but I am assuming they haven’t actually tried creating anything and getting it ‘out there’ yet. They are in for a rude awakening! I am keeping my fingers crossed though that eventually the site will pay for itself and I will be able to pay contributors. Right now it is using up all my pocket money!

If you are interested in sharing your work I would love to help get it ‘out there’.  I am going through submissions and hope to have them all up in July. I have put up a ‘floor model’ so you can see the website, the email to send in a submission is under the ‘Contribute’ heading.  This is the first time I am doing something like this, so your suggestions will be appreciated!

Attention all writers, bloggers, foodies, parents, artists, photographers, travellers, event planners and readers: come visit Café Mosaic.ca!

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We Need Less Barbie, Less Fake Cover Girls and More Warriors.

Dear Darling Daughters,

I overheard you talking to each other while you played with your dolls. I was relieved for the few minutes of conflict free cooperation amongst you. But what you, my youngest munchkin, said was far worse for me than one of your epic battles.

“I wish I had blond hair and blue eyes and was pretty like Barbie.”

I read about stuff like this all the time. It didn’t really matter of course until you said it because I thought I was doing such a good job by giving you confidence that looks don’t matter and everyone is beautiful in their own way etc etc.  But of course you do not live in a bubble and I cannot shield you from our increasingly shallow world. I suppose it was my fault for buying the damn dolls in the first place, but you know the thing is every mom wants her little girl to have nice toys. I just misjudged what nice is. Thanks a lot Mattel.

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(No. Just no! Pic from here.)

I tried to fix this problem by going out and finding some brown skinned, black haired dolls. Voila, thank you Disney for Mulan, Pocahontas and Jasmine. Although they should have done their homework because no, that is not what Arab princesses wore.  Belly dancers yes, but Jasmine was not a belly dancer. Also Pocahontas was only about ten or eleven and apparently she never saved John Smith.  Yes unfortunately women are objectified. A lot. I will explain what that means later, right now let’s just stick to My Little Pony. Okay yeah it has something to do with how they look in certain clothes. Yes, a certain lack of clothes. Thanks a lot Disney! Yes the bumpy parts that are barely covered by their skimpy clothes. No, it is not something good to walk around like that. Your body is yours, it should not be on display for everybody to ogle at!

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(What exactly is the message here?)

Anyways looking pretty means different things to different people. There is not just one way to look pretty, in some countries the idea of pretty is very different and many of us wouldn’t see it as pretty. Like the giraffe women of Burma.

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Yeah long neck.

And some countries in Africa have tribes that take great pride in lip plates….

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Ouch, but it is beautiful to them.

More importantly I also want you to know that looks are not everything. Even if, eventually, the entire world goes crazy and thinks that they are. The thing that matters most is what is inside, and what you do with it. You can’t change the way you look, but you can change the way the world looks at you.

Mulan , Jasmine and Pocahontas didn’t actually look like that by the way. No one looks like that. Jasmine wasn’t even a real person. Yes models are real people, but no they don’t really look like that. Their pictures are photo shopped to make you think they look like that. Why? So women and girls spend their money on makeup and silly products because they think they will look like that. Yes there are people who make money out of fooling people. It is not a good thing, but it is a thing.

Never mind. So according to the legend, Mulan was an awesome girl who fought in the war in place of her old father who couldn’t fight. Do you think she worried about her hair? No.

What do I mean by legend? Well legend means that it might or might not be true, but there must have been something to  the story. Okay here’s a story that I can assure you is true.

There was once an Arab female warrior that fought in many wars hundreds of years ago, during the time of the Holy Prophet. Her brother, who was a knight, had always been very proud of her and taught her to handle her sword so well she became a skilled fighter. She was also a great poet. She was smart, brave and she eventually led an army into battle!

When her brother was taken prisoner during a war, she didn’t sit back and let someone else go save him. She led an attack, won the fight and saved all the prisoners including her brother. She fought fearlessly in lots of battles and stood by what she believed in, she inspired men and women because of her bravery. One time she was captured by the enemy, you know what she did? She motivated the other prisoners and together they fought their way out with tent poles and pegs as weapons! She didn’t let anything get her down and she probably didn’t own any glittery lip gloss or whatever it was they used back then.

I can tell that you like this little bit of history.

“She was awesome! Was she brown?” You ask me.

“Yes.” I answer.

“Did she have long black hair?” you want to know.

“Yup.”

“Was her name Jasmine?”

