Tuesday, July 18, 2017

On teamwork and two children


It's hard to believe it was a month ago that I was so scared to handle both the kids by myself. Boy, has time just flew by! When my in-law's left for Australia in June, it was the first time I had been alone in over a year and the first time that I'd taken care of both the kids by myself with no help. I was so scared and frightened. But, I did it. And I am so incredibly proud of myself!

My father-in-law came back from Australia this week to return to Canada to look for a job. My mother-in-law will stay in Australia to help my sister-in-law with her kids until September. Now that I've gotten into a great rhythm with the kids, I really didn't need my in-law's to come back to help me. I was totally fine on my own. It's great to have my father-in-law back, but it's even greater to have the new-found confidence in myself and my mothering abilities.

Well, the first week was terrible. Baby Veda got a cold, was teething badly, we had an awful heatwave, Maya was super-clingy, and when I went to visit my parents' that week, my dad almost drowned in the swimming pool which was traumatic and shook me up for days. We realized that there was no food since my mother-in-law was not there to cook, and husband-ji and I got into a big fight. Which made me call up my mother-in-law only days after she landed in Australia, in tears, saying that I felt I had no support because she wasn't there. "It will be fine, Alex..." she said. "Don't worry da...within a week you'll get a handle on it and you'll be fine..." At the time, I didn't believe her. But she was right, as usual!

It was a lot easier when Maya finished school for the Summer because then my schedule was much more flexible. I kept my days simple by preferring to walk to nearby parks and watch Maya play while the baby napped in her stroller - enjoying the fresh Summer sunshine. Husband-ji cooked all the food and planned the meals in advance while I did the grocery shopping on my stroller walks. He made sure to leave for work at the latest possible moment and come home as early as he could to maximize a sense of equal parenting. I threw the trash and washed the dishes while he played with the kids after dinner. We have been working so efficiently as a team that it makes me love him a little bit more. I have even had time to blog, go swimming, and make homemade baby food! I can't believe it.


There is also another teammate with me during the day - Maya. I have been so impressed by her helpfulness and maturity. She helps without me even asking her. She is fully involved in all aspects of taking care of her little sister - from watching the baby while I use the bathroom, helping to feed her solids, dressing her, wiping up her spit-up, fetching her toys for her, and getting clean diapers and throwing away the dirty diapers. I couldn't do it without her. Somehow, with Maya around, I'm not lonely at all. And I make sure that when the baby naps, that I spend one-on-one time with her like playing a board game or doing arts and crafts. 

More and more I'm enjoying these simple moments with the kids - going to parks, sitting with them, playing with them...and generally being present with them. We've had some really lovely moments together. Instead of doing these big grand outings all the time, we are keeping it simple and happy and thus avoiding meltdowns and exhaustion.


Looking back, I feel having two kids is easier than having one kid, so far. I had a much harder time of it being home alone when Maya was a baby. I had no experience, I was trying to find my footing as a mother, it was hard to keep adjusting myself to the ever-changing routines, and the exhaustion. Going from no kids to having one kid was a huge shock to my system. Going from one kid to two is not such big a deal. We have had some hard moments, but in the bigger picture it has been a lot easier. I'm already a professional mother. I've experienced firsthand the ups and downs of motherhood. Flexibility is basically my middle name. I know I need to be kinder to myself. I sleep as much as I possibly can (when the kids sleep), but what's one more sleepless night anyway? Add it on to the hundreds I've already had - no big deal! I have surrendered my life to being a mother and accept all the chaos that comes with it. Life with kids can get crazy so we might as well just have fun with it.


But I do wonder...a month ago, when I was crying my eyes out, swearing that I couldn't handle the kids - WHY did I doubt my own capabilities so much? I am a good mother. I am a capable person. I CAN take care of my kids by myself. I am enough for them. Why did I doubt myself...so much? Definitely some food for thought.

I actually feel a lot better about myself now that I know I can do it. Of course, it helped that husband-ji was so supportive and Maya was just a little angel. I'm really looking forward to enjoying the rest of the Summer with my girls!

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Saturday, July 15, 2017

Veda: 5 months old!


Forgive me for being so late with this one...this month was absolutely hectic with my in-law's leaving for vacation, the start of Summer break, and not having a computer for 2 weeks!

Probably the biggest change from last month is that Veda loves to be taken out. She used to hate being taken out and we mostly avoided it when my in-law's were here because one of us was always at home with her. Now, after my in-law's left, I had no choice but to pack her up and take her with me...and she adapted pretty well! I think this is because she is becoming very alert and observant of her surroundings. She likes to watch people and stare them down like a desi granny. She loves to people-watch and she finds different people quite entertaining...which I don't mind because then it saves me the work from having to entertain her at home!

