Category Archives: Personal

#BlogWaladi: Celebrating Baby Brian’s First Easter

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Easter is the one of the most colorful and festive holidays and we are celebrating Brian’s first Easter this year. Even though there aren’t that many age-appropriate activities for a 9-month old baby, we made sure his first Easter is a fun and memorable one.

Dressing Him Up:
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It is very common for children to dress up for Palm Sunday and Easter. I am not aware of any dress code related to these holidays but we got Brian formal clothes for Palm Sunday and a bright spring outfit for Easter Sunday. Shopping for baby clothes is probably the only kind of shopping I actually enjoy.

Egg Coloring, Bunnies and an Easter tree
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Since it’s Brian first Easter, I tried to look this year for original egg coloring in malls, supermarkets and gift shops but I couldn’t find anything except for these same old boring coloring bags and stickers. Needless to say, it is always recommended to dye naturally your Easter eggs and there are many ways to do so but they’re time-consuming. I ended up doing Ombre Easter eggs and they turned out to be ok. I will make sure I’m better prepared next year.

eggs PS: For all the lazy dads, order an Eggbot next year to impress your children 😀

easter1 My wife also did a really nice Easter table with a colorful Easter tree in the middle

easter2 Brian’s Easter craft

Fun day out
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Since Brian didn’t start walking yet, an egg hunt was out of the question so we simply took him out to a park, got him eggs, bunnies and an Easter basket and snapped few candid shots while he was enjoying his time.

Happy Easter to all!

#BlogWaladi: Five Things I am NOT Enjoying As a Parent

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After sharing the five things I am enjoying the most as a parent, here are the five things I am NOT really enjoying:

1- Bottle cleaning
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Separate each part of the bottle, rinse the bottles and attachment with a special brush using a special detergent, then fill the bottle sterilizer with water after making sure it’s clean, put the bottles and attachments and turn it on. Once done, re-assemble the bottles and put them in the fridge.

I didn’t mind bottle cleaning the first couple of months but when you have to do it on a daily basis for at least 5 bottles, then you get sick of it. The worst part is that you can’t leave them like you do with the dishes as baby bottles should be cleaned immediately after use. Of course I don’t do that and clean them all at once but it’s still a pain.

PS: We use Dr.Brown bottles, which have more parts than the usual bottles but are highly recommended.

2- Car Seat:
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Are the straps too loose? Is the car seat too small? What is he doing now? Is he leaning his head forward? Should we remove his jacket? Is he comfortable?

Car seats are a life-saving pain. I would never allow someone to hold the baby in the car instead of putting him in the car seat but car seats are still the most annoying thing ever. Even carrying them is a pain. During the first 2 months, we thought the car seat was too small and would stop every 15-20 minutes to make sure Brian is ok, then we installed a small mirror on the back seat but that made things even worse as you are no longer focused on the road. Right now, he’s always annoyed when we first put him in the car seat, but we can’t get the bigger one because he’s still 7 months old. The good thing about our Baby Brian is that he loves sleeping in traffic, because you can’t really do anything when you’re driving and the baby is crying.

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3- Changing Clothes & Diapers
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Just like bottle cleaning, changing diapers may be fun the first few times but when you need to do it 6 to 7 times a day, it gets annoying. The best part is when the baby decides to pee on you while cleaning him and you have to clean everything and then change his diaper again! Of course the older the baby gets, the more active he becomes and changing diapers or clothes becomes a whole new experience lol!

Speaking of changing clothes, you’d think it is easy to dress a baby in these tiny clothes but most of them have a zillion buttons and zippers.

4- Handling Strangers Trying to Touch Our Baby
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“OMG Your baby is so cute! Can I hold him? Can I squeeze his cheeks?”

I honestly don’t know how to handle strangers who want to touch our baby. I don’t mind it when friends do but when you are at a mall or a supermarket, I still find it hard to tell people to look but not touch. We always have wipes to clean him up after someone touches him, but I don’t like being rude to people so it’s an annoying thing to me.

I was thinking of putting a cute sign that sends out a clear message but what I’ve been doing recently is just smile, act busy and walk away and it works most of the time.

