Tuesday, 29 January 2019

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Risks & Challenges of Cross-Cultural Families


Research shows that kids of mixed parentage have the highest suicide rate*. This includes third culture kids i,e, kids who grow up in a different country than his/her home country. Recently I got a rude awakening, when this happened within my circle. His mom and whole family are completely devastated and heart-broken. They didn't even get a chance to say good-bye.

How can we prevent this? The case within my circle shows that sometimes there is not much we can do. The boy/youth is a strong performer in school, well-liked by both Danish teachers and Danish classmates. The parents are well-resourced. Mom is a chief doctor at a Danish hospital and well-liked by her Danish colleagues. The Danish dad is a Phd holder working in a private company. The kids are confident, happy and well-adjusted. There were totally no signs of such thought.

When I set out on my parenting journey in this cross-cultural marriage, I would wish that our kids will be fully Danish and fully Singaporean. But today, after 9 years, I finally accept that this is not truly possible. The truth is that, they will never be fully Danish nor Singaporean. We are in a third culture. When they are in Singapore, they feel Danish. When they are in Denmark, they feel Singaporean. They may not be fully accepted as a fellow Dane.

To be fair to our Little FECS, he is truly fluid in both the Danish and Singaporean environments. He speaks Singlish, when he is in Singapore and also jokingly at home with me. He truly loves both Danish and Singaporean food - for this I am deeply grateful - no food struggle at home with him. He can understand the nuances of both cultures, that Daddy FECS and I can't. This is both a blessing and a... should I say, non-blessing. He gets exasperated, when Daddy FECS doesn't get it, and vice versa, when Mommy FECS doesn't get it.

A classmate asked our Little FECS why his hair is black. Why he eats goji berries (the irony is that goji berries are getting more and more popular in Denmark). He told our Little FECS to leave Denmark and to go back to China (To Danes, they may not know that Singaporeans speak Mandarin too).

Our Little FECS took such situation very well. He simply dismissed it as a non-starter. It is me the mom who is hurt. I cried on his behalf. Then he told me not to worry about it. I am amazed at his ability to rest in himself. That is not one of my strengths. So I started to learn from him and stop shedding tears. I start being stronger too.

It may seem a rather depressing situation. But it is also an opportunity to build our kids' character strengths.

I told our Little FECS that although he is a Dane, in order for him to be accepted in Denmark, he has to be better than the Danes. This means that he has to be better than his classmates in his class. He has to do well Maths, and be better at speaking/reading/writing Danish than the Danes. And he has to learn Chinese. It will help him understand his own background better and be more well-adjusted. Perhaps, it is the Tiger Mom in me rearing its ugly head. And this might give pressure to our Little FECS. But I think it has given our Little FECS the self-motivation to do his best.

But then again, the incident happened within my circle. The boy has been a sterling performer in school and well-liked by his classmates. Still it didn't prevent him from taking his own life. In his farewell letter, he said that he found his life meaningless.

I have to acknowledge that it is sometimes it is not within us parents' control.

How do we manage this as well as we could? And how can we mitigate this risk?

1. Go down on your knees and pray

As parents, we are not perfect. I pray for our kids every single night.

2. Have a strong family tradition

What defines your family? What do you do together as part of your family tradition? Do you have a family crest? Do you have a family motto and family cheer? We make sure we have that. Because we are a third culture, neither fully Danish, nor fully Singaporean, we need to have strong family values, a strong family culture and strong family traditions. We have a simple cheer for our FECS family that we end off during each Family Fun Night. We learn this from the Stephen Covey book on the 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families. It doesn't mean that we are an effective family. We learn and grow along the way. We don't have a family crest yet, and our family mission statement is still work-in-progress.

3. Have monthly family fun night.

Our Little FECS always prefer to spend time with us than having play dates. When I want to arrange play dates, he sometimes will say to me, "Mommy, you have been at work all week. Maybe it's time to have family time together, rather than sending me for play dates." I am touched by his words, and hold it to my heart. Will he still be so family-oriented when he becomes a teenager? I can only continue to pray and ask God to mold his heart.

