Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Bhai

Cross posted by Squiggles Mom here.

Bhai (brother in Hindi)

Bhai and I have always been close. Despite the 7 year age difference. Or maybe because of it. I remember being advised of exactly what boys thought about when they were talking to girls. And yet my head was unceremoniously buried under a pillow during the age inappropriate scenes of 'Pretty Woman' and 'Basic Instinct'. Bhai would discuss his relationships though he wouldn't kiss and tell. We would talk about anything under the sun. He's the one who introduced me to Western musicians and told me to like it if I wanted to be cool :). I turned to him when I needed a shoulder to cry on. I went clubbing with his friends and him. We have been drunk together. It's that kind of relationship.

And yet, as he faces the toughest challenge of his life, I find myself looking for excuses to bring up the thing that I know disturbs him the most and yet not finding any. I know that talking about it brings him pain and anguish, so I let it be. And yet I know the problem continues with no solution in sight and I long to talk to him, to understand what he's going through. For my peace of mind. And maybe to be of help.

Temperamentally we are very different. I'm the firebrand. The one who always knew what she wanted and went after it. I was never too bothered about what my family or friends would think as long as I was convinced of the rightness of my path. He, on the other hand, has always been devoted, and the ideal child. Always concerned about how his actions will be viewed. Making sure that our parents were happy and their dreams for their children fulfilled. The 'good' boy. Popular among all our family and friends. Leaving me feeling many a time jealous of his easygoing nature and his ability to attract people.

The last few months have been tortuous as the reality of his situation has become clearer to us. Clearer, only because it has become too much for him to bear, and he has chosen to share. But that too in snippets. All of us feel it acutely and yet don't know how to help him. He doesn't want to talk about it. I feel helpless. We all feel helpless.

You're wondering why I'm writing this now. Changing the pleasant tones of this wonderful blog. Because I need to say this to him (even though I know he won't be reading this) -

"If you need someone to talk, without judging you, or forcing you to take action, then you know where to find me. I love you, Bhai".

I can't say this to him directly though I talk to him about random other bits regularly. It's one of those things. But I'm so glad I have him and I know that I can depend on him anytime. And he has me. Always. That's what siblings are for. This is my parent's best gift to me, ever.

Squiggles Mom

Sibling memories: Artichokes!

My sister and brother can get away with a lot...mostly because I remember my first cooking experiment and how they took it. I must have been ten, enamoured by my mother's glossy Life-Time recipe books, and insistent that I cook myself. After a long afternoon's work cooking up an artichoke, I served it to my siblings, who dutifully ate them. Then I tried...and realized I'd really not cooked the tartar sauce properly. Yeuck!! Full points to S&D for chomping away and not complaining at all! It's amazing how siblings can surprise you. These were the same big brother and sister who would chase me around to tickle me till I cried!!

Thought I'd share a new recipe I tried out with artichokes. May be a little off the beaten track for the blog, but fun if you have a moment to try something gun. This artichoke effort came about because my son K read a Pinky Dinky Doo book that featured the interesting-looking veggie and decided he needed to try it. Poor hubby got sent out last night to find a couple (he tried three stores) and I scoured around for recipes. Serendipitously, friend Aparna mailed me an Italian recipe book that gave me a couple of ideas and the following was the result.



Ingredients:
Two medium sized artichokes
Olive oil
Lemon
One egg
Breadcrumbs


Stuffing:
Half pound minced turkey
Two tomatoes
One onion
One egg
Salt
Pepper
Pinch of turmeric,
Garam masala and chilli powder


Sauce:
Garlic
One onion
Two teaspoons diced garlic
Pasta sauce (one medium bottle)
  • I prepped the stuffing as I normally would, i.e., with an Indian twist.... I started by frying diced onions till golden, mixing in the diced tomato, and when it all starts simmering, mix in the minced turkey and cook till the mix is dry
  • Cool the mix, then mix in one egg so the stuffing hangs together
  • Start prepping the artichoke. This means the following:- Slice the stem off, being careful not to cut into the artichoke flower- Pull off the outer bracts (the "petals" as the kids called them) till you get to the softer bracts- Chop the top of the floweret, so it has a stright edge on the top. Nip off the tips of the bracts that still have tips- Open out the flowerette, till you get to the central core. Gauge the tenderness of the central bracts, but I found that the center has to go. It's pretty sharp and hard- Having effectively created a cup for the stuffing, it's best to run water through the flowerettes, then squeeze lemon juice over them - this prevents discoloration
  • Put in the stuffing into the artichoke "cups", patting it down nicely so it's packed in well (the kids loved doing this)
  • Beat the extra egg, and dip the top of the stuffing and the encircling edges of the artichoke bracts in it. Then dip it in the bread crumbs (dad loved doing this!)
  • In a large pan, heat oil, then put the srtichokes face-down (stuffing side down) in the oil so it fries nicely. Once the tops are brown, take them off and cool
  • Start the sauce: fry the garlic and onion and pour in the pasta sauce, and bring to a simmer
  • Put the two artichokes in a pot, pour the sauce around them and cook on a medium flame for about 40 minutes (that's right!!)
  • This was a complex job, but tactile and hence lots of fun for the kids. The unique look and feel also made this an interesting eating experience for the kiddies. They loved the stuffing, and liked the bite and pull technique needed to get the flesh off the bracts. It reminded them of the Muringa (also called drum-sticks in India) that I use in my sambars!
Roopa
rooparecipes.blogspot.com

Monday, April 28, 2008

Sibling Rivalry - how we tried to keep it at bay

[This post is by mummyjaan of Apya and Bubbu. It took forever to write because I got sidetracked by lots of other things, including a few trips around the country, and this past week the baby shower was just too exciting to miss :), so I apologize for posting almost near the end of the month.]