But...she has had some stranger anxiety lately. As in, she won't go to everyone and she especially seems to be freaked out by my mom. Every time she sees my mom's face she starts crying, so that has been pretty stressful. I need husband-ji to accompany me to visit my parents due to Veda's meltdowns around my mom! When we're at home, she doesn't want me to leave her side. We have an open-concept living room/dining room/kitchen and if I step away from her (more than 5 feet), she panics. But I think it is the age because I remember Maya being like this and her screaming bloody murder when I had to take a shower - OMG so stressful!

She still hates the baby carrier and prefers to stretch out on her tummy and make crawling moves. Or as Maya calls it, "swimming on the carpet!". She is ok in the car now - as long as Maya's in the back seat with her. She loves the stroller the best and she often falls asleep in it, provided there are constant jiggles.


Other than the smiles, my favorite part of this last month is that when I come near her, she reaches out to me. Sometimes I just come up close to her and let her feel my face as though she's reading Braille, although she mostly scratches or slaps me! I don't mind!

It turns out that Veda loves solids. We haven't fed her any fruits or vegetables yet but she's been doing great on her grains. She has been waking up a bit at night because I think she's hungry, so we are going to start the other food groups soon.

Until next month...!

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Monday, July 10, 2017

Latest Family Photos!

A few months ago, we got some family pictures taken for Mother's Day (at the time, Veda was only 3 months old - so she has grown a lot since then!). The photographer who did it is Rose Dykstra of Simply Rose Photography and she was recommended by a friend of mine. It was supposed to be a mom/kids only shoot except I was so happy that Rose allowed husband-ji to get in the pictures too.

It has been so hard to get a good group shot all together - we have so few of them! Despite the baby being 3 months old at the time, this was the only shot of the 4 of us that we had taken! Life gets so busy...and sometimes 1 kid is in the mood and the other is not. Sometimes we are so tired so we'd prefer not to get in the picture. Sometimes we forget. For me, I'm always the one behind the camera! Even though I spend all my time with the kids, I hardly have any photos of us together except for the selfie's I've taken - which are not exactly frame-worthy. More and more, I'm relying on outside photographers to capture me with the kids...at least once a year.

Our last photoshoot was in the Fall for our Christmas card, which was outdoors - documentary style. This one was indoors in a studio with a white background. Being a mom herself, Rose knew how to photograph families and children so well. I feel like the pictures captured our personalities perfectly.






Be sure to check out Simply Rose on Instagram too.

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Dear readers, which one is your favorite?

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Saturday, July 8, 2017

A two week computer break


It's been about two and a half weeks since my last post and I'm sure everyone has been wondering what we've been up to. Shortly after my last post, my desktop computer completely overheated and blitzed out - leaving me for the first time without any computer in our home.

I actually loved it. As I've written about many times, I love going off the grid and taking breaks from technology. As I get older, I find it's essential for my creativity to take breaks because I can just get too overstimulated and get too many ideas at once. As a mom, it also helps me be more present with the kids and get as much rest as possible, instead of staying up late to write or do work on the computer.

The timing of life is so incredibly funny. Our home computer broke literally right after my in-law's left, leaving me alone with the kids for the first time ever. I was completely freaked out about how I'd manage. It was a blessing in disguise to not have a computer as I feel it has always been there dragging me over to it to do more work. The computer, sitting there staring at me...with it's endless possibilities! Reminding me of how many things I have that are pending. I was completely exhausted from handling the kids that I'm glad that I took the opportunity to rest and de-stress after the kids went to bed (my only time nowadays!). In fact, not having a computer made the transition of not having my in-law's here easier. For the past two and a half weeks, I have been solely focusing on handling the kids and the logistics of it all. I've gotten into a pretty good rhythm with them. It actually simplified my life.

It's hard to believe that this is how we used to live - when I was growing up, there was no computer. My dad had a typewriter. If we wanted to contact someone, we would just phone them up. We relied on books for a lot of information. If we wanted to know the weather, we would just go outside! We spent a lot of time outside. How much the world can change in only a few decades!

More and more, I really like the concept of disconnecting to connect - which is something that we've been trying to do in various ways in our place as we figure out exactly the kind of home we want to raise our kids in. We have been doing no screen time with my daughter for several months now, which has been going great. We try to keep our phones off the dining table when we're eating. We have all been watching less TV and talking with each other more. We have been getting outdoors more and enjoying the Summertime. We're able to sleep better too.

Of course, I'm glad to have a computer again so I can keep up with my writing and work, although I think I'll be keeping it to a minimum this Summer so I can fully enjoy the kids and maximize what little rest I do get nowadays. Most nights, by the time the kids go to bed I'm basically incoherent!

