Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Now Featured On: Masala Mommas

I'm so excited to share that I'm featured back on one of my favorite online magazines - Masala Mommas! It took me a while to get back into writing for them due to my pregnancy + postpartum...and I'm so glad to be back on! 

I have written several articles before for them regarding living in a cross-cultural marriage, but this time, this particular piece is all about Diwali. As you guys know, Diwali is one of my favorite holidays and there are many ways to celebrate it in a cross-cultural and interfaith family.

Click HERE to read my article and let me know what you think!

Here's some other popular pieces that I've written for Masala Mommas:

This past month has been so jam-packed with Dussehra, my birthday, Canadian Thanksgiving, and now Diwali! AND we also had relatives from India staying with us for 10 days. I'll be writing a post soon about all our latest shenanigans! Until then, follow me on my Instagram for all our latest updates - in pictures.


Dear readers, HAPPY DIWALI!!!!


Friday, September 8, 2017

Maya's first day of kindergarten!

We had a huge milestone in our house recently with Maya having her first day of kindergarten. Even though she has gone to preschool for a few years, the first day of kindergarten is one of many huge moments for parents and kids alike. It is a monumental transition because they are at school for the whole day and it marks the official start of their elementary schooling. 

I wasn't sure how I was going to feel sending my first-born treasure off to Kindergarten....would I feel happy? Sad? Anxious? Exhilarated? I tried not to project my emotions on to my daughter and let her take the lead on how she was feeling. I had some mixed emotions as I knew I would miss her during the day, but I tried to keep my parent poker face on so it wouldn't disturb her mood.

She was so so excited to start school! I thought she might feel sad to leave me and the baby, since we have had a lot of beautiful moments of togetherness this Summer, but she was totally fine. She was SO excited to start school and join all of her friends. 

The morning that Kindergarten started, Maya was thrilled. She picked out her own outfit, got dressed herself and was ready by the door with her backpack. I took her to school and it was so much fun listening to music together along the way, with my big girl. Just like my dad used to do with me. Husband-ji stayed at home with the baby and fed her breakfast, while I got some nice one-on-one time with Maya.

I thought I would have a lot of free time since Maya was at school all day, but the day went by so quickly. I spent half of the time trying to get Veda to sleep, and the other half chasing her around the house! Veda has gotten mobile, and very very naughty! She loves to get her hands on things that she's not supposed to be playing with - like putting the phone charger in her mouth. Licking the carpet, etc. Without Maya there to help me keep an eye on Veda's shenanigans, I really had my hands full!

I was eager to find out how Maya's day went when I picked her up. Would she be tired after spending the whole day at school? Did she eat her lunch? Turns out she was not tired at all! And she ate the whole lunch I packed for her. I was so proud. And I realized she was so ready to start a full day of school!

Now I am attempting to get into my new routine of school pick-up/drop-off, packing lunches, making an early dinner...and eagerly awaiting my mother-in-law's return from Australia!


Thursday, September 7, 2017

Summer in review

This Summer was one of the best we've had 'til date...mostly because we didn't plan too much. More and more these days, I'm favoring a simplistic parenting approach with the kids by trying to just enjoy our time together without over-scheduling everything. That's what Summers are for, right?

My in-law's left for Australia right before Maya got out of school for the Summer, so my life was all about getting into a good rhythm with the kids since it was my first time handling them alone all day. I wanted to see what their natural rhythms would be so I specifically didn't plan too much and preferred to stay around walking distance from our place. This turned out to be a brilliant idea, and I got into a great rhythm and it helped build my confidence that yes, I can do this!

One awesome thing that happened this Summer was that Maya discovered horseback riding...and loved it! It seems fitting, because she's so passionate about animals. She has loved it so much that we have decided to continue her horseback riding lessons during the school year. The riding school that we go to is very kid-friendly and they let the kids pick out which horse they want to ride. Then, they groom the horse and dress it with riding gear. And then the lesson takes place, and sometimes they even let the kids ride the horse on the road, which is very exciting for them. It has been a wonderful experience for my little animal-lover! I felt so proud of her to see her passionate about taking up a new skill.

We only did one vacation this Summer, which was to see family in the neighboring state of Washington. Maya had a great time playing with her cousins and it was the perfect first vacay with the baby. I even got to do some swimming in a river!

Unfortunately, we came back to a season of terrible wildfires which made the air very hard to breathe. There was about 10 days where I was completely cooped up with the kids indoors, in the Summer heat, which almost drove me mad! Luckily, the rain and wind pushed the smoke off of the coast but now, as I write this, the smoke is back again in the city. We are all praying for a long season of rain!

Other than that, we spend 95% of the Summer outdoors which was wonderful, having picnics and enjoying nearby parks.