When I had my second child, my older one was a few months shy of 3 years old. She had been used to being the centre of attention, and I had several worries on my mind, but the most important concern was: how would I make sure she wouldn't feel left out? and how would I make sure that if she harboured any resentment, she wouldn't take it out on the baby?

Looking back at those early months, I think we weathered those days pretty well. Not to make this post long, but these were some of the ideas we tried and found useful, and some memories that I would like to share with you try not to get bored now :

1. A gift for the big sister close to the time of the birth. This was advice given by many friends; my opinion: it worked, in so far as it made her happy. (My husband got her a small toy kitchen - it was perfect at her age - she loved it and spent many happy hours cooking and serving us).

Our friends suggested telling her it was a gift 'from the baby', but that would have meant a blizzard of questions from my inquisitive chatterbox, so we preferred 'a gift for you on the occasion of the new baby'. This was accepted happily without question.

2. We brought Apya to the hospital often to see the baby and spend time with her. She absolutely loved it. ("Let's take her home, Mummy, why don't we go home now?" on Day 1). She was totally fascinated by Bubbu's tininess and loved to look at her, hold her, talk to her, and cuddle her. She wanted to do everything: feed her, change her nappy, etc. so it was a bit difficult to 'control' her, in a way.

My mom was worried about having a 3-year-old close by the baby and would screech and gasp often ("Ohhh, she might hurt the baby" - that sort of thing) whenever Apya got too close to her. I didn't see what the fuss was about, and let her come close as often as she wanted to, after explaining to Apya that she wasn't allowed to push her, hit her or sit on her, but she could pretty much do whatever else she wanted - under my close supervision, of course. My mom found this rather careless and permissive, but if you look at it from my point of view - I trusted my older child - that she would not do anything to harm the baby, and in retrospect, I was glad I had not applied any restrictions on their interaction. It helped her become attached to the baby.

I did have to be more watchful of my older one when she was tired or cranky for some other reason - we dealt with some pulling arms and over-enthusiastic kisses and cuddles which made baby cry and that sort of thing.

3. Long before the baby was due, we had begun talking of her as "our baby", including Big Sister in the 'our'. Very often, we referred to her as "your baby" and "your baby sister", thus trying to reinforce that sisterly bond. I really think this was our most helpful strategy.

With the result, Apya really did think of the Bubbu as 'hers' from an early stage; we, the parents, in her opinion, were rather like caretakers, but it was 'her Baby'. This made her quite as protective of the little one as we were ourselves.

For instance, I would be reminded to pick the baby up if she began crying, or she would let me know that the Baby had woken up and was scratching her face.

She was over-enthusiastic and would insist on changing the baby's nappy or her clothes. When I explained that she was too little, she would become quite downcast. Finally, I reached a compromise by letting her fasten the tab on one side of the nappy or letting her button up the last one or two buttons on the baby's clothes. It made her feel as though she was doing something.

4. Be watchful when the older one is tired. Apya went through a phase when she tried to bite Bubbu. This was when the baby was about 4 months old. I just never left them alone at those times. (After the first warning bite, that is :D, which, fortunately, was a gentle one). Some days, I had to be very vigilant, but that was it. This was probably "the phase" when her jealousy came out, only she didn't know how to express it.

5. As they grow older, I notice that when I lavish too much attention on the Bubbu, Apya's expression changes - when I then shower her with the same attention she brightens up.

6. This point should have gone first, really. Having my parents around for Apya was a tremendous help. I am convinced I would have really struggled without them. While I looked after the baby and myself, my parents looked after my older child (and husband), fed her them ;), played with her, kept her occupied. For the first couple of months after the birth, I did little for my older child except read her a story and put her to bed at night. Hubby took over her bath-times and taking her out to play.

As Trishna mentioned in her post - that she would like to have a little sibling for Aadya - I know I had no. 2 because I really wanted my daughter to have a younger sibling - preferably a little sister. In that respect, we were blessed. It's wonderful to see them play together. I don't even mind seeing them fall out with each other now and then - they make up soon enough.

Certainly, I went through a phase where I thought one child was enough. With one, my yearning to have children was completely satisfied. However, as she turned two, my husband and I both felt that we couldn't always amuse her whims - it became apparent that a child needs another child. Preschool only partially filled the gap. I remembered my own childhood and teenage as an only child and thought, if I can give my children this gift - the affectionate bond of sibling-hood - why shouldn't I?

I am so glad they have each other.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Why I want a second one