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Dear readers, have you ever taken a technology break?
Do you limit the screen time in your household?
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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A testing Summer


My in-law's left last night to visit my sister-in-law in Australia for 3 whole months, and to help her with my nieces. This will be the first time that I will have been alone in over a year, and the first time that I will be handling both the children by myself. To say I'm scared shitless is an understatement.

Living in a joint family for the past year has provided so many comforts - there's always help with the kids, help with all the household chores, you never get lonely as you always have company, and my postpartum transition was much easier and joyful than last time. But now, I am fully on my own for the majority of the day, while husband-ji is at work.

The timing is pretty crappy, indeed. Maya is almost done school and then she will be off for the entire Summer. The babysitter that we use from time to time is fully booked by another family for the whole Summer and cannot come at all. That means I'll have both the kids to myself for the next 3 months, and until Maya starts Kindergarten at the beginning of September.

Part of me wants to find out if I can actually handle it. I mean, I can't be so reliant on other people. I should know how to do things myself. I should take full responsibility. However, deep down, I really do feel that you're not supposed to spend so many hours per day parenting alone. If my first child taught me anything, it's that you need that village. That literally, your sanity depends on it. And when you have that support, you can parent better - and your kids benefit greatly from mommy's sanity. Having a village is not a perk, it's a necessity. Looking back, I really don't know how I did it with Maya. I remember being so exhausted, starving, lonely, and generally pretty delirious. For like 2 and a half years. My in-law's will keep traveling back and forth between here, Australia, and India, so I have to learn eventually. Plus, there are lots of moms out there who have no help, and many with more than 2 children. Some even have 3 or 4 kids! I'm not sure how they do it all. I'm stumped.

I have no idea how I'll manage to cook, do any basic household tasks, have any time for myself, and what about my blog? Looks like I'll be having a few late nights. It's going to be all about survival day-to-day. I'm not sure how I'm going to get the baby to take her naps while entertaining Maya, especially since we are doing no screen-time. Veda is not exactly the flexible kind. She currently hates the car, hates the baby carrier, and only wants mom's boobs. Hopefully she won't give me too much of a hard time this Summer.

Of course, I had to give husband-ji a few ultimatums heads-up. I told him that his expectations for me - whatever they may be - need to be extremely low. Like zero. I will not be doing any cooking, and I will wash the dishes and do the laundry when I have the time - which is basically never!!! I cannot throw the trash in the alley. And that he'd better cook Maya all of her meals (since she only eats Indian food lately). The only thing I am willing to do is take care of the children, feed them, and walk to the grocery store with Veda in the stroller and do some light grocery shopping. Anything else is not a priority to me. I'm glad I told him this in advance, even though it makes me sound like an absolute diva! I am so busy with the children that it is hard for me to even eat my lunch. As soon as I get done feeding Maya...Veda wants to be fed...and then Maya needs something...and then Veda wants to sleep...and as soon as I get a chance to sit down and eat...the baby will wake up! Today I picked up my lunch at 12:30pm and it sat cold on the dining table until 2:15pm. I was finally only able to eat it peacefully because husband-ji came home and looked after the baby. So, needless to say, he's going to have to take over most of the chores because I'm in survival mode: take care of the children / eat / sleep. That's it. Everything else is secondary. My expectations are also low for myself.

This Summer will probably be filled with lots of ups and downs for me. I hope I won't get too lonely during the day. It's been hard to get out since Veda hates the car. I'm going to try to keep it simple and just go to places that are walking distance from our place - small little outings so I don't get too overwhelmed. I hope I'm able to get a hang of it, and to come out of it as a more confident mother of two, able to take on anything and everything, like all the other super-moms out there. I hope husband-ji and I are able to work efficiently as a team. But mostly, I hope he feeds me! Ha ha!

One thing's for sure: I certainly do miss my in-law's! Even though it's only been a day...

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Thursday, June 8, 2017

Veda: 4 months old!


I can't believe my little muffin is already 4 months old. It has just gone by so fast, and it makes me a little teary-eyed. Both me and Maya wish she would stay a baby forever!

A lot have changes have taken place, more than usual.

First, Veda rolled over. This was arguably her first big milestone! The day after she turned 4 months old, she got up in the morning and she decided to roll over. And then she did it again and again and again, and fussed when she couldn't roll back. She did it for about an hour and then got tired and was ready for a nap after all that exercise! She is now looking at the world from a different angle and she likes it. She prefers to be on her tummy all the time, rather than her back. She is ready to get going places, this girl!

Now she is waking up a bit at night because she rolls over in her sleep and fusses because she can't roll back. I also think she's going through a growth spurt again.

Under the advice of our doctor, we also started her on some solids due to her hefty size and good neck control. It's hardly what you could call solids, since it's so watered down with breast milk. It's more like flavored breast milk! Feeding her solids with a spoon was so exciting. She really enjoyed it and she was very happily pleased that we fed her something extra. Maya also helped feed her and it was all very fun. She was much easier with the spoon than she has been in attempting to give her a bottle. She still refuses to take a bottle or a pacifier at all!

