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Friday, July 1, 2016

To vaccinate or to not vaccinate, that is the question

Last week I brought my lil' bub, Alexa, with me to KL. While walking towards the Arrival Hall in KLIA, we stopped at an ATM kiosk, and (it's weird how a mum's brain tends to notice the strangest thing) nearby, a lady sneezed. I thought to myself, if this lady is carrying any viruses, Alexa could get infected. True enough (although I am not in any way blaming the lady), Alexa developed signs of fever the very next night. Her body temperature rose to 37.4 degrees celsius and we were worried enough to bring her to the doctor the very next morning.
At the doctor's office, we found that she only has a mild fever, and her throat was slightly inflamed (her tonsils were okay). So the doctor prescribed some paracetamol and gave some probiotics for her. We fed Alexa the paracetamol as scheduled (she rejected the probiotics) and gave her as much liquids as she can manage. That night, her temperature soared to above 39 degrees celsius.
The very next day, she started developing a cough. We gave her some honey to help with the cough, but by this time, it was obvious that she was not well. She did not want to speak. All she did all day is sleep (in between bottle feeds) and the only food that we managed to get into her was porridge. We decided to bring her to another doctor the next day. That night, her temperature had also risen to above 39 degrees celsius, she was clearly uncomfortable, she kept tossing and turning (she clearly couldn't sleep) and we tried our level best to make her comfortable.
By this time, it was already day 4 of her fever and day 3 of her cough. We brought her to a specialist this time. The specialist confirmed that she had fever. Body temperature was 39.4 degrees and her tonsils were swollen. The specialist prescribed a new set of meds (along with coughing syrup and antibiotics) and we stopped giving Alexa the previous doctor's medicine. That night, Alexa's temperature had still risen to above 39 degrees celsius (her body temperature seems to increase at night and it stays that way until wee hours of the morning) and because she had to fly back to Kuching with hubs the next day, we decided to hold against giving antibiotics until they were in Kuching (Doc told us to keep the antibiotics in the fridge once it's mixed with water, so we decided we could wait for a day before giving her antibiotics).

Day 5, Alexa still had the fever and cough and by now she had developed a bit of the flu as well. I told hubs that if it continues, perhaps, he could bring Alexa to another doctor the next day. That night, Alexa's body temperature had still risen to above 39 degrees. To be honest, this is the worst fever that Alexa has ever experienced in her whole life.

Day 6, hubs brought Alexa to another doctor (3 doctors in 6 days, I know) and he told Alexa to continue with the meds that the specialist had prescribed. Alexa's body temperature remained at 39 degrees. Alexa was still weak, all she did is sleep and rest all day. At night her body temperature continued to rise and her coughing was getting worst.

Day 7, hubs decided to bring Alexa to the emergency department at Normah Medical Specialist because her condition looked to be quite serious. We had both agreed that if it is necessary, perhaps Alexa is better off being warded in the hospital. The doctor inserted some medicine into her bum to reduce her body temperature and they also used the nebuliser on her. Four doctors in 7 days. Alhamdulillah from this moment onwards her body temperature slowly improved, she was still slightly feverish, but never above 39 degrees celsius.
Day 8, body temperature reduced significantly to 37.4 degrees and she started behaving normally at certain moments during the day. The cough unfortunately was still there.
Day 9, no more signs of fever *hurrah*. Until today (Day 11), it seems she is back to her usual self, body temperature is normal. However, there are still random bouts of coughing but it's not as serious as previously. Inshaa Allah, she will be in tip top condition by Eid.

Now, with the news on Diphtheria in Malaysia (here's a link to the news on Diphtheria), you must be wondering, is Alexa vaccinated?

Yes, she is. However, the child specialist (the 2nd doctor that we visited) pointed out that we forgot to give her the 18 months vaccine. In our defence, we actually did go to the doctor for the vaccine but at that time, it was out of stock and we eventually forgot to follow up with the doctor.

Second question, was it Diphtheria?

No, it was not. She did not have any signs of thick gray membrane covering her throat and tonsils and she also did not have any difficulty in breathing. Do take note that other than for that one vaccination that we forgot, Alexa has received all her vaccinations in full as recommended by the health ministry.
And if it was, Alexa would definitely had been warded (and be part of the statistics). And that was the motivation behind seeing all those doctors. You might think that it is a waste to see a doctor every two days but for us, firstly, for several days, her body temperature had actually risen to 39.4 degrees. And Diphtheria symptoms usually show 2 - 7 days after you've been infected. Although she has been vaccinated, we wanted to confirm that it was not Diphtheria (hence the different doctor visits just to make sure that we had a second, third and fourth opinion) and secondly, we also wanted to be sure that she did not need to be warded.