“No. Her name was Khaula. Khaula Bint Al-Azwer.” I answer with great satisfaction as wide grins spread across your precious coffee colored faces.

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(Pic from here.)

(Disclaimer: I have nothing against girls playing with dolls, but we need to teach our girls they have the ability to be so much more than just pink frilly show pieces. There are more important things than looking good and taking endless selfies. Warrior is meant in the metaphorical sense, I am not encouraging girls to pick up arms and start a war. However if they are keen to learn fencing or archery I say go for it!)

Damn it Facebook

I am trying to avoid Facebook, because although it is a great way to keep up with friends and family that are living all over the world, it is the biggest time sucker ever. You open it, promising yourself just a quick “hi” to everyone that will not take more than five minutes. Ha! Hahahahaha! Biggest joke ever.

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Internet has the word ‘net’ for a reason, and it has nothing to do with being connected. That is just to fool you. It is a net, a trap. I am caught by it most of the time. I go to find some information about something I need for my book and two hours later I am still unable to stop myself from perusing just one more picture of baby llamas.

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Now go visit this site and be overwhelmed by the insanely cute baby llamas. (muahaha-you are welcome)

I had written a story for a picture book, I had sent it out a couple of places. I was politely rejected from all places (oh the agony) then I just left the thing to marinate in my laptop. A couple of months ago I had the (not so) brilliant idea that I should make pictures for it because what the hell right? I like to doodle, and I was  bored of painting. Now I want to send it out again, and have been stalking writer’s resources and some great blogs belonging to some awesome writers. The ratio for writing a book to reading about how to do it is 1:100 000. Maybe even more. C’est la ironic and insane vie of le writer.

If you are writing something ( ie you are nuts) or plan on writing something (soon will be nuts) then these are some great places to visit for learning and having fun while you do it because writing is crazy and you don’t want to be alone in crazy town or on they way there.

Heylookawriterfellow I won his book, Sarah Gives Thanks, and my kids absolutely loved it. He is so hilarious, make sure you are not drinking coffee while reading his blog! This is the best place to go when you are suffering from extreme depression because you decided you should write a book.

Catherine M Johnson Feed your imagination here! Awesome poems and great art! Her book, Zompoemz, has plenty of fans. Zombie poetry for kids, yeah her imagination is awesome!

Darlene Foster has written an entire series about a young Canadian girl, Amanda, and her incredible adventures around the world.

Khanversations Rukhsana Khan is a great story teller. I loved hearing her read Big Red Lollipop and so did my kids.

Visit these blogs for advice and tips and good luck with your writing! And stay away from Facebook. Especially posts overloaded with cute animals.

Give me your bet writing tips, I need them!

Polygamy, I get it. But no thank you!

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I wrote a post about polygamy for Blog Her, and they featured it. I had originally titled it “I’m Muslim, but if my husband thinks of a second wife, I’ll reach for my shotgun!” I suspect the title had a little to do with it getting so many reads ( I was pleasantly surprised to get that much attention).  You can read it here.

We are still waiting for spring weather to come, it gives us a glimpse then disappears again!

I also started a magazine style blog because I wanted people to share their cultures from around the world. I put up a few random posts to get it started but I invite anyone of you who are interested in contributing to please send me a post. You can see what it is all about here : Cafe Mosaic.ca I will share links to your blogs and websites so you get some traffic.

Free Range Versus Caged….Kids

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Which ones look happier and healthier?

Life would be so much easier for all of us if everyone just took a balanced approach to things. But no everything has to be extreme, exaggerated and sensationalized. Like the shock of the year; parents who let their kids walk home from school alone.  The police picked these children up and then punished the parents by keeping their kids for hours with the Child Protective Services (CPS).  The CPS decided the parents are guilty of unsubstantiated neglect.  And of course we should not suspect them of having some ulterior motive even with all the scary stories of legal and medical kidnapping going around. Human trafficking in a prettier package is acceptable apparently.  Don’t know why there isn’t more noise about this instead of kids walking home from the park.

So if you let your ten year old go to the park alone, you can get in trouble. But the law gives your seventeen-year-old, and in some places sixteen-year-old, the right to leave home if they feel like it? Confused teens (with raging hormones) that make bad decisions, should be allowed to leave their parent’s protection for something stupid, like say not wanting to do chores?  Yeah that makes a lot of sense because shelters would be far better than parents.