Cross posted by Trishna at My Sunshine

First off,lovely theme,Mummyjaan. Its the perfect theme for me,since,I spent this entire month,thinking of my sister,M and eagerly anticipating her visit and she arrives tomorrow.
I am also really looking forward to hearing from mommies with 2 or more kids. As most of you know,I am one of the other mommies,one of those who are still enjoying the precious first one. But,one thing I am sure of,I want a second one. And I was sure of this even before having Aadya. And friends and cousins would tease me,"Oh wait till you have one..And then,you'd say I am DONE!" Funnily,I am not. Every time I see a mommy walking by with two kids,I picture Aadya with her younger brother or sister..and the image makes me smile.
If I think seriously,why I want two-I think it is most definitely because of the relationship I share with M. We are like normal sisters and that means a lot of bickering,a lot of cribbing..but that also means a lot of caring and a lot of love. More than anything else,I know,she will be there for me,whenever I need her.And that is really reassuring. That is what every parent wants for their child,that steady person,in his or her life,whom they can depend on without hesitation.
We had our share of sibling rivalry too.I didn't particularly like being the responsible one, watching over my baby-sister all the time. But,I couldn't stand it if someone tried to pick on her. Then,I would turn defensive and hit out at the said person. Slowly over the years,roles have changed and she is the responsible one and I get to be the baby..that I like :)
That's the kind of sibling,I want for Aadya,someone she can fight with..but run right back to.Someone whom she can call up,when we are old and senile and giving her a hard time about her new Boy-friend. Sure they will have their rough patches and sure there will be days,when I will be pulling my hair off and ready to give them both up for adoption, but there will be also be double hugs and not to mention,comfort in the knowledge,that they will have each other,after we are dead and gone. I sometimes wonder though,how will I manage a new born and Aadya both together and then,I think of M, again. So many years of my life,I begrudgingly sharing my room with her and now,I would give anything to share a room with her again..Strange are the ways of life.
One episode from our childhood,always stands out in memory and I would like to share that with you,before I go.
M was always sick as a child.She used to have prolonged bouts of Asthama and she had to be kept indoors,all the time. So,when I got ready to go out and play,my mom would change her clothes and dress her up smartly too. And then,M would take her regular position by the window. One time we were playing catch and the boy,who was chasing,ran up to me and grabbed me..I tried to run away,and he pushed me and I fell down.In the heat of the game,I still wanted to escape and he tried to stop me by almost sitting on me. We were around 5-6years old and li'l M around 3-4 and she saw this. And she started screaming.."Leave my sister","Don't do anything to her".. She was so angry, she was holding the window rails,gnawing teeth,screaming non-stop,till my mom finally came and picked her up and pacified her.
Every time,we had a fight,my mom used to remind us of this episode and we would promptly make up..Even now,when I think of it,I can't help but smile.
I am looking forward to seeing her tomorrow and spending some quality time with her..and all of you,out there,keep your fingers crossed and send up a little prayer for Aadya to get a loving sibling like her auntie M.

Oh and here is the post, I wrote about her,almost one year back.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

How soon is too soon

(This being India)

The front page of the newspapers today informed me that the draft of the Right to Education Bill has been finalized by the Central Government in India. And the best part about it, our children will start school later. Hallelujah, someone out there has been listening to us, griping and grumbling about how infants were being dragged into the schooling system by unscrupulous elements, at an age when they were still finding the language to inform us that they needed to go to the potty, and more often than not, needed diapering of their yet untrained bottoms before they could be let loose in public situations.

My son started playschool at 1 year nine months. I admitted him late. The term had begun in June. He would have been 1.6 had I started him in as the term started. And of course, out here, there is no concept of admitting a child on the basis of his average age, it’s a wide spectrum that starts from the beginning of the year to the end of said year, which gives children born at the start of the year almost a year’s lead time on the poor critters (like the brat) who have the bad taste to be born at the fag end of the year.

The bill, in its finalized draft state, proposes to fix the minimum age for admission to preschool at 3 years 10 months. The bill prepared by the Human resource Development Ministry says the admission age for Class I should be five years and 10 months before the beginning of the academic year. The brat will be 5 years, 6 months when he gets into Class I. Four months under the cut off date. And he, being wondrously slow as a learner. Any surprises that he is having trouble catching up with the rest of his class.

In Mumbai, though, the age for admission to pre school and pre primary has not been fixed by the state government. What with mamma and toddler classes coming into the picture, I think we’re now rushing off from our maternity leave to get our kids into playgroups and schools, while they’re still suckling at the breast. Okay, I exaggerate a bit. But you get my drift.

Most schools in Mumbai typically admit children between two and two and a half years into their pre school. For Pre Primary, that is Jr Kg, the minimum age needs to be 3 years. For Class I, the current cut off is 5 years. At five years, these kids are writing capitals, lower case, two and three letter words, three word sentences, they know their numbers, the counting, seriation, graphs, ordinal numbers, skip counting till 100, ascending order, descending order, greater than and less than, single digit addition and subtraction already when they move from Jr Kg to Sr Kg, and in senior Kg they will learn multiplication and division.

For the record, the brat just about has got a grip on capital letters, and I do his three letter word revision with capitals. He knows his numbers, but the rest of the stuff is beyond him, and I have not forced him to get into it. He will grasp it, as soon his brain is capable of doing so. And if the rest of the kids in class are doing the portion perfectly, more power to them. They also have an eight to ten month lead over him most of the time.

Also to my delight, comes the sentence, “If any school is found subjecting the parents or children to screening for admission a fine of Rs 25,000 will be imposed. A repeat offence will invite a fine of Rs 50,000. If any school is found guilty of taking capitation, the fine will be upto ten times of what it has charged.”

This spells doom for all the so called “refundable deposits” that most school charge during admissions, which start from the modest Rs 25,000 depending on the school, and go upto a few lakhs for the better schools.

And very interestingly, the days of 50 to 60 students packed three to a bench in the average schools also seems to be done for. Hopefully. The draft has also framed a set of norms for private schools on teachers’ qualifications, student teacher ratio and infrastructural mandatories. Schools without playgrounds, dirty premises, teachers with no proper qualifications (just the proper channels through which they applied for jobs, and worse, underpaid and overworked teachers, and therefore disgruntled and disinterested teachers). They seem to hopefully, among the many factors which will be impacted by this bill, if implemented.
Failure to comply with any of these could lead to a closure of the school. Do we see any harassed parents turning cartwheels on the street?

Of course, this will result in unnecessary confusion and running around to plan babies to meet cut off dates, but it makes infinite sense. And it does give one hope, that maybe, just maybe the education system is slowly and steadily getting rationalized in this country. Now if only someone working on that draft could take a look at the absolutely ridiculous syllabus our children have to suffer through. One brave day I will post a month’s syllabus to give you guys an idea of the utter horror that a four and a half year old has to confront.

The day the syllabus at the pre primary level gets rationalized will be the day I truly will celebrate.

