Mount Everest

I was watching an episode of Ben and Holly this morning, as you do as a mother of a toddler, when Ben, Holly, Nanny Plum, Mr. Elf and a few others got stuck at the top of a mountain. A few minutes later Mr. Elf proclaimed they were at the top of Mt. Everest, the highest mountain in the world. This made me a smile a little.

Since I was about 12 years old I’ve had an unexplainable obsession with Mt. Everest. I’ve read several books, done quite a bit of research and in 2007 my friend B and I went trekking to see her (Mt. Everest that is)!! I wish we’d done Base Camp but given that we were 2 girls on our own, we decided to go as far as Tengaboche (where you can find the world’s highest Monastery). To say it took my breath away is an understatement. The Himalayas have such a magnificent spiritual energy about them.

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As we were both already in India, we flew to Kathmandu via Delhi. On the 25th of February 2007, we headed to the local airport to fly to Lukla where we’d begin our 6 day trek. We arrived at the airport just before 7am and this is an excerpt from my diary at 12:40pm.

“We’re still at Kathmandu airport, I’m cold and hungry – my butt is numb and cold – I’m hungry, frustrated and tired. We’ve been here for 6 hours now. All other flights to Lukla have been cancelled. Sita Airways hasn’t yet but I wish they’d tel us either way so we can do something with our day. They took us out to the aeroplane at 10:30 but brought us back to the terminal 20 minutes later. There are loud announcements every 5 minutes of delays and cancellations so we can’t even fall asleep. Sushil (our guide) recommends trekking in Pokhara if we can’t get to Lukla. I don’t want to go to f***ing Pokhara, I came here to see Everest!”

It’s quite common for flights to be cancelled or delayed due to the fog and I guess with Lukla being the world’s most dangerous airport (in terms of landing) and flying on such small aircrafts, they have to be cautious.

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We finally left Kathmandu for the mountains on the 26th of February. We trekked from Lukla to Phakding along the Doodh Koshi (meaning milk river due to it’s white colour), up on to Namche Bazaar where we stayed to acclimatise for 2 nights.

“Coming here is like a dream come true, it’s not something I ever imagined I’d do – just one of those things I always thought I’d talk about. I feel great, I’m tired but I feel alive – like I’ve pushed myself further than I’ve been before and it feels surprisingly wonderful.” 

On the 1st of March we ascended to Tengaboche which lies on a ridge, 3868 metres above sea level.

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Day 1 – Lukla – Phakding 6km

Day 2 Phakding – Namche Bazaar 12km

Day 3 (Acclimatising) Namche Bazaar – Sangaboche – Khumjung – Namche Bazaar 7km

Day 4 Namche Bazaar – Tengaboche 11km

Day 5 Tengaboche – Namche Bazaar 11km

Day 6 Namche Bazaar – Lukla 18km

Highest Altitude – 3868 metres

Total Kilometres – approx. 65km.

We got back to Kathmandu on the 4th of March 2007. Do I regret not going to Base Camp? Yes! Will I attempt it again? I’d like to think so but with a 3 year old, it’s certainly not happening in the near future. So until then I’m living vicariously through Triphackr. I swear I’m not jealous at all!

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If you fancy indulging in your wild side, trekking the Himalayas is definitely something I’d recommend. You won’t regret it!

London in the summer

London in the summer is one of the best places in the world! Scrap that, London any time is one of the best places in the world BUT the warmer weather and the lighter days sure make it a lot better to look at!

With the days getting warmer and this week being half term, I’ve put together a list of some of the great child friendly outdoor places this city has to offer.

1. The Diana Memorial Playground – set in the picturesque Hyde Park, this playground is a must visit on a warm day. It’s got a huge ship cast adrift on a massive sandpit as well as a sensory trail, tee pees and a play area. S is recently into pirates and so this is one place we’ll definitely be visiting this half term. It allows children to explore and follow their imaginations. All aboard?!