Free range parenting, with just enough helicoptering to make sure the kids are safe from any extreme danger, would be ideal.  But Helicopter parents would probably faint at the idea of letting the kids walk home themselves or lighting sparklers in the backyard. If we look at today’s kids we find all sorts of problems that might be solved from going to the park on their own more often.  How about obesity? Kids who aren’t in the park are sitting at home in front of the television or tablet or what not gadget and munching and watching and munching and playing and munching and chatting. Turn off the damn wi-fi and send those kids off to the park.

Paranoid, depressed, moody kids.  These kids don’t ride bikes, or skateboards or go dig up earthworms. They do watch the stupidest shows ever created, that have nothing to do with reality (although they claim otherwise)and glamorize being bitchy and mean. Or they have perfectly chalked out schedules in which they have no free time to just be kids. They are too busy with ballet, then piano, then lessons for something unpronounceable.  No wonder kids are so depressed these days.  Give them a couple of bucks, tell them to go buy some seeds and grow a vegetable garden or buy some fishing line and a hook then go down to the river to catch dinner. Or just hand them an (uncut-no they won’t choke on it!) apple to eat on their way to the park.

Besides all this Helicopter parents have the horrible habit of doing everything for their kids. As if everything needs to be done perfectly all the time. Just let the kids do it themselves and actually use their brains, it’s good exercise for them! They can do their homework themselves. Then go to the park. They can clean their rooms themselves. Then go to the park. They can make their own snacks. Then go to the park!

When we were kids we would be out all day climbing trees, riding bikes and yes just walking around town. We were just as likely to be kidnapped or killed in accidents as our kids. In fact if you look at stats (here and here) our kids are actually safer than we were.  Our parents taught us to be careful then let us out of their sight. They had a couple of hours of peace and we had hours of fun. The result?  Happy parents and happy (active) kids. So how about we let our kids be kids and enjoy their childhood while they still have one? (Although we have made such a mess of it that we may have to force them to just go be kids!)

(pics from News Track Live and Before It’s News)

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Weekly Photo Challenge : Ephemeral

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Millions of frozen diamonds shimmering. Ephemeral.  

Sometimes Bullies Need to be Bullied

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I am the kid who got bullied at school. All the time, yes, even in high school. I was brown (still am, but proud of it now) and my parents were immigrants. I was taught to suck it up and turn the other cheek. And of course tell the teacher. But there were some teachers who didn’t really care. And I was not the type of child to go home crying to my parents every time something happened, especially as I got older. I would ignore it as best as I could and then I had enough. I started to fight back. I did get into a couple of physical fights because I defended myself, the result of that was reinforcements were called in and I was beaten up by a group of racist little brats. It was not in school so not much could be done about it. The last incident I remember was in high school when this boy in math class continually called me “Paki” with an assortment of nouns added for color. He was also the child of immigrants but he was white. One day as he whispered profanities at me I turned to him and very loudly, whilst our (stern) teacher was explaining something, told him exactly what he was.  The class was deadly silent. All eyes were on us, and then the teacher continued. He did not send me out of the room, did not ask me to explain.  He let me have my say, he let the boy turn red in front of the entire class as he glared at him. He did not interrupt my victory. Sometimes you can’t turn the other cheek.

Things have changed a lot now. My daughters are not the only brown girls in the school. They do not get picked on for being brown.  But of course kids still get bullied. And I too give my daughters the same advice my parents gave me, walk away and inform the teacher. Stay away from those conflicts. And I know the teachers do their best now to keep bullying at bay. But sometimes they can’t be there and some kids just can’t control themselves. I don’t blame the kids, I know some times there is a serious issue that is affecting them. I do know that sometimes bullies have to be put in their place.

There is a boy (or two) in twin 2’s class that can’t control his arms and legs. He has to hit, he has to kick he has to push. The teacher can’t keep him in her sights every second, and I know she tries because Twin 2 has told me he is always being pulled aside and getting the ‘talk’. But it doesn’t stop him and he would be at it again in no time.

Then I told my daughter if he hit her again or hit any of her friends and the teacher was not there (something always happens at recess) she needed to tell him to stop and if he didn’t listen she needed to defend herself. Yes I told my daughter if he hit her she was to hit him right back.

I am not a violent person and neither are my daughters, they are gentle and caring. It was not advice I liked to give but I want my daughters to be able to stand up for themselves and I don’t want them to go through their entire school life before they learn to do it like I did. Bullies need to learn they can’t keep hitting with no consequences.

