Surviving a long distance relationship with your kids


Being away from your kids is never easy, especially when it is for a prolonged period of time. Just think of the military mothers and fathers who have to leave their families behind for months or, in some cases, years.

For the past four months, and counting, my husband has been thousands of miles away. The separation, though difficult, is a necessary step towards providing a better future for our children. This is the only reason that he hasn’t packed his bags and hopped on the next flight home.

He misses his family immensely and we miss him.

I recall a story that my parents told me about when I was a baby. My mother became pregnant with me while she was on a scholarship in California. I was born during the last year of her course and, naturally, she did not want to leave me. After a lot of coaxing by my father, he encouraged her to finish what she had started and she left.

My mother’s biggest fear about leaving me, especially at such a young age, was that I would forget her. And honestly, this was my husband’s fear as well with our youngest son in particular.

It is no secret that babies do work with an out of sight out of mind type of memory, so being forgotten after being absent for a considerable period of time is a valid fear.

It may not be said, but it takes a lot of work, primarily by the parent who remains with the children, to ensure that the other parent is not forgotten and remains an integral part of the family’s dynamic.

Although, modern technology does make this a lot easier than, say, when I was a baby, it still requires a certain level of commitment to have the missing parent’s image and persona consistently present in your children’s lives.


At our home, every day consists of video chats, phone calls, WhatsApp messages or voice notes, looking at old pictures, talking about what we miss about daddy and what we would be doing if daddy were here right now. In everything that we do, regardless of how minor it may be, we include daddy in some way, shape or form.

Doing this not only helps our sons cope with daddy not being physically present and allows them to continue to associate him with being a major part of our lives, but also allows my husband to share in every moment of their development.

The child you leave at 12 months old will be a completely different individual six months, ten months, a year down the line. In that time frame, your significant other would have missed months of new words, new abilities, new likes and dislikes and several inches of growth.

For a child, not having one parent around every day can be a miserable experience. As a parent, not being able to see your children as they grow up and experience life without you is a difficult reality to face.  But, if this is the reality in your family, as it currently is in mine, putting in the effort and devoting the extra time to preserving the memory and presence of the missing parent, will make the transition smoother for your kids and yourselves.


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Moving past your child’s learning disorder – Interview with Stasia Cabral-Costelloe


Every parent has high hopes and dreams for their children. It is only natural. We hope that they will be intelligent and do amazing things with their lives. Possibly be the next Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates.

Then, as life often does, you get hit with a curveball. You find out that your child has a learning disorder and you suffer from a pang of disappointment and lost hope. But why?

Being diagnosed with a learning disorder does not mean that your child’s future is destined to be a failure. In fact, all of the persons I mentioned above, and many other well-known entertainers, entrepreneurs, artists and other professionals have been reported to have various learning disorders.

What made them success stories is that they never let their disorders limit them from achieving their dreams. All children possess some talent or special ability that is waiting to be discovered and it is our duty as parents to help our children uncover these abilities, learning disorder or not.

So what can we do as parents to help our children?

I recently interviewed Stasia Cabral-Costelloe, founder and principal of The Clover Center of Learning in Trinidad and Tobago, an alternative schooling option for students with varying exceptionalities. Here she provides us with a better understanding of the learning disorders that some of our children may live with along with some great tips on what we parents could do to help our kids achieve their full potential.

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TMJ: What inspired you to start your own school for children with varying abilities and learning disorders?

SCC: After studying and working in the field of Exceptional Student Education (or Special Education as it is more commonly known) in Miami, Florida I returned to Trinidad in December 2003 hoping to continue working in this field.

I looked for positions in a number of schools, however, all of the schools that I visited were not hiring teachers at the time. When I enquired about their Special Services department, they either did not have one or it was more of remedial services that were offered.

As I was unable to obtain employment in my preferred field I worked in Advertising/Marketing for a few years.  However, during this period, I was approached by many different people who wanted me to work with their children.

So, in 2009, I decided to take the leap and leave where I was employed to pursue working with kids with varying exceptionalities.

Working with children has always been a great passion of mine, especially children with special needs. Once the decision was taken to embark on working individually with students who needed the special assistance, I started getting calls for one on one schooling.

In September 2009, I began working with two boys with different special needs which didn’t allow them to cope within our local school system or any other school with larger classrooms. After a year of working with these two boys, I began getting calls from other parents seeking this type of schooling.

It was from there that the school/learning center evolved.

TMJ: What are some of the main learning disorders that children live with? Most people know or have heard of dyslexia, ADD/ADHD and autism are there any others that we should be aware of?

SCC: In today’s world, we see many different disorders, yet the common ones that we know about are Dyslexia, ADD/ADHD and Autism. Many kids, however, experience a variety of disorders such as Low Processing Disorders, Behavioral/Emotional Disorders, Cerebral Palsy, Anxiety, and Language Delay Disorders to name a few.

TMJ: How exactly does each of the disorders affect our children?

