Monday, March 31, 2008

The chosen school

To put things into context:
-> This is a continuation of a series, first part of which is on my blog.
-> My son was 2 when we enrolled him and this was his first exposure to outside care.
-> When I say school, I really mean daycare!

You know how you could be searching for something everywhere when it is sometimes right under your nose? That came true for us in the school hunt.

There was K School, right down the street from me and I never thought of looking there before because I thought it was a proper school. It was, I should say, it is, a proper private school with kindergarten and elementary classes. But what I didn't know till a friend moved her daughter there was that they also had a full time toddler program for 2 year olds. Once I found that out, there was nothing to stop me from checking it out.

The first thing that hit me when I entered K school for the first time was the sunshine. It was bright, bright, bright, everywhere! The school is built so there is a center aisle, and large classrooms on either side, lining the walls. Each classroom had at least three tall french windows which brought all the light in, and created a natural atmosphere of cheer. (which made me wonder why all the other
schools shortened their window space!)

To make it short, here's what really attracted me to K school:
-> It was essentially a playschool, everything is taught through play - alphabets, month, days of the week, weather etc, but that is not where the emphasis is on. Importance is given to playing, having fun and learning to coexist harmoniously.
-> Spacious classrooms, at least more spacious than what I had seen at other places. And tastefully decorated without overcrowding the artwork
-> A huge gym, with wooden floors, which was spacious and just as bright as the classrooms.
-> A really large playground, with a 'firetruck', a 'train', a slide and plenty of sand to play in.
-> He wouldn't be stuck inside the same room all day long. Apart from two outdoor sessions, and one gym session everyday, there was also music on alternate days and he'd have to go out and sit in the common area. Lots of walking and moving around throughout the day.
-> A bonus that I hadn't been looking for were Spanish classes - at this age, it was nothing more than rhymes, songs and puppet shows in Spanish. They last for about 15 minutes twice a week
-> Unbeatable commute. It is smack in the middle of my work and home. Takes me at most 10-12 min from home or work, in peak traffic
-> The teachers seemed okay with holding kids for comfort. Then, and even now, I always see one kid or another perched on the teachers' lap. I liked that they didn't take the hands off approach in this respect.
-> No timeouts - one of the biggest pluses in my opinion. They discipline through positive reasoning with the child at his/her level.
-> The kids seemed a content and playful lot - not overly aggressive, but not overly quiet either. Just happy toddlers.

-> I could not send my own food - it was daycare provided, and the vegetarian alternatives were dismal compared to what he had been used to at home.
-> Their timings were not flexible - it was either a 2 hour playschool option or a full day. And we had to wait till two weeks before he turned two.
-> Slightly pricey, but the difference between this and area schools was under $50/month. And you got a lot more for the price.

After I left the first tour, I called my husband to say 'This is the first place I haven't found anything wrong with'! Two more visits later, we had confirmed that this was it.

6 months later, what I know now
-> I am happy and more importantly, my son is very happy at this place. I think he has changed a lot over the past few months, and I see the change in intangibles, in how easily he interacts with other children, how he jumps head first into a ball pit, without clinging to me, how he waits for his turn and how polite he is.
-> I wish there were a little bit more specific information on what he does during the day. There is no parent teacher meet as such, since teachers and parents chat nearly every day at drop off and pick up time. And the teachers do tell me if something was wrong, but I was hoping for some more details on what interests him...I guess this is a problem with any school in this kind of a set up?
-> What I thought were minuses before ended up not mattering at all. Food is a non-issue now, what he doesn't eat there, he compensates at home. The timings are fine, because they align well with my work. And they are open year round, except for major holidays, so I don't have to look for alternate care during breaks.

Overall, K school offered him a fantastic start - giving him the right skills at the right time. And I am pleased that my search which seemed to go on forever came to an end at this place.

Excuse me, I’m a birthday momzilla

Kiran's Column
Kiran is an ex journalist, features writer, The Times of India (The SundayReview), The Asian Age and Features Editor at Cosmopolitan India. She now freelances as a features writer and runs an advertising agency in partnership with her husband. You can read more of her at Karmic Kids

I grew up in prehistorical times, when birthdays meant one wore a new dress, one of the three new dresses one got in a year, the other two for Id and Christmas (me being the offspring of an inter religious union), when friends and family came over, invited or uninvited (remember, this was the era before every home even had a telephone, and those who remembered it was your birthday came across in anticipation of a party), the mother cooked the entire day and hoped she wouldn’t run short of food, and generally roped in neighbours and sisters to help her. The father played gracious host, and puffed his cigarettes happily unmindful that he was polluting little lungs, and a cake was cut, wafers and soft drinks distributed for the aam junta, while the really close family friends and relatives stayed back for dinner. No one was invited to. It was understood that they would. These were riotous parties with family bonding, cracking of insider family jokes, and us cousins raising hell, thanks to parents too busy catching up on gossip to really be bothered about us.

And then I had my son. In my innocence, in the first year of his life, I didn’t think much about birthday parties for kids. Sure, I had friends who had had kids already, and I had heard weird rumours of parents planning birthday parties for months on end, and wondered how would it need a month of planning to throw a birthday party. A wedding perhaps, yes, but a birthday party?
Thus happened the brat’s first birthday party, where I called friends and family over home, and had in my innocence, cake to be cut, wafers, cold drinks, sandwiches and the likes of a party which had gone out of fashion three decades ago. Thankfully no one except immediate family turned up.

Things have changed since. The brat began playschool and I began getting invited to “Birthday parties”. I am a quick learner. The next birthday party happened also at home, but I made sure to invite kids, have games, return gifts and a menu. I had still not got into the big league. Getting into nursery into a proper school changed all that.

I still remember my shock and amazement at one of the earliest birthday parties I attended. At a five star venue. With lifesize cartoon characters walking around in keeping with the DisneyWorld theme, chatting up the kids. The older of which were taking their chances in roughing up the poor unfortunates doomed to be hot and stuffy in those costumes. There was a stage like a Disney castle. Girlie return gifts with Minnie Mouse for the girls, and Mickey doing the honours for the boys. And the gifts, a bath towel and robe and fluffy slippers set. It was a scene straight out of Disneyland, and I was left open mouthed. It was here, that I learnt about the concept of party organizers. These were wonderful people, who for a sum ranging from the nominal to the empty your pockets out, came in and organized everything for you. The basic ones came after you had decided on a venue, and sent in their decorating guys to blow up and string up the one gadzillion balloons that make up an integral part of any birthday decoration, along with the theme based cut outs, plus the huge banner declaring Happy Birthday to tyke concerned, personalized with the name which will cost you extra. And sent in a DJ, a games host, a tattoo artist, and a magician to keep the kids entertained for an hour or two while the escorting moms gossiped over the din.

The ones higher on the food chain came in when you decided you were flush with cash and could afford to spend a kings ransom on them. They do a venue recce and charge you for it. They give you theme options with previews of how everything will look like. They will organize a customized return gift. And a customized khoi bag, from which goodies will rain to the delight of scrambling kids below. And they will ensure the cake arrives on time. The customized cake. Not to mention getting in some minor celebrities if you so desire. Basically, you attend the party as a guest. Without pulling your hair out. Give them a month of lead time to organize your venue, your invites, your customized decorations, customized return gifts, and the celebrities. A mini wedding, perhaps? Yes, the budget for some of these dos could run into lakhs and that’s excluding the venue and the food.