What is the age cut off in your part of the world, folks?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Mama's Mojo

Cross posted by DotMom of Karma Calling
When I was pregnant, I poured over parenting books. How to put your babies in a feeding schedule, how to discipline them, how to encourage them to sleep on their own. Books that pigeon holed babies and children into neat categories and then gave advice on how to “deal” with them. Deal with them? Like they are some sort of a problem that got in our way? These books I felt, did not really acknowledge me as a parent who had feelings and instincts and did not acknowledge my child as one with a distinct and a unique personality. No, my child did not fall into Tracy Hogg’s six categories. And I thought the Ferber and the Brazelton method bordered on child abuse. What was missing in this advice? I asked myself. It was only later, many months later, I realized that the books had been written by nannies and pediatricians. Eminent, capable professionals. Not parents. That was the problem. You can be the world’s greatest nanny or the pediatrician, but you can’t remotely come close to becoming a parent. Parents are not only responsible for health and safety and education of their children, they are responsible in imparting values, a sense of moral code, ethics and a sense of spirituality. And I found the parenting books that I most identified with were on the ones written by parents. Like Dr.Sears and Marguerite Kelly. Who did not chastise you or brand you as a bad parent if your child did not sleep through out the night at six weeks of age. Who had been where I was right now, and they imparted parenting wisdom, not just advice.

Adding to this line of brilliant parenting wisdom is a book I read a few days ago. Mama Rock's Rules: Ten Lessons for Raising a Houseful of Successful Children. This is written by the star comedian Chris Rock’s mother, Rose Rock. She raised 10 children of her own and 17 foster children. She would know a thing or two about parenting now. Mama Rose, in a charmingly old-fashioned way, gives it to you as it is. She is not the kind who minces words. You know that kind, don’t you? And I like that. Too many too politically correct parenting books out there. Too many parenting books not quite in touch with reality. This one is refreshing. Written in an easy conversational style, Mama Rose narrates incidents from her children’s childhood and the lessons she learnt as a mother and the strategies that worked for her. She says she wanted to raise successful children. How does she define successful children? Those that turn into kind, responsible people. Not star basketball players or actors of surgeons. Everyday people that leave behind a trail of goodness. Although the book is aimed for parents of slightly older children than the almost-three year old Chip, I enjoyed it. It’s best to dig a well way before you are thirsty, no? The Rock family was not privileged. Money was tight, the family large. Living in a neighborhood where education was not quite a priority, teenage pregnancies and drugs a norm, all 10 of Mama Rose’s kid became successful. They stayed out of trouble, had successful careers and became good responsible adults. That says for something.

So all you moms out there, read the book, it’s an easy read. Peppered with tales and snippets of this mama’s wisdom you will be smile and marvel how this woman did it all. After all, we could all use a bit of her mojo.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Some Helpful Advice...

I heard some interesting advice some time ago, which I just have to share with other blog moms.

I met a professor from the National School of Design who is an expert on how the human brain works. He said that one of the key reasons behind the increasing pandemic of teenage sex and the side-effects thereof is that this generation is one which has been deprived of touch in its childhood. So the sex is actually an outcome of the desire for plain and simple touch but of course, then hormones get in the way and they can't stop at just that. So moms and dads - hug your kids as often as you can, with and without reason - it's good for your BP too!

We had orientation at Chubbocks' school today as he's moving up from nursery to Kindergarten. The school has a new counselor who's just come on board and she took us through a brief presentation on kids and how they feel. She spoke of a fascinating concept called emotional transference - which means, in the immortal laws of physics, that parents have an equal and opposite reaction to everything the child is feeling. So often, if you are feeling a certain way towards your child, if you examine your own emotions, you know what the child is going through.

If you're feeling annoyed and irritable - the child is probably asking for your time and attention.
If you're feeling angry - the child is feeling powerless and playing power games.
If you're feeling hurt and rejected by your child - your child is trying to show you who's boss.
If you're feeling helpless - your child is giving up!

I'm not sure this is applicable to all situations when one is feeling a certain emotion, but certainly, I can see a pattern. I'm annoyed and irritable when Chubs doesn't let us get in a word edgeways some days - that's his way of asking for attention, maybe because he can sense I'm not focussing on him. I feel angry when it comes to Chubs and his meals a lot of the times - and some of the time it's perhaps because he's trying to test me.

It's an amazingly simple and yet eye-opening insight into the way the child is feeling. the counselor also advised that parents should teach their children the labels for the emotions they are feeling when they are acting out, as this is likely to help the kids learn better self-control over time. I'm certainly going to try and remember what she said and put it into practice.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Quick "Bed" Question

This is a question for Moms in the US.

I need to buy a bed for the 4 year old. She has been co-sleeping all these days :-) and maybe will continue even when I buy one

Quick give me some product info please. Let me know about stores or site from where you bought yours, the kind of bed I should get, etc.

Why I am not scared of Barbie anymore

Crossposted at my other blog: My Two Cents

When I had my daughter, the older one, I was scared like many other mothers of little girls. Scared of the influence that Barbie was going to have on my little, innocent baby with her unrealistic proportions and the standards of beauty that she projected. My husband and I were also very worried about the influence that "American culture" would have on her if we stayed in this country. We came here with the intention of staying for 7-8 years and then returning to India. I didn't want to (for various unrelated reasons) but I was ready to make that sacrifice for the good of my kid.

American kids call 911 when their parents try to discipline them, we were told. And many other horror stories that involved drugs or sex or both. Statistics on teenage pregnancies and children born out of wedlock. We were adequately terrified of the culture we were stepping into.

Then we gradually met other people, made friends. A few among these had been in the US for a long time. Almost over 20 years. Some had grown kids. Some had teenagers. And when we saw some of these teenage kids, it was a shock to us. They were far better behaved and family oriented than the teenagers we had recently seen back in India! Slowly, after talking to these kids and their parents I realized that it was possible to impart my values to my kids even though the outside influence would be considerable. That is all I gathered. How to accomplish that? I had no idea. But over time I realized that the main key to keeping your child under your influence is communication. Good old "talking at the dinner table". And much much more talking than that. In the car on your way to school or swim practice, at bed time, during bath time, on lazy weekend mornings, and of course when your child wanted to talk to you. But this is just one part. Another is showing them through your actions what your values are. A small example. J & I don't curse. Well, almost never. Neither does S. She picked it up from us.