SCC: Children can be affected in many different ways by these disorders. From the way that they interact with others, their understanding of situations, their ability to function generally in day to day life and their ability to express themselves verbally as well as in writing. Depending on the disorder, every child is different as at times they may have more than one disorder which can affect them.


TMJ: What are some warning signs that parents should look out for to determine if their children should be tested for a learning disorder? 

SCC: Depending on the disorder it is difficult to tell if your child may have one. If major milestones aren’t being met from birth or there is a delay in their speech or even the way in which he or she interacts with you as the parent or others on a whole, are some signs to look out for.

Some of these disorders are not noticed until they begin school. However, by the age of 6 years, a child would be able to have an assessment done in which the results would be fairly accurate.

TMJ: Should these tests be done before a certain age to ensure that the child benefits fully from whatever programme is put in place for him or her?

SCC: It is advised that children be evaluated from the age of 6 years. At this age, assessments done on the child would produce fairly accurate results and would allow for the best course of action in terms of the selection of schools or other programmes that would benefit the child.


TMJ: What are some of the techniques that you use at your school to help children with learning disorders reach their full potential?

SCC: We use a variety of strategies to assist our students to reach their full potential. These strategies include a tailored curriculum in which focus is placed on the subject areas in which the student is strongest.

Instead of pushing the students to learn subject matter that they struggle with, we adapt to suit the strengths of each child, thereby building their confidence and allowing them to find their personal niches.

We also use specialized remedial strategies and allow provisions for children who may require specialized services such as an oral testing rather than a written test.

TMJ: When selecting a school or a programme for children with learning disorders what are some important questions parents should ask or certain things to look for to ensure that their children are getting the best care?

SCC: Some questions that parents can ask when choosing a school or programme are “What are the class sizes or teacher to student ratio?” Depending on your child’s needs, either one on one teaching or even one teacher to, at most, 4 to 5 students, may work for your child.

Another aspect to look at is “What curricula is used?” I would recommend finding a curriculum that can help your child want to learn, rather than demand that what is learned is timed so as to complete a test within a specific time frame. We should always remember that these kids already have challenges learning and added pressure does not always bring the best out in them.

Other questions that should be asked are “Are remedial services offered and if so what?” and “What behavioral strategies are used?”

One of the best behavioral strategies that have worked at our learning facility is when parents work together with the teachers to ensure that consequences of the child’s actions, both positive and negative, are enforced at home. This allows the child to see that the school and home work as a team for their betterment.

Some other behavioral strategies that can be used are reward charts (this can be used in conjunction with home as stated above), in which the child earns a number of points throughout the day, both at home and at school, and at the end of the week, they can earn a reward.

Another strategy is the traffic light behavioral system. This allows the student to visually see where his or her behavior is escalating and can lead to a consequence. The child then has to try to bring himself to green before reaching red. The teacher or parent could also simply try to “catch” the behavior before it escalates by giving the student gentle reminders about what is happening or sit with the child until he or she becomes calm. It is vital that a teacher knows both the strengths and weaknesses of their students for this to work.


TMJ: What is your advice to parents about what they could do at home to help their children reach their full potential?

SCC: Some advice that I can give to parents is:

  1. To read every day with your child even if it is for 20 minutes. When reading, speak to them about the story, ask them questions about the story.
  2. Constantly speak to your child about their surroundings. This is how kids build their vocabulary, especially before they begin school. This is also how they learn about life and how to behave in the world.
  3. Don’t be afraid to say NO to your child. Even when you do, try to explain why. This is how they begin to understand reasoning.
  4. Don’t be afraid to appropriately correct your child when they do something wrong. This is how they learn right from wrong. Also, speak to them once their consequence is complete so they can understand the reason for the consequence. Children do not automatically know the reasons for consequences so communication is important.
  5. Don’t be afraid to allow your children to be bored. This gives them time to think and be creative to come up with a game or something to play with.
  6. Limit the use of devices or screen time. Encourage your child to play outside or with their toys. This is how imaginations are built and fostered, which can help with school.


About Stasia and the Clover Center of Learning:

Stasia Cabral-Costelloe is the founder and Principal of the Clover Center of Learning, a learning institution for students with Varying Exceptionalities, promoting the development and growth of children who will benefit from either remedial services or tailored school curricula. Offering both a full school program for children with Varying Exceptionalities and after-school services for students needing to target certain areas, the Center employs trained and qualified specialists, who lead small classes that allow for ample individual attention and the flexibility for students to learn at their own pace.

With over 15 years of experience in education and special needs, Stasia runs the learning center where she not only manages the daily operations but also supervises the classes to observe teachers’ interactions with students, and provides feedback and guidance when needed. She also personally works with students on a one-on-one basis and oversees admissions and enrollment for the school. 

Stasia holds a bachelor’s degree in Exceptional Student Education from Barry University in Miami, Florida.

To learn more about the school, you can visit their Facebook page at The Clover Center of Learning.


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Finding that balance with yoga – Interview with Micheline Ferreira

Well, we are already one month into the new year and I am sure (hoping, rather) that I am not the only one whose resolutions have gone out the window.