4. Have tea time with your kids at an early age

I started with our Little FECS and now I am starting with Baby FECS. There is something fun about having tea together with the kids using kids' teapot and cups. Even up to today, our Little FECS still enjoys it. He doesn't find it silly. The only fault I have, is that with a full-time job, I haven't been doing what I am preaching here, which is my new year resolution for this year.

5. Build your child's confidence

Building your child's confidence doesn't mean matching any material things his classmates have - that's feeding on his insecurity, not building his confidence. It means that your child should know that he is a child of God, created special and dearly loved. It doesn't rest on his skills, his look, his skin or his hair color. God has given each child unique skills and abilities and a purpose for each child's life. This means that his confidence and self-worth must come from simply being a human being.

6. Share with your child your grief when someone takes his own life

I shared with our Little FECS how sad mommy is, when I heard the news of my friend's son, and how sad my friend and her family are over this. I cried and our Little FECS saw my tears. I believe it helped him to realize how sad we made our loved ones feel, when we do such things. I hope this will help him to learn from the mistakes of others and never consider this path.

7. Share with your child other youth in such predicament, but overcome it

I show our Little FECS Sadia Badiei from www.pickuplimes.com

Her parents are from Afghanistan and she was born in Pakistan, while fleeing. She lives in Canada and now also in the Netherlands. She is full of hope and life. Check out her blog and her story here:

https://youtu.be/x9P4R7CRX5M

8. Don't give all your time to your job and neglect your family

One can be busy working and may not be sensitive to the inner development of a child. But then again, a stay-at-home mom may still not be sensitive to the inner development of a child. It is not full-proof. Still I think it is better not to give all your time to your job, which I must admit, for me it has also been very difficult to strike a good balance.

9. Bring your child to a church that has a strong and passionate Sunday school and youth ministry

Make sure that your child is growing up in a healthy environment where there is a strong peer support. Parents cannot play the role peer influence. The involvement of helping others together with peers your kids' age may help to give him a fulfilling meaning in life. That may give them the reason not just to live on, and strive in life. Unlike in Singapore, it is hard to find such a church or strong Christian community in Denmark. But I think I have found one here, just as I am writing this post:

http://www.teenarbejdet.dk

Praise the Lord!

I also have to say that this has to start from an early age, so that this becomes part of a natural family culture. When you try to do this, when your child is in his pre-teen, it is usually too late. He may not be interested in it anymore.

I personally prefer to attend a international church, but for the sake of our kids, we are going to a Danish church, so that they can be in the youth ministry there and build up healthy friendship with Danish friends.

10. Make sure that your child is proud of both countries

This will help to build a sense of belonging of being in both Denmark and Singapore. Whenever I see newspaper articles of Denmark's achievements and Singapore's/China's achievements, I will share it with our Little FECS. I also expose him to Danish kids who are learning Chinese. I watch the Singapore National Day's parade with him. We watch the Danish handball world cup together.

11. Create more play dates for your child

The boy's mom was a very sweet lady, and she explained that it is because her son is jealous of our Little FECS. She suggested more play dates for our Little FECS and her son to solve this problem. While I agree that this is a good solution, we are currently struggling to make it work. It's partly because I have a full time job, while she works from home Monday to Friday. It's hard for us to reciprocate the play dates back. It would mean that I have to leave work at 2.30 pm, in order that I can go to our Little FECS' school, pick up the boys and bring them to our home by 3.30 pm. They play for 2 hours, and it's dinner time a 5.30 pm, and in between someone has to pick up Baby FECS back from the nurser. So logistically, it is challenging to have play dates during week days. And during weekends, we prefer to have time for the family. Otherwise, it will be on a day where I can work from home. I am looking forward to the day, where our Little FECS can have play dates without me picking him up from the school.