At first I was so against Barbies and the culture of narcissism they portrayed that I refused to buy any Barbies for S. One day, a friend excitedly told S that she had received a brand new Barbie as a gift. And S innocently asked "What is that?". The mother of her friend looked pityingly at me and said "Oh she doesn't have any?" I felt bad - for S. But I was used to such comments from parents when they'd just assume S didn't have something because we couldn't afford it.

Alert: digression ahead!

Once we went to a party where a lot of kids S' age (she was about 4.5 then) had been invited. She met a boisterous boy about a year younger to her and they got famously along. Here in the US when that happens, a mother's antennae promptly go up "BOING!!" with a "Play date alert". Which means - immediately get friendly with the parent(s) of the little kid your kid is having fun with so that you can setup play dates for them. So the boy's mother and I started talking. Casual conversation about how old is he/she, where was he/she born, does he/she go to preschool etc. During the conversation, the topic of TV viewing came up. I told her that S' TV time was severely restricted to a half hour of viewing every other day and none over the weekends. And that I didn't allow her to watch Cartoon Network or Disney channel. I was only comfortable letting her watch the public television programming for kids which I still feel is much better than these other commercial channels. (A separate post-worthy topic). She said "Oh my son's favorite TV show is 'The Wiggles' ". I knew who the Wiggles were and which channel the show was aired on (Disney) but as I said, I always felt "Dragon Tales" and "Arthur" (her favorite program at that time) were much better than "Teletubbies" or "The Wiggles" etc. Call it reverse snobbery but that is the way I felt. But I never snobbishly aired my views on this matter to other parents - to each her/his own, right? But this mom? She turns to me immediately after she declared what her son's favorite program was and goes "Do you know who the Wiggles are? Oh that's right! You don't get Disney channel!" and promptly turned her back to me and ignored me for the rest part of the party. (Or was it me who ignored her? Hmmmm...)

Needless to say, no play dates with that kid materialized. And I am still fuming, a good five years later, because I didn't get a chance to set the record straight with that mother (that we do get Disney channel, but I don't let my daughter watch it). Thank God for blogs! Therapy would have been costlier.

Digression over.

Anyway, so as I said, many parents just assume(d) that if S isn't allowed to do something it is probably because we can't afford it. I have learnt to tolerate this irrational deduction on their part. But at that time, when the mother wondered if S didn't have any Barbies because we probably couldn't afford to buy her one, it hurt like hell. I came home and discussed it with J. By that time I had cooled down. We decided we didn't want to buy her Barbies just because we were afraid of what people thought of us. So, life went on without Barbies. But not for long.

The "Barbie Home Invasion" began sometime when she was 4. I don't remember who gifted her the first Barbie - it was either J's friend who came visiting and brought a Mermaid Barbie with him or J's parents, brother and SIL who sent a sari-clad Barbie for her. Now I am not the kind who would return a lovingly bought gift if I don't want it. So we kept the dolls and even let S play with them occasionally. I think that was a good decision - S really had fun playing with them and wasn't as hung up on them as she would have been had she been deprived of them (I think). Slowly S started accumulating more Barbies. Gifts for her birthdays, return gifts at birthday parties and one or two purchased by her parents (**GASP**) for her. I felt as if everyone we invited for her birthday party went "Hmmmm. What would a little girl like? I know! BARBIE!!!!!" I wondered if it ever occurred to them that the little girl might also like a board game or two. Or a jump rope, or an Art set. Or books! Why not books? But Barbies it was - for two straight years! She now has about 20 Barbies. All safely tucked away in a carton that we packed them in when we moved to this house two years ago. She hasn't asked for them yet. We WILL bring them out when M is ready to play with them. By the way, when S was about 6 or 7, she officially declared to me "Mommy, I think I am over princesses. I don't like them anymore". Whew!!

It wasn't only Barbies that worried me sick. It was this whole culture of perfect bodies, perfect clothes, "daring" clothes, daring choices that scared me sh**less. Hearing stories about kids demanding expensive clothes, newest gadgets, latest toys and extreme privileges built up a trepidation in my heart about the coming years. "Peer pressure" became a four-letter word. I stressed out about S growing up to be like those other girls who were just preoccupied with themselves and their looks. Living for that next dress, or makeover party. Becoming a self centered kid, then teenager and then adult. What if she realized one day that we really can't make her do everything we want? All this terrified me.

Talking to other parents (of older kids), seeing them in action and seeing their kids kind of clarified things for me. I saw kids I was terrified S would turn into. And I saw kids I aspired for S to become. And I saw their parents. Compared them. I looked at my own childhood and tried to compare things. Tried to remember how my parents handled different things. It wasn't as if I sat down one day and created a spreadsheet. It was a continuous thing - always going on in my head. 24/7.

Slowly I realized there was no fixed answer. All the parents were the same - trying to do their best for their kids. Some just lacked the basic parenting skills. Among them, some were ineffective disciplinarians, some were so conflicted among themselves that their kids caught on to that and played them against each other, some were indulgent (more than they should have been) and some were so strict that their kids suffocated and were bound to rebel to break free one day. Well, how could I make sure I wasn't doing any of this? I couldn't. So there came a time when I chucked all the analyses and decided to -

1) Treat my kids as individuals (I have seen many parents make the mistake of not doing so and that gives rise to discontentment and future problems in the kids) and respect their feelings however trivial or silly they seemed to me

2) Be their parent and NOT their friend. Yes, I had to be friendLY so they wouldn't feel I was out to get them. But my job was to set limits and enforce them. To assign responsibilities and expect them to be carried out. To BE responsible and teach by example.