5- Watching TV
tv He likes to stay connected with Jerry

Baby Brian is not allowed yet to watch TV and it’s not that easy to stop him from doing so, especially when you spend most of your time in the living room. Moreover, even when he will be old enough to watch TV, I would probably have to put some cartoon channel or stick to football games which I enjoy. I guess it will only get better with time but until then, I’ve been waking up really early on weekends to watch movies. Last Sunday, I watched Creed at 5:30 am haha!

Despite all that, having a baby is one of life’s most rewarding experiences and I highly recommend it to everyone.

What Are We Teaching Our Kids In Lebanon?

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Vienna Metro

Last week, my wife and I managed to get out of the country and spend a few days in Europe. We wanted to recharge our batteries and get away from the daily pressures we all face in the country. The whole trip was amazing and we managed to disconnect and enjoy the beautiful cities of Budapest and Vienna during winter time. Looking back at the trip and any other trip, you realize that so many memories are forever engraved in your mind.

Ironically, the most striking image that I can never get out of my head is not that of an enchanting castle or a majestic church. It’s rather the image of a family (mom, dad and child) at the metro station in Vienna standing at the ticket booth making sure that they insert the tickets before using the metro.

So What’s the big deal? 

1- The rotating metallic barriers or blocking doors usually found at any metro station entrance in order to prevent people without tickets from entering, did not exist.

2- Security and police officers were not present at the gates in order to check the tickets and prevent people without purchased tickets from entering.

3- One can easily go in and out without a ticket. Nothing and nobody will stop them.

4- At the time, the station was somehow empty and almost nobody was around. These people were practically alone and yet they stopped in the middle of an empty hallway on a virtual border to insert their tickets before moving towards the metro area.

These two parents could have easily not stopped and kept going with their child. They could have used one of the many excuses we use everyday to justify our public wrongdoings (we’re late, we’re not the only ones, the train is here, who cares, everybody does it, etc). Instead, they are teaching their child not to steal or cheat his way through life, and are raising him to be a responsible citizen.

The question remains:

What are we teaching our kids in Lebanon? Are we able to raise them as true citizens with everything happening around us? How can we teach them to abide by the law when those in charge of enforcing it are corrupt? How can we ask them to do the right thing when you need a “wasta” for almost anything in this country?

I don’t have an answer for that but I know I will try my best to raise my kids to become good citizens and encourage them to make a difference in Lebanon and the world. Even though it’s hard in a country like ours, we all need to do an extra effort and teach our children honesty, responsibility, fairness, compassion and inspire them to make a change in their community. Raising our children to become good citizens in a failed state is difficult yet remains something we should be fully committed for their own sake and the country’s sake.

#BlogWaladi: Five Things I am Enjoying The Most As a Parent

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Brian will be 7 months old on February 1st, and every day is proving to be a new adventure for us. Here are five things I am enjoying the most as a parent so far.

1- Bath time:
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This is my favorite time of the day! Brian loves being in the water and he’s quite relaxed and comfortable during a bath. Of course so far, he just lies down and enjoy the warm water but he’s starting to discover splashing, so baths are going to be a whole new kind of fun very soon!

2- Mornings:
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Brian is a great sleeper. He started sleeping all night at 2 months and we usually wake him up in the morning to feed him, dress him up and drive him to the nursery. Since I’m an early riser, I’ve been taking care of him during mornings and it’s always fun watching him wake up every day, especially when he gives me this “Leave me alone” look. He’s going to have a hard time getting up to go to school lol!

3- Playtime:
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Brian is almost 7 months old now and it’s becoming more and more fun to play with him. Whether it’s reading, singing, dancing (or making noises to encourage him to eat), tummy time, looking at the mirror, playing with dolls, toys and musical instruments or simply talking to him and making silly faces, I could spend the whole day playing with him and not get bored.

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A small tip for new or future parents: There are tons of activities that are worth looking at online to help enhance your baby’s development and amp up your baby’s brain power. A lot of parents think that the baby is too young to understand any of these activities but they help enormously.