It's also partly our Little FECS isn't keen on having play dates with that boy anymore. Words are as sharp as a knife, and when such words are said, trust is broken. The friendship is like a vase that has been shattered. It needs time to heal. Although it doesn't affect our Little FECS so much, I can also understand, if he prefers to keep this boy as an acquaintance, rather than as a close friend. So I haven't push him for play dates. When the dust settles, and it feels right again, we will resume the play date.

12. Go down on your knees and pray

All said and done, human efforts will always fall short of God's. Go down on your knees and pray. It means that we need to surrender our sovereignty to God. We do our part to humbly pray for our child, and leave the result to God. This is the no. 1 on this list, and it is also repeating as no. 12 on this list.

Does that mean that my friend didn't pray? No, sometimes we simply don't have an answer, except to trust in God's sovereignty and goodness, even when we cannot see it and cannot feel it. Isaiah 55:8-9 says:

8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.

We live in a fallen world. It pains God equally much. God is suffering along side us. That is the reason why He sent Jesus to die on the cross for our sins. Jesus suffered for us and with us. He took our sins upon His shoulders. It is not easy to do so, and we cannot do it with our own strength. We can only do it with the strength from God.

I still shed tears for my friend and share her pains, acknowledging that I can't take away her pains. I mourn along with her. She and her whole family are in my thoughts. What she has experienced is the worst that can happen to a mom, or a dad.

Sometimes, I ask myself, have I been naive to marry a foreigner? If I can turn back the clock, will I do it again?

Yes, I will do it again. No one can replace Daddy FECS. I will still do it again, even if it means that we will face such challenges as a family. But together as a family, we will work on it and overcome it, by the grace of God, and commit our children to the care of God.

* https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1448064/
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The Humble Cucumber

I used to look down on cucumber that I don't even have a proper picture of a cucumber in my blog library

I used to make a laugh at the Danes for including cucumber in their kids' lunch boxes. Why include such a nutrient poor vegetable (actually it is technically a fruit) that tastes like water? But I guess I now have to eat my words.

I know cucumber has a cooling effect, but I haven't given it much thoughts until now. It's cooling effect is actually very powerful, that no other vegetables can do, and not even the powerful spinach. Because of its cooling properties, it is anti-inflammatory. Because it's juice is alkaline, it is next to drinking negative ion water.

"The high water content and alkaline potassium in cucumber make it a mild diuretic that can ease bloating. Cucumber is high in alkaline magnesium, calcium, plus vitamin K1 — all essential for bone health." - Alkaway

Cucumber juice is the best water to drink, not tap water or distilled water. Drinking cucumber water is like drinking living water. Now I know why my mum has been urging me to eat more cucumber, since I was a child (without much success). She even uses cucumber for skin care and eye care by placing them around the eye area. Also now I know why God created the humble cucumber for us.

Although cucumber is not an expensive vegetable - it costs around 8 DKK (1.6 SGD) for an organic one. Assuming that we need 4 cucumbers to make up 1 litre of water to drink per person per day, and there are four of us in the family, it would means that we would need 16 cucumbers a day, 112 a week and 504 cucumber a month. This will add 4,032 DKK (800 SGD) a month to our grocery expenses, just on cucumbers!!! And if I want to use cucumber for skin care, it will add more cucumber costs into the monthly groceries expenses.

I don't think that we can afford it :-(. But then again, it all depends on how much value we place on drinking natural and living water, right? And for Danish families who are already spending a large budget on wine and other alcohol every month so that they can enjoy a glass of wine every day (next to Russia, Denmark is probably one of the countries that consume the highest amount of alcohol), this is only a fraction of the money, if they can cut down on drinking the health-detrimental alcohol and replace it with the health-promoting cucumber water instead. There won't be any pinch on the grocery budget. And of course I am sure that the Crazy Rich Asians in Singapore would probably have been drinking cucumber juice daily like drinking water, without batting an eye lid on the cost.

But for an ordinary family like ours, we can of course, still try to incorporate cucumber into our food and smoothies, and that is what I intend to do from now on.