At the beginning of the year, I boldly made the proclamation that this will be the year for a fitter, leaner and sexier me.

Then the reality of motherhood set in and finding the time to exercise seemed almost impossible, especially when all you want to do at the start of the day is to squeeze in a few more minutes of sleep. And, all you want to do at the end of the day is to go to sleep. Let’s not even mention the middle of the day.

I love exercising, really I do, but I still struggle to find that motivation to get up and exercise when there is so much else going on. However, I know that it is not impossible.

I recently interviewed an amazing mummy, Micheline Ferreira, who seems to have found her groove when it comes to taking care of her body. Not only is she the mother of two boys but she is a practising yogi and conducts yoga classes for soon to be mummies and experienced mummies in Cornwall, England.

Here, she talks about some of the benefits of practising yoga and shares her tips for balancing motherhood and taking care of your body.

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TMJ: How long have you been practising yoga? What encouraged or motivated you to start practising yoga?

MF: I have been practising yoga on and off since I was about 16, but seriously and more consistently since about 2011 when I had the opportunity to study under a teacher and subsequently do my teacher training. I can’t really say what encouraged me to start, I just always considered myself a yogi, even before I practised it. Maybe in a past life?

TMJ: As a mother, how has yoga changed your life?

MF: Yoga changed my life way before I became a mother. I believe that it prepared me to become a mother. It prepared my body and mind after years of abuse and, now that I am a mother, I believe that it has helped me to find a reserve of patience and acceptance that I didn’t even know that I had.

It doesn’t mean that I don’t struggle and get stressed out, I just find myself more accepting of my situation and more forgiving of myself even when I am not the “perfect ” mother that I strive to be (if that exists).

TMJ: Some people think that yoga is just about spirituality, meditation and repeating mantras. What are some of the physical benefits of yoga?

MF: The aim of yoga is to create harmony within the body and beyond the body and so the physical benefits of a consistent yoga practice are countless.

You will find that once you start to enjoy one benefit, your general health and demeanour will keep improving. It’s like a snowball effect. Remember, every system in the body is connected, so, by improving the health of one we do service to all.

For example, as you learn to stand evenly on your two feet, many ankle, knee and even hip complaints will simply disappear. As your posture improves, your mood improves. The spine aligns and decompresses itself, releasing built up tension and stress. You create space in the body so that the digestive system function improves and the endocrine system begins to balance.

The breath is also a key element of yoga practice allowing us to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which decreases stress and anxiety and allows us to be more present.

TMJ: As mothers, finding time to exercise is always a challenge. How often do you practice yoga and how do you balance that with all of your other responsibilities?

MF: It is definitely a massive challenge and with a 2-year-old and a 6-month-old, my time on the mat has decreased significantly. However, I find the nature of my practice has changed. An uninterrupted practice is simply impossible for me at the moment. Studying philosophy feels like a distant dream!

Now, it has become about having fun with my kids, making them a part of my practice and teaching them.

My 2-year-old thinks that it’s a great laugh and follows the moves, rolls around on his head and sings OM. He’s actually getting pretty good. And with the baby, it’s the same.

I lift him in the air, put him on the mat, go up and down give him lots of kisses and he giggles and giggles. This is my yoga at the moment. Being present with myself, my children and my circumstance.

Often, it is simply a breathing practice while I sit next to the crib putting one child to sleep. As simple as this is, it allows me to do something for myself even though it feels as though I have no time for myself.


TMJ: What are some simple moves/positions that mothers could do at home, in between all of the chaos, that would be effective? 

MF: First and foremost, just breathe. Consciously slow down your breathing.

Stop, count 5 even slow breaths, on one hand, focusing on long exhalations. You can do this anytime, anywhere, during a toddler tantrum or while dealing with a colicky baby.(in fact, DURING the chaos is probably the best time to do it to allow yourself to become less reactive when dealing with kids!)

Once you have gotten your breathing down, you can try any or all of these simple moves.


This move lets you work on all fours, facing your baby, while he or she lies on the mat. Being on all fours will allow you to work on the spine, hips and your balance amongst other things, all while looking down at your baby, encouraging smiles and laughs.

With the wrists below the shoulders and the knees below the hips, find a neutral spine, (your natural curve). To do this you can arch the back slightly and then round the back and find somewhere in between.

On an exhale, begin to completely round the back, initiating the movement with the pelvis. Visualise moving the vertebra one by one. By the end of the exhale you should be looking toward your navel.

As you inhale, press into the mat with your hands and allow the chest to begin moving forward and up as the shoulders draw back towards the hips. By the end of the inhalation you should be looking up,

Repeat several times, coordinating movement with breath.

Downward Dog – facing baby (or with toddler running under the”mummy bridge”)


Downward dog is such a great pose to regain your strength postnatally. It strengthens the shoulders, arms, legs, stretches the back of the legs and relieves compression in the spine. It’s also considered an inversion, so it calms the brain as it energises the body.

Begin on all fours, facing baby.

Ground yourself evenly through spread fingers, curl the toes under, lift the hips up and then back, pushing the inner thighs back.

Press the heels back and down towards the ground.