It's been really hard to go out anywhere or do anything because I never know when she will get tired or hungry. I have hardly taken her out that much and been mostly home-bound. We did take her for her first trip to the beach and we had so much fun! It was great to go somewhere as a family, rather than doing stuff with the kids separately. I only try to avoid taking her out too much because I get tired easily, and I don't really like to breastfeed in public. I really like to lay down in my bed and breastfeed her so I can also get some rest too and fall asleep beside her. My mother-in-law says all the Indian ladies do this!

She's beginning to establish what seems to be a more steady routine. She has 2 waking hours, followed by 60-90 minute naps. The last nap of the day is usually only about 45 minutes or so. In total, she has 2-3 naps. I love lying down beside her and watching her sleep, or reading, or sleeping myself next to her. When she wakes up in the morning then I can vaguely plan my day. I try to avoid making any plans because I don't know what the timings will be on any given day! Sometimes she likes to sleep in the car seat, so I can time going out with her naps. She does not like being taken out when she is awake. She gets a little grumpy because she prefers to explore on her new tummy position!

Whenever we do go out, everyone always comments on her hair. "That hair!!!" they say. It has indeed gotten even longer now...it seems to be growing like a Chia Pet!

She loves to hear any news programme on the radio or TV. She gets very animated and excited. We have been watching CNN in the mornings to see all the latest daily Trump scandals, and Veda absolutely loves it...with her grumpy self! I bet she will be some kind of lawyer or social activist or something.

We also had to go to Ikea to buy a crib for her, since she was too tall for her bassinet. The crib is in our bedroom, but it's a bit farther from our bed which gives her a sense of her own space. One side of the room is our bed, and the other side is her nursery.

Until next month....!
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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Maya: 5 years old!


My little darling is five years old today...and I can't help but think, where did the time go?! The days are long, but the years were so incredibly short. My firstborn little baby is five. FIVE!!! It's all been a blur. Her birth feels like it was yesterday - I remember when they put her on my chest and she looked at me for the first time. It's all been a blur of a million moments, in between.

It has been the greatest blessing seeing Maya grow up. Teaching her things, and having her teach me things. I think she's been the biggest teacher to me...

Being my first baby, I've had no idea what to do half the time. I've had no experience. Every day, as a parent, it's venturing into the unknown...and just praying that you're doing a good job. Every day, the only thing I know what to do is just to love her. Make her feel loved. Make her feel important.

Sometimes she feels like more of my best friend than my daughter. I don't know why. I just love spending time with her. I haven't been able to do much of anything else for the past five years, because anything I want to do seems less important than just being with her. Sometimes I get scared of how close we are...I think, what if I say or do something that hurts her? But I can't not be close to her. We are just like that, us two.

Aspects of her personality have unfolded to reveal an even greater beauty in her. Something so familiar to me, something that reminds me of my grandmother - who she is named after. Her spirit is truly carried on in these children, especially Maya.

Just like how my grandmother was, Maya is so helpful. Everything she does is to help others. Whenever anyone is upset, she immediately runs to their side and offers her help. She takes such a delight in being caring towards others. I think that's what makes her such a great big sister - she's a great help with the baby. She doesn't have a jealous bone in her body. Recently at school, she stood up for one of her friends who was getting teased. I was so proud of her. I always pack a snack for her after school and she always wants to share the whole thing with all of her friends.

Boy, she has so many friends. She is much more social than me or Maddy. She gets along great with all of the children in her class. The majority of her friends are boys, who are all just nuts about her!

She is also a wonderful teacher. She is very advanced with her writing skills so she is helping her teacher give printing lessons to the other students at school.

Maya loves to dance and she loves art. We have a little art easel in our living room and she does about 5 drawings per day. She draws the same things over and over in different variations. I save them all in a folder. When she wants to know how to draw something, she comes to us and we show her. She can copy something identically to the way we showed her. She also loves music and she has specific songs that she likes. Her favorite songs are diverse: she loves "Rock Lobster" by the B-52's, "Umbrella" by Rihanna, "Brown Eyed Girl" by Van Morrison, and the Moana theme song. And of course, Raffi!

She is also very playful and a bit mischievous. My mother-in-law said that she's more mischievous now than when she arrived a year ago. She loves to laugh and be silly. She has a very light-hearted personality.

While Veda prefers to stay home, Maya loves being taken out. She loves going to the library, the grocery store, out shopping, or even just running errands. She's such a busy girl and she enjoys always being on the go. She's very specific about her clothes and won't let us shop for her, or even dress her. She likes to pick out her whole outfit, even down to the smallest detail!

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Monday, May 22, 2017

Joint Family Life: one year later...