Last week I attended a slew of parties which ranged the gamut from a terrace held birthday party (for children??? I was terrified through the entire do), a party held in a mall’s gaming area, which had the hosting mother almost tearing her hair out as kids ran anywhich way to their games of choice rather than going in line from one game to next as she had, in her naivete, imagined when she booked the place, a Pizza Place party, which was crowded, noisy and fun. And probably the least expensive of the lot. The terrace party was the most lavish, with jumping castles, and crawl in tents for the kids, popcorn, candyfloss and coke vending machines, tattoo artist, a magic show, a great spread of food, a DJ spinning tracks for the kids to dance to and a games host to keep them occupied. Hair braiding for the girls, handkerchief making, clay pottery tables, where children can paint on raw mugs which they then take home, a bead corner, where the mother and the child can select the beads and the look they want for a necklace or a bracelet made on the spot. Face painting. Mehndi artists. Theme parties, where hats to the theme or masques are handed out to every child as they enter. Parties where moms are treated to manicures and pedicures in a corner while their kids play. (I loved this one).

Puppet shows. The cartoon characters walking around amiably through the venue, interacting with the children. Name the cartoon character—from the Disney classics Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse to the more contemporary Power Rangers, and the new fangled Ben 10, they’re all available to spice up your party. At a cost of course. I find the children crowd them up and take sadistic pleasure in pummeling them, little rascals, so I’ve never hired them. Plus I find the cost unjustifiable. Hiring so many men and costumes to walk around for a kings ransom seems ludicrous to me.

I have heard of Ipods as return gifts, customized Tshirts, made on the spot with the child choosing the cartoon character he wants on it, and how he wants his name written on it, towels and bedlinen with the guest child’s name on it, and other extravaganzas that make my own humble peak cap and crayons pale in comparison. I insist on return gifts that are age appropriate and not such high value that they break the bank. Call me cheap. One of the nicest, and not too expensive return gifts the brat has received is a handpainted nameplate to his room (unfortunately since he doesn’t have a room to his name, it stays on his cupboard) and a placemat with a PowerRanger and his name on it. One of the worst return gifts was a tshirt that proclaimed "I attended ______'s birthday party." Thankfully, the maid's son had no qualms about wearing it.

I have wisened to the art of throwing a birthday party now. But, I am lazy. I dont do a home party anymore. The first two years have taught me a lesson. Its too much time and effort, and is always never appreciated. Having said that, one of the best birthday parties I have attended had a mother empty out her living room of all furniture, call in a games host and a tattoo artist, and order in burgers and french fries and Coke from the neighbourhood McDonalds. The kids loved it. I book a venue, with snacks rather than dinner. The party is always evening, five to seven thirty. Too early for dinner. And the children are generally too worked up running up a storm to have any dinner. I refuse to have the party in the house if more than five children are involved, I know I will throw my back out cleaning up before and after the party. I call a birthday party organizer. I tell him what my theme is for the decorations. Last year, I did a Noddy theme, in keeping with the current favourite character the brat swore allegiance to, and this year, Spongebob was my theme du jour. I order a birthday cake make in the likeness of said cartoon character. I scour the umpteen birthday shops for decorations and khoi bags made with said character as motif. I also select a return gift, which is within a fixed budget. Nothing anywhere percentage wise even near ipods and such like. The party organizer is told what colours the balloons need to be, and what cartoon character needs to go up on the walls of the venue, he can be relied on to arrive an hour before the party starts and get everything done and spanking spiffy, before the hordes trickle in. The cake is delivered at the venue, always, which, except for some minor glitches like this time round when the venue manager decided to keep the cake in the refrigerator and not inform us that it had arrived, leading to increasingly panic striken calls being made to cake place, which kept insisting that the cake had been delivered. I don’t have a DJ. They insist on playing music at ear threatening levels, and switching off all the lights, which scares me, given the brat’s penchant for disappearing into the darkness. And I am sure, all mothers feel the same. I have a tattoo artist. And a games host. No magic show yet. The brat didn’t appreciate it until this year, when I find he is now sitting through them, so maybe I will have a magician next year. I donot have candyfloss vending machines, since the candyfloss ends up in everyone’s hair and on their clothes.

I try to keep it as simple as I can. I wonder how long before the pressure to up the ante sets in. What are your experiences with birthday parties?

This post by Kiran of

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Choosing a daycare & pre-school

(This post by Sandeepa)

It has been two years since I went out in search for a daycare/preschool for S and so my memories are a bit dusty. Remember momnesia ?

Anyway it was early 2006, that I started S with her first daycare/preschool. She was 2 years and a month or so by then. Could speak pretty well and I knew would tell me in words if she disliked specific things about the daycare, so this made it a little easier for me.

1. On the outset, I had decided to go with one of the 3 major chains in my area. They were The Goddard, The Kiddie Academy and The Kinder Care. They had good quality control policies, certain structures they had to meet and a body that ensured that these were followed. Also a friend who is a teacher at a private, independent daycare had told me if I chose an independent or a local daycare I should research them more thoroughly. I was not sure how, so decided to go with the chains

2. I wanted a facility which would have flex part time hours.

3. Since this would be her first time S would be staying outside of home I wanted the facility to be near my/D’s workplace, so either of us could go and check on her. Also at that time our workplace was a comfortable commute and so it was ok for S to commute too.

4. Next, I wanted the school to be spacious, the classrooms to be cheerful, with windows and lots of natural light, the school to have their own grounds & play area, the school to be clean, clean and again clean, the teacher to be warm, smiling, friendly.

5. Security was another thing. We ruled out schools adjacent to shopping plazas or facing too much traffic

6. Of the chains, Goddard did not have flex part time hours. Kiddie Academy did but was not near workplace. I saw one more school and though they satisfied a lot of the criterion, the teacher of the class S would go to had heavily made up eyes which put me off. Yeah I am pretty shallow that way.

7. Just beside D’s workplace and across mine there was this daycare/preschool which was not Kinder Care but under the same KLC facility. It was known as the Prodigy Child Development Centers. The school met criterion 2, 3, 4 and 5. It wa spart of the corporate center and there were colleagues with kids there. I particularly liked the teacher of the class S would go to. She was very warm, friendly and always smiling.
They also had their own kitchen and provided cooked meals.

Good Points

I really loved the class S went to till she was 2 years 7 months
The lead teacher was really nice and I owe her big time for taking the bigger share of potty training on her shoulders.
The teachers were very helpful with getting S adjusted, helping her eat first few days.
They encouraged the fact that we did not speak any English at home and I wanted to keep it that way.
I was overall pretty happy with the center

Bad Points

The franchise did not require owner on the premises like Goddard does, so admin was a little lax.
The next class that S was moved to at 2years7months because most of her close buddies were moved to was a bit more rigid to my liking. The teacher of this class was pretty strict about writing skills and structured learning which I did not feel was necessary at that age or even for the other 3 year olds.


From 2 year11 month to 3 year2 months, S enjoyed lazy, relaxed times at home with her grandparents. No school and great fun.


The next school I chose was a pretty new franchise of Goddard that was closer to home as my commute was longer.