Ensure that the spine is long and the shoulders are drawn away from your ears.

Press into the thumb and index finger to keep the wrists level.

Dolphin Pose


From Downward Dog, lower the forearms into Dolphin Pose.

Keep the elbows in and press down with even pressure along the forearms and palms.

Lift the hips and walk the feet in slightly, keeping the legs straight.

This is amazing to tone the shoulders, and sneak a cheeky kiss on your baby’s forehead!

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It’s an amazing feeling to finally be able to lie on your belly after pregnancy. Backbends and chest openers are so important for our posture, especially when it can feel like we are constantly slouching forward picking babies up, breastfeeding and picking toys off the floor, among other things.

The Cobra/Baby Cobra is an energising backbend which increases the flexibility of the spine.

To do this move, press the tops of the feet into the ground and bring the hands beside the ribs with your elbows pointed back.

Use the traction of your hands pulling down on the mat to allow your chest to emerge forward and up.

Pull the shoulders back and focus on lengthening the spine and opening the heart.

Knee to Chest (Apanasana)


Laying on your back is another one of those simple pleasures that we miss during the latter stages of pregnancy, and pulling the knees into the chest and breathing deeply can do wonders for a tight lower back.

Focus on lengthening the lumbar spine (the lower back where the spine curves inward toward the abdomen) and breathing into the lower back. You can roll around to create a mini massage on your mat and to find tight areas in the back that need attention.

Placing baby, tummy down in between the shin bones is a great added weight to make the pose even more fun and effective.

Supine Spinal Twist


This is another pose to release tension in the back in addition to toning the abdominal muscles and organs. It is also great for the digestive system.

Practising this pose with one leg straight will also give you a good stretch for the hamstrings and gluts.

To do this pose, lay on your back with arms out to the side. Straighten the left leg and bend the right knee, rolling it over to the left.

Roll the head gently over to the right.

Repeat on the opposite side.

Baby crawling, climbing or leaning onto the outer thigh of the bent leg also acts as an effective weight to deepen the stretch!

TMJ: What are your recommendations/advice for anyone thinking of starting yoga?

MF: Just start! It can be overwhelming trying to choose between all the many “styles” of yoga and different teachers. You can have completely contrasting experiences depending on which class you attend or what video you watch on YouTube, or book you read, or wherever you find your information.

Yoga is a journey of self and starting a practice is a very personal thing, depending on what you want to get out of it. You might want to try a few classes and teachers, or just find one and stick with it.

The profound benefits that people talk about are not necessarily instantaneous (although you can feel great after just one class) but come after consistent practice.

You can follow Micheline on Facebook at Yoga by Micheline and if you are in the Cornwall area check out some of her classes.

If you liked this post let me know in the comments section below and remember to follow The Mummyhood Journals on Facebook and Instagram.


I lost both of my parents and time doesn’t always heal


Unlike a lot of people my age, I do not have to worry about my parents getting weaker or stress over taking care of an ill mother or father. Nor do I have to stand face to face with the reality of their mortality… because I already did.

For me, my life timeline was inverted and the stresses of dealing with sick parents came early on. At the age of 15 my father was diagnosed with cancer and for two years I watched a giant of a man waste away to practically nothing. I helped my mother take care of him, clean him, feed him and everything else that came with caring for a loved one, all while I was still in school. When he took his last breath, I was holding his hand.

Only a few years later when I was 21 or 22 my mother was diagnosed with a brain tumor. For seven years I was in and out of hospitals and doctors’ offices with her. All of our money went into medication, treatment, doctors’ fees and hospital bills. I was there for her good days and her bad days until she passed away when I was 28 years old.

Fast forward eighteen years since my father’s death and almost eight years since my mother’s and it still has not healed. In fact, the older I get and the more of life I experience, the more I miss them. It is as though time, instead of healing, were reopening my wounds and making them as raw and as painful as the day that I got them.


As I journey through the various stages of my life; getting married, having children, getting new jobs, losing jobs, moving to new places, or whatever it may be, good or bad; I find myself longing more and more to be able to share these moments with my parents. I long for their advice or to hear their stories of a time when something similar happened to them and how they got through it.

When we are younger, we often don’t appreciate fully what our parents have to offer. And when they are gone you find yourself wishing that you had paid more attention to what they were trying to share with you or teach you. More attention to that story that they always told or that you had asked them more questions about a particular period in their lives.

In a sense, the passage of time has made me want to turn back the clock so that, knowing what I know now, I could soak up every moment with my parents properly. I could take the time to understand them better and learn from their experiences.

Even though I am grateful for the time I had with my parents, sometimes I feel cheated. Cheated of the chance to really spend time with my parents and for my children to get to know them and for them to be the amazing grandparents to my children that I knew they would have been.

Whether or not these feelings will pass … only time can tell. But, for those of you who are lucky enough to still have your parents, listen to them, enjoy them, appreciate them and love them.

If you enjoyed this post let me know in the comments section below and remember to like and follow The Mummyhood Journals on Facebook and Instagram.