A year ago, my in-law's moved in with us and we took the plunge into traditional desi joint family life - something I knew was coming sooner or later. When you marry the eldest and only Indian son, it is inevitable that you will have to eventually live with his parents!

In our instance, my in-law's moved in with us after our relationship was already well-established (we had just celebrated our 10 year anniversary last year). And they also moved into our space, as opposed to us moving into their space. Those two factors made the transition much easier than the average bahu.

One year later, I'm still a big fan of the joint family set-up because it really works - for us, at least. Everyone has their roles in the household and everyone is flexible with those roles. Husband-ji works. My mother-in-law cooks. My father-in-law throws the trash and gets groceries. I take care of the kids and am the family chauffeur/master scheduler (driving everyone to their appointments, taking the kids to their classes, school drop off/pick up). My in-law's have taken the role of child-rearing support: they let us primarily parent the kids, but they are always there to help with anything from watching the kids, packing lunches, reading stories, or giving baths.


It has been very beneficial for us and it has alleviated a lot of stress. Husband-ji can just focus on work, and he's even taking a class after work to learn a new skill. I've got the daily support with raising the children, and also some company in the house. My main stress before was cooking complicated Indian meals and now my mother-in-law completely handles the cooking. Husband-ji is so happy to have all his favorite dishes. Indian food is made every day but I often eat my own food (salads, pastas, sushi, etc). Maya gets constant attention and love from her grandparents, which is so important for young children. My father-in-law says the best part is watching his grand-kids grow up every day, rather than seeing them on a screen or through a phone.


So much has happened this year - my parents' health has been failing, I got pregnant & had another baby, my mother-in-law had heart surgery - that I couldn't have done it if they weren't here. My mother-in-law had a depressive episode after her heart surgery, and I had a few months of depression during my pregnancy too. Living in a joint family is like being in an intertwined spider web where everyone is supported and taken care of. When one person is suffering, the others lift that person up. That's what I love about it the most. I try to keep myself busy with the kids most of the time, but sometimes at night I feel sad about my parents and the reality that they're not getting any better. In those moments, instead of sitting in the dark and crying by myself, my mother-in-law is there offering me a shoulder to cry on and also to lift me up with her wisdom. Both her and I definitely rule the roost! Along with my two little queens, it's definitely a female-centric matrilineal household!


Not to say we don't have any fights. I had a gigantic fight with my in-law's in the Fall, but luckily they couldn't stay mad at me because I was pregnant. All of us living in a small space makes us more likely to solve arguments quickly, because there's spatially no way to avoid each other! You also have to be pretty forgiving - give the other person the benefit of the doubt and understand that their intentions are not bad. You can't hold grudges in a joint family household. The noise level has been really tricky, especially with the kids' naps and bed times. The whole house shuts down at 8 o'clock at night, which used to be my in-law's dinner time. And everyone basically has to wake up at 6am everyday. Whenever husband-ji and I are fighting, my in-law's take the kids out for a walk. By the time they return, the fight is always over. I do miss the time alone with husband-ji - we don't have as many conversations as we used to. Now they are family conversations. We have been trying to go out after the kids are asleep for dates again to re-connect and just chat with each other. I also have mixed feelings about shutting myself in the bedroom to breast-feed. Sometimes I like the alone time with the baby, but other times I feel trapped in the other room when everyone else is in the living room. Maya has gotten even more orthodox with her eating habits, as she knows her grandma will make her whatever she desires (which is always South Indian vegetarian food!) but I can't complain because at least I don't have to cook!


We are living in an 1000 square foot, 2 bedroom busy city apartment, which sounds terrible but it's actually not that bad. Well, it was fine for 3 people...but now we are a family of 6! As of now, Queen Maya is the only one who has her own bedroom. We share our master bedroom with the baby now, and my in-law's sleep in the living room. (This is a step up from my husband's childhood home, which had 10 people living in a tiny 2 bedroom house!). We're going to be moving to our new place in the Fall which will be double the size and have a separate room for everyone. Maya says she doesn't want to move because she loves our little apartment, just the way it is. That just goes to show that more space doesn't make a happy home - it's the people in it that matter!

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Saturday, May 20, 2017

My Intercultural Love: Jateen & Rebecca


Introduction....
I am Rebecca, I was born in Los Angeles, CA and my parents are from New Orleans. My husband, Jateen was born in Tanzania and his parents are Gujarati. We live in San Francisco, CA in a much too expensive apartment and have one cat named Shiva. 

Three words that describe you...
Curious, Brave and Compassionate.

Favorite childhood memory...
My favorite childhood memory is when I traveled with my mom during a hot summer in New Orleans and cleaned out her childhood home. We ate all of the local food and I got to see some of her that I had never experienced before. We found old baby pictures and beautiful antique furniture in her dads old house. 