Good Points

The particular center being pretty new was very bright, cheerful, clean, blah, blah.
Last year they offered quiet a few activity classes like karate, soccer etc. at an additional rate within the school premises and hours.
Since S was older and more responsible now, I didn’t worry about eating, sleeping and those kind of things, so there is not much I can say about that.
Learning is very teacher oriented but I think that works well for the kind of kid S is.
Since the owner is always on the premises, I can tell her if something does not suit me, she tries to resolve.

Bad Points

This year I do not see them offering any of those extra classes :(
They do not have a kitchen and I did not like the catered food much. This year they do not have the catering option and so food has to be always home lunch.
I would like learning to be a bit more exploratory, more of things to do with nature which I don’t see much.

Conclusion in General

1.Choosing the right daycare/pre-school depends on a lot of issues like proximity, hours, holidays etc. if both parents are working outside home. Thus, though I wanted to try out a Montessori for S once she was 3, the other factors weighed the scales against it, primary being the proximity.

2. With the chains a fair amount depends on the particular franchise.

3. A lot depends on the teacher of the particular class your child is attending.

4. With the centers which have a good reputation, there is at least no gross negligence or abuse

5. Spending some time in the classroom for a couple of days and observing other children in the class gives a fair idea of how the teacher interacts etc.

Since S is a December born and our township has a cut off in October, S is going to Kindergarten at Goddard too from September this year. I am not sure what I am going to do next year though. Are there any other kids at DMC with similar issues, i.e. school has a cutoff in October but the child is November or December born, what did you do ?

Friday, March 28, 2008

Picking a care provider...

--posted by Pallavi (All Things Yummy)

Being a working mom, day care for my little one was/is always on my mind. I started thinking about it even before I had him. When I saw my friends around me going through various things, I always put myself in their position and thought.. what would I do.. ?!
#1:Some of them quit working altogether.. that wasn't an option for me due to GC processing blah blah..
#2. Some of them had visiting parents at any given time.. (lucky them !) Both my mom and m-i-l are working women too.. so they could only spend a few months away from India at most. So, that option was ruled-out too.
#3: Some sent their kids to India (well the plan was for about a few months initially, which ended up being a couple of years too in some cases !!) They are definitely very brave that they could do that! I could hardly imagine it...
#4: So, the only remaining option was to send my kid to a daycare here.. Either to an in-home babysitter or a traditional daycare center. And ever since I came to that conclusion, I started paying more attention to the group of friends who did that.. and their kids :)

Then R came into our lives and things started to unfold in reality.. Luckily my mom and mil took turns and stayed here until he was about 10 months old. So that worked out great esp. since I was working from home then too. I was always home with the baby and was working too. When he was about 8 months, I started investigating into what options I had then.
#1: To have a nanny who would visit and watch him (I was working from home then.. so that seemed like a great option)
#2. Enroll him at a traditional american day care facility
#3. Drop him off at a desi babysitter's place who would watch him along with couple of other kids.

I tried finding a nanny but there many issues with that and couldnt find anyone that fit.. so #1 was ruled out. Then, came the second option of the traditional daycare center. And from what I have observed and heard from my friends, the kids got sick too often at the daycare..And I was very worried about that.. So, I decided to go with option #3. Started talking to many babysitters in my area. I visited a couple of them and I picked the lady who seemed friendly and had a clean home. She was recommended by a friend and her daughter who is same age as R goes there too. So, I picked her. And started dropping off R there.

The first couple of weeks he was fine other than the stranger anxiety stuff and then came winter.. (bad timing !) And started a chain of ear-infections, colds, coughs, fever, antibiotics, loss of appetite, weight loss etc etc.. Its just too painful to even think about. Was tough on all of us. I am sure many of you know what I mean.. Eventually as the spring came along, he adjusted much better. I thought I will keep him here until he is 3 and then find a preschool.. I thought he would be older and may be not get sick that often. And for sometime everything was pretty nice.

About when he was 20 months old, R started talking a lot. And he started saying .. "aunty sofa sit.. tv watch".. and he kept saying that..with the limited vocabulary he had..I realized he is spending most of his time watching TV.... I am not too fond of TV and think he is way too young for it now. It was about end of september last year when I really started to feel that he needs some place where he can spend his time doing other things that are more useful for him. But from the previous experience, I didnt want to move him to a new place
in winter . So, decided to wait for warmer weather. But then I thought I could do my research as to whats available. Yes, I love research. I like to know whats out there before I make my pick.. :) So, I started looking not very actively but on and off whenever I could.

First went to the internet (like I always do with my research) pulled up a list of all the daycare/preschool facilites around where I live. Made a list of about 25-30. Yes, there are that many within 5 miles from our home!! And ordered them by the distance starting with the closest. Then started visiting each of the websites and called them and gathered all the information I could over the phone. Made an Excel Spreadsheet with the following columns for each one.
Name & Website & Phone Number
Distance from our home...and preferably on the way to work- the closer it is the better.

Are open atleast until 6:30PM (Both of us work quite far from home.. so anything earlier would be hard)
3.Food Options:
They have a good menu for our dietary needs or allow us to substitute on those days if we are not happy with the selection. (there were some that didnt allow anything from home due to the allergies issues)
4.Daily curriculum:
What do they do during the day.. when do they play, eat, sleep, learn. What kind of teaching approach they follow.. independence oriented or more structured..

The lowest one was $120 per week and the highest $320 per week. Most were between $180 - $250 for this age group.
Have a bus facility to the public schools-not now but after a couple of years
8. Sick Policy, Holidays, Student:Teacher ratio, Potty Training & Age Group divisions.
Most seemed same for this age group so these became non-criteria now..
9.Other things they offer:
Some schools offered webcam. Some offered Dance, Soccer, Martial Arts etc, even gourmet food for parents, drycleaning and weeknights babysitting...
10.Reputation & References:
What I heard from my friends about them.

Once I had all of this information, I could eliminate a lot of them.
From the past couple of weeks or so, I have been doing this much more actively. Now I am down to about 7 facilities. We will be touring them all. I will be checking for the following things :

1.Get in and get out.. how fast and easy it was.
3. Have a clean and well kept facility (How is the Kitchen if they have one)
4. If staff seem caring and experienced.
5. Good outdoor age-appropriate playgrounds for all age groups (R loves the park) - everyone will say yes to this on the phone :) but when you see you will know the good ones from the not-so-good ones.
6. They are quite diverse (with kids from all races/countries/languages etc.. ) Thats very important in this day and age. I believe that children need to learn to appreciate everyone alike and its important to inculcate that unbiased nature from childhood.
7.How the rooms are setup, Art work and other things posted on the bulletin boards, what the kids are doing while we are there.
8. The daily reports and Menu for the month and activities, themes etc.,
9. I definitely like to check out the infants/early toddlers room to see how they are being comforted..

We are touring the facilities now.. have 3 more left.. will post results after that pretty soon. Do share your views.. Would love to hear what you think..

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Some school talk around blogosphere

After Kiran's column on Nursery School admissions I saw a lot of posts around the blogosphere concetrating on similar issues.

Rohini who blogs at Mama Says So, has her strategy and experience chalked out in The School Saga. It was interesting to read how she narrowed down her "Wanted" lists and then finally settled on the school that offered as she says

" pretty traditional kind of education – the kind that most Indian kids in my generation had"

If you are in Bombay, you might want to look up Kiran's post and also the above one to get a grasp of the school system there.