To the man in my life, your wife appreciates you


For those of you who follow my blog, you may have noticed that I have been MIA for a while.

This is because my family has been in a transitional state for the past month. A transition for the better, however, it does require that the boys and I be separated from my husband for a few months. It also means that this will be the first Christmas that we will spend apart, which we absolutely hate.

So, for the past month, I have been flying solo for everything. I have been living the single mother life and it has been exactly what you would expect it to be. Hard, very hard, and exhausting.

This period has been my personal experience of not knowing what you’ve got ’til it’s gone because my eyes have been opened to just how much my husband does to ease all of my daily stresses.

Now I am sure that I am not alone here, but when my husband was here I often huffed and puffed, stomped around and made some loud sighing noises to clearly communicate that I was upset about “having to do everything”.

When he did help me with the laundry or dishes or pack away the groceries I complained that he did it wrong (aka not my way) so I refolded the clothes, repacked the groceries and complained some more. I am baffled as to why he continues to help.

I was always so negative and often belittled his contributions. I, like many women, never really stopped to appreciate the things that my husband does. The big things AND the little things.

So, for this post, I am going to do something that is rare in today’s world. I am going to give some love and appreciation to the man in my life.

To my husband,

Thank you for taking out the trash, every day, because you know I hate to. Thank you for dropping and picking up the kids to and from school every day because I had to work.

Thank you for playing with the kids and keeping them occupied when you know I just needed some time to rest, to do work or to catch up on my Netflix.

Thank you for killing all of those disgusting spiders.

Thank you for doing the housework even though I complain about how you do it. Thank you for not thinking that housework is only my responsibility.

Thank you for those amazing pork chops and honey bar-b-que wings that you make and for offering to make them when you know I am too tired or lazy to cook that day. Thank you for my back rubs.

Thank you for holding me close whenever I have a hard day.

Thank you for being a stay at home dad and for being a working father. In both circumstances, you provide for our family.

Thank you for being an involved father and a faithful husband. Thank you for spending all night playing video games or snoring my ear off because it means that you are at home with your family.

Thank you for doing whatever it takes to keep your family safe.

Thank you for taking care of everything car related.

Thank you for forcing me to buy something for myself whenever I feel guilty about doing it.

Thank you for every time you tell me I am beautiful and you make me feel like the sexiest woman there is.

Thank you for every time you make me laugh and for every time you wipe my tears away.

Thank you for supporting every venture that I get myself into and for helping me chase my dreams. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your dreams.

Thank you for your unending love. Your wife appreciates you.


If you liked this post, or want to send some love and appreciation to the man in your life, let me know in the comments section below and be sure to like and follow The Mummyhood Journals on Facebook and Instagram.


The necessary inconvenience of extra-curricular activities

At a certain point in our children’s lives, one thing we mothers will know very well is after-school activities.

During this phase in our motherhood journey, our lives will become consumed with driving to and from football practice, swimming lessons, dance lessons or whatever is the pick of the month for your little one, to the extent that the car becomes our second home.


I am now a new member of this phase, as my elder son has just started going to karate classes. So three days a week, including Saturdays (no more sleeping in for this mama), we do the back and forth routine.

But, as tiring as all of this is for us parents, the benefits and importance of extra-curricular activities in our children’s lives are undeniable.


Most extracurricular activities require that the child exhibit some level of discipline to succeed.

Practising simple, but important acts such as showing up on time, wearing the correct uniform, giving 100% every time they come to class and not talking while the coach/teacher/sensei is speaking, trains our kids to have discipline in school and in the working world when they get older.



A major element of participating in extra-curricular activities is practising until you get it right.

All of our kids probably suck big time when they start whatever activity it is that they are into (I could admit it). And depending on what activity your child does, that could probably be immensely annoying for everyone in the house (queue screeching violins).

Nevertheless, the lesson here is that if they want to be good or great at what they do, they have to keep practising and be persistent. There are no shortcuts.




As our kids’ skills improve, their confidence levels begin to increase. They feel good about themselves and the things that they are capable of doing (queue the unending demonstrations in the living room).

Depending on the activity, they may even have to overcome certain fears or shyness and perform in front of people.

In the case of my ninja son, every day his sensei gives lessons in speaking confidently and clearly by simply making each student enter the dojo, one by one, and say “Good Afternoon parents”. This is also a lesson in respect.



In my son’s class, everything that they do is centred on respect. Respect for elders, respect for authority, respect for the dojo and its traditions and respect for each other.

In today’s world, respect is something that is seriously lacking. However, in most extra-curricular activities, disrespect is something that is not tolerated.





We all know that children’s concentration skills could be excellent or barely there, depending on what it is they are being asked to concentrate on.

For example, video games. My son could go all day without even eating if you let him. And the focus that he has when it comes to completing whatever mission the Ninjago characters have to do – unwavering.

Homework, on the other hand, a little less unwavering.

However, what I have noticed is that, since starting karate, his concentration skills have improved. Even when doing something that he isn’t too fond of.

In his class, he is forced to concentrate and focus. If he doesn’t, two things happen.