And I am also going to include cucumber into our kids' lunch boxes, so that they can gradually acquire the taste bud for cucumber. So I will be following in the foot steps of the wise Danish parents after all... I am humbled by the Danes and the humble cucumber.

Monday, 28 January 2019

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Strawberry Milk


Serves 1

Ingredients:
1. 1 cup (250 ml) fresh milk (For strawberry smoothie, I prefer the full fat version for the extra richness, but you can also use fresh skimmed milk)
2. 1/4 tsp vanilla powder
3. 1 tsp flax seeds ground
4. 3 large strawberries (This amount is perfect to give the strawberry flavor and also just 3 strawberries would cover all the daily vitamin C requirement. a person needs. Do not add more strawberries, as it actually will dilute the taste and the richness of the strawberry milk)
5. 3 dried dates pitted

Directions:
Blend all ingredients in the order listed above in a blender and blend until smooth.

Additional Information:
Besides chocolate milk, I really like strawberry milk. I have tried several times to make strawberry milk, without much success. It just didn't have the strong and rich strawberry flavor of store-bought ones.

Today, I think I finally succeeded. I realized that the secret is actually not to put in too many strawberries. In the past, I added too many strawberries, thinking that it will give a stronger strawberry flavor - wrong move!!! It actually diluted the strawberry milk instead. Since the fat content of strawberry is very low, adding too many will make the strawberry milk less rich and more plain, even after increasing the sweetener. So adding just enough strawberries to give it a strong strawberries fragrant and let the richness seep out from the milk. You can also use almond milk and it will still give it a very rich and creamy feel, since almond is high in fat. Since this is a single fruit smoothie, I highly recommend adding vanilla powder, as it enhances the strawberry milk and make it more aromatic.

If it's not easy for you to get vanilla powder, you can add vanilla sugar instead. If you do so, just omit the dates instead.

This is the organic vanilla powder I use

I sometimes also like to add in hazelnut butter, if I crave a nutty richness. Sometimes I add chopped almonds in too. But on days, when I prefer a less fat version, I will skip the nut butter and/or chopped nuts and it will still have the store-bought strawberry milk perfection :-) 

Try it, you won't be disappointed :-)

P.S. I sometimes like to add 1/4 cup rolled-oats into the blend to increase the nutrition value, but not all of my family members like it with oats. Thus, I didn't include it in the recipe.
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Vanilla Smoothie - Base Smoothie




Serves 1

Ingredients:
1. 1 cup (250 ml) fresh skimmed milk
2. 1/2 tsp vanilla powder
3. 1 tsp flax seeds ground (optional)
4. 2 dried dates pitted

Directions:
Add all the ingredients in the orde listed above in a blender and blend until smooth.

Additional Information:
Our Little FECS wanted very much to try vanilla smoothie, and asked me to make one for him. After trying it, he said that it was nice for a change, but would still prefer the chocolate smoothie most of the time.

Actually the vanilla smoothie is a good base to start. From here, you can add banana, strawberry or cacao to make different smoothies.

This is the organic vanilla powder I use
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Strawberry Almond Smoothie


Serves 2

Ingredients:
1. 1.5 cup fresh milk (For strawberry smoothie, I prefer the full fat version for the extra richness, but you can also use fresh skimmed milk)
2. 1 tsp flax seeds ground (optional)
3. 1/4 tsp vanilla powder (optional)
4. 1/2 cup (50 g) chopped almonds
5. 5 leaves of baby spinach
6. 3 large strawberries (This amount is perfect to give the strawberry flavour and also just 3 strawberries would cover all the daily vitamin C requirement. Do not add more strawberries, as it will dilute the taste and the richness of the smoothie)
7. 3 dried dates pitted

Directions:
Add all the ingredients in the order listed above into a blender and blend until smooth.

Additional Information:
I sometimes like to add 1/4 cup rolled oats into the blend, as it increase the nutritional value of the smoothie. But not all my family members like it. Thus, I have not included it in the recipe.