Next I came across Mnamma who is a member of DMC and who has returned to India with her family after spending some years in the US. I think she is writing about Chennai and her post will do a whole lot of good to parents considering returning to India and choosing a school in Chennai. She talks about school hunt and admission here.

"There were entrance examination for all classes from 1st standard onwards until 9th standard and there were hundreds of children of all ages and parents accompanying their children. M and N were petrified with fear at the sight of the huge crowd. They grew progressively nervous and were repeatedly asking me “ Amma nee en kooda iruppiyaa “.

"After we went in, the school authorities asked all the parents to vacate the campus and no one were permitted to stay inside the campus during the examination. They kept constantly assuring us that “Your children are safe in our hands” . I was very nervous as I left M and N with their temporarily assigned teacher. M and N were almost in tears. We whiled away the one and half hours with great difficulty and eagerly went back to pick up M and N. We had to wait another hour before we could actually see them and they were not happy"

Tough experience for those tiny girls and I am so glad that they finally found a good school where admission was not such a nightmare.

On Picking a Preschool in the US, I found a very good post at Under The Banyan Tree. The article Picking a Preschool discusses some of the popular streams of preschools in the US (ok maybe also else where).

I like when she says "Every child is different. So the method the child must be taught must differ too."

She classifies the methods in two broad streams and then a third which is a subset of the second

"A child-centered method is one where the basic goal is the wholesome and autonomous development of the child. The individuality of a child is celebrated. There is no segregation in terms of subject, it is believed that all the subjects are inter related" , she says. read the details in her post

"A teacher-centered method is a style educating the child by teaching the child conformity. The children are motivated to learn through external means – test, assignment kind of stuff. This style is based on the theory that the environment shapes a person. The characteristics of this style of education is its emphasis on product over process, separate subjects, fixed curriculum for all the students and imporantc of an authority figure(namely the teacher)"

"In a Montessori there is very little interaction – between the kids/between the kids and the teacher. The children are encouraged to work on their own, the teacher ‘guides’ them. First and foremost, the children are taught how to take care of themselves – basics like how to wear their shoes, how to dress them selves, how to clean their environment…kind of simple activities. Lots of stress is placed on nature, most of the materials used are natural. In the present days, the Montessori programs are highly watered down versions of the original method. "

You should really go and read her post because these are just excerpts. The thing about Montessori as I see it is many of the schools which say they are Montessori are not really adherring to the method. So unless you are well aware of what to expect from the system, you might be choosing a Montessori which is less that and more teacher-oriented.

The particular thing I liked about her post is how she writes about the kind of kids who will thrive in each kind of system.

The next one is from Chitra Aiyer. She has a lot of posts and information on Bangalore schools if you want to check out. Read her articles here.

Many of you Moms must have already read these posts, but if you haven't it might help shape your decision

And come on with your posts for this month's theme too.

Tata buys Jag and Rover

Don't know how this is related to the 'momz' club...but thought this was a proud moment for India and wanted to post it ..,8599,1725543,00.html

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Right School for your child

Searching for the right school for kids is a cumbersome task for today's parent. Few months back, while discussing with my folks on deciding for pre-school for Genie, they found it funny that we (DH & I) spent an hour or two at the school where we plan to enroll her. They say for me, they went a day or two before the first day of school, paid fees and took admission. They never visited the school before, WHY... simply because the relatives/friends/neighbors who sent their kids to the same school had only good things to tell when asked and also the school was NEAR to our home. Our parents had it so easy.

Now there are many factors to contemplate before enrollment of your child in a school. In Mumbai itself, many new pre-schools mushroom on regular basis. Its like if you have a degree in ECCE (early child care education) and the resources especially Vitamin M (money), rest all follows.

Genie starts her playschool this June in one of the pre-schools in our neighborhood. We took admission for it just last month. She will be spending 2 hours daily five days a week. The admission process has been quite simple. No interviews either with the parents or kids. Just fill the form, pay fees and admission process is over.

What made us choose this school from the trio of pre-primary nurseries in our area - for One - the school is just less than 10 minutes away from my home (read NEAR) and Second - practically whomsoever we know and asked have sent their kids to this pre-school as it is Simply the Best.

Hey aren't the above two the same reasons which made my parents decide my pre-school... Yes they were the two main reasons for us to start checking this pre-school in my neighborhood.

When we visited the school few months, the Catholic couple who has been running the school in the huge backyard of their bungalow since 20+ years gave us detailed information especially education background of themselves, teachers and assistants of the school. We were impressed by their credentials and beside a mother's instinct was feeling good about the whole thing already as they spoke and treated us well.

They showed us around the school. All the batches (playschool, nursery, jr & sr kg) have no more than 30 kids with a teacher, 2 assistants and a lady ayah. They have large classrooms with themes like fruits, flowers, animals, etc that change every month, activity tables, a large playground with slides, swings, rocking boats, rainbow climber, a huge sand pit, rope ladder, jungle gym, shape tunnels and various skills enhancing toys, games and teaching materials. They teach the kids how to eat, clean up after playing, eating and also potty training.

They left us on our own and we stayed back for an hour or so. We mingled with the teachers and assistants, saw how they handle young kids, spoke, read and played with them. We made a mistake of not taking Genie along with us, do not ask why... If she had come along, we would have to drag her home...

What was important to both of us - the behaviour of the owners, teachers, assistants and helpers - how they treat the kids - are they polite or do they run out of patience when a toddler throws a tantrum.

Since the number of kids did not exceed 30, teachers could manage to give personal attention. The school has many activities and they make it a point to involve each kid be whatever the age.

I think that if your child progresses well i.e. understands and grasps things well, looks forward to going to school even on holidays, if the teachers and other staff teaches well, encourage your child to take part in various activities, etc, then the school is right for your child. I would not compare the chosen school with other schools as it could leave me feeling disheartened.

At the end of it, we both are happy with our decision of enrolling Genie in this pre-school. We will be taking her to see the school soon. We are more excited about the whole thing, its like we have taken admission for ourselves. :). When Genie is ready for SKG, we will have to search for some other school, where there will be interviews and much more. Now, we just want Genie to mingle with kids of her age, play and not be shy of everyone.

I will end the post with this quote "Education is an ornament in prosperity and a refuge in adversity"- Aristotle.

Cross posted on by Batul

The right schools

Thought I'd follow up on the great article on choosing schools from earlier last week by RainbowDays (sorry, I don't know the author's name yet!) I received a note from the folks who put together the following site (aimed at US parents):

"The site has a listing of 140K US schools; public/private/elementary/ middle/ high. Site is all free and enables you to research and compare all US schools; test scores, maps, ratings etc.
We integrated virtual earth/live maps from Microsoft: "

Really interesting, and combined with a bunch of other parent-focused sites can help with making some school choices. Not sure if there are Indian resources like this out there?


Mughalai Biriyani

I'd posted this biriyani recipe which was my mother's original recipe on my site and would love any comments or additions you might have. Any tricks that you experienced cooks out there might want to share? I found this became a real favorite with my kids (I cut down on the chillies a lot.)

This recipe calls for mutton/lamb, but I found it worked just fine with chicken.