  1. He would miss what is being taught and wouldn’t know the moves
  2. Sensei would probably give him push-ups, and no one, even overly energetic kids, wants to deal with push-ups.

But the constant repetition of being required to focus in the dojo is slowly transforming the previously difficult to maintain skill into a habit.


Team Work

In activities that are team related, our children can learn how to work with others as a part of that team.

During practice or during the games, they have to remove themselves from selfish tendencies and work together to achieve what is best for the team.

Even in my son’s case, although karate isn’t necessarily a team sport, the members of the dojo are all a family. The stronger ones help the weaker ones. There is no mocking or jeering if someone gets something wrong, instead, they offer encouragement and moral support.


As a karate mom, observing from the sidelines, I can acknowledge and appreciate the lessons that my son is learning from participating in an extra-curricular activity.

It is not just about being able to fight or defend himself, but about life lessons that will make him a stronger, confident and well-adjusted person.




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Dental health tips for kids – Interview with Dr. Tricia Percival


The Mummyhood Journals started as a way for me to share my experiences as a young mother and to connect with other mothers over these stories. As the blog continues to develop, it is my intent to start including posts that are genuinely beneficial to other mothers.

Looking through my social media feeds I have noticed a lot of questions from young mothers regarding health advice for their children, so, I thought that it would be a useful idea to include interviews with actual doctors/medical practitioners, who could answer some of these questions better and more accurately than I ever could.

On that note, The Mummyhood Journals is pleased to introduce the first post of its “Healthy Kids” series.

In this post, I interviewed Dr. Tricia Percival, a paediatric dentist (and my son’s wonderful dentist) on some of the questions and concerns that some of us new mothers may have about our children’s oral care.

Thank you, Dr. Percival, for agreeing to the interview.

TMJ: At what age should we carry our toddlers for their first dental visit?

DP: It is recommended that your child should see a paediatric dentist/ dentist when the first tooth appears, or no later than his/her first birthday. The purpose of the age 1 dental visit is to learn about your child’s oral health and how to best care for your child’s unique needs before any problems occur. Many dental problems can be prevented or more easily treated in the early stages. By establishing a good working relationship with a paediatric dentist/ dentist, parents will ensure that their child receives proper dental care beginning at an early age. Setting a precedent for dental appointments at an early age also helps children to become accustomed to a proper oral care routine.

TMJ: What should we expect at this first visit?

DP: At the visit, you should expect the dentist/ paediatric dentist to:

  • Review your child’s history
  • Respond to your questions and concerns
  • Talk with you about your child’s overall oral health, including:
    • Development
    • Teething
    • Bite (how your child’s teeth will come together)
    • Soft tissues such as gums and cheeks
    • Oral habits such as finger sucking
    • Factors that affect the risk of cavities, such as diet, hygiene practices, fluoride use and whether others in the family have had cavities
    • How to prevent trauma to your child’s mouth
  • Perform a thorough assessment of your child’s mouth
  • Show how to clean your child’s teeth and give you a chance to practice
  • Give specific advice about home care, including hygiene, diet and use of toothpaste and other fluorides
  • Tell you what to expect as your child grows and develops in the coming months
  • Suggest a schedule for follow-up care

TMJ: Are there any questions that parents should be sure to ask the dentist at this visit?

DP: The best way to prepare for this visit is to consider what you want to know, what you want to look for and what you should expect. Be prepared to ask about any concerns you may have.

TMJ: Are there any red flags that parents should look out for when selecting a dentist for their child?

DP: In recent years, most dental schools have prepared new graduates to provide care to young children, however many dentists are less familiar and less comfortable with infants and toddlers. Here are two ways to find a dentist who cares for young children:

  • Look for an office that suggests your child be seen when the first tooth appears or by the child’s first birthday. Call the dentist’s office and ask, “At what age does your office recommend that children be seen for their first dental visit?”
  • Look for a paediatric dentist who specializes in the care of young children. To find a paediatric dentist, try one of the following:
    • Ask your family dentist for a name.
    • Contact the Dental Council of Trinidad and Tobago for their paediatric dentist listing

TMJ: Should parents start brushing their children’s teeth as soon as they grow out and what toothpaste/toothbrush is the best?

DP: Cleaning and brushing teeth removes plaque (the build-up on teeth) that causes tooth decay.

  • Starting at birth, clean your child’s gums with a soft infant toothbrush or cloth and water.
  • Parents should use a tiny smear (similar to the size of a rice grain) of fluoride toothpaste to brush baby teeth twice daily as soon as they erupt and a soft, age-appropriate sized toothbrush.
  • Once children are 3 to 6 years old, then the amount should be increased to a pea-size dollop and perform or assist your child’s toothbrushing.
  • Children should spit out toothpaste after brushing but do very little or no rinsing. They should not swallow excess toothpaste after brushing.
  • Remember that young children do not have the ability to brush their teeth effectively and will need an adult to help them brush their teeth.

TMJ: Do we need to brush our toddlers’ teeth twice a day, every day, as older kids and adults do?