Now, Maya has started Kindergarten, my father-in-law is going to be starting his new job soon, and my mother-in-law will be returning soon. I am eagerly awaiting her arrival!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Joint Family Road Trip & Summer Family Reunion!

We seem to be doing a family road trip every Summer. It's kinda become a thing. Now we've done it three years in a row, so I guess it's organically becoming a new family tradition! Last year, we ventured out to the Okanagan. The year before, we explored Yellowstone National Park. I absolutely love road trips because there's just so much that you can explore unplanned. It's been a great way to just spend time together and show my in-law's and the kids part of the world. And it was Veda's first official vacation!

This year, our road trip was more of a last minute decision. We had not planned to travel anywhere this year, until one of husband-ji's cousins got a job and relocated to Washington, which is the state right below us. We have not seen this cousin for over two years, so it was the perfect excuse to plan a trip down so we could visit them. We have three cousins in Washington (all from the Tamil side of the family, and each set has kids). My main reason for wanting to go was because I wanted to get all of the kids to play together and have some bonding time.

Boy, were they wild! They just had the best time playing together. From 7am until 10pm, they were playing, laughing and running around. Just as children should be. They are all close in age (7, 5, 5, 18 months, 5 months). It was really lovely - we made so many amazing memories together. It was a bit of a family reunion of sorts!

Here are some highlights from our trip:


Monday, August 14, 2017

Veda: 6 months old!

Well, this is all happening too fast. Veda's already 6 months?! It's officially her half birthday.

This month, Veda has really been getting a move on and displaying signs that she's going to be a very active tot. She loves to crawl and she loves being held up so that she can bounce her legs. We tried the Jolly Jumper out recently and Veda absolutely loved it, of course. She hates sitting and wants to be moving at all times. She detests being in the car unless she's sleepy, which means I have to be very choosy when I'm taking the car out. She is okay when you hold her (because she clearly likes to be pampered), but mostly she's happiest when she's on her tummy and ready to explore. I have to keep a very close eye on her because she is getting into everything. The other day, she made her way over to Maya's markers so I had to put them all safely away in drawers - nothing left out for her to get her curious little hands into! This all happened within 30 seconds when I was in the bathroom, of course - she made her way from one side of the living room to another - a determined stealth snail!

We've also been trying out all the new foods and flavors, one by one. So far, she likes bananas, avocados, apples, kale, pineapple, mango, and carrots. We still have lots more to try out. She does not like cauliflower or peas. It's a bit hard to feed her since she's so active, so we have to feed her quite quickly. 

Veda has not been sleeping well at night, so I am one tired mommy. She is teething, going through a growth spurt, and she also had her first ear infection this month. I assumed that she would be immune to such things like ear infections since I'm breastfeeding her, but no. Clearly, my milk has no magical powers like some of the other women have!

Veda starts out sleeping in her crib, and then by 4AM I give in and just co-sleep with her. Which is something I never did with Maya! With the breastfeeding, it's just easier to co-sleep because you can just pop your boob out. Veda sleeps much better when I co-sleep with her but I try not to do it unless I absolutely have to. No matter how tiring the night has been, Veda always wakes up so fresh and happy and ready to slay the day. She gives me a big smile and starts giggling when she wakes up which is so incredibly adorable that I can't be mad at her.

I also end up co-sleeping with her for at least one of her naps because by that time I also need a nap! Now she is down to two naps a day. I get nothing accomplished during those naps. For her morning nap, I always take the kids out for an outing while Veda sleeps in her stroller. By the time the afternoon nap rolls around, Maya has her quiet time and mommy is exhausted (snoring along with the baby) and counting down the minutes until daddy gets home!

We've also made it to 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding, which I do have to give myself a pat on the back for. My favorite breastfeeding position is lying down because I'm so exhausted. We are still trying to get her to take my pumped milk from the bottle - with no luck. She only wants the boobs. Now I feel like I have no choice but to breast feed her, so I feel a bit stuck. Luckily, now that she is having solids, I can find a way to get out of the house kid-free for like an hour, but usually not more. That way I can at least hand over some of the feeding to husband-ji.

Veda's hair is not standing up anymore (like Elvis) because it's getting so much longer. Now gravity is pulling it down. I could actually put it in pigtails! Maya loves to pick out Veda's outfits and especially hair clips. It's funny because she won't wear a hair clip herself (being more of a tomboy) but she loves it when Veda wears one. I haven't been dressing her up too much because it's been so hot - usually just a simple cotton onesie. 

We ventured out to a restaurant for dinner the other night - the first time in 4 months! It went surprisingly well, but of course we had to keep it under an hour. Veda was very entertained by all the comings and goings of the restaurant people. She loves to people-watch and she loves to overhear people talk and eavesdrop like a senile Indian grandma. Veda has grown up in a joint family, so she loves it when there are a lot of people around.