3) Go with the flow. I'd take each parenting challenge as it came and figure out how to deal with it.

I am still figuring things out. But I have found that talking helps (as I mentioned earlier). And saying sorry when I have hurt S' feelings definitely helps. And not yelling helps. Not being judgmental helps. I have noticed she comes and fesses up with me because I give her a fair chance. I never promise I'll not get upset if she tells me what she has done (yes, she has tried getting me to promise!) I just tell her that I will hear her out and then decide how to react. I do promise her that won't yell. Many times it has turned out that I actually didn't need to get upset. At times she had done something that did upset me and she faced the consequences for that (being grounded, having to write sorry notes, having privileges taken away etc.) But even at those times I told her how proud I was of her that even though she knew it would make me upset, she came to me and told me everything. After the first time it happened, I wondered if she would ever come to me again. To my surprise she did. Still does. I guess she is confident that I will hear her out completely before I make up my mind. And I think the thing that scares her the most is if I yell. As I have ruled that out of the consequences, she finds it easier to come to me and confess. I just keep my fingers crossed and hope she will continue to do so as she grows up.

Another thing I have learnt is to choose carefully what I am going to stress about. I have decided I will definitely keep on my toes where issues like drugs, safety, sex and education are concerned. I don't get worked up if she wants to apply lip gloss. I don't like it, but I still allow her. She still isn't allowed to wear it to school but she is allowed to "dress up" if we are going to some one's house. She isn't allowed to carry it with her so once it is gone, she doesn't reapply it (which means she is out there having fun and is not just concerned with how she looks all the time). She asked for bikini style panties once and I absolutely didn't want to let her buy those. She would have followed my "orders" but I let her buy them. She wore them for a few days and declared she didn't really like them because they weren't comfortable. That is what I want to develop in her. She should try things out and then use her head to decide if she wants/ likes it or not instead of following the herd. Well, the "try things out" strategy is definitely NOT for drugs and sex. It is fine for clothes and makeup and fashion trends.

I still worry about peer pressure and I know my only defense against that is to keep MY communication channels open with her. I know I can't be with her all the times. I have stiff competition ahead with her peers, specially as she goes into middle school. I am trying my best to give her the right foundation of values so when the time comes, she is prepared to handle the pressure. And I will keep letting her know that I am right here if she wants to talk, or if something goes wrong or if she just needs a sounding board.

That said, I also believe in teaching kids the age-appropriateness of various things. Like wearing thongs might be OK for me, but it isn't for her. Wearing makeup to work is fine for me, but she can't wear makeup to school. Along with age-appropriateness, I have also tried to teach her that different families have different rules and just because one of her friends is allowed to do something or has been able to buy something doesn't mean she will too. Her request will be evaluated based on our family's rules. (God! I sound so managerial :D)

I also believe in relaxing rules little by little as kids grow older. One example is of eating candies. S was not given any candy till she was 2.5 years old. When she started going to preschool, she discovered candy. Instead of taking it away from her and forbidding her from ever eating it again, I told her that she could eat one if she got permission from me or J first. She was allowed one candy on one day of the weekend. As she grew older, and her (good) eating habits became firmly established, I relaxed that rule little by little. Now she could eat a candy on alternate days IF she followed up by eating something healthy. And so on. These days she knows she can eat candy anytime but she also knows that she can't eat candy for lunch or dinner, and that she still has to follow up with a healthy snack. I never had to lock candies or put them high on a shelf even when S was little. I did put them away when she had friends came over because they didn't have the same level of discipline as S did. Even now, if you walk in our home, you will find candy filled containers on our kitchen counters. I hope I don't ever have to lock the candy away even for M. Because I believe not in restrictng them, but in teaching them to recognize the limits. Candy is just one example. I want this to be the case for every temptation in life they will come across.

There is a lot more to parenting and I am still figuring it out. Over the years I have learnt that kids usually imbibe values from their parents - even if they don't like to admit it. And that is my beacon of hope.

Now I have realized that my child will play with Barbie but she will pick up the subtle messages about a supposedly perfect body that Barbie is sending out only if I train her to listen to those. I didn't. So she doesn't. I have realized that it IS possible to let my daughter play with Barbies but keep her interested in outdoor games, math, science and scrabble. Barbie is just another toy for her - nothing more. So I have made my peace with Barbie, and Ken and other assorted Disney princesses and their respective princes. They can stay in my house and play with my kids, but its still MY house and MY rules!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Bottle Gourd Pudding/Dudhi Kheer/Sorakaya Payasam

--by Pallavi (This recipe has been cross posted at All Things Yummy)
Ah .. the Bottle Gourd.. Sorakaya.. Anapakaya.. Dudhi..Lauki..Opo.. whatever you call it.. is such a yummy vegetable. If you are a reader on my blog, then you would know how much I love it and so does my little one...and all the more reason for me to make in different ways to enjoy it with new tastes.. This is the bottle gourd dessert thats a hit with any crowd. I made this for a PotLuck dinner over the weekend, so thats why you see the proportions are enough to feed a few families :) And I overheard atleast a couple of kids say - "Mommy - some more of this ". So, thought it would be appropriate to share here. Please adjust quantities as per your needs.



Ingredients:
------------
1 small Bottle Gourd/Dudhi/Lauki (finely grated)
1/2 Gallon Whole Milk (or about 1.5 litres)

1 can Carnation Sweetened condensed milk(14oz)
1 cup Sago/Sabudana/Saggu Biyyam (soaked in about 2 cups of water)
1/2 cup rice (cooked)
2 Tbsp Sugar
3 Cardamom (de-skinned, powdered)
2 Tbsp Ghee (Clarified butter) / Butter/ Oil.