To this day, when I think about her condition and what she had been through, a thought goes through my mind:

If she wasn't vaccinated, could it have been Diphtheria?

In all honesty, I don't know. But one thing I do know, I don't want her to have it.

So lately there's been a lot of discussion going back and forth between pro-vaccine and anti-vaccine parents. To all parents, I respect your choice, either to vaccinated or not-vaccinate your children. I am sure you have a good reason for it. And your reasons may be justified by valid claims. However, I would like to highlight one thing:

It was so easy for Alexa to get caught with this fever and cough. Admittedly it could be due to the fact that Alexa travels a bit more than other toddlers her age. But then again, don't you think your child interacts with a lot of people throughout the day? Some may justify that their kids are homeschooled and they stay indoors all day long. But is that healthy (staying indoors all day) and the right thing for a child's development? Your child will be in contact with different people and especially for kids who are in daycare/ kindergarten, there's a lot more interaction involved.

I believe that all parents are pro-life. That's why you decided to have children in the first place. But would you be willing to risk that life? You may be able to control the food that they eat, the environment that they are in when they are at home, but you are unable to control all other various factors such as the people that they come in contact with and the environment outside your home.

This reminds me of a beautiful hadith by the Prophet Muhammad p.b.u.h. which was reported by Anas ibn Malik,
"A man said, "O Messenger of Allah, should I tie my camel and trust in Allah, or should I untie her and trust in Allah?" The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him said, "Tie her and trust in Allah."

If we were to follow that hadith, it could be adapted to the current situation as, vaccinate your children, and put your trust in Allah.

xoxo Mrs Fashionista

Fashionista's Review: De' Bams, the new name in Kids Fashion

A few weeks ago I was contacted by the beautiful ladies at De' Bams, inviting me to try out their kids apparel for my lil' bub, Alexa. Naturally I was excited because, for one thing, I am a strong supporter of the local industry and for another thing, these are two lovely mothers who create beautiful products while at the same time supporting local Malaysian businesses, just like I do.

De' Bams was established by two BFFs (what an innovative partnership, I must say) who draw inspiration from their own children. They specialise in statement onesies and t-shirts; all designs are originally designed by themselves and the best part is, they do collaborations with other stay-at-home moms in the creation of some of their products. Masha Allah, I am definitely envious of how much girl power that these super-mommies emanate. All designs have one common theme, to channel a positive and playful vibe from the clothes that they make; perfect for growing up kids. And *drumroll* all products are 100% Made in Malaysia *hurrah*.

So the package from De' Bams arrived last week and I was fortunate to have Alexa with me in KL at the time, so, perfect timing to see how the clothes would fit her.

The unboxing. 

The package from De' Bams came in a brown box, complete with a round turquoise sticker with De' Bams label on it. Inside were two statement t-shirts, one blue and white "I'm feeling awesome" shirt and another bright pink "Playful and Cheerful" shirt. There were two flared cotton pants as well, and I absolutely adore the frills at the bottom of the pants. They add style to the outfit, without restricting a child's movements (i.e. Alexa would be able to run, walk, sit and stretch comfortably in the pants without any impediment). 

What I really love about De' Bams is the quality of their material. The choice of material that they use for the clothes are high quality material. Both the shirts and pants are made of 100% cotton. The material is thick (i.e. not the usual flimsy materials that you would get for children's clothing). To compare, I would have to say that their material is slightly thicker than the material used by Pumpkin Patch. Why I am emphasising on the material is because, for one thing, kids (especially toddlers) tend to get themselves into various situations and if they aren't careful, they have the tendency to tear (or at least make a hole) in their clothing. With the quality of material used by De' Bams, I am very confident that these clothes will be able to weather Alexa's antics. And because it's made of 100% cotton, the material is cool and breathable, perfect for hot summer days (which we have all year round in Malaysia). 

I'm Feeling Awesome.

We brought Alexa to the playground to test out how comfortable she would be in the outfit. As you can see, she's enjoying herself, and in all sincerity, her facial expression along with the statement shirt just made my day!

Love 'em frills at the bottom of the pants. Retro is definitely the way to go. 

We tried the second outfit a few days later, just in time for her flight to Kuching. Unfortunately she was slightly under the weather on that day so we wanted her to be in something that is comfortable, breathable and at the same time thick enough for the plane ride.

To see how comfortable she is in her outfit, we've made a video of her trying her best to give her first YouTube tutorial. Do let me know what you think of the video =).