4- Sleep time:
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Watching our baby fall asleep is also one of my favorite things to do. Sometimes we just put him to bed if he’s too sleepy, but if he’s still hyper, I lay next to him on our bed, read him a story, play him a song or just turn off the lights and watch him fall asleep. Of course when I go back from a hectic day, I end up sleeping before he does lol!

5- Photo-shoots
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Of course I don’t mean by photoshoots the cliché ones where they make us all dress up in white and lie down on the grass or put cheesy backgrounds behind us. I’m doing the photoshoots by myself and I’m enjoying a lot taking candid pictures of Brian. Also, I’m finally making use of my SLR camera which I bought four years ago. Sometimes I spend 30 minutes just to take the right shot but it’s totally worth it.

PS: I never use Flash of course.

There are tons of other activities that I’m enjoying of course, but these are the ones I’m loving the most! The next post will be about the things I am not enjoying at all 😀

#BlogWaladi: Baby Brian’s First Christmas

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The most wonderful time of year became even more wonderful this year with Baby Brian around. I’ve been reading tips and tricks on how to make his first Christmas a special one but the truth is we didn’t need any. Having him around was more than enough and yesterday night was a wonderful one! He was smiling at everyone in his little Santa clothes while ringing a little Santa bell. The only thing that could have made yesterday’s Christmas eve even better was having my niece and her parents of course around, but they couldn’t fly this year from the states.

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Merry Christmas to everyone!

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#BlogWaladi: Five Things I’m Getting Baby Brian For His First Christmas

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I think it’s pretty obvious from all my pictures and posts that Christmas is my favorite time of year. I love everything about this month (except traffic of course). This year we’re very excited for Christmas because our baby will be celebrating his very first Christmas, and I wanted to get Brian gifts to celebrate this big milestone and that will remain great keepsakes as he grows older.

Here are five original items to get for your little’s one first Christmas!

1- Santa Costume & Christmas Pyjamas For Babies:
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I hate getting costumes in Lebanon because most of them are found in toy shops and are low quality. However, I found these two items during my last trip to Dubai at Gymboree and Sergent Major. they’re good quality and not that expensive (Around $30). The costumes are also available in Lebanon at Gymboree (LeMall) and Sergent Major (ABC).

2- First Christmas Stockings:
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I found these at Mamas & Papas and they fit perfectly on Brian’s bed.

3- First Christmas Ornament:
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I also found this Christmas ball at Mamas & Papas in Dbayyeh. They have three different colors, blue, pink and this one.

4- Baby Handprint Ornament:
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This is a very special ornament that we got last year for my niece for her first Christmas. You put your baby’s handprint or footprint and hang it on the tree. You can also color it once done to make it more Christmasy. I got it from Moms And Babies at ABC Dbayyeh.

5- A personalized Christmas Book with your baby’s picture:
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This is a very original idea and a one of a kind gift for your baby or any parents. It’s a personalized book where your baby is integrated as the main character. All you have to do is send createmybook.me a picture, then a team of illustrators will draw your baby and make him the star of their first ever Christmas book. The book consists of 24 fully illustrated color pages with a personalized hard-cover. I already ordered two books, one for Brian and another for my niece. I will show you a preview as soon as they are done. You can check out the [website] for more details.

In addition to all these gifts, I’m definitely getting a first Christmas photo frame and a couple of personalized frame prints and Christmas cards. I’m also thinking of starting a new Christmas tradition but I didn’t decide on one yet.

#BlogWaladi: Are We Taking Too Many Pictures Of Our Kids?

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I currently have 852 pictures and 83 videos of our baby in my library and he’s barely 4 months old. At this rate, I will have over 2000+ pictures by the time he turns 1 which is obviously a lot. In fact, I don’t think my parents have that many pictures of me from my childhood years. Needless to say, you can’t possibly enjoy that many pictures but even though I’ve tried filtering them out and sorting them, I keep adding new ones faster than I delete the old ones.

I was talking with a good friend and a father of two about this issue and he told me that his eight year old daughter asked him the other day why does he keep taking pictures of her and stalking her with his camera, his phone camera or anything with a lens? He froze for a second and didn’t know how to explain this unstoppable urge to take countless pictures and try to freeze every little moment and every little smile of her, no matter how silly it is.