DP: Yes, it is important to brush your toddlers’ teeth twice a day, every day as older kids and adults. Clean all surfaces of the teeth and gums twice a day (after breakfast and last before bed).

TMJ: At what age should we introduce flossing and mouthwash? What mouthwash would you recommend for children?

DP: As soon as two teeth touch each other, floss between them once a day. You can use regular floss to do this. Again, parents will often need to perform this for their kids. Although many kids have spaces between their teeth, many of these spaces can close especially between the ages of 3 to 4 years old.

Mouthwash is not a must-use for every child. It is not typically recommended for kids under the age of six but it is often a way to get an added dose of cavity protection in children over the age of six years.

 There are reasons for this: The first is that some types of mouthwash for children contain fluoride and although fluoride is great at preventing tooth decay too much too early can also cause a problem for the developing teeth. Secondly, children below the age of six years may not be able to swish well without swallowing a little.

Kids having fresh breath is often a common parental concern. Diluting popular adult mouthwashes to assist, can, however, be harmful. Many of these mouthwashes contain high levels of alcohol and are quite harsh for the child’s mouth.  A chat with the dentist/ paediatric dentist can determine if and when mouthwashes are recommended for the child according to their dental needs and risks.

TMJ: Are dental X-rays safe for children?

DP: Dental X-rays are imaging techniques that may be used to highlight any abnormalities in dental tissues. They help to check for holes or decay in the teeth and make sure that the teeth are developing in the correct position, including teeth that have not yet emerged through the gums

There is very little risk in dental X-rays. Paediatric dentists/ dentists are especially careful to limit the amount of radiation to which children are exposed. Adequate radiation protection including high-speed film and digital x-rays are some of the techniques used to ensure safety and minimize the amount of radiation.

TMJ: What should we expect when our children start to lose their baby teeth? Is it normal for the tooth to be painful?

DP: Usually when a child is about 6 years old, his/her teeth will begin to become ‘shaky’, ‘wobbly’ or loose. Keep the teeth and gums as clean as possible as many kids are afraid to brush these shaky teeth. Let your child wiggle the tooth until it falls out on its own. This will minimize the pain and bleeding associated with a lost tooth. Be aware that ” shaky baby teeth” can occur from age 6 years all the way to the age of 12 years as adult teeth erupt.

TMJ: How often should my child visit the dentist?

DP: A schedule for follow up visits will be determined by your child’s oral health professional. Visits can often occur twice a year but can increase to as many as 4 times a year for children who are assessed to be at high risk for dental disease.


About Dr Percival:

Dr Tricia Percival is a lecturer in paediatric dentistry at the University of the West Indies (UWI) School of Dentistry and has been a practising paediatric dentist for the past 15 years. She received her undergraduate training at the UWI Dental School and completed her postgraduate degree at the Eastman Dental Institute, University College London. Among other areas of interest, Dr Percival also has a focus on treating children with special needs.

Getting rid of me, myself and I to become a mother


I always wanted children, at some point in my life. I never really had a specific age at which I wanted it to happen, but I just knew that I loved children and would become a mother, one day.

In spite of my love for kids and my desire to have them, before my son was born, I started to fall into a place where my life was comfortable and children seemed like such an inconvenience.

I was single, I lived abroad, I worked late nights, I travelled with ease when I wanted to. I was accustomed to my lifestyle and children just seemed so … needy.

They depend on you for EVERYTHING and you can’t do the things you want to do, when you want to do them. Say goodbye to sleep, girls’ night at the clubs, my body without stretch marks and sagging skin and most importantly me time.

Every time I thought about it, it seemed dreadful, scary and made me wonder if I would ever really be ready to be a mother.

Then I got pregnant.

I was thrust into motherhood. The sleepless nights, no more wild nights with the ladies, no more date nights, no more me time. I won’t be able to do this ever again. I can’t go here. I can’t have that. Everything that ran through my head had to do with me, myself and I.

Russell Brand, in an interview on The View, recently said something that describes perfectly the epiphany that you experience after having children:

“A baby is the materialization of I’m not the most important person in the world.”

Since having my children, I was forced to stop being self-absorbed and selfish. Every decision I make and everything I do can no longer be about me because there are two little lives that depend on me to keep them comfortable, happy and alive. I am no longer the center of my little universe.

I know that for some people, making such a sacrifice is unthinkable. I get it. Like I said, I was in the same place that you were before my sons were born. In addition, it doesn’t help that we now live in a world in which being self-involved is the norm and when you are accustomed to looking out for just yourself the thought of shifting all of the attention from yourself to your children can be daunting.

However, not being able to maintain your single lifestyle should not be the only reason for deciding to not have children.

Now I am not saying that you are a bad person if you don’t want children. Absolutely not. The decision to have a baby is a huge and personal decision that should take several factors into consideration. Not everyone is meant to have a family and being a parent may not be your particular calling and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

In fact, if you genuinely do not like or want children, then don’t have them. Don’t feel as though you should “compromise” (I have heard people use this term when referring to their kids) just to make your family or society happy. Then you may end up raising your children in a household filled with resentment, regret and possibly neglect which is just unhealthy for both you and the children.