In all honesty, I love De' Bams and I do recommend mothers out there to try them out. I believe that, yes, it is necessary for us to support the local industry but even more so when they create such beautiful and high quality products. They have more designs available (and for various ages) so do visit their website [here] and you can also stay current with them by following them on their Facebook page [here] or Instagram [here]. 

Proud to be supporting a Made in Malaysia product.

xoxo Mrs Fashionista

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Fashionista's Review: Kuehpedia, Bringing the Groove Back to Old School Kopitiams

I had meant to write this post sooner but unfortunately Alexa had gotten sick right after we landed in KL and when she had left for Kuching last Sunday, I was swamped with deadlines and had to complete some errands before I leave for my Eid break. Alhamdulillah I had finally completed my work earlier today and now I am (almost) on Eid mode. I'll be singing Eid songs all the way to Kuching this Sunday, woot! woot!

Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of breaking fast at Kuehpedia with my pal, Farhah. I've heard of Kuehpedia before (believe me, Kuehpedia has been trending on my Facebook timeline), but unfortunately, as I haven't been back to Kuching for a while, I had not had the chance to visit and try out the cafe. Luckily Farhah called us up for their breaking fast session and let me just say that it was absolutely awesome.

Don't believe me? Let me show you some photos just to show you how awesome Kuehpedia is:

They had a Ramadhan buffet promotion when I was there. I had all the traditional Malay food such as ulam, ikan tahai, sayur nangka, midin belacan and sayur keladi along with some of the modern Malay food such as butter chicken and daging masak kicap. Let me just say, they were all scrumptious. I loved every bit of them and I especially love their sambal belacan. It was the perfect iftar for me!

Some of the traditional cakes that we had. We actually had more but they made it to the tummy first before I managed to take a photo of them. And by the way, the fried fritters next to that Kueh Perahu is actually kurma goreng. Yummy!

Ended my dinner with a cup of teh tarik =).

Buffet spread.

Some of their buffet spread.

Buffet spread for the cakes. I loved the fact that they had loads of traditional cakes. 

Let me just add a few comments about their buffet spread before I show you some photos of the interior of the cafe. Firstly, I love the fact that they cook fabulous traditional Sarawakian food. Some of the food are not easily available in Kuching, such as ikan tahai, thus Kuehpedia definitely offers something unique to their customers. I also loved their traditional cakes. They are delicious and those such as kueh bongkol and kueh perahu were absolutely scrumptious!
The Ramadhan buffet were priced at RM30 per person (for adults) and RM15 (for children) which I think is an absolute steal with the array of food that they are serving. The place was filled to the brim with customers and they even had to reject walk-in customers because there was no more space, masha Allah.
Unfortunately, the buffet promotion is only available in Ramadhan (I imagine there will be a long queue for next year's Ramadhan) but after Eid they will be open for business as usual. I actually would love to try out their breakfast spread. Soon, Fareiny, soon =).

Here are some photos of the cafe:

Food and drinks counter.

Cafe interior. Photo courtesy of Kuehpedia's Facebook page.

Trinkets and cakes.

The Iban warrior. I absolutely adore this mural.

The set up at the first floor. Photo taken by Farhah. 

Kuehpedia has a private room available for private bookings and functions on their first floor. On the day that I came for iftar, they had a private booking where the guests requested to eat and sit on the floor (traditional style). Uber cool!

The first floor set up. Photo taken by Farhah.

Decor in the private room. Photo taken by Farhah.

Thank you Farhah for inviting me over and Kuehpedia is such a gem. I can't wait to come over again. 

Kuehpedia exterior. Photo courtesy of Kuehpedia's Facebook page. 

Kek Lapis Citrawarna. Photo courtesy of Kuehpedia's Facebook page. 

For now (until Eid), Kuehpedia will be focusing on their Kek Lapis business and those who are looking for cakes and other delicacies to be served to guests this Eid, do drop by and check out their selection of scrumptious cakes.

If you're wondering where Kuehpedia is, it's located at Wayang Street (not far from Medan Pelita, some locals used to call the building Star Cineplex). If you're unsure of where it is, feel free to call them at 010-9710606. 

For more info on Kuehpedia (and to be updated on their promotions) do follow their Facebook page [here]. Let's support the local industry (especially the yummy ones) *wink*.

xoxo Mrs Fashionista

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The concept of Rizq in Islam

A few weeks ago I attended one of the Al-Maghrib courses (I've forgotten which course unfortunately), and this story have made quite an impression on me, so much that I've never forgotten the story ever since.