The answer is pretty simple though. We all think that our kids are the cutest and the most adorable ones in the whole world and we want to take pictures of them when they are smiling, crying, sleeping, pooping, peeing on us during shower time, taking their first steps, babbling nonsense, doing goofy expressions, kicking with their feet etc. Moreover, things have changed drastically with the smartphones and social media and parents are now able to easily take tons of pictures and videos and share them instantly via Whatsapp, email or on social media.

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Of course everything is good in moderation and taking too many pictures of your kids may be a bad thing but it really depends on how frequently you’re doing it, and what you are doing with these pictures. Here are few things that I’ve learned from experience and that could prove useful:

– The trick is not to take fewer photos, but to take better ones. Try to become a better photographer and take pictures more casually. If you have a small camera like the Sony QX10 or a GoPro, place it somewhere your kid can’t spot it and keep it running after you capture a moment. I would also recommend hiring a professional photographer if you want to take better candid shots and family portraits.

– Sort your photo library every Sunday. That’s what I’ve been doing for the past couple of months for all my pictures and it’s working out very well. I put pictures into albums, label them and delete the blurry and unnecessary pictures. For example, if I have 10 takes of the same shot, I keep the best shot and remove the others. This may seem like a silly thing to do but most people I know don’t bother do it and end up with tons of useless pictures.

– Try to enjoy the moment instead of grabbing your camera every time to snap a shot. I know it’s hard, especially that it’s much easier to do so now, but sometimes the very act of documentation ruins the moment you’re trying to document. As kids grows up, you want them to become more aware of the times when they were having fun with their parents, not when a camera was being held up to their faces.

– Make sure you print 5-10 pictures every month and put them in a nice album or photo frame. Call me old-fashioned but it’s always nice to look at a physical album rather than watch pictures on a digital frame or check them out on an iPad. Moreover, printing photos will help you go through your photo library and filter out the good shots.

– If you are photographer or just love taking pictures, you can always become your family’s archivist and give yourself an excuse to take as many pictures as you want.

#BlogWaladi: Blogging As A Parent

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play Working on my FIFA skills to avoid future humiliation.

I was looking at dad blogs before writing this post but I couldn’t find any in Lebanon or the Middle East. I know it’s not very common for men to share their experience as parents and that most people here in Lebanon think that mothers are the ones who should be doing everything, but I don’t agree with that as both parents should be involved in my opinion and I’m sure most studies agree with me. I don’t understand dads who refuse to hold the baby while he’s still an infant (less than 3-4 months), or don’t like changing his diapers or feeding him or showering him and I’ve met plenty of them already in Lebanon. These are all “women” tasks for them which is an ignorant thing to say. If anything, the mother needs her husband’s support at the early stages especially if pregnancy was hard and she’s still recovering physically and emotionally.

Personally speaking, I held our baby even before my wife did in the delivery room. I used to take most of the night shifts during the first two months, I learned how to change his diapers and I shower him every day now. In fact, baby shower time is my favorite part of the day now, and I insist on doing it even when I’m exhausted. Time spent with the baby in the early weeks can make things much easier for the parents and the child later on, and makes fatherhood more rewarding and enjoyable.

You no longer have a life when you become a father:

I’m sure you’ve all heard that sentence before and I also don’t agree with it. Things were quite tough in the first couple of months mainly because the baby would wake up every 2-3 hours to eat but you can easily manage your time when he starts pulling an all-nighter. As far as outings are concerned, you will need to plan them differently but if you have helpful parents, cousins or even friends who don’t mind babysitting then you’re fine.

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All in all, there are so many things I want to talk about but I will keep it short for now and prepare other posts for future use. A baby is a huge responsibility but it’s the best thing that has ever happened to me and it keeps getting better every day.

PS: #BlogWaladi was an idea my brother and his wife gave me last Christmas as gift. They altered the blog’s logo, put Waladi instead of Baladi and printed it on a baby onesie.

I’m Now Officially A Father And It Feels Awesome!