Saturday, 26 January 2019

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Smoothie Listing


Beet root, apple, orange & banana


Orange & carrot


Yellow Smoothie



Spinach, kale, parsley, apple, orange & banana


Spinach, parsley, cucumber, apple, orange & banana







Left glass with goji berries, right glass without goji berries










You probably realized by now that I am crazy about smoothies nowadays. I have over the past 9 years made posts on smoothies. In this post, I am making a list of all the smoothies I have covered, so that it's easier for me to get an overview. I will come back to update this post, each time I try out a new smoothie recipe.

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Strawberry Banana Mikshake Smoothie


Serves 2

Ingredients:
1. 3 large strawberries (This amount is perfect to give the strawberry flavor and also just 3 strawberries would cover all the daily vitamin C requirement. Do not add more strawberries, as it will dilute the taste and the richness of the smoothie)
2. 1 banana
3. 1 orange peeled and quartered
4. 1.5 cup (375 ml) fresh milk (For strawberry smoothie, I prefer the full fat version for the extra richness, but you can also use fresh skimmed milk)
5. 1 tsp hazelnut butter
6. 1 tsp flax seeds ground (optional)
7. 1/4 tsp vanilla powder (optional)

Directions:
Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth.

Additional Information:
Daddy FECS knows that I love strawberries and he bought one case today. I love strawberry smoothie, and I decided to use them to make smoothie.

I use an orange and a banana as sweetening, and I like banana :-) If you don't like to include banana in a strawberry milkshake smoothie, you can use 1 teaspoon (tsp) of vanilla sugar in its place. Many recipes called for 1-2 TBS of nut butter. Nut butter is expensive and it is fattening, if consumed in excess. I find that adding 1 teaspoon of nut butter is perfect to give it a more rich milkshake taste, yet not too heavy. I find that adding 1-2 tablespoon of nut butter is too much. My preferred nut butter is hazelnut.

Strawberries freeze well. If I can't finish them, I will freeze up some of them in a portion size freezing bags for smoothies at a later time :-)

Little FECS and Baby FECS love this smoothie too. If I succeeded with Baby FECS, I know that I have truly succeeded, as she is so picky and has a sweet tooth :-)





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Japanese Goma Dressing


Ingredients:
1. 1 lemon juiced (2 TBS or 30 ml)
2. 2 TBS white sesame seeds ground or 2 TBS tahini (sesame seed paste)
3. 2 TBS (30 ml) soy sauce
4. 1 TBS (15 ml) olive oil
5. 1 TBS (15 ml) water
6. 1 clove garlic
7. 1 tsp (5 ml) sesame oil
8. 1 tsp maple syrup
9. 1/2 tsp mirin (optional)
10. Sprinkling of salt & pepper to taste

Directions:
Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth.

Additional Information:
Daddy FECS loves the Japanese goma dressing. Goma dressing is made of sesame. We usually use the store-bought one, but today, I have decided to make it myself. I use olive oil instead of mayonnaise that some recipe call for. It is a healthier version, but it still tastes very similar to goma dressing. Give it a try, and let me know what do you think :-)

Sorry, I used it for my kale avocado salad and forgot to take a picture. I will do so next time.

Since my blender is not so powerful. I blended the sesame seeds first. Then I included the ground sesame seeds with the rest of the ingredients and blend again.

References:
https://www.justonecookbook.com/sesame-dressing/


Wednesday, 23 January 2019

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Colors of the Rainbow Smoothies for the Week


I am thinking of making these smoothies according to the colors of rainbow (well, almost) for each day of the week:

Monday: Red smoothie
Tuesday: Orange smoothie
Wednesday: Yellow smoothie
Friday: Green smoothie
Thursday: Light green smoothie
Saturday: Purple smoothie

Sunday: We will take a break and enjoy a Chocolate smoothie instead.