Once Saidina Ali a.s. was riding a horse to a place and when it was time for prayer, he stopped at a nearby mosque. He told a man who was standing nearby to look after his horse until he comes back from his prayer. After praying, Saidina Ali a.s. went towards his horse with the intention to pay the man 4 dinars for taking care of the horse but he found that both the man and the saddle of his horse was missing. He rode on his horse in search of the man and arrived at a market place where he found another man selling the same saddle which was stolen from his horse.
Saidina Ali a.s. approached the seller and asked him the price at which he bought the saddle. The seller told him that he had bought the saddle for 4 dinars. Saidina Ali a.s. narrated to his companion that it was his intention to pay the man 4 dinars, and that 4 dinars was the destiny of the man (i.e. his rizq) but he chose to obtain his rizq through haraam means.

What this means is that your provisions (i.e. your rizq) have already been determined by Allah. You will get what Allah have intended for you to receive. However, it is up to you to earn your livelihood, whether the halal or the haraam way.

The concept of rizq in Islam is one of the most interesting concepts that I have ever come across. For one thing, rizq is not confined to only money, but also to good health, having children, a supportive spouse, a supportive family and many others. Rizq is made up of all that Allah has given you and the ability to be productive and beneficial in this world. Even the knowledge that you have is also rizq. One of the best rizq to have is definitely having your parents around, because they are your keys to Jannah. So if they are still alive, make sure to ask them to make loads of dua'a for you and use this opportunity to earn as much barakah as you can.

One of the funny things about rizq is that what you earn i.e. your salary/ wages etc, may not be entirely for you. There's somebody else's rizq in it too. That happens when you give out your money for charity, spend for your family and even when your money gets stolen, the rizq is not for you. It is only yours when you have consumed it, even the food that you eat can fall to the ground before reaching your mouth, indicating that it was not your rizq.

For those who are worried about their rizq, remember that Allah has written the portion that you will receive and indeed, that portion will reach you, just be patient and make loads of dua'a. And you can also practice reciting these two dua'as:

اللَّهُمَّ اكْفِنِي بِحَلَالِكَ عَنْ حَرَامِكَ وَأَغْنِنِي بِفَضْلِكَ عَمَّنْ سِوَاكْ
(Allaahumma-kfinee bihalaalika 'an haraamika wa aghninee bifadhlika 'amman siwaak)

"O Allah, save me from haraam and make the halaal sufficient and by your boon/favour make me independent from others".

اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنَ الْهَمِّ وَالْحَزَنِ وَأَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنَ الْعَجْزِ وَالْكَسَلِ وَأَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنَ الْبُخْلِ وَالْجُبْنِ وَأَعُوذُ بِكَ مِنَ غَلَبَةِ الدَّيْنِ وَقَهْرِ الرِّجَالِ
(Allaahumma innee a'oodhu bika minal-hammi wal-hazan, wa aa'oozubika minal-'ajzi walkasal, wa aa'oozubika minal-bukhli waljubni, wa aa'oozubika minal ghalabatid-dayni wa kohrir-rijaal)

"O Allah I seek refuge in You from worry and grief, I seek refuge in You from hopelessness and laziness, I seek refuge in You from miserliness and cowardice and I seek refuge in You from overwhelming debt and from the force of men".

Both are dua'as to settle debt which have been taught by the Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. and are as narrated in Timidhi and Abu Dawood. 

May Allah relieve us from our debts. Ameen. 

xoxo Mrs Fashionista

Monday, June 6, 2016


Today I read a very interesting article online [click here for the article] that asked four different women (with different income brackets) on how they spend their money. Their income ranged between $1,000,000 to one that is on the poverty line. There was a similar article on the spending pattern of four men with incomes ranging similar to the women. What I found to be interesting is their spending pattern.

The millionaire spends very little, so little in fact, if he or she wasn't a millionaire, they would become one simply by how little they spend and how much they save their leftover funds. In fact, the millionaire spends almost as much as the one on the poverty line. The main difference between them is the level of debt, the millionaire has very little debt while the one on the poverty line is struggling to pay his or her debt.

What I find to be interesting is that, in all the men and women interviewed, almost all of them are very aware of how much they spend, how much they save, and how much do they put away for retirement. It is quite humbling to find out that the millionaire only spends about $1,000 ++ in monthly expenses. Although in Malaysia, it would be almost impossible to spend as low as $1,000 per month in monthly expenses due to the difference in prices between Malaysia and the US, but I would have to say, it is doable (if you put your mind to it).