We also took Veda on her first vacation this month....more on that later!


Friday, August 4, 2017

The Ups and Downs of Breastfeeding

(Photo by Simply Rose)

Breastfeeding. It's supposed to come naturally, right? I mean, it looks so easy. It's what's best for your baby, they say! It's free, they say! It's simple, they say! Rather, I find it to be very complicated. Like, a knee-deep complex, loaded issue. For something that's supposed to be so simple, it really isn't. After childbirth, it's arguably the first thing that women get criticized about and made to feel unworthy about. There are moms around the world crying their eyes out at this very moment about what kind of milk they feed their baby. If you feed formula, you're damaging your baby. If you feed breast milk, are they getting enough? If you breastfeed for too long, you're a weirdo.

It's #worldbreastfeedingweek and I'd like to share our stories. Two different experiences, for two different babies, like night and day.

Breastfeeding Maya
With Maya, I had a very difficult time breastfeeding. I spent a lot of time preparing for childbirth, and not a lot for breastfeeding. I assumed it would come naturally. It's going to sound ridiculous, but when the baby came out, I was appalled when I realized that I'd have to spend so much effort feeding it. (Like what the hell, can't my husband do it? Do I have to do everything here?) I was disappointed when it didn't come naturally. I was ashamed to breastfeed and expose myself even in front of the nurses at the hospital. When they tried to help me breastfeed and they asked if it hurt, I lied and said no, when in reality it did hurt - a lot. But compared to the pain of having a vaginal birth, I thought it was low on the pain scale. I didn't understand then that when breastfeeding hurts, it's because you have a bad latch. And when you get a bad latch, it affects your milk supply. And it hurts like hell, because that baby gets damn hungry and ends up massacring your nipples with it's bad latch. At the end of my birth, I had a severe postpartum hemorrhage as my placenta refused to detach. Then my finicky placenta decided to detach along with part of my uterus and I lost more than a litre of blood, which gave me anemia for 2 years. (Let me tell you, suffering from anemia while being a stay at home mother with no help is no fun at all!) My anemia completely zapped me and also affected my milk supply. My milk came in around day 5, and I nearly had a mental breakdown from all the hormones. Maya's latch only got worse and I remember pumping and getting a bunch of blood instead of milk. Or pumping for hours and only getting a few drops of milk, when my aunt said that my cousin's wife could get a whole bottle of milk in minutes. Then, I started using a nipple shield because my nipples were so damaged, which you had to hold in place awkwardly. Then Maya got addicted to the nipple shield and wouldn't go back to my actual nipple. At Maya's 1 month check-up, we discovered that she had lost weight since birth. I had another mental breakdown. I cried and cried and cried. The midwives suggested to pump and supplement formula for the health of the baby. My midwives were very anti-formula so I knew this was serious. At one point, I used donor milk and I felt like less of a woman seeing my child consume milk from other women, when I couldn't produce enough of my own. I thought, why is it so easy for them and so hard for me?! I pumped every 3 hours for 3 months, out of sheer determination. My milk supply never increased. At Maya's 3 month check-up, I conveyed to our family doctor that I was having a difficult time with the pumping, especially now that Maya was becoming more alert. She suggested I just stop pumping milk and give formula, for my sanity. She said, "Don't drive yourself crazy. She will be fine!" I quit and didn't look back. It was a relief. I still felt a bit guilty though. I wondered if Maya would be less smart than her peers. Five years later, she's one of the smartest in her class.

Breastfeeding Veda
With Veda, I wanted to give breastfeeding another go. I wanted to try to see if I could have a different experience, if I could love breastfeeding as much as the other mothers do. I was just going to see how it went, without expectation, and if I didn't want to then I'd give her formula - because Maya turned out fine, after all! This time, my placenta birthed just as it should, and immediately after, I asked the nurse to help latch the baby on to me. We stayed in the hospital for a few days afterwards and I paged the nurses every few hours to teach me and her how to breastfeed. I got a lot of help, so when we got home I felt really confident. Veda got a great latch from the start and fed round-the-clock which brought my milk in faster, and with a fury. She fed so much that I ended up overproducing milk. My breasts were often so full of milk that I would have to pump extra milk just to feel relief. I got mastitis when Veda was 6 weeks old. After a few months, my milk supply evened out and it became really easy. I breastfed lying down, sitting down, and in all kinds of positions. It took me a while to feel comfortable breastfeeding in public (or in front of my father-in-law, and other relatives), but I just got over it, concentrated on the baby, and I figured that if anyone was uncomfortable then they could just look away. I also wanted to breastfeed for my own maternal health benefits since it can bring down my risk of getting breast cancer. This has been important to me because my mom has had breast cancer twice. Once the breastfeeding started going well, every month I thought to myself, "Oh, I'll do another month. Why not?" And here I am now, having just passed 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding. I can't even believe it. I'm not sure when I'll wean but as of now, I do enjoy it. There is a different kind of closeness when you look at your baby taking your milk. It is animalistic in a sense. In those moments, you know that you are all your baby needs, and it is a fulfilling feeling.