The plan is that I will go for my groceries shopping once a week to cover all the ingredients for that week. I am not quite sure whether I will keep to this order, but I guess the aim is to cover the colors of the rainbow. The sequence is not so important.

To make it simple, I might also just use all the colors' ingredients mixed in a smoothie, but that will give a muddy color, which is not so attractive to the kids, and adults alike. Let's see how it works out :-)

Btw, it's actually possible to make blue smoothies (see links below), but I think it is too much work for now...

Useful Links:
http://www.nutritionaustralia.org/national/resource/eat-rainbow
https://www.huffpost.com/entry/blue-smoothie-bowl-recipe_n_57bc4f13e4b0b51733a5b417
https://thefirstyearblog.com/rainbow-smoothie/
https://www.finedininglovers.com/blog/food-drinks/purple-fruits-and-vegetables/

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

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Easy & All Natural No-Cook Strawberry & Raspberry Jam with Chia Seeds


Recipe from Pick Up Limes

Preparation: 25 mins

Ingredients:
1. 1 cup frozen strawberries
2. 1 cup frozen raspberries
3. 2 TBS chia seeds
4. 1 TBS orange juice
5. 3 TBS honey (optional)

Directions:
1. Rinse and drain the berries.
2. Mash it with a fork, leaving some chunks behind.
3. Add chia seeds, juice and mix well.
4. Transfer into a jam jar and leave it in the fridge for 30 minutes until the chia seeds absorb the juice of the berries and become jelly-like, or overnight and ready for breakfast next morning :-)

Additional Information:
Chia seeds is used to thicken the jam. I rinsed the frozen berries with water, partly because Daddy FECS are paranoid about the cleanliness of frozen berries, and partly because it is a quick way to thaw the berries. Otherwise, you can thaw it in microwave oven or wait longer for it to thaw naturally. In this way, I can mash it a fork immediately. I added 1.5 chopped dried dates (since I had some left-over). I also compromised and added 1 TBS honey to serve the sweet tooth within us - Baby FECS*. While waiting for the berries juice to work on the chia seeds, I prepared the lunch boxes. Thereafter, I included a small portion of the jam in the lunch box.

It's amazing it tastes just like jam, especially if you sweeten it like store-bought jam (although we didn't do that, of course :-)), except that there is no cooking on stove involved.

It says it can store for 5 days in the fridge... I haven't tried that it, as it is normally eaten by then.

This recipe fills a full jam jar. But if you cannot finish within 5 days, make half a portion instead.

In this picture, I only made half a portion, as I didn't want to keep them for too long. Since it's so easy to make, I would rather make a fresh batch, when we need it.

* I intend to gradually reduce the amount of honey I am adding into this jam, but I thought I will ensure that Baby FECS develop a liking for my homemade jam first.

References:
https://www.pickuplimes.com/single-post/2017/04/06/Easy-Berry-Chia-Seed-Jam

 Frozen berries



Add 1 cup of frozen raspberries

Add 1 cup of frozen strawberries

Here are the frozen berries :-)

Rinse the berries under water to make sure that it is clean and it also helps to thaw it faster.

Add 2 TBS chia seeds

Mash it with a fork

I added some raspberries back for the chunks as I had forgotten and mashed up completely all the berries

Squeezing orange juice...

Add 1 TBS orange juice... and for the balance, Daddy FECS drank it :-)


I also added  dried date chopped for the crunch (optional)

Cover and leave it in the fridge for 30 mins until the chia seeds absorb the juice from the berries and become jelly-like or overnight.

Transfer to jam jar

Now it's done :-)

It can keep in the fridge for 5 days... according to Pick Up Limes

I saved a portion and placed it in the lunch box.

I spread it on rye bread.

Our Little FECS suggested to make a Danish flag out of it :-)

23 Jan 2019 (2Y8M7D): Our Baby FECS loves the rye-bread with homemade no-cook strawberry jam... she ate 4 pieces...



Updates 26 Jan 2019:

I made a full batch today:








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