I do try to keep track of how much I am spending in a month. My main issue is commitments, i.e. I have too many bills to pay for, hence, what I need to do is to identify whether I need a certain service or not. As I am currently living in KL, let me give you an example of my expenses here in KL:
1. I do not have a tv (for the reason that I hardly ever watch tv) so I do not have any subscriptions to Astro, Netflix, Iflix or whatever cable tv.
2. I have a broadband connection with Time.com and that is only because my mum requires internet at home (for when she comes to visit, which is quite often). If it was up to me, I could live with just my mobile data and my plan is to terminate this connection once it expires next year (by that time, most probably I would be back in Kuching for good anyway).
3. I paid off my car and so far there's no plans to get a new one.
4. I have one credit card. I used to have two, but I've terminated one of them last year. My current plan is to go for debit card but so far I haven't made that transition. Inshaa Allah next year.
5. I have three mortgages. Two properties are being rented out and is giving me a little bit of income (although not as much as I want them to) and I am staying in one of them. I chose to buy a studio when I moved to KL for the simple reason that it's cheaper to buy (monthly instalments are lower than monthly rent) and I could always sell this apartment once I leave KL (so far there are no plans to sell but we are thinking about setting up an Airbnb business, but that too, is not fixed).
6. I do have a personal loan which I took before I started my PhD. I had to take the loan because I really wanted to further my studies then and I hadn't gotten a scholarship yet. When I got my scholarship, I used the funds remaining from the personal loan to pay as downpayment for my third property. I must admit that taking a personal loan is among my biggest regrets because I think I could have survived without it and yet, now I am paying for it. So, no more personal loans for me in the future, inshaa Allah.
7. Monthly expenses: Petrol (around RM50 or RM70 a week), Food (around RM100 - RM140 per week, it could be more if I go for fancy lunches and dinners), Toiletries and miscellaneous (around RM100 - RM200 per week, it could be more if I sign up for running/ join other activities), utility bills and maintenance fees (RM400 - RM600 per month) and insurance/ takaful for me and Alexa (RM350 per month). I calculated roughly on the minimum side I would have about RM1750 monthly expenses, right?

I don't know whether my current monthly spending is too high or too low, but according to my own calculations, it's quite reasonable. Indeed I do feel that I would prefer to pay lesser bills but so far, I think I have minimised what I can.

So, what gets me into trouble with spending? A few years ago, the main culprit used to be traveling. I used to travel two to three times a year and although by itself, one trip is affordable, but when you have too many trips in a year, my travel budget would be eating into funds which I am supposed to use for other purposes and this contributed to an increase in my credit card debt. I have since reduced my traveling plans while I reorganise my budget and have started to only travel by cash (i.e. pay my flight tickets, accommodation, and any other spending all in cash).
Another big culprit for me is shopping, and perhaps it's the lure of online shopping as I do not go out very often (I currently have very little spare time and I only go to shopping malls if there is a need for something). I have discovered that I have a certain weakness for instagram posts and there are so many beautiful not-to-be-missed items out there. Realising this weakness of mine, I've decided to unfollow some instagram accounts (prevention is definitely better than cure), and go through a mental list in my mind if I want to make a purchase. E.g. let's say I see a pretty dress (I currently love the designs by aere and love-to-dress), I would make a mental note in my head counting the dresses that I have and whether there is a need for a new one. And considering the size of my wardrobe, usually there is no need for a new scarf/ dress/ sandals/ running shoes/ handbags/ running gear etc.
Another spending trap would have to be food because we Malaysians are notorious foodies. However, since I have no time to eat out, so far that is not a problem for me.

So, I'm going to throw out this question to you: 

How's your spending like? 

For me, I know I don't spend a lot really, simply because I do try to rationalise whether what I intend to buy is a need or a want, and usually it's a want. Before I make that intention to purchase, I evaluate:

1. Do I need new shoes?
I have 2 flats, 2 sneakers, 1 jogger, a pair jungle-trekking shoes, 2 sandals and 2 flip-flops, and these are only from the ones I have in KL, not to mention the ones in Kuching.

2. Do I need a new scarf?
I have been eyeing a scarf from dUCk for a while now but haven't made committed to making the purchase simply because I know I have too many scarfs and I have changed my priorities in spending.

3. Do I need ... ?

In my case, it's apparent that in most cases I don't.

So do you have trouble in your finances? 