Three cups Pulao or Basmati Rice (450 gms in the original recipe)
One pound lamb or chicken (500 gms)
One lime
Quarter cup nuts (almonds or cashews)
Mint leaves, a few sprigs
Three tablespoons ghee (clarified butter)
1/4 bunch coriander leaves
Two large onions
One inch of ginger (one tablespoon crushed)
Five green chillies
Three cloves of garlic
One cup of yogurt
Half a cup of milk
One pinch or turmeric
Other spices: Saffron, bay leaves, cardamom, cumin and Cinnamon (a pinch of each)

  • Grind ginger,chillies, garlic and nuts into a fine paste
  • Fry sliced onions in the ghee or butter till golden brown and crisp
  • Remove the onion and in the hot ghee, fry the ground paste and then add the meat in that paste and fry
  • After about five minutes, add a cup of water and cook till the meat is tender. make sure to cover the meat as it cooks. I found it took about fifteen minutes, and I added another cup of water as well.
  • In parallel, start cooking rice till it is 3/4 done (I'd use a quarter less water and cook for a quarter less time than normal)
  • Once the rice is ready, add a teaspoon of salt to it and mix well
  • In the cup of yogurt, add the powdered spices (except for the saffron), and add in a sliced chilli, mint and lime juice
  • Add the yogurt mix to the cooked meat and stir in well
  • Dissolve the saffron in some warm milk
  • Pre-heat the oven to 300 degrees
  • In a strong (oven-safe), deep pan lay out one layer of rice. Plan on there being at least two layers of rice
  • Sprinkle some saffron milk onto the rice. Next layer some onion and lamb on. Repeat the rice/ onion/ lamb (or chicken) layer
  • Cover tightly and place in a 300 degree oven, and bake for an hour

Best wishes,

Firstborns and Quality Time...

We have always wondered if the second child is getting as much time as the first used to get when she was a baby. This article in the Washington Post talks about it.

Read On...

Link: Quality Time Seems Stacked In Favor of Firstborns

Friday, March 21, 2008

Idol and Democracy....

Yesterday, I got back home in time for a long drawn out dinner with the kids, and as we dawdled over dessert, we landed up chatting about politics (Don't ask! The price of having a journalist dad and a consistent discussion of news in the house ). D, my daughter, is pretty serious about Hilary Clinton. My son consistently notes that "Guliani dropped out, right? I like McCain." I suspect the elections are going to be tension-ridden at home! These short chats often lead us to questions on why there are changes in presidents, why are we in Iraq, etc.

From the sublime to the not-so-sublime, since seeing Sanjaya do his thing in American Idol last year, my kids are total American Idol fans. They were fascinated by the sight of seeing a young, brown kid standing up there as part of such a major American media spectacle. It was exhilarating for them and they were hooked. They couldn't believe that he got voted off. Last year, they just asked the question, but didn't quite engage on what the vote meant (well, they were only 3 1/2 years old!) This year, it's fascinating to see them make the connections. They insist they want us to call in as soon as the show is done to vote for their favorites. D has been crest-fallen every time someone she likes gets booted. Yesterday, as the show ended, she moaned, "Amanda Obermeyer -- how could this happen?!! I'm sad." While I wonder about all that TV time, I love that they're so in touch with the singing and dancing. also, I feel we must be doing something right because both kids say, "Jason Castro is there because he looks that way."....precocious/ precious.

The interesting thing was that yesterday, once they got over the shock of Amanda's ouster, they made a bunch of connections.
-> we call
-> other americans call (25 million?)
-> they count the number of calls
-> the bottom 3 sit on the awful 3 stools!
-> you say goodbye to the lowest one!!
-> I guess that's why Rudy Giuliani dropped out....

Such fun to see them make the connections and engage in these conversations!

Blueberry Orange Smoothie

--posted by Pallavi
[This recipe has been cross-posted at All Things Yummy]
As the weather gets warmer, its nice to have a refreshing and cold drink. Here is an easy and quick mixed fruit recipe. It is one of the many combinations created by my darling husband... I will be posting more of these mixed fruit smoothie recipes as the summer comes along...! Are quite refreshing, healthy, easy to make and the little ones will love them...

1 Cup Blueberries(Fresh/Frozen)
1 Orange (peeled/de-skinned) (Sweet ones work great)

1 Cup Grapes(Seedless Green / Black) - we used both
1 Banana
1 tsp Honey
some crushed ice(optional) - we skipped it this time.

Add all the ingredients to the blender/juicer and blend to form a thick yummy smoothie. Thats it !
Serve it with a toast for breakfast, after lunch, as a quick drink after school, or after supper.

Its absolutely delicious and quite healthy. Enjoy !
Servings : 4

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Hey, ladies. What do you think of this. Interesting that the jounalist (Harriet Rubin) had such a hard time getting people to talk to her:

Would love to hear what you think?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Testing Lead in Toys

How do you test for Lead in your kids' toys? I did see a few at home testers online. Has anyone used them ? Any recommendations ?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Choosing the Right School

A and I began thinking about playschool for Chubbocks when he was about 18 months old - just looking around at the options - even though we didn't plan to send him for another few months. I felt playschool was necessary for him as he was an extremely shy and sensitive child who refused to socialise with any other kids of his age in the park, and I also wanted to do something structured in terms of his learning but not too much so. A 5-day program would be too much, I felt. We looked around at 2 or 3 playschools which were in our neighbourhood but some we felt were too big in class size, some had too much of an 'admission-focussed' approach, like teaching kids alphabets, spelling, numbers and 'Interview techniques', which almost made me gag.

One of our friends happened to be working with a playschool group called Julia Gabriel. This is a Singapore-based chain of playschools and one of the first things that appealed to me was that their classes required the parent to accompany the child. There was no way I would have left Chubbocks alone anywhere at that age. We visited the school and spent nearly an hour observing the teachers, the classes and the school set-up. The school mission was to turn out 'confident communicators', and they explained they use the phonetic method to teach alphabets. Though the school was small, with a minuscule playground, they had a nice array of toys for kids including mock-hammers, a cookery counter and so on. The class-rooms were nice and roomy and each one had 3 teachers, along with one ayah on stand-by and they all had attached bathrooms which had been designed for little ones, with low-placed pots and steps leading up to the washbasins.

The teaching really caught our fancy, consisting of a lot of fun and games, some running around and the way the teachers encouraged the kids to speak was wonderful. Most of all, we fell in love with the teacher who headed the beginner's class - a man called Jimmy. He had the most incredible level of patience we have ever seen, and the way he coaxed even the shyest of kids to speak or perform was amazing. We felt that our kiddo would be in good hands if Jimmy was to be his first transition to a school environment.

JG had 2 hour classes thrice a week, so I used to go on weekdays and A would go on Saturdays. It was always great fun to go, and Chubbocks, even though he didn't participate much at first, always enjoyed going there. Kids were taught about clean-up time - cleaning away their own toys and setting the stage for the next activity, to take off and put on their own shoes and the school served them a healthy snack, with juice, and fruit and vegetables. The phonetic method, I honestly couldn't appreciate until recently, because I didn't see it translating into reading skills, for example.

But Jimmy really helped Chubbocks blossom from a shy kid who hung his head and clung to Mamma to one who fearlessly walks up to strangers and makes friends with them, be they kids or adults ( Come to think of it, Mamma now has to work to put a fear of strangers back), and has become an amazingly skillful communicator in three languages. When he graduated from his primary class to the next level, the first remark his new teacher made was about his communication skills. Granted some of that may be genetic, since not all the kids from Jimmy's class got that comment, but the ability to make him confident enough to state what he thinks is all thanks to Jimmy.