2. Bekonscot Model Village – Although we’ve never been here, it’s on my list of places to visit this summer. Only a short train ride from London, Bekonscot Model Village will appeal to all train (and history) lovers. As the name suggests, it’s a model village based on 1930’s England. Travel back in a time warp to see how the people of the time lived and got around.

3. London Zoo – I’m putting this on there because it’s THE London Zoo but I have to say, having been to Taronga Zoo in Sydney and a couple of other’s around the world, London Zoo is overpriced and doesn’t live up to the name. However, it’s lovely in the summer because you don’t just go for the animals, you go for the petting zoo, the water splash area and the scenery. If getting to Whipsnade is easy for you then I’d buy a years pass because not only do you get to visit London Zoo but a pass includes Whipsnade as well (which is meant to be much better). And what’s even better than that apparently is Chester Zoo (it’s on my list!).

4. Southbank –  I absolutely love it down by the river, it’s my favourite part of London. I don’t go there as often as I like but every time I do, I come back loving this city a little bit more. There’s lots to see and do along the river bank but if the weather changes and you need to dart in doors, there’s the London Aquarium, Tate Modern (which offers a range of free activities for families and children) and the Southbank Centre.

5. Regents Park – This is one of our summer favourites. It has a huge playground, massive sandpit and if you’re feeling adventurous you can take your little ones boating on the lake. If you walk along the edge of the park on the outer circle, you may catch glimpses of the giraffes at London Zoo if they’re out.

6. Belmont Farm – We’re heading up to Belmont Farm on Friday so I’ll be able to let you know what I think then but this has come highly recommended. With tractor rides, cow milking, lamb feeding and petting sessions, it’s bound to be an exciting day out.

From Kew Gardens in Richmond to Coram’s Fields near Holborn, London offers so much for kids to see and do but this is a good start.

Mums' Days

Turkish Delight

I was in Turkey on a work trip this week and after just 2 days in Istanbul, I was already planning my next trip. It’s such a fabulous city with so much to see and do. I absolutely love exploring new cities and absorbing the culture. S obviously didn’t go with me and although I missed him, I have to be honest and say I enjoyed 4 days of walking around the cobbled stone streets, learning all about the city’s history and eating an entire ice cream on my own without having to share it!! It’s the little things! ;-)

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So without further ado, here’s my quick guide Istanbul:

1. What to eat – Turkish food is so full of flavour and the meat is soft and succulent. My two favourite dishes were Lahmacun (flat and crispy bread topped with minced meat, salad and lemon) and Lamb Beyti Kebab (Minced grilled lamb wrapped in Lavash (flatbread) and topped with tomato sauce and yoghurt sauce. Dondurma, the local ice cream, is not just delicious (chewy and thick) but the way it’s presented will you highly amused (I won’t spoil it for you in case you decide to go to Turkey but don’t miss out on it).Turkish delight – I particularly like rose and pistachio but the sheer variety in the local shops will leave you severely indecisive!

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2. What to drink – Although imported wines are served throughout Turkey, the local wine is pretty good too. My favourite drink was Ayran (pronounced I-ran). It’s a lightly salted thin yoghurt drink (a bit like the Indian Chaas/Lassi) and goes really well with Turkish food. Local Turkish coffee is definitely something to try but not for the faint hearted, it’s strong stuff!

3. What to see – Oh, how much there is to see in Turkey. Although visiting Turkey was essentially a work trip, I managed to fit in a few sights one afternoon. The blue mosque, Hagia Sophia, the Grand Bazaar and a ferry ride across the Bosphorus. The grand Bazaar is one of the world’s largest indoor markets and boy is it impressive! It sells everything from gold and diamonds to fake handbags and tea sets. The vendors will do anything to woo you into their stores, including calling you Jennifer Lopez (yes, they believe flattery will get them everywhere). Just remember, in the Grand Bazaar you have to have your haggling hat on or prepare to be seriously ripped off!!