For Garnish:
------------
Blanched Almonds
Golden Raisins
Cashews, Pistachios and any other nuts you like.

Process:
-------

In a sauce pan, add 1 Tbsp of Ghee, add the grated bottle gourd and saute a little bit for about 5 minutes.
Add the milk and let the vegetable cook in it. Add the cardamom powder After about 5 minutes, add the sago along with the water. Stir frequently to make sure the milk doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan.
Cook on low heat until the bottle gourd and the sago is cooked completely, stirring to make sure the milk layer isn't browning in the bottom of the pan. Takes about 15-20 minutes.
Add the condensed milk and sugar. Add the cooked rice stir and continue cooking.

Simmer to desired consistency. You dont want to make it too thick when its hot. It should be of running consistency when you turn the heat off. After it cools, it becomes much thicker but it should still be of a flowy consistency thats served in bowls. Refrigerate and wait until its cold. I usually make it 12 hours ahead of time to give it enough time to be chilled.

Just before you are ready to serve, take a small frying pan, put the remaining ghee, warm it and add the nuts and raisins to it. Add it to the pudding and serve .

Serves about 10-12 people. Enjoy !


Sunday, April 13, 2008

welcoming the new one...

[posted by Sheela]

Hello All!

We recently welcomed a wee new member to our family and I am just trying to find my bearings...

I am very much looking forward to the response to theme of the month... the timing is perfect for me.

I have gathered that the age difference matters: a 2-year age gap is in a way more difficult as the 2-yr old is still a baby, and a 4 or 5-year gap is better as the older one is mature enough to understand and do his/her own thing...

Also, I believe if it is age appropriate, it is good to involve the older ones and get them to help as best as their age would allow...

On the plus side: Ana is very good at changing times: she loves to help me change Baby Oggie. She gets the diaper out, as well as the butt paste, and always insists on seeing his yellow poop before I toss the soiled diaper away... If I am reading to her and she hears Baby Oggie cry, she magnanimously tells me to go help the baby first and then come back and finish reading...

However, she has this little streak in her to push the limits on what she is allowed to do with the new baby. She loves to pull the little one's legs, butt her head against his in an effort to kiss his face, put stray pieces of toys on him and even try to topple his bouncer... all of this is not to intentionally hurt him, I am sure... she just wants to be part of him and all she sees is the tiny newborn stuck to my chest pretty much all the time and me feeling groggy and unresponsive to her invitations to play...

She is incredibly sensitive so even just raising my voice a bit, or grabbing her and taking her away to a safer place, especially when she is itching to poke and prod Baby Oggie, seems to upset her terribly: she wilts like a neglected orchid and breaks my heart!

I wish there was an easy manual to follow on how to keep Ana happy while giving Baby Oggie room to grow and flourish without me feeling so darned stressed and inadequate...

Looking forward to reading your experiences and suggestions... Thanks much!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Theme for April 2008: Sibling Love

Theme for April 2008.

Hi, there, Desi Mommies!

Doing well? Good, I hope so.

Momnesia had me in its grip these past 4 days, and I needed a gentle prod from Sandeepa to announce this month's theme :).

Our friend Sogno had her second baby recently, and we know quite a few of the mommies around the desi blogosphere will be welcoming their second children in the coming months.

As we all know, life with a child is one thing, and life with more than one is a different story altogether. Two (just the parents) is company; three (with an energetic bundle between them) is a crowd; four is , perhaps .... a celebration! Or the perfect circle for Ring a ring 'o roses.

I grew up as an only child, and the close relationship between siblings is something I had only seen from a distance. I remember one of my classmates ranting about something her sister did, to end with a sigh, and then, "Brothers and sisters, can't live with them, can't live without them!" I remember being perplexed by it and not quite 'getting it'. Till now, when I see my own little ones prancing about, hand in hand. It has its pleasant moments; it has its challenges.

For me, the arrival of the second one put many thoughts and doubts in my mind - these challenging questions resurface every few days: how will I be able to lavish the same time and attention on the second one as I did on the first? how do I make them feel equally loved? how do I avoid favouritism?

For this month, I'd like the moms who have already had 2 (or more) to share their stories, helpful experiences and tips about life with two (or more) children. How did you welcome your second bundle into your home? How did your first little love take it? How and when did sibling rivalry present itself in your home and how did you tackle it? Or, how did you avoid it and what approach did you find helpful to prevent it?

That would leave out a lot of mommies who are enjoying their first one; I say, post anything related to brothers and sisters. A favourite childhood memory, perhaps. A special anecdote. Anything which celebrates the special bond between sister and sister, brother and sister, and brother and brother. (Or even not; rants welcome too).

So this time at Desi Momz, let's dedicate the month to Sibling Love.

(Please remember to label your post 'Theme for April 2008'.)

[This post is by Mummyjaan of Apya and Bubbu]

Thursday, April 3, 2008

These last few days of school...

[Written by Tharini of Winkie's Way.]

Hi Everyone...

I am woefully late in my submission for last month's theme of 'Which School?'. However, I take it as a positive sign that since this month's theme is yet to be revealed, I still have the chance to post our little story of school. It also happens to be Winkie's last month at this school before we head off for India and subsequently kindergarten in the public school system. So a little write up about that to express my sentiments...

********************************

April 3rd already. And this is the last month that Winkie will be attending school with Uma. The very thought of it heightens all my sentiments surrounding the institution that my son has been a part of for the past 2 years.