God sure does have a sense of humor, I think. With my first baby, I didn't make enough milk. With my second baby, I had too much milk!

Looking back, both my babies had different latches and sucking styles, just as they have different personalities. They also had different appetites. They have different little mouths too. I wish I had known this in the early days of being a first time mom, but it's something that you realize only with experience. 

When it comes to breastfeeding, there are lots of ups and downs. It's simple, but it's not......

For example, there is also a lot of privilege attached to breastfeeding. To exclusively breastfeed for years, you'd have to have a partner who is earning enough to support both you and the children. Or you'd have to get adequate maternity leave, which sometimes involves no pay or a big pay cut. Some moms have no choice but to return back to work. Or you'd have to have an employer who would allow you to pump every few hours. And pumping equipment is expensive. Just like formula companies are big businesses, so are breast pump companies. Yes, breastfeeding is technically free, but it's actually not.

Babies feed every few hours and the mom's body has to be available at all times, day and night. If you supplement or pump the milk, you risk losing your milk supply. The only way to truly guarantee a steady supply is to exclusively breastfeed - which comes at a cost of the mom. Sometimes the cost is time, or even sanity.

 On top of being pregnant for 9 months, it's a huge additional sacrifice of the mom's body. For example, if the baby nurses and needs to be pacified by mom, you might not get enough time to do much of anything else. Even something as important as a dental appointment is difficult to plan if you don't know what time your baby will want to nurse.

It's also a lot of pressure being the sole milk-provider of the baby. You have to be careful what you eat and drink, you have to eat enough calories and stay hydrated. Most moms take herbal supplements to increase their milk supply or drink specific herbal teas (while researching and avoiding others that can lower your milk supply). By the way, the lactation teas taste like shit. There's always a fear that your supply will drop and how will you feed the baby? Moms who are not able to produce enough milk cry their eyes out (I was one of those with baby #1).

And it's all emphasized by the fact that men just don't get it. They think that you just shove it in there and the baby will take it. Um, no, dude. You have to get a good latch, which can take months of round-the-clock practice - for both baby and mom. Sometimes the baby will latch and you will have to re-latch to get the perfect fit. You have to let the boob hang in the right way. Leaning over to breastfeed can wreak havoc on your back, while lifting the baby up to your nipple can wreak havoc on your arms - continually. As the baby gets more alert, they may get distracted nursing in public.

And don't forget the staring. How much people can stare when you nurse your baby in public! How much people ogle at your only-for-sex breasts when their purpose is really to feed your babies. Nursing covers are really only for small infants and as soon as your child learns to swat their arms, covering up is not an option. For many women, nursing in public can be uncomfortable and humiliating, and worse if strangers make comments - especially to an exasperated mother who's just trying to feed her hungry/fussy/tired baby.

Plus, don't get me started with the sore or cracked nipples. The bleeding nipples. Constantly leaking milk. Thrush. Mastitis. How irritating nursing bra's are.

Any mom who breastfeeds their baby (or attempts to) knows how hard it can be. That's why I absolutely despise moms who make other moms feel bad for not breastfeeding, as if it's some kind of gold-medal competition. It's an intensely personal decision that the mom has to make based on A LOT of different factors. I don't think we should shame women for not breastfeeding. Or wanting not to because they don't like breastfeeding. If men had to breastfeed, I bet they wouldn't even make it past Day 3!

But, all the above reasons are why moms love it so much, too. Because when it works - really works - there is a sense of pride and accomplishment for being the sole provider of milk for your baby. It's a sacrifice of one's own body that women do with a sense of joy of wanting to be as close as possible with their babies, as their infants gently suckle and drift off to sleep. Just like a pregnant women beams with pride when she rubs her tummy, a breastfeeding mother does the same as her child takes her milk. It is a very intimate experience.

So, to the moms that formula feed, you're doing a great job. To the moms who couldn't get their milk supply up, you're doing a great job. To the moms who are struggling to breastfeed, you're doing a great job. To the mom who loves breastfeeding, you're doing a great job. To the mom who has to use donor milk, you're doing a great job. To the mom who is breastfeeding for 2+ years, you're doing a great job. Every experience is different, no two babies are the same. And let's all just take a minute to respect it for what it is -  an intimate, personal experience that is just as unique as the babies themselves.


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 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!


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...!


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 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.


Dear readers, which one is your favorite?


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!


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

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...


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 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....!

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!


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!


Saturday, May 20, 2017

My Intercultural Love: Jateen & Rebecca

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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