If you do, my first suggestion is to evaluate your spending pattern. Try to let go of what you do not need. Earlier this year I reduced my phone plan with DiGi and went for a lower bill which suited my needs, and let go of my Maxis broadband for the iPad. Is there a service that you only occasionally use? If you could live without it, then let it go.
For most people, their biggest spending could be bills (then minimise where you can), food (homemade food taste better and are healthier, believe me), travel (we have plenty amazing destinations in Malaysia for us to visit), or even kids (instead of spending money, spend more time with them by bringing them to the library or the park).
If you find that you have too many commitments, although it is recommended to repay the ones with the highest interest, I would recommend (based on my own practice) to repay the smallest amount due. If you have money owing to friends and families, do repay them first because, their dua'a (when you've made payment) could open doors to bigger and better rizq. And then move on to the next one. Identify your weaknesses and address those weaknesses. Have a support partner which would knock some sense into your head and be realistic with yourself.

Always remember that the life of others should not be a benchmark of how you live your life. We see beautiful photos and glamorous lives of celebrities and public figures, and all praise be to Allah for enabling them with more than what they need. But we may not necessarily need to wear what they wear, eat where they eat, drive the car that they drive etc. We attain happiness by being who we are and becoming a better version of ourselves.

If you need to spend, spend more time investing in a better you =).

Have a blessed Ramadhan.

xoxo Mrs Fashionista

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Fashionista Travels: Robbed in Ho Chi Minh City

Very recently I saw a friend posting on Facebook a newspaper article on tourists being robbed by taxi drivers in Ho Chi Minh City. 

The newspaper article that my friend had posted on Facebook. Thank you Ismandy for highlighting this article on Facebook today. 

I've always been wanting to blog about my own experience but I've kind held back from blogging about it because I did not want to re-live the experience. You may have noticed that I did not blog about my trip in Ho Chi Minh City either for the same reason. And I was only able to blog about halal food in Ho Chi Minh [click here for the link] about a year after the trip. 

Anyway, it seems that the rogue taxi drivers are getting quite aggressive so I thought it's better for me to share tips on HOW TO SPOT A FAKE TAXI DRIVER IN HO CHI MINH

Before that, let me share with you what happened. 

Us on that fateful day. 

It was the second day of our trip. We had just arrived in Ho Chi Minh the day before. We wanted to see the sights and because we had Alexa with us (traveling with a baby is definitely different compared to traveling with just your partner), we decided to join a tour. It was a whole day tour and it included lunch. Unfortunately, the lunch was not halal. We did not join their lunch but we did manage to grab some croissants and hot chocolate at Starbucks. 

The tour ended at around 4 pm. It was still early so we decided to ask the bus driver to drop us off near Ben Thanh market where we knew that halal food would be plentiful. Had some food at Salima Halal Restaurant and then we went off to Ben Thanh market in search of souvenirs. 

By 6 pm we decided to head back to the hotel. Our hotel is not that far from Ben Thanh market (perhaps about 15 minutes walk) but it had started to rain. Because of Alexa (she was sleeping in the baby carrier at the time) we decided to take a cab and immediately grabbed the one which was conveniently parked in front of Ben Thanh market. The car was painted in white and green, similar to other taxis and there was a meter on the dashboard. Hubs decided to sit in front for safety reasons (he felt that we would be more vulnerable if all of us were sitting at the back)

While the driver was driving, I noticed that the meter was moving pretty fast. That kinda got me slightly worried. And then as I was looking outside, I also realised that the windows were tinted black. Alarm bells started to go off in my head. This doesn't look right, I thought. But he had the meter and there was an ID as well on the dashboard. So I just kept quiet. 

And then he stopped by the main road (a very busy intersection) and said (in broken English), he cannot go any further. The road is packed with cars and he is unable to turn into the small road that leads us back to our hotel. He asked for payment.

Since hubs was sitting next to him, hubs asked me to pay (because I was sitting at the back, and thus at a distance to the driver). Took out money from my wallet and paid the amount on the meter. The driver got angry and said not enough. He then took all the cash that I had in my hand. 

Bear in mind, Alexa was sleeping at the time in the baby carrier. Hence, Alexa is positioned in between me and the driver. I did not know what happened to hubs because he suddenly started asking me to just give my money to the driver. It was weird for me that hubs did not seem to notice him taking my money and instead asked me to just give the driver more money. 

The driver noticed that I had more cash in my wallet. He took a newspaper and put it next to Alexa's neck. Instinctively, I feared for Alexa's life. I did not know whether there's a knife inside the folds of the newspaper and I certainly do not want to find out. However, I did push the newspaper out of the way and lo and behold, I saw his other hand underneath the newspaper and was inside the opening of my wallet. How did he do that, I don't know. But he was very smooth and cunning. I pulled away my wallet, gave him almost all the money in my wallet (you can always replace the money that you've lost but you definitely cannot replace lives) and satisfied with that, he finally allowed for us to leave the car. 