Its been a journey of many colours. A shy Winkie blossomed into a more assertive young fellow. A partially potty trained 2 and 1/2 year old, came to grips with complete body control. An illiterate little fledgling entered the unlimited realm of words and reading. A 4 year old with no sense of time and minutes, began to read the clock and now dictates terms to us. A little recluse of a child is now the center of all the attention and the little dictator of his playmates. He even has a best friend! A fussy and highly dependant eater discovered the deliverance in wielding his own spoon and appreciating the health factor better. Someone of very limited vocabulary found the joy in expression and can say to me now...I don't think that makes any sense, Amma. In the process he also left behind his mother tongue, but this post is a focus on positives, for the time being. :)

2 years. 360 degree changes. But 100% satisfaction in the experience and journey of it all.

I can still remember clearly that time when I first contacted Uma. I had seen her ad in the Indian store and tore off that little chit of paper containing her number. That first conversation itself left me with so much of energy and clear hearted vibes that when I think back, I find it rather amazing. Winkie was around 20 months at the time and I was looking for a part-time baby sitting option. He was still not potty trained however, and couldn't join her school right away, as a result. There was a feeling of disappointment, mingled with a sense of excitement that I had come across such an amazing individual. She explained, so very patiently, the beauty of a Montessori system and all that it could nurture in a child that young. I was completely entranced. When I hung up some 20 minutes later, I very carefully added her number to my phonebook and resolved to potty train him soon, and get back in touch with her.

That happened some 6 months later in November of 2004, just before I was to leave for India with Winkie. Preschool admissions would be closed by the time we got back and I wanted to enrol him in something before we left. I cursorily listed down the names and numbers of some of the local Montessoris in the area, but the first person I called was Uma. Winkie was about 60% potty trained and I was confident we'd accomplish it full scale during the India trip. Speaking to her again was like a breath of fresh air and we made an appointment to go see her right that very evening. She runs her school from the basement of her home, so the setting is very cosy and not very intimidating. This, I thought was important to ease my reserved little Winkie in.

We liked the school, we liked Uma even more in person, and we liked her family. It was complete comfort right from the start and that is how it has always been. At the back of my mind, I wondered whether Winkie would need more exposure to the American kids and a bigger place and such, but all that got overruled and I settled for a great teacher in a simple setting instead. My father is a teacher. And I know, firsthand, what a difference it makes to be under the tutelage of someone who lives and breathes his work. I have seen the transformations that a kind but firm and loving hand can effect in the most hopeless of cases. And what my father has been to a countless many of his students, Uma has been for my son. The first person to hold his quivering hands and lead him out into the sunlight.

She has been more than a teacher. She has been his biggest well-wisher. She has understood his nature thoroughly and discovered the right means to nurture it. And in the process she has taught me as well, his mother, his carrier and birth-giver, how to nurture him too. What more can I ask for from my son's first alma mater? She has taken care of his initial major potty accidents with a cool cheerfulness. She has fed him his lunches when he had trouble doing it efficiently himself. She has given him time outs when things got out of hand, and he never repeated them again. She has gotten annoyed with him when he couldn't seem to progress beyond a certain point of learning, and that was the annoyance that came from the emotional investment she had in her young charge. She has delighted unabashedly, and with a grin stretching from ear to ear when he first began reading, and every time he excels himself. My pride in him is still a muted one in comparison to her very evident thrill at his accomplishments.

There are a great many words that come to mind to describe what Uma means to us as parents. But somewhere along the way, in the 2 years of dropping him at 9:00 AM and picking him up at 1:00 PM, in all those 10, sometimes 15min and sometimes 1/2 hour or more of naturally flowing conversation, we became friends as well. And I cannot think of a happier situation than finding a friend in the heart of your child's teacher. The doors of possibilities this opens up to how you can, together, mould your child, is very exciting. It is a process in which education flows unhindered, from home to school and school to home, until it begins to draw out the best that lies as a latent promise in your child.

Is it any wonder then that I would feel so sentimental about the last 30 days of his time there? The clock that he learnt to read is now ticking in a different way and each stroke brings us closer to the point of farewell. It brings us speedily to the day when I will probably host a farewell lunch for all his schoolmates, and click many pictures in different poses with all of them and his teacher. It will be the day of the last chance for recording things for posterity, before we leave this cosy fold of simple beginnings, and be swept away in the maelstrom of huge change. This last month feels like the exact point of quiet calm, just before Marlin and Dory got sucked into the dizzying joyride of the East Australian Current on their quest for Nemo. That little quiet time before we are also carried away in a sea of change...of people, of places and situations.

Winkie, for his part, remains blissfully oblivious of it all. His concept of time has precluded his notion of these last 30 days. Well, never mind that, for I have enough sentiment for the both of us. A lot of exciting times loom up ahead, but right now the heart wants to just rest a little in the gentleness of the past. Reading old school posts, reliving their memories, and relishing what's left of them henceforth. I am not sad about any of it...but just a little sentimental, as I marvel at the cosmic delusion of time...

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Women are better leaders ??!!??

This is cross posted at Arigatho.

A well educated man, passed out from Cambridge, studied in an exchange program and who has already worked in this global delivery model and a person who understand globalization, questions me in this following way –

Why do Indian companies send Women as their team heads or managers?

I am working very closely with this world famous packaging service company, for them to win a business bid and in turn my organization would also be benefited by winning this proposal. I am working very closely with this well educated, well mannered and extremely nice gentleman who has a broader perspective in understanding things and work in a global delivery model.

Now if this question was as simple as it sounds, I would have left it then and there and wouldn’t have given much heed to this. But this comes from a person who knows that Indian woman is now the most enterprising manager than most of her counterparts. What with Indira Nooyi and all? Need I say more? I couldn’t believe my ears when my counterpart from the customer front, who completed his management study from Cambridge, well traveled and well educated person could ask me such questions.

I was offended initially but then later on thought about his question and felt that might be that was a valid question and that I need to sit and analyze as to why some companies send mostly woman as their team leads.

I finally concluded that we are better leaders. I have my own take on this. But I would like to know your view points as well.

SO ladies, fill me in with your thoughts and ideas!

Ciao!