Thursday, March 30, 2017

"Mom, Am I White?"

I knew it would come up some day, some how. I didn't really know what to expect. And sure enough, it happened - we had our first discussion about race. 

It was a hectic day. I was just pulling the car out of the parking lot from Maya's swimming class. We were rushing to school. It was pouring rain. I still had to pick up a sandwich from somewhere for her lunch bag. I was 36 weeks pregnant and exhausted. I was on auto-pilot.

And then came a little voice from the back seat.

"Mom, you have beautiful white skin."

Another funny observation of hers, I thought. And just as I was about to tell her that she also had beautiful skin, she said:

"Mom, am I White?"

And I said to her, simply - "No, you are not. You are white and brown. Because Mommy is white, and Daddy is brown. And you are SO lucky that you get to be both."

And then, silence. We listened to the music on the radio as we drove to school. She thought about what I said. I thought about what I said. I wondered if I should have handled it differently, if I should have told her something else. I wasn't sure. I don't know what it's like to be biracial, but I wanted her to feel proud of who she is. I wanted her to feel lucky that she has two parents who are so different. I wanted her to know that she is both - that she doesn't have to pick one side or the other.

And there it was: our first real conversation about race. It happened so randomly, in passing, with no particular reason why. A child's simple observation and curiosity. Completely out of the blue.

We don't really talk about race in our home. We talk about culture a lot. We talk about similarities and differences. We make an effort to celebrate our differences. We often look at maps together, either in books or puzzles, and point to where Daddy's from, and point to where Mommy's from. On any given day, you can hear 4 languages being spoken in our home.

Maybe it's the age, too. Maya is 4.5 years old now and makes simple remarks about people all the time - noticing similarities and differences. Like, "that lady has a blue umbrella", or "Dad has black hair, but I have brown hair". And now since the baby has joined us, she says "Veda has blue eyes like mommy, and I have brown eyes like Daddy".

When she asked me that day, I thought about the story book we read called "Mixed Me" by Taye Diggs. The story follows a little boy whose Daddy and Mommy have different skin colors. We read the book quite often, but I didn't think she understood it yet. The boy is confident and he says, "I'm a beautiful blend of dark and light. I'm mixed just perfectly, just right"... 

(My two girls - mixed perfectly, just right)


For those of you who are raising biracial children, what was your first conversation about race?


Monday, March 27, 2017

Best Children's Books About Gardening

It's that time of year where all the flowers start blooming...finally! It has been such a long Winter here and I was simply delighted to see the cherry blossoms come out on our side lane. Living in a cramped concrete urban jungle, I have become increasingly fascinated by gardens and plants as they add such a nice energy to a particular space. Especially after having kids, I notice it a bit more as it's so nice for them to have a green space and to learn how things grow. Learning about gardening teaches them about the environment, where food comes from, how it grows, seasons, and the cycle of life.

Here are my best picks for children's books about gardening:

The Curious Garden, by Peter Brown
(Ages 2-6)
This is a great book by one of our favorite children's book authors, Peter Brown. In this story, a red-haired boy named Liam - who lives in a big city - finds a struggling rooftop garden and tends to it. He works on it little by little and makes his city more beautiful and green.

The Carrot Seed, by Ruth Krauss
(Ages 0-6)
This book is a vintage classic that was originally published in 1945 and has never gone out of style. It's about a little boy who plants a seed, and along with his hopes and dreams and hard work, it grows - despite all the people saying it won't.

The Tiny Seed, by Eric Carle
(Ages 0-6)
This is a colorfully simple book that Eric Carle fans will surely enjoy. The story follows the life cycle of a seed to a plant and it is quite educational.
(Ages 4-8)
This is a brilliant book that deals with starting over and also putting things to good use by not throwing them away. In the story, the family is dealing with a divorce of the parents' and an uncertain future. The daughter finds two old potatoes and wanted to throw them out until the dad suggests they plant them. It's a nice book about father/daughter bonding, growing your own food, and making new memories when going through difficult times. I loved the fun illustrations in this book as well as the diverse characters.