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The Blue Mosque is spectacular to look at but my favourite is Hagia Sophia. Built in the 500’s, it is a stunning piece of architecture. As we climbed up approx. 4 floors to the viewing gallery at the top, over what was essentially a cobbled stone walk way, I marvelled at how it was built at a time when cranes and diggers were not around. But the most amazing thing for me was the combination of Christianity and Islam co-existing in the décor. The Hagia Sophia was initially a Church before a Muslim King ordered for it to be converted into a Mosque. Although they took off the crosses and tried to remove traces of the Church, they left gold mosaics of Jesus and his family. Even though big black round discs were erected all over the mosque (which sort of ruin it), the remnants of it’s early days are clearly seen. In a world where religion is constantly dividing us, it was nice to see the two brought together in this beautiful museum.

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The ferry ride across the Bosphorus is well worth it, giving you landscape views of both the cultural European side and the up and coming Asian side (Turkey lies across two continents, I didn’t know that until recently!).

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4. How to get around – Taxi’s are easily available and unlike in London, they are pretty reasonable. However, the driver’s don’t usually speak English and unless you know where you’re going or you’re headed to a pretty big landmark, I found the Metro and the Tram much easier to navigate.

The only thing I didn’t like struggled with in Istanbul was the smoke and the lack of personal space etiquette. Almost everyone is smoking and maybe I’m so used to being around S in London and in places where smoking isn’t allowed that I really felt it while I was there.

As if my impression of Istanbul wasn’t good enough, as I was leaving, at the airport, I stopped at a little shop to buy a book and before I turned around to leave, the shopkeeper stopped me and pinned a little evil eye and pink dolphin to my top, for luck! I left Turkey with a little bounce in my step, already looking forward to my next trip :)

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Mums' Days
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Girlfriends – which type are you?

Back in my youth, I was quite the tom boy and naturally most of my friends were boys. I loved running around, playing football and generally preferred male company. A lot less drama back then! However, all changed when I got married and moved to Hong Kong. Thrown into the deep end in a city that wasn’t home, I came to rely on some really close girl friends who I now think of as my family.

Last week I was chatting to one of them about love and life. This particular friend is my voice of reason and she has no issues with telling me how it is, disagreeing with my view or presenting me with advice I’ve given her in the past. Talking to her felt like taking a weight off.

It’s not international woman’s day or friendship day but I just felt the need to thank the women in my life. These are the 4 type of women I’m blessed to have in my life:

1. The one that isn’t afraid to tell you how it is

As a Virgo, I can get quite carried away with my imagination. I have big dreams and sometimes unrealistic expectations but this friend has no issues with bringing me back down to earth or giving me a different perspective.

2. The one that will indulge you

We all need one of these because sometimes we don’t want to chat with the devil’s advocate. Sometimes we just need to have a good ol’ moan and have someone listen. Chatting about life changing decisions is however a no-go if that person is not going to set me on the straight and narrow.

3. The one with a child/children

As moms, we all need one of these and I’m lucky to have a good few. Whether it’s chatting about schools, mandarin class, unisex schools vs. co-ed. or simply moaning about toddlerhood over a bottle glass of wine, this friendship is a sanity saver!

4. The spiritual one

Ahhhh….calm! That’s how you feel after chatting to this friend. She puts life into perspective and you leave her feeling like you’ve just had an amazing conversation. This friend is usually also quite positive and so you come away feeling energetically high.

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What type of girl friend are you?

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Expert dental advice

While I was in India a few weeks ago, I was chatting to my cousin’s wife who is a paediatric dentist when the thought dawned on me that many of the questions I was asking were questions that most mom’s have, especially new moms. So at my request she kindly agreed to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about children’s dental health.