Where/how do you feel most inspired?
I feel the most inspired when I am somewhere else. I really love trains, planes and foreign cafes. 

Where/how did you meet your spouse?
We met online and then in person at a little cafĂ© in San Francisco. We celebrated Bastille day together champagne and appetizers. It was really sweet and the conversation between us felt so familiar and easy. 

How long have you been together?
We have been married for two months and dated for 18 months before that. I feel like we've known each other our whole lives. 

What qualities do you admire in your spouse?
Jateen is one of the nicest people that I have ever met. He will literally give you the shirt off his back. I admire his generosity, calmness and genuine kindness. 

Favorite memory together as a couple...
My favorite memory as a couple is eating breakfast in the Serengeti and watching hot air balloons rise over the plains of Africa. We are truly blessed to travel as much as we do. 

What did you know about your spouse's culture prior to your relationship?
I studied Ayurveda, Yoga and Keralan Cooking in Kerala in 2007, so I did know a little about Indian culture. I knew enough to understand that his culture is very multifaceted and that I am easily overwhelmed by so many differences. But I hadn't even heard of Gujarat and not much about Tanzania either. I would say that the family is more geared toward Gujarati culture than Tanzanian as their Indian subgroup really strived to maintain Gujarati culture in Africa. 


How did you tell your friends/family about your intercultural relationship?
I actually didn't draw a lot of attention to our different cultural backgrounds and I still haven't. But I do remember some conflict during wedding planning when picking the menu. It was actually a little bit trickier to tell my Indian In-laws that we were going to serve Indian and Middle Eastern/Californian food. My MIL's reaction was "why can't everyone eat Indian food?" and "don't spend your money on more food". I was a little offended by the insensitivity around my cultural food preferences. 

How has your relationship enlightened your life? How has it changed you & your outlook on life?
My relationship has helped me to become a more calm and confident person. Jateen is so caring towards me that I am able to do my job of care-giving for others even better. My outlook has evolved to include the importance of family even more. We have a large immediate family split between the Bay Area and Southern California and we both make even more effort to spend time with both. 

Who proposed and how?
Jateen proposed in a really sweet way. I was getting impatient with our plans but he kept a straight face and took me on a short after work hike near the Golden Gate bridge. It was super foggy ad there weren't many birds out but he pointed out a flock and when I turned back around he was holding a beautiful ring for me to wear. He video taped the whole thing and I could barely talk through the tears. 


Describe your wedding...
Our weddings were very special. We got married at the San Francisco city hall by a Justice of the Peace with only our family and a photographer around. After the ceremony we went eat delicious southern Soul Food. A few days later we had a big (not by Indian standards) Hindu ceremony at a historic theatre in Livermore, CA. Jateen walked in with his family following and lead by a drummer and then I walked down the aisle with my male ushers. Jateen's father actually performed the ceremony and the best part of it was that my family was under the mandap with us. After our ceremony we has a swing dance lesson, a multicultural dinner and then danced the night away. It was such a fun event! 

What does being married mean to you?
Being married to me means having a team mate. We are tied for life and will keep growing and changing together. It means that I have a big Afro/Indian/Caucasian family and we will all love and support each other. 

What are your dreams for your future together as a married couple?
Our dream is to have a few children, own a home in the bay area and then buy some vacation property on the northern coast. I would like to grow wine and Jateen would like to put a tiny house on that land. We really also want to have love in our lives, regardless of how that ends up looking. 


What's the best marital advice that you received from elder family/friends?
To always give each other the benefit of the doubt. And enjoy it all, even the tough stuff. One of my patients told me to always touch toes before you fall in bed because no one can stay mad after that, I'll go with that one. 

What positive cultural values do you bring to your relationship?
I bring a big amount of decisiveness and self direction from my culture.

What do you do to keep your relationship alive? What kinds of things do you do to connect with your spouse?
To keep our relationship alive, we have a weekly date for just the two of us. Lets hope we can keep that up after kids. We enjoy connecting over weekend trips to the coast and we both enjoy road trips. We watch a lot of comedy together and also enjoy talking politics. 

In what ways have you adopted aspects of your spouse's culture?
We celebrate some Hindu Holidays like Diwali and Holi; attend local Pujas and I am cooking up a few good Gujarati dishes. 


Has your family adopted aspects of your spouse's culture?
Hmm, that is a good question. My mom wore a sari to our wedding, and both parents came to the pre-wedding functions. My mom has also been excited about making her own chai and they have started sending food back and forth between families in true Indian style. 

What aspects of your spouse's culture do you find difficult to embrace?
For sure that would be IST. Jateen seems to have a different sense of time and urgency.