What I am saying is that the decision not to have a baby, should be an all-encompassing decision and not solely based on our selfish desires.

Yes, before kids I enjoyed travelling by myself, where I wanted, when I wanted. But now, even though planning a vacation involves several more steps and a lot more preparation than when I was single, I enjoy seeing my kids get excited about flying in a plane and being able to provide them with experiences that would last a lifetime.

Yes, it was the best feeling in the world to sleep straight through the night in my own bed with no one kicking me in the face (man I miss that). But now I enjoy cuddling those little bodies when they have a bad dream in the middle of the night and need comfort.

Yes, I loved the fact that I could exercise whenever was convenient for me and was able to keep my body in some sort of order. But now I enjoy having impromptu dance parties with my kids and hearing them laugh until their stomachs hurt.

Even though I thought I wasn’t ready for kids, when my boys came into my life they changed me. They changed my priorities, the things I enjoyed doing and the way I viewed the world in general. They opened my eyes to what was really important and if I hadn’t let go of my fears and dared to open my heart to someone other than myself, I would have missed out on having two of the best things that ever came into my life.


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The harsh realities of life – kindergarten edition


From the moment your children are born, you try your best as a mother to shield them from the harsh realities of life.

Things go pretty well for a while, that is until kindergarten. Kindergarten is where things start to get real. And sometimes ugly.

My eldest son is now in the equivalent of a US kindergarten class (they have a different name for it in his school) and, apart from the expected reading, writing and arithmetic, he has also been receiving some other, unexpected lessons.

My son is a very energetic, fun loving and intelligent boy. He makes friends pretty easily and is a comedian extraordinaire. At school, he has always been well-known and well-liked. Life was good.

Enter the new kid at school.


The new school year brought with it new children and, apparently, a new rival, we’ll call him Frank. Now, remember, this is kindergarten, so the rivalry is less “punch you in the face” and more “he is a poopy head”. But, Frank is a rival nonetheless.

For the first time, my son is experiencing the fickle nature of humanity. Today they are friends, tomorrow they are not. And when they are not, anyone who chooses to be friends with Frank, will also be on my son’s list.

Frank has even been attracting the attention of some of the girls in the class who were once my son’s “devoted fans” (it is way too soon for all of this).

Even though my son has done a pretty good job in ignoring the rivalry  (overall he has impressed me with how mature he is being about the whole issue), I can still tell that, on some days, it bothers him.

I think what bothers him most is that for the first time he can’t seem to figure out how to make this person like him.

Yes, they are “friends” sometimes and that changes as the wind blows, but, for the first time, he has met someone who does not naturally march to the beat of his drum.

For the first time my son is learning that not everyone is going to like him and he cannot force people to like him (something some adults still have not learnt).

Many people still feel the need to do anything to get the validation and admiration of other people. They hover over Facebook and Instagram monitoring their likes, follows, comments and views so that they could feel a false sense of acceptance, importance and happiness.

But these things are not real and do not last.

As my sons get older, I want them to know the joy of genuine friendship. I want them to know that genuine friendship usually comes in smaller numbers and that it is perfectly fine to only have two “ride or die” friends rather than ten “friends” you could never count on or who really don’t have your best interests at heart.

I want my sons to be confident enough to never feel the need to compromise who they are, what they like or their whole belief system just to be accepted into a particular group because by doing this they lose the very things that make them special.

Likewise, I want them to understand that they should never try to change anyone into what they think is “better” and that friendships cannot or should not be strategized.

I imagine in time the rivalry between my son and Frank may disappear and who knows, they may even grow up to be the best of friends later on. But for now, let the life lessons continue.


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30 day declutter challenge fail

At the beginning of August, I boldly proclaimed that I was going to embark on a 30 day declutter challenge.

This was going to change my life. I was excited and completely fired up to get started. I was going to share my progress on Facebook and Instagram weekly so that I could inspire others. It was going to be awesome.

42 days later and my house seems to be more cluttered than when I started.

Day 1 went off without a hitch. I decluttered a junk drawer. I posted that picture on Instagram and Facebook. Things were looking good.

Day 2 to 30 – never happened.

Not for a lack of trying though. Life and my kids just did not want me to declutter my house. Between running around trying to get all my errands out of the way and being occupied with my kids, I was never able to (in the mood to) do any of the other things on the list.

Somewhere around day 15, while my kids were napping, I tried to accomplish the day-2 task of cleaning out my closet. As soon as I sat down to begin, those little, beady eyes popped open. So there went that plan.

For some reason, no matter how deep in sleep kids are, they can always sense when you are going to do something important and completely turn your plans upside down and inside out.


So after my immense failure at this challenge, I decided that I will not be doing any more challenges. At least not related to decluttering, organising or cleaning my house. It just doesn’t make sense. The forces that be will not allow me to be that organised about being organised and I will be setting myself up for failure.

If you had a more positive experience with a similar challenge, you are my inspiration first of all and please let me know how you did it.

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