1. When should I start brushing my babies’ teeth?

You should start brushing your babies’ teeth as soon as the first tooth erupts in the mouth. This is because the main organism causing decay (str. mutans) are seen as soon as the first tooth erupts. You should use a soft finger brush initially and soon shift to a soft baby tooth brush. However, oral hygiene should be practiced much before that i.e. cleaning the baby’s gumpads after every feed (bf/ff)

2. Can decay/cavities be caused by bottle-feeding or by breast feeding?

Both. One of the main causes of cavities in children before the age of 5 yrs (early childhood cavities) is bottle-feeding. The formula milk given to babies has sugars, which is given at naptime and before bed, and in the absence of oral hygiene measures, the sugars remain in the mouth (swallowing is also absent as the child is sleeping). This gives a good 6-8 hours for the bacteria to produce acid in the presence of these sugars. Breast milk also causes cavities. It is true that breast milk has antibodies that fight streptococcus mutans (cavity causing bacteria), however, with lack of oral hygiene breast milk also causes decay.

3. Can decay spread from mother or caregiver to the child?

Yes, decay can spread from mother/caregiver to the child. This happens while kissing, blowing food, sharing spoons, etc. Studies have shown that mothers with active decay have children with increased amounts of streptococcus mutans.

4. When should I take my child to the dentist or when should the child have their 1st dental visit?

The first dental visit as most organizations recommend should be at the 1st birthday or within 6 months after the first tooth erupts. In this visit, the dentist will check the baby’s teeth; explain the oral hygiene procedures, dietary information, etc.

5. How can I check my child for decay at home?

You can check for white/black spots on surface of the teeth in the front teeth. Apparent black spots with loss of tooth structure indicate tooth decay. However, the decay between two teeth will be difficult to see by the naked eye. Also, white spots seen indicate early decay. At this stage decay can be reversed. Also, stains maybe misleading. Hence if you are unsure, a dentist visit should be made.

6. My child has a thumb/ pacifier sucking habit. Should I be worried?

Thumb sucking and pacifier sucking habits are considered normal up to the age of 3 years. Pacifier habits are however easy to intercept, as long as that pacifier habit is not replaced by thumb sucking. Thumb sucking after the age of 3-4 yrs., can cause malocclusions in children (open bite, deep palate, constricted arches, etc) At this stage, a paediatric dentist needs to intervene. An appliance is usually given to the child (a reminder appliance) which stops the habit.

7. My child won’t stop snacking on junk food or candies. How is this harmful?

Starchy foods like crisps can be harder on a child’s teeth than candy. Starchy foods get stuck in between teeth and in hard to reach crevices giving bacteria plenty of sugar to feed off! It is difficult to motivate children to stop/keep away from crisps and candies. But, with healthier choices it does become easy. Snacking foods given to kids should be nuts, cheese, fruits, salads, whole wheat breads, etc. Perhaps keep a “treat box” for your child that they’re allowed to indulge in once a week. In this way, the sugar attacks are greatly reduced. A child is also less tempted when sugar/junk food isn’t readily available at home.

8. Which foods prevent cavities/tooth decay?

Just like there are foods that can cause decay there are foods that can prevent tooth decay. Fibrous foods have a cleansing action on the surface of the teeth. (Vegetables, fruits, and salads). Nuts like almonds, peanuts, cashew nuts, pine nuts, etc. indirectly prevent tooth decay. Cheese has proven to be a very good source in cavity prevention as well.

You can find more information here.

Thanks Netika!! :)

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Why are we hothousing our children?

I’ve noticed that every time I meet up with other mom’s, the conversation inevitably strays towards schools and getting into schools. S is at the age now where I have started considering schools for him and so I’m very open to discussing the different schools in our area and what might be the best fit for him.

However, what I do take issue with is the hothousing that appears to be part and parcel of getting your child into a “good” school. I say “good” because really everyone’s definition of the word is different. But to generalise, parents usually refer to good schools as those that prep your child for the top prep schools, followed by London’s top secondary schools and then on to the best universities this country offers.

Children as young as 3+ are being “assessed” before they are accepted into said good schools. At that age I don’t even think the children care so much where they go but I’ve seen it come as more of a blow to the parent’s whose little cherub didn’t get into their choice of school. In case you haven’t gathered, I’m anti-assessment at such a young age. Although it’s not lost on me the fact that I’m partly anti-assessment, not just because I don’t want my child to be put through that, but I also don’t want to be made to feel like my child is not good enough.