Name some cultural faux-pas that you have unknowingly committed...
I offered his mom some chicken soup without the chicken (she is strict vegetarian)

What was the most challenging time in your intercultural relationship?
The most challenging time in our intercultural relationship is when we are getting ready to go somewhere at a prescheduled time. I have learned to make myself busy at the exact time that I want to leave because otherwise I just end up looming over him and freaking out being somewhere on time. 

What's the best and the worst part of being in an intercultural relationship?
The best thing is the extra parties and that is the worst thing too. Really, I enjoy being the center of attention but only sometimes and a lot of his aunties fuss over me and force feed me...both sweet and too pushy. I have really had to focus on boundary setting during family gatherings and doing only what I am comfortable with.

What do you think are the biggest misconceptions that people have about intercultural relationships?
That our relationship is not as much about shared values as it is about exoticism.

What are the biggest misconceptions about American women?
The biggest misconception about American women is that we plan to divorce your sweet son. Rip his heart out and stomp on it and also that we won't celebrate Hindu culture. 


Have you come across people who disapprove of your intercultural union? If so, how do you deal with them?
The only time that I feel disapproval is when we are stared at. Jateen and I were out to dinner and a table of Indian folks were next to us. As we were leaving, some of the women craned their necks to stare at the two of us. We left and laughed about the incident.

Take-away advice for other intercultural couples...
Be curious about the other person's background, they will open your eyes to new things in the world and you will open theirs too. When MIL's get on your last nerve, tell your partner and let them deal with it. Examine what you are comfortable giving and set boundaries to reflect that. For example, my husband likes to visit his family every week and I like my alone time so I let him go and I stay home. Then we have stories to share about our separate times and have both been recharged.

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Friday, May 19, 2017

Best Children's Books About Diversity


There's no better time than now to do a book list for parents to read with their children about the importance of celebrating diversity. The younger - the better. Sometimes children can be naturally curious of different people and different cultures, and it's our job as parents to educate them that different doesn't necessarily mean bad. Different is beautiful, and there are all kinds of people in the world.

Here are some of our favorite books that celebrate diversity and multiculturalism:
(Ages 4-10)
This book is one of our new favorites, written by the elegant Queen Rania of Jordan. It is really relatable and it's a situation that they will all experience - someone will make fun of their lunch, particularly if they come from another culture. It tells kids' not to be afraid of food that is "different", especially when they have never tasted it. A good book too, for picky eaters who are scared to try new foods.

People
(Ages 4-10)
This is a lovely book that celebrates diversity all over the world in beautiful, delicate drawings. It will ignite a greater understanding of other cultures from around the world, explained through geography, fashion, religion, holidays, families, and work. It's a short, colorful encyclopedia for curious minds.

Everybody Cooks Rice
(Ages 3-8)
This book follows the story of a little girl going around her diverse neighborhood before dinnertime to fetch her older brother. As she wanders into her neighbors' houses, she realizes all of them are cooking rice in different ways. The neighbors all come from different cultures, like China, or Haiti, for example. It teaches the young reader that you can make so many different things with one ingredient.

It's Okay To Be Different
(Ages 2-6)
This is a simple book with bright pictures that I would recommend for the youngest readers. It provides a great foundation for celebrating diversity and tolerating differences. The author touches on race, disabilities, families, feelings, and more.

It's A Small World
(Ages 1-6)
If you have to buy a Disney storybook, this one should be it. This book is based on the "It's a Small World" ride from Disneyland and song. This book comes with a CD so you can sing along to the story. The illustrations are modern, cute, and fun.

A Ride on Mother's Back
(Ages 3-8)
I originally discovered this book in my midwife's office and fell in love with it. This book follows all the mommies who carry their babies in different parts of the world - from the Arctic, to Asia, to Africa, and beyond. Children can learn that all moms and babies around the world are similar, but they just live in different climates and wear different clothes.

One Family
(Ages 1-6)
I loved this simple and direct book about different types of families. It was so incredibly diverse - showing gay parents, foster parents, big or small families, and more. The pictures were colorful and vibrant, and the language was strong and simple. This is also a good book for practicing counting.
(Ages 2-8)
This book is particularly nice for interracial families because it features a black mom and a white dad. It celebrates the love that the parents' have for their children and how mom and dad have such different personalities. It's a feel-good book with charming, poetic language.

Mixed Me!
(Ages 2-8)
This is one of our favorites, written by the famous actor Taye Diggs. It's about a super cool mixed kid named Mike who's unique and proud to be mixed. The book touches on the fact that not everyone will understand why "mom and dad don't match" but that's okay. It also tells mixed children that they're "a perfect blend of dark and light", instilling self-confidence in a young reader.

The Colors of Us
(Ages 2-10)
This book is a celebration of diverse skin color, written in pretty prose. It focuses on the many shades on brown skin and celebrates it in a positive way by comparing the shades of brown to a delicious food. The illustrations in the book bounce off the page and are very painterly.