Anyways some days later twin 2 came home with a note informing me that she had broken said bully’s water bottle.  She told me that he had been hitting her in the hallway after recess and the teacher was nowhere close by so she had asked him to stop (he didn’t) and then she took matters in to her own hands, threw his bag thus breaking the precious water bottle. She was upset because she thought I would be upset at the note. I wasn’t,  but I had mixed feelings.  Would my baby now turn into a thug?

“Why did you break his bottle?”

“He wouldn’t stop, and I didn’t want to hit him. Are you mad?”

“No, of course not. Sometimes people don’t understand words, you had to make him stop somehow.”

I signed her note and gave her a hug. Being a parent is the hardest job in the world, I hope I have not given her the wrong advice.  So far she has not come home with any complaints of being bullied again and it is with great relief that I have not received any notes from school informing me that my daughter has taken it upon herself to bully the bullies.

Featured on Blog Her

A post I had written on Blog Her got featured. You can read it here. It is a rant on being balanced in life, and how we never follow this one simple rule and make our lives difficult.

Other than that if you have not been to Ripley’s Aquarium, then you must go there! If you live in Ontario that is, if you don’t then please visit whatever aquarium is near you, because sharks. And octopus..octopuses…octopusi? Google…yes it is octopuses (also octopi and octopodes. Doesn’t matter just go!

We took the kids on Saturday here are some of the amazing creatures we ogled at.

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I have about a million more pictures because everything was so snap worthy, you must go see the aquarium for yourself. But first go read my post on Blog Her!

Balance: Veil, Hijab, Topless Women

Rania El Alloul

(pic from CBC News)

The biggest problem facing society today besides reality shows, sorry I just couldn’t resist, is extremism. Extremists aren’t just a bunch of people (either dressed in all white or head-to-toe black) ready to kill anyone who doesn’t conform to their beliefs. Extremists are all those people who say I am right, and if you don’t agree you are Islamophobic, homophobic, white people phobic, Christian phobic, Jew phobic, or whatever-the-hell-else phobic.

Please someone tell me where has balance disappeared to?   I know what I am going to say next is going to get all sorts of glorious insults from either extremes. But please just hear me out, because we really need to bring balance back to our chaotic lives.

First Judge Marengo’s decision to ban Rania El-Alloul’s headscarf was unfair. The headscarf wasn’t disrespectful; it is a sign of respect in many cultures and religions.  It didn’t hinder any court room proceeding, wasn’t a threat to anyone, and since Canada gives equal rights to everyone should this have been made such a big deal? What was unsuitable about it? Canadian Nuns, Sikhs, Jews and Muslims cover their heads willingly because of their beliefs, they aren’t being forced to. So what is so offensive? Sunglasses and hats are worn for fashion, not belief. That is something quite different. And if the court is non-secular are they going to remove the Bible too?

So much time is being wasted on this issue when there are so many bigger problems to tackle. This could have been dealt with better using a bit of balance. Judge Marengo has every right not to like the headscarf, but does that really give her the right to make someone else take it off? I would understand if it was a big hindrance in her being able to do her job, but it wasn’t.  (Now before you rush to comment “go back to your own country” I have to tell you I was born here. Please continue to read before you judge me.)

On the other hand, although I respect Zunera Ishaq’s choice to cover her face, I have to say, that is exactly what it is. A choice. Scholars agree that covering a face is not mandatory. The head yes, but even then a woman can’t be forced. Her decision is between herself and God. Yes I am ready for the storm of condemnations to hell by fellow Muslims who will not agree to this fact. I should remind you before you do denounce me however that it is forbidden in Islam to denounce anyone. That decision belongs to God.

Zunera Ishaq should be allowed to cover her head which is mandatory. Banning women from headscarves that they take of their own free will would definitely be stealing their freedom. She shouldn’t have had a problem with uncovering her face for a short while during the Citizenship Ceremony, although I understand her reluctance since she has been covering it for so long. She needs to remember that Islam is a religion of ease not hardship.

‘God desires ease for you, and desires not hardship’ (2:185) 

The Holy Prophet (pbuh) always exhorted Muslims to follow a simple and balanced approach to life. He discouraged all forms of extreme behaviors. One of those extreme behaviors would be making this a bigger issue than it is. Many people have argued that this is a feminist issue, it is not. Just like women who insist on going topless is not. That is a personal choice. Just imagine if all rights were based on what someone really wanted to do and believed that it was correct. Everyone would have an issue. Let’s please bring balance back into our lives and stop making living harder than it has to be.