By this time, I was shaking. Hubs, unfortunately, was oblivious. Outside the cab (or fake cab) hubs asked me what had just happened. I said, I was robbed. Hubs was shocked. He thought I was arguing about cab fare (I mean, seriously? Me arguing over cab fare?). We walked slowly to our hotel and told the staff that we had just been robbed. Johny (the receptionist at our hotel) had warned us about being robbed by taxi drivers the day before, but because I was busy tending to Alexa, I only half-listened to him. And funnily enough, we got robbed just the next day. 

Now that I've gotten the story off my chest, here's how you SPOT A FAKE CAB in HO CHI MINH CITY

The city is filled with Vinasun cabs. It's the best cab (most reliable and safe). All tourists are encouraged to take only Vinasun cabs. They are very easy to spot, white and green paint, logo on top of the cab. 

Logo by the side of the passenger doors as well and company number. 

The Vinasun logo is very visible and easy to see. The phone numbers on all Vinasun cabs are the same. Vinasun cabs are not tinted at all. 

This is one of the entrances to Ben Thanh market. Behind the black car, you can see white cars parked at the entrance of the market. That was how we got into the fake taxi. We had just exited the market and (fortunately or unfortunately) there was only one cab in the vicinity. As it was raining, we jumped into the car immediately without checking the logo. We only saw shades of white and green and thought that we were in a Vinasun cab. 

And here is a fake cab. Looks similar right? Same white paint and green numbers. But it's not a Vinasun logo. Even the phone number looks almost similar. And if you notice, the windows are tinted black. 

Fake cab. Different logo. Black tinted windows. However, car paint color is almost the same to Vinasun. 

To compare, this is how a Vinasun cab looks like from the side. 

So, I hope this post has been helpful. The reason for me writing this is to ensure that you (my fellow travellers) are safe and able to differentiate between a fake cab and a legitimate cab. Despite the trauma, we went to Ben Thanh market the very next day for the one reason so that we could take photos of these fake cabbies for me could warn others on how to spot them. As Johny (our hotel receptionist) would say, just take Vinasun cabs and nothing else.

Would I go to Ho Chi Minh again? Truth be told, after that incident, I had second thoughts about traveling but now, after having Alexa join me to other countries such as South Korea, Indonesia, China and also on our many trips within Malaysia, I know that it would be very difficult for me to stop traveling. Inshaa Allah, I'll try to take extra caution the next time and make a lot of dua'a for Allah to keep us safe. That being said, if there's an option to rent a car with a driver, I'll go for that option the next time.

Alexa was only 1 year and 3 months old at the time of this trip. All praise be to Allah for keeping us safe. Although we were robbed, we were unharmed. Alhamdulillah.

Do take extra care and enjoy your holiday, peeps!

xoxo Mrs Fashionista

Friday, May 20, 2016

Mommyhood: Three Years Later

Time flies, Masha Allah. Alexa will turn three next week and here I am, amazed that we survived the past three years *phew*. Alexa is still alive and kicking, Alhamdulillah, and she has the makings of a healthy toddler and she also has transitioned well from babyhood to toddlerhood. And no, that doesn't mean that she's a docile, well-behaved toddler, but she's behaving just like a toddler would, loud, opinionated (when she wants to),stubborn, cheeky and I wouldn't want it any other way.

If I have time, one of the things I would do is to bring Alexa to the playground. It's one of the things that I know she looks forward to, she would say, "Alexa mok pegi playgeraon." Unfortunately I don't have the luxury of time (as I am sure most mothers don't have the same luxury as well) but we do what we can, don't we?

Positive signs of toddlerhood (in my opinion) includes: laughing when she's happy, fascination at the weirdest stuff (current fascination includes aeroplanes, escalators *yikes*, and talcum powder), crying out loud when she doesn't get her way (we have a 50-50 rule against this, we let her cry sometimes and we give in sometimes), singing (usually when she's enjoying the moment), stubborn when she wants something and sometimes there's drama (she even knows how to sulk *gosh*). She sometimes wants to pick her own clothes (I've told her, she's not ready for fashion) and even objects to the clothes that we pick for her (when I was smaller, my parents made me wear bright yellow pants with a bright red shirt and never did I object to that). She gets frustrated at me (I mean, seriously?) and I know that because she would have this exaggerated sigh and say, "Mommy tok eh."

I love reading to her and to be honest, I don't read out word by word, usually I just explain the illustrations and on other days, I let her explain them to me =).