S can sit down and do a 35 piece puzzle on his own but put him in a room full of strangers at this age and I doubt he’ll want to show off his skills. My child shouldn’t be judged for essentially just being a toddler.

I recently went on a school tour and at the end the headmaster pointed out that this school (which takes children at 5+) don’t assess the children anymore but rather they have a “get to know you” session. As my friend B pointed out…”So when your child doesn’t get in, it won’t be because they weren’t up to assessment level, it’ll be because the headmaster didn’t like them in the ‘get to know you’ session?!” I’d like to see how they answer to that one.

The fact is, although many schools have come under scrutiny for assessing such young children and have now changed their terminology, parents are still having their little toddlers prepped for these meetings with the schools. School assessment tutors are very common and growing.

Don’t get me wrong, of course I want my child to do well and will put him in the best school I can in order for him achieve that. However, I believe there needs to be more of an emphasis on the child and not just their ability to read, count or write their name by the time they are 4.

In today’s day and age, what is more important than that grade A is a child’s good social skills, self-esteem and emotional intelligence. Hothousing is a new term which refers to the undue pressure that parents put on their children. Although many schools claim that children should learn through play, their curriculum shows otherwise.

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I want S to thrive academically as well as in a sport he chooses but it’s about finding the line between him wanting to do it and me wanting him to do it. As parents we should always be encouraging our children to be the best that they can but knowing when not to overstep the mark. When parents all around me are enrolling their children in football, rugby, piano and drama, it’s difficult not to question whether I am doing right by S by not putting him in a different class every afternoon but I constantly remind myself that all children are different, as are all parents, and as long as he’s thriving doing what he enjoys, then I’m happy (and more importantly, so is he).

I read a really interesting article about how Finland is changing their teaching methods. You can read it here.

I was really impressed and I think we’d do well in the UK to start adopting this method of learning. Because I can tell you I learnt trigonometry but I don’t remember the last time I ever had to use it. I wish I knew more about the E.U. though!

What’s your views on schooling?

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I’m going to Brit Mums Live 2015!!

A little over a month away is the very exciting Brit Mums Live! Having been shortlisted for a BiB (Brilliance in Blogging) in the Fresh Voice category last year, I was very excited to go but realised it clashed with my cousin’s wedding and I wasn’t even going to be in the country. However, time has flown and here we are again and this time I’m here!! Woo hoo!!

As a blogger, I read a lot of other blogs and some times I feel like a right stalker because I know so much about these people’s lives and yet have never met any of them. I went to Blogfest last November and ended up recognising Kate from Wit Wit Woo as well as making new friends. One of which is Amie who blogs over at Bump, Baby, Me and we also chat about all things parenting over at The Parent Cast.

I’m pretty shy when it comes to these things and so if you see me standing over in the corner staring into my coffee hoping it will talk back to me or pretending to browse the books (I bought loads at Blogfest!!) then please come on over and say hi!

Without further ado, this is the “I’m Going to BritMums Live 2015 Meme”:

  • Name – Natasha M
  • Blog – http://www.mamaduckquacks.com
  • Twitter ID – @mamaduckquacks
  • Height – I’ll say average because I’m pretty sure no one will have a tape measure!
  • Hair – I’ve recently gone quite blonde (picture below)
  • Eyes – brown
  • Is this your first blogging conference? – my second but I’m still very nervous!
  • Are you attending both days? – YES!
  • What are you most looking forward to at BritMums Live 2015? – Seeing and hopefully getting to meet so many fellow mummy bloggers I follow.
  • What are you wearing? – I’m not THAT organised?!
  • What do you hope to gain from BritMums Live 2015? – Hoping to connect with other mummy bloggers, meet some brands and learn more about the wonderful world of blogging.
  • Do you have any tips to pass on to others who may not have been before? – Don’t be afraid to just walk up to another blogger and say “I know you…”! I think they’d be pretty chuffed ;-)

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See you there :)

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