When it came to big school, I was so determined not to get all agitated and worked up like so many of our friends when it came to admissions that I became too laid-back and completely missed seeing the ads schools put out about admissions deadlines, and so did A. All of a sudden, we were on the backfoot and scrambling and worried. Then A found that the local Delhi Public School admissions deadline was not over and we sent our factotum to fetch the forms. Unfortunately, there are 2 DPSs in the neighbourhood, one good and the other terrible, and our Man Friday had got the wrong form which we never figured out until much too late.

A somewhat experimental school, called Shikshantar, had extended admissions for more entrants so we decided to find out more about it. Two of my friends who had kids there praised it highly, calling it a school which helped kids become self-motivated and so on. The thing that worried A no end was that they have a completely unstructured curriculum for the first few years - kids just study what they feel like studying, so if you want your kids to be reading by a certain age and writing by another, that wasn't the best option. I still thought it sounded good and we sent off our application which, by the way, asked us lots of searching questions about our goals for the child and so on.

DPS had a formal interview process but we didn't want to put Chubbocks under any pressure, so we frankly didn't bother to 'prepare' him. He sailed through on his own( including singing 'Where's the party tonight' when asked to recite a poem) and we had to fork out a fortune ( Rs. 60,000, most of it non-refundable!!!) for the admission. I thought that that was too much money to throw away and we should wait for Shikshantar's decision before paying up but the deadlines didn't match and A panicked at the thought of Chubbocks not getting into any school at all due to our carelessness. So we paid through the nose, though I had no intention of sending him to an academic factory known for putting kids to the grindstone.

Then Shriram school, which had been dithering on admissions due to the Delhi government changes of rules finally decided to begin the process in Gurgaon at least. Most of our friends have their kids in Shriram and all of them are all praise for it. They all said it was a good, well-rounded school in the way it went about things and that academic pressure was quite low and they focussed more on turning out kids who were well-rounded human beings. True, the average kid there is from an upscale family and I had serious doubts about how well our middle-class mindset would fit in, but given the rave reviews, we plunged ahead. Shriram thankfully didn't have an interview for kids. They like mixed-race or religion couples, so we were bang on. Plus they tend to like kids with working moms, so we got another bonus point. I seem to remember filling out a long and detailed form about our beliefs and so on, and we were on the list for the 'interaction'.

At Shikshantar, while they had called parents and kids together, they let the kids run around and play in the playground and conducted their chats with the parents there itself, in a corner, which was nice and low-pressure. At Shriram too, they had us in the same room, though a teacher led Chubbocks off to one corner where they had laid out all kinds of toys and pictures while A and I were being interviewed. We were happy to find a former colleague on the interview board too, and the questions were pretty innocuous, like how Chubbocks took to his sibling and so on. I was very confident afterwards that we would be in though A was still biting his nails until we got the letter confirming it. We were really happy about the way things had gone and felt we had had a really low pressure time of it, apart from losing some big bucks enroute.

A year down the line, and A and I still feel very happy and confident about our choice, the more so due to what the Director recently said about the competitive spirit. I think we got off pretty easy in the process of admissions, because I have known people who've gone round the bend running around to hundreds of schools. I'm relieved not only that Chubs got into a good school but that he got into a school which has the kind of mix of academics and other skills that I wanted for him and the right values ( E.g. they recently held a workshop on the right way to celebrate birthdays - much needed, IMHO), and hopefully Puddi will make it there too.

Long version cross-posted at Rainbow Days.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

How to organize a play group ?

(posted by Pallavi)
Now that its going to be warm pretty soon, I am trying to think of exciting new activities for my 2 yr old. Taking him to the park and to the pool are a couple. I am considering a playset for the backyard too. Most kids in our friends circle are much older than him.. Right now he goes to an in-home babysitter(while I am at work) where all the other kids are younger than him and he plays all by himself. We are planning to find a good daycare for him pretty soon. But meanwhile, .. I want him to be able to play a lot more with his age group kids, learn to share etc.

I looked at some moms groups but none are for working moms. So, none of those are working out. There are many kids in my neighbourhood about his age. Ideally, it would be great if all of us get together and the kids can play. Since we live pretty close meeting on weekdays at parks or just at someone's house or backyard would be much easier I think. Also, the kids will grow up together and I think that will be great !

But the issue is that our subdivision is kind of new and every couple of months a new family is moving in. There has not been an opportunity to even meet and talk to everyone yet. So, I am not sure how to approach people and organize a playgroup. I wonder if anyone would even be interested or even care.. Has anyone been in similar situations before ? Ideas/ Suggestions please ?

Teaching kids about money

I remember the first time I got an allowance from my parents. It was Rs. 5 for a week, and I was 15! I have to admit that I was a real saver. No unnecessary ice-creams for me. I'm not sure what the going rate is in India these days, but I suspect it's pretty much the same as here in NYC...a LOT more than Rs. 5/ week!

Two articles (click on the links to see the whole articles from the wall street journal) that moms may want to take a look at as they help their children understand that value and issues associated with money.

Allowance 2.0
With kids spending billions online -- and charging it to mom and dad -- families are ditching the traditional weekly cash handout. Teaching the value of a buck in a cashless economy.

Making kids money savvy
Try These Four Financial Tricks
Give them a few dollars -- and some financial common sense.
Want to make sure your children grow up to be money-smart adults? Check out the four experiments below.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Difficult discussions

"So, what did spitter do?", asks K, my 4-year old son. The hazards of ubiquitous TV and passing grown-up conversations is that sometimes, the ugliness of public behavior is suddenly thrust on the consciousness of lil' ones. "A bad man", I said, then, "a man who did a bad thing"... clearly not thinking that one through. Of course, that meant that the kids followed up with, "what kind of bad thing." I was able to end the discussion by saying, "he made a lot of people feel bad that they trusted him", and then I challenged them to a race to the toy cupboard, and spent the next hour playing I Spy.

There are the giggles in staff meetings about what Specter paid for his trysts, but it's hard for me not to think about the awful stories of young girls plucked from their families and forced into prostitution. The horribleness of this upsets me, especially as it gets to be discussed more as some kind of antiseptic step in the political chess game. My years serving on the Sakhi board has sensitized me to the many ways that abuse happens. Some day, there's a conversation to be had with my twins, about right and wrong, about victims of crime who become part of the crime, and abuse. I don't want that day to come!
Roopa (

God didn't make perfect mothers...

[This post was written by Tharini of Winkie's Way]

I received this mail today from Gauri, and just couldn't think of a better place to share it than here....and especially so in the warm aftermath of our February theme. Read on and enjoy...

"May I go now?" the almost completed, eager mother asked.

"Not yet. There are essential parts and finishing touches to be added," her Maker replied.

"I look pretty good to me," she said, peering into the crystal pool at her feet.

"True, you're looking better all the time. But bear with me."

"What does a mother have to do, God, besides wash, feed, and clothe little bodies?"

God only smiled and continued working.

"What are you doing now?" the curious mother-to-be questioned.

"Tightening your anger valve. If this doesn't work, everyone is in trouble."

She watched as He reached for the container marked patience.

"And what do I need patience for?" she asked as He poured in quite a supply.

"After a week you will know, my child."

"And whatever could that be?"

"This is your bypass mechanism. It enables a mother to operate efficiently for long periods of time without compliments from her children."

"I'm sure I won't need that."

"I'm sure you will."

Then God reached for a bundle labeled insulation against loud noises.

"You can skip that," she told him. "I don't mind a little noise."

"That's nice," He said.

Seeing all the energy He was preparing to give her, she shifted uneasily from one foot to the other. "I wouldn't need all that energy in a million years."

"Little you know. You will use all of this and be begging for more before long."

"I didn't know there was so much involved in being a mother. You're not just putting me on, are you?"

"No, little mother."

With much apprehension, "Are you sure I can handle the job?"

"Quite sure...with help. I'm always available when you need me."

"I'm glad to know that. What could I possible need all these for?"

"A certain amount of pain, so that you will be fully equipped to sympathize with and minister to the needs of your children when they feel pain; tears, so that you will be able to cry with them when they are hurt; and laughter to blend with theirs for happy times."

The mother-in-waiting fidgeted while God attached yes and no buttons. "Wouldn't it be nicer just to say yes to my children all the time?"

"Definitely not. Good mothers need to say no--and often. Say it with kindness and they will respect you for it."

"Have you equipped me with this thing called kindness, Lord?"

"I have indeed."

"And what about respect? Do I have to respect my children?"


The anxious mother tried to be patient as God installed a question answerer, advice giver, get along without sleep, and a pretender not to notice.

"I know I wouldn't use one of those!" she said, as God came toward her with a let-go lever.

"Sure you will, though it's hard. This is a vital piece of equipment. Until this little lever is released, your children will not have room to grow properly, make their own decisions, or develop their own personalities."

"I guess that is important."

God stood back a few steps to appraise His work, then reached for a coat of love and wrapped it around her. "Wear this at all times, and you'll be a good mother."

"Am I ready now, God, to get on with the mothering bit?"

"You can go now," God said gently. "You're not perfect, but you will do."

Monday, March 10, 2008

Mommnesia is fine but Mommania is embarassing

Momnesia blog post was very enjoyable. That reminded me of one of the embarassing situations I have been in.

We were setting up the kitchen for our new Calcutta home. Hence a visit to the utensil store was all but necessary to buy the basic cooking utensils. The shop was all but swanky. Resembled more like a wholesale dealer's warehouse than a shop. When we entered, me, Mom in law and my son little R, there was barely place to stand. Three or four rickety stools were kept for the customers, already occupied. My son was already pretty irritated with the sweaty summer heat and hence was irritated. But he as always decided to express his irritation by irritating others.

And the most potent way to irritate me is by constantly humming some odd tune(or out of tune). But since the shop was too small, and with each one breathing on the other, I spoke under my breath and scolded him, "Don't hum.."

I then continued struggling to get attention of the reluctant sales man and get my stuff. All of a sudden saw a newly wed girl(rather boyish) looking wide eyed at me. Confused, I settled my eyes on her.... and so she spoke. She said, " Excuse me Ma'am. You scolded him for humming... but he did not hum. It was me"

I really did not know which way to run or vanish!...Height of embarassment I faced that day

Friday, March 7, 2008

Happy Woman's Day

"A tactful wife is one who ensures she spends so much that her husband can't afford another women"

Wishing all the DMC mommies - 'Happy Woman's Day'


So that's what it is!

Hiya, all.

I read this article today on mnbc, which discusses the forgetfulness many moms experience after having children, and found it very interesting.

I was particularly tickled by the one where 'mom' cut up her husband's grilled chicken into tiny little pieces 'because that's what a mom does'. Right? Right :). I very nearly did that to my husband's omelette this morning.

"There’s probably not a new mother alive who can’t identify and share a smile with Andi Silverman’s stories of memory lapses. Like the time she went shopping and left her groceries in the store. Or when she went on vacation with her two small children and forgot the diapers.

With two toddler sons, Nate, 3, and Teddy, 2, commanding her total attention, this kind of forgetfulness is to be expected, say medical experts. They even have a name for it — “momnesia.”

“It’s a state of the female brain that is a bit forgetful after she’s had a baby,” Dr. Louann Brizendine told TODAY correspondent Savannah Guthrie."

So that's the word - momnesia !

Theme for March'08

(This post by Sandeepa)

Thanks to Poppin's Mom for the "love" ly Feb Theme and thanks to all who participated. It sure did help us Moms to write about our strengths and hear others.

This month’s theme stems off from Kiran’s Nursery post some days back and the fact that getting into a nursery school in the bigger cities in India is still a harrowing and expensive experience. Add to this, the pressure on the small child and the whole rigmarole he/she has to go through.

Contrast it to the US where the good daycares/ pre-schools are expensive, though getting in is not a big deal and then education comes easy & free in shape of public schools and “no child left behind” where every child is treated on the same footing and given same opportunity. But there is a small catch though, there are better school districts and not so good school districts. So though you do not pay anything for the public school, depending on all the other factors that chalk up the house price, the rank of the school district adds a further notch to it.

Yes there are preppy private schools but the public schools usually provide pretty good & standard education.

However, the good point I see here is that that the child does not have to bear the brunt or pressure of any of this though as a parent you might have some decisions to make.

As a parent at some point during your child’s toddler years, you have to decide on “Which daycare/Which Pre School/ Which Kindergarten”

Most of us have made some decisions or would do so soon and I would like you to discuss – “Why you decided on a certain Pre School/ School for your child “

What was it that made you think this would be the place where your child would be happy and you would be happy?

When given a choice of schools, where your child starts kindergarten, what are the factors you think are of more importance, the education, the class demography, the activities, the school for rich & famous, what is it?

Do you really think, that the "right" school matters, or the whole thing is hyped these days ? Afterall admissions were never a nightmare when we were that age.

How is the whole “getting into kindergarten/nursery” process in your part of the world ? Would be interesting to hear about Ireland from Mummyjaan and Dutchland from DR and other Moms out there.

So here is Theme for March’08 – “Is this the Right School, baby??”

Substitute school, with pre-school or even daycare as your case might be

Please post during the month of March and don’t forget to tag with “Theme for March’08”

The first baby step

Posted by Batul (


I have recently been added to DMC and wanted to say a quick hello to all.

I am a first time mom to a 22 months old girl Genie (her nickname), living in Mumbai with my hubby and IL's (in-laws).

After a sabbatical of 16 months with freelancing and part time work thrown in, i have recently (nov 2007) started working full time and will go back to being a SAHM from April. I will be studying from this April for a period of 3 months (basically upgrading my skill sets).

My life's journey till i met my DH (darling hubby) with more of downs and less of ups and now the metamorphosis from being a workaholic to happily married mom has just been great. I wrote my first blog on 11th Feb 2008 after being inspired by a year old Mommy Blogging article in LiveMint. Previously i used to read loads of fictions (mysteries, thrillers, family drama) and now my reading comprise of Good Housekeeping, a really excellent mag for all genders. I loved reading Jhumpa Lahri's Namesake.

My kiddo - Genie is a cherubic girl, full of life, constantly moving, running, jumping all over the place, never still except when she is asleep :). Genie's terrible twos started this Jan and being the most impatient mom, i do spank her (hubby & IL's hate spanking, but i just can't help it).