Flower Garden, by Eve Bunting
(Ages 3-8)
This story is great for city gardeners who don't have much green space (like us!) but still want to enjoy gardening. The story follows a little girl and her dad who purchase a garden box for their window and plant all kinds of bright flowers to surprise the mom on her birthday. This book could be used as a Springtime book or a good one for Mother's Day too.

My Garden, by Kevin Henkes
(Ages 2-6)
This is a fun story about a little girl who uses her imagination to build a magical garden. As her mind wanders, she dreams of planting seashells, and jellybeans to grow candy plants. She doesn't want her garden to have any worms or weeds, either. It's an entertaining book that encourages children to use their imagination and discuss what their own ideal garden would look like.

The Vegetables We Eat, by Gail Gibbons
(Ages 4-8)
This is a wonderfully educational book about all the different types of vegetables. This one would be a good pick for a vegetarian family, or for a child who struggles to eat their vegetables since the author makes the veggies look so lush and tasty. This book has a lot of great vocabulary for kids to learn, as well as cross-sectional diagrams. An excellent teaching book.

Eddie's Garden: and How to Make Things Grow, by Sarah Garland
(Ages 3-6)
This is a lovely book about a little boy who sets out to plant a garden in his backyard. It's a nice family story about growing your own food so that the whole house can enjoy it, and the little sister character that shadows big brother Eddie is really cute and silly. This book also provides a lot of great information at the back about how families can grow their own backyard garden and what tools they will need.


Do you have a garden? What do you grow in it?
What are some of your favorite story books about gardens?

Saturday, March 18, 2017

From One Child to Two

Ever since we welcomed our littlest addition, my life has been in a constant state of "holy shit I have TWO kids!" mode. It's been a bit of a shock to our system in many ways. I thought it would be much different than it is - I thought it would be a whole lot harder in these early months. Every day I'm exploring this unfamiliar territory as a parent, which is very much new and uncharted.

I'd like to share some of my preliminary observations on going from one child to two. I will probably have many more observations in the months and years to come, but these are some of the first ones I've noticed.

I literally have no time.
I don't know why I'm surprised by this, but I am. Having two children on different schedules makes the day zip by so fast and then I'm finally sitting there at the end of the evening wondering where the day went. As soon as they both wake up, it's a steady stream of things to do, so much that I am falling back into those old patterns of forgetting about myself. After dressing two children and feeding two children, what you wear and what you eat are mere after thoughts!

You learn to lower your expectations.
When you have one child, you have really high expectations and you try to do everything perfectly to please your little emperor child because they're your sole offspring so you don't want to screw them up too badly. Endless research, lovingly pureed baby foods, pinterest worthy ideas about birthday parties which are planned months in advance....When you have two children, your expectations are so low that it's a successful day if everyone is alive: fed, bathed, and sleeping correctly. And by everyone, I mean the children - not the parents!

You're not scared to ask for help.
One child is manageable to look after on your own, even if it is a spirited child. Two children is out of the question, and the great thing is that nobody even expects you to. You can ask for help endlessly and nobody will even judge you for it. The more children you have, the more you need that village of extra helping hands. 

You're a better parent.
I've noticed that I'm a much better parent to Veda than I was to Maya. This is because I'm a more experienced parent. I know how to burp a baby. I know some nursery rhymes. I'm not running off to the children's hospital with every small sneeze. I'm much more relaxed than I was with baby #1. That's the best part of having the chance to be a parent again - is that I'm better at it. At this point, it's like I'm a professional mom!

Go with the flow.
We try to make plans, but we mostly end up going with the flow due to those relaxed expectations. You learn not to plan too much, but just enough, and you don't feel bad if you have to cancel. Because time is scarce, I find myself saying "no" more to unnecessary things and not doing too many outings. I find myself being more realistic about the things that we can and can't do. It's a huge thing to round up the children and do an outing, so it had better be good!

You become a master at multi-tasking.
With two children on different schedules, you learn how to multi-task like an absolute air traffic controller. You can have a serious conversation with your husband while you're simultaneously helping your older child on a school project and breastfeeding your baby. You also figure out how to take care of both kids at once - like a shared bath time - so you don't have to do things twice.

You and your partner become a