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My wife gave birth to a healthy baby boy at 9:17am this morning weighing 2.87 kilos. I’m not sure I can describe how it felt to see the baby popping out but it was an intense and amazing feeling. Having a child was always on the top of my list and as cliché as this may sound, holding our baby Brian today was the happiest (and scariest) moment of my life. People told me some guys cry when they see their baby for the first time but I didn’t, probably because I watched the whole operation and was still a bit shocked from what I saw.

I know a baby is a huge responsibility and that life will change for me now but I don’t know in what sense. People said the same thing when I got married but things got much better for me back then so I’m hoping the same will happen. Things will get busier I’m sure, and I will have less time to do things but you can always manage. Funnily enough, the long post I wrote on Fiber Optics in Lebanon was between 10pm and 3am while waiting for the contractions to come so I might end up blogging more during these long sleepless nights.

Many thanks to everyone for their wishes on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Rest assured I won’t be flooding your timeline with baby pictures because I don’t like people who do that and I think too much of anything is bad.

20150702_073845 Thank you Joelle for this most useful gift 🙂

20150702_074019 Thank you Roy, Jenny, Rachel, Nadine, Cynthia, Nadim, Wajid, Nicola, my colleagues at work and all the friends and family who showed up yesterday or sent flowers.

Getting A Wedding Loan Is The Worst Idea Ever!

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20150527_074903-1 This is one of the many wedding loan promotions I see in Lebanon – I scratched the bank’s name because the post is directed to couples rather than criticizing banks that are simply doing what’s good for them

As soon as I set a date for my wedding 3 years ago, I sat down with my wife and wrote down the estimated costs of a big wedding in a budget planner. Even though I am not a fan of big traditional Lebanese weddings, I had no choice but to settle for one in order to please everyone around me. To be honest, I didn’t think it was worth getting into a fight with both families just for one day and I was fine with the big wedding as long a we didn’t exceed the set budget (and did few things my way). It was out of the question for me to pay for things I could not afford or even worse take a wedding loan! For me, a wedding loan is the worst possible idea any couple could apply for and I wish banks would stop giving young couples this option in Lebanon.

I can understand people applying for personal/car loans or getting credit cards, or borrowing money from their parents and I’ve done all of them and still have credit cards that I use in emergencies or when I run out of money, but I would never consider a wedding loan because it’s a terrible investment at the worst possible time.

Just to explain how bad wedding loans are for newly wedded couples earning average incomes and why they shouldn’t go for one (assuming that the average cost of a relatively big wedding in Lebanon is around 25-30k for 250 people):
1- You are taking 20K and 40K loans at very high interest rates (up to 50% of the original loan sometimes) to invite 300 people to eat and drink and look fancy and you are barely getting 50% of what you spent back in the wedding account.
2- You are starting your marital life with a heavy and unnecessary loan and the expenses will keep on piling up once you move to your new place. No wedding couple wants to start a marriage with staggering debt.
3- Speaking of expenses, and trust me on that one, they will double and triple once you are living on your own, so having an extra loan payment every month is a bad idea, specially if you are taking a house loan as well.
4- Even if you’ve been dreaming all your life of a big wedding, you won’t be able to please everyone no matter how much you pay, so pay as much as you can to make the best out of it. I’ve done a big wedding with a very reasonable amount by looking after every single detail and trying to get the best offers and I still regret some of the costs I had to endure.
5- Your family and friends will be happy for you no matter what you do with your wedding and even if you don’t invite them. They will drink and sing and cheer for you even if the venue is your own backyard, and that’s what matters the most.

Some may argue that a couple may need to take a loan in order not to delay the wedding, but that’s not a valid excuse as they can plan a small wedding or maybe organize a wedding abroad and invite their direct families only. Again I’m not trying to judge anyone here and it’s a personal decision after all, but a couple being behind before even kicking off their new life together will affect every decision they make together and could prove detrimental to their relationship. All in all, if your parents insist on having a big wedding, ask them to help out with the wedding expenses like I did and if they can’t, I advise you to prepare a wedding with whatever money you have and make sure to take into consideration your honeymoon expenses because that’s the best part of a wedding (at least for me).