Click HERE to see some of our other favorite children's books.

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What are your favorite children's books that celebrate diversity?
Is there any that we can add to this list?
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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

May Celebrations

(Maya's birthday card for her dad)

The last week has been quite hectic in our big household as we had two celebrations in one week: husband-ji's birthday and Mother's Day, which were both equally sweet.


I never know what to get husband-ji for his birthday. I am always so stumped because he loves to shop and he's the biggest diva ever. He hates anything I get him, except when it's food-related. With two kids, I basically hardly ever leave the house anymore when I don't have to so I thought we'd bake him an eggless chocolate cake for his birthday. Little did I know that Maya would be the baker and I would be her assistant!

I love baking with her and this was our first time making an eggless cake together. It came out great. We also made chocolate buttercream from scratch and Maya decorated it with sprinkles. It was a lovely activity to do together. We usually bake cookies quite often, but we have never baked a cake together.


Other than that, the day was a disaster, as always. The dishwasher broke so the landlord sent maintenance men in and out of our apartment all morning as they tried to fix the old dingy thing, which hardly worked in the first place. After about 5 hours of them trying to fix it, they finally realized that they should just buy a new one for us. Well, duh. (By the way, the new one is just as shitty as the old one!) Then, we tried to go to a nice restaurant in the evening and poor Veda cried the whole time and crapped in her pants. In a restaurant with no change table. Thanks, guys. She spit up all over me, my tummy was hurting so I hardly ate dinner, and we all raced through dinner to get the f*ck home. We told my in-law's that we'd get the baby loaded into the car and bring it to the front of the restaurant. We were waiting out front and losing patience while Veda was wailing in the car, while they were down in the parking garage where Maya was having a gigantic tantrum because she thought we had driven off and left her there. Then, we finally got home and had about 5 minutes to blow out the candles and shove the cake down our throats before the bedtime procession started by Veda's tired evening rooster call at 7 o'clock sharp. I told husband-ji that I refuse to go out for dinner for like, ever again.

It was an absolute disaster of a day, but at least:
a) the cake came out beautifully
b) Maya presented the cake to her dad with such pride
c) we had such fun making the cake together

Mother's Day was 5 days later and it was much more calm and relaxed, lucky me! I usually wake up early with the kids at 6am, but I decided to sleep in for a few extra hours. I figured that it's Mother's Day and I totally deserve it! We didn't do much that day, except stay at home and watch Moana with Maya (her special weekend movie treat). More and more, I'm really loving having less of a schedule with the kids. I'm becoming an absolute hermit! I'm perfectly happy staying at home in my pajama's, putting a big quilt down on the living room floor, and playing with the kids or reading to them.

The next day, we had a special Mother's Day party at Maya's school where the kids sang songs to us, gave us an art & craft gift, and served tea and cakes to us. I brought my mother-in-law along with me and she just loved it.

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Dear readers, how was your Mother's Day?
Did you do anything special?

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Sunday, May 14, 2017

A Year in Motherhood

It's that time of the year again where I get a little teary-eyed - we celebrate Mother's Day today, and we have Maya's birthday coming up in a few weeks - thus celebrating my birth as a mother. Becoming a mother has been the best thing that has ever happened to me. I know all mothers might say that, but it definitely rings true for me. Motherhood has been such a joy and a challenge in every imaginable way. Five years ago, on the brink of becoming a mother myself, I had no idea what it would be like for me. It has been chaotic. It has turned my life upside down in the best way possible - with an emphasis on what's really important: my girls. 

This year was quite transformative for me as I became a mother for the second time. Another child, another beautiful girl - a dream come true. A sister for Maya. God blessed us greatly with the responsibility of raising another little woman for this world. 

As always, I learned a lot in motherhood this past year. I have been off of work for a whole year now, taking care of my girls. This has given me the opportunity to really enjoy my time with them, day-to-day. I learned to soften up a bit more in regards to discipline and instead come from a place of gentle love, rather than rigid sternness. With my hospital stays during my pregnancy, I had to let go of Maya a bit, and she had to let go of me. I allowed myself to rely more on husband-ji and my mother-in-law, during a time when Maya only answered to me. And more recently, I learned how to balance two. This was a terrifying prospect for me. But the kids are the easy part, especially when I've decided that I'm not going to do any unnecessary household work!

Here's celebrating another year in motherhood....

Maya's 4th Birthday

Swimming: an activity that we can only do!

First Day of Junior Kindergarten

Because when your kid asks you to dress up as a "mummy bunny" you do it!

A mother, twice over...

Desi glam

A second chance

First school drop-off, 10 days after baby #2

Afternoon cuddles

Bath time 

First Maya-mummy solo date since baby #2's arrival

Love you, little one...

Us three girls

"Children are the anchors of a mother's life..." - Sophocles
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