I will end this post this quote - for all the parents... I don't how i stumbled upon this one.

"Parenting, at its best, comes as naturally as laughter. It is automatic, involuntary, unconditional love."


Thursday, March 6, 2008

Greeting, Namaste, "you talking to me?"

I have been reading the posts on DesiMomz for the past month, and have enjoyed the heart-felt sharing of anecdotes, the sisterly problem-solving, the recipes, the grouses.... It helps me remember that there is truly a community of us out there -- not just the professional, neighborhood, or parochial communities that surround us, but a community that shares similar day-to-day activities and associated emotions in so many ways. The community of professional, South-Asian moms, often far from their homelands and committed to giving their kids a deeply nurtured childhood.

I'd love to talk to you a little about my blogging experience. For more than a couple of years, I've gone online searching for inspiration as I stand in front of the fridge trying to figure something nice, nutritious and nosh'y for the kiddies. I finally decided that my Amma's recipes were just fine... but I did have to change them around to suit the sensitive palates of my 4 year olds. I then started chronicling our adventures with a blog. Yes, it was truly "our" adventures. I hated all those Jessica Seinfeld approaches - "hide the realities of good food and fool your kids to eat healthy." No way, no how...not in my house! I have kids who help me create my parota-based pizza layered with carrot slices, peas and cheese. They know their veggies and love them too. Hopefully, my blog can help other moms...and for that matter, anyone looking for some serendipitous food ideas. More importantly, I'm hoping people will give me advice -- some have given me tips on where to buy ingredients, others suggest variations. I'd love to hear from you!

As a working mom in NYC, I've tended to make the kitchen and cooking a dynamic part of my time with the kids. They hang out on tall chairs on the other side of the counter, chatting with me, snacking on ingredients, and more and more these days helping me cook! When the kids were younger (...and not quite up to the task of sitting up, etc.!), I would wake up at 5 am and cook up breakfast and lunch before leaving for work. I made sure that I hung out in the morning and fed them breakfast, and used that time to chat about the day, their friends, and bond over their fruit, eggs, cereals.... They still cried copiously as I left and I still ached as I got in the elevator. Knowing they were eating well was one of the many things that got me through the days at work (apart from the cool work I was doing!) Nowadays, I make sure to cook lunch and dinner about 3 days a week, and of course the weekends are cook-fests! The kids have their own spatulas, and aprons, and are real mini-chefs, and it's one big party most weekends!

My newest experiment is with video-blogging. I use the Flip ( - it's truly handy-dandy, easy and now difficult to get hold of now that Oprah put it on her list of coolest things around. I'll keep you updated on how we all fare! Also, I suspect I'll be telling you more about our political conversations (my daughter like "Hemalee" Clinton - one of our pals is called Hemalee - and my son like McCain. These are very opinionated 4-year olds!)

Looking forward to further discussions and posts.
Roopa Unnikrishnan

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Friends are...

contributed by Priya of Dreaming in Suburbia
Friends are funny beings. You don’t really know someone is your true friend until you’ve shared an experience, a situation or perhaps a problem that’s been eating away at you and they (the friends’ I mean) help you solve it. Well anyway, while I was killing myself over whether I should finally take the plunge and become a SAHM - with all the emotional baggage that went with it - I remember speaking to many many women - but two of them stand out in my memory. Suprizingly, both of them did not have children. One of them was not even married ! But they both taught me something important, and when I look back now, I think were instrumental in shaping my decision to become a SAHM.
(NOT that I’m a huge fan of all mothers being SAHMs. I am however, very much in favor of each mom doing what she feels is the right thing for her own family. So please don't think of this as a flame. Its just something I'd like to share with all of you.)

The first, N, was a colleague of mine at the place where I worked. She was born and brought up in the City (that’s New York City for those of you that don’t know) and lived there until she was well into her twenties. She had a manic depressive mother, and was often had to act as the grown up in the family from the age of 13 onward. By the time she was thirty, she was trapped in a marriage that was going nowhere, a career that was going nowhere, a life that seemed permanently derailed.

So, she sat down and wrote a list of all the things she wanted to do in the next twenty five years of her life. Surprizing, even to herself, she found that she wanted to be a farmer. Have lots of animals, be a homesteader and still have a day job doing something she loved. She quit her then job, divorced her husband and moved up to Connecticut. For the next eight years, she worked toward her degree, she found the rules and regulations concerning owning and operating farmland and began saving up to own a farm. She met her second husband while wish-driving around the neighborhood where she would have liked to buy the land for her farm. For the past eleven years, they are both proud owners of a seven acre farm, two pigs, three cows, two goats and innumerable chickens, ducks and turkeys. They have a proper farmhouse, complete with barn, sty and pond. And she works full time doing what something she loves.

When I asked her, “But what an awful risk. What if you failed? What if you ended up in a worse place than you were before ?” And she told me,”I had two choices, I could either change my dreams and hopes and then make the best of what I had, or I could break out and start fresh. I did the latter, because I could never live with myself knowing that I never even tried because of fear of failure. You have one life, you can’t be afraid to make the most of it”.

I said,”You say that now, because everything turned out OK”. And she told me,”Yeah, but it wasn’t always OK. When you are struggling against something adverse, you don’t know that things are going to be ok. They may actually be going down the pooper. It’s your attitude to change that matters. If you feel like being a SAHM, think carefully, plan accordingly, take the plunge - and don’t ever look back.”

The second person who really helped me was Lynne. She worked at her mom’s sandwich shop (which, by the way, serves the best sandwiches on the entire Eastern Seaboard). She was in her mid-thirties, had quit her job as a junior partner at a prestigious CPA group two years ago then, was not married and had no prospects of doing so. But she was so bubbly and effervescent that I couldn’t help asking her,”Don’t you ever regret quitting your job?”.

She said,”I regret losing the big bucks, but not the job. I was working 100 hour weeks, with no life, no time and no happiness. Look at my life now. Sure, most people would say I’m nuts. My own mother was dead against me quitting my job. I make minimum wage, live with my mom and I’m not married. I’m not pretty enough or rich enough to tempt anyone to make me an offer. I’m thrity six and I don’t have children - probably will never have them. But you know what ? I am happier than I ever was in the ten years I was working. Its about what you want - not about what everyone expects you to want. If you want to become a SAHM, go ahead. Just remember not to compare your life as a Working Mother to your life as a Stay At Home Mother. That’s the secret to happiness - compete, but never compare”.

And because she’s such a funny person, she shared the story of how she quit her job:

One evening she was working late (as usual) getting somebody’s books in order, when she fainted. Clear out of the blue, she fainted. Everyone rushed over to her office and after the first aid was administered and she regained consciousness, her boss called her into his office.

Boss:”Lynn, are you OK ? Are you feeling tired ? Are you planning a little vacation?”
Lynn: "No, I’m fine. yeah, I’m tired, but that’s because I work ten hours a day, for not very much money. Now if I was senior partner….”

By this time Lynn realized her Boss was struggling to say something. She stood by expecting the worst,

Boss (blurting out): “Your pregnant isn’t it ? That’s why you fainted isn’t it ?”
Lynn (with a totally disgusted look on her face): "O my God, like this job leaves me any time to get pregnant ! You know what - I quit.”

Amen to friends like that. :)