Being me, I actually have a mental checklist of things that I want Alexa to learn, and I want to make sure that she has these capabilities before she starts kindergarten. Here are three of them:

Alexa at Benbino's, Publika. Love their set up and I know Alexa enjoyed herself as well. Would have enjoyed the place better if they had bigger portions (most are kid-sized portions so you kinda have to order more food). 

1. Be Happy in Her Own Skin
I think we've achieved that so far. We try (very hard) to give constructive criticism when we can. It's not easy I must say (coming from an Asian family where criticism is a culture), and so far we haven't been really successful with this (I'd say my success rate is perhaps 20 - 30%) but I do try to remind myself to say things in a positive manner instead of a negative manner. But Alhamdulillah so far she is happy and hopefully she'll learn to be confident next.
How do I know that she's happy? Firstly, she's very excited to share what she's up to. We sent her to kindergarten for a few days, she cried for the first couple of days but by the third day she came home all happy, bubbly and all excited. There were lots of singing involved on the drive home. She also has her solo playtime and she likes to play make believe with her lego toys. She gives them her milk bottle (I told her the milk bottle is too big for the lego man) and puts them to sleep (arranging them properly on the bed and putting the blanket over them and petting them to sleep).

Alexa having fun at one of the conferences which we had attended. Alhamdulillah the conference organisers do provide toys for the kids to play with which is absolutely great.

2. To Share What She Has with Others
This is a work in progress but I want her to have the ability to be kind and not be afraid to share. So far this is working only half of the time but Alhamdulillah, at least she's trying.
This is how I do it:
Whenever we go for conferences or events, I would buy/ pack a packet of crayons or color pencils and a drawing block for her. Besides that (if I remember to), I would also buy a set of stickers and a packet of balloons. Kids just love stickers and balloons. Then we would also have one or two books handy (because we hope to foster her interest in reading as well). During conferences, in the mother's room, I would have her color/ play with balloons/ stickers or read her book. Other kids would come (kids are naturally curious) and I would encourage Alexa to share her stuff with them. The first couple of times it was difficult for her to share but after the third time or so, she's more comfortable with sharing. I do notice most parents do bring toys for their kids but they are very afraid of sharing (to the point that they would tell the kids to give back Alexa's crayons/ stickers/ balloons etc).

This is us at Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan's session at Masjid Wilayah. 

Personally I feel that that is not the right approach to sharing. The best way would have been to teach the kids to ask for permission in using other people's stuff (it's the perfect occasion for it) and let them play with each other. And once the playtime is over, also encourage the kids to return whatever items that's not theirs. I feel that the parents are the best example to the kids and if we want our children to be generous and kind, we must show how generosity and kindness is practiced in front of the kids so that they can take heed.

Alexa joining my mum and me for Tafseer of Surah Al-Mulk in Shah Alam. As you can see, she always has crayons and a drawing book with her to keep her occupied during the program. As with other toddlers, she does get bored after a while (she does not do this all day). If she needs to run/ walk/ explore, I let her be and just make sure she's within eyesight.

3. Have the Habit of Asking
Kids, being kids, do not know how to ask for things and usually they will snatch the items that they want from the shelves/ other kids etc. I learnt this from a colleague of mine in UiTM when many years ago, she and her family went for visiting to our home for Eid. We had these KFC Hello Kitty figurines in our house and her kids liked them. Her kids were around 7 to 10 years old at the time. When their father saw them playing with the figurines, he asked the kids, did you ask permission? And wonderfully, the kids did ask permission before playing and they even asked if they could keep the figurines and bring them home. What I like about this is that the kids are open and honest, they liked something and they wanted to play with it. They wanted it enough to take them home. And I did give some of them to them, but not all. No tantrums, with proper thank you's and I loved the whole experience. My colleague was slightly embarrassed but to me, hey, there's no need to be embarrassed. Your kids are amazing!
So what we've done is to try and remind Alexa to properly ask for what she needs/ wants and say thank you after. It's still a work-in-progress but Alhamdulillah, she sometimes do it (and sometimes she doesn't). What matters is that we keep on teaching and reminding her to ask, and say thank you (and we show her how it's done as well).

Running to go to kindergarten. Alhamdulillah she is excited about school.

Kids are amazing, they learn the darnest things (so be careful of what you say and do in front of them) and everything is a work-in-progress. As a parent, it does get frustrating sometimes and it gets overwhelming as well. Don't give up and take baby steps together. As much as we are teaching them the necessities of life, they are also teaching us how to be a better person, inshaa Allah. Celebrate small successes and teach them the importance of trying.

Me, a work-in-progress.

xoxo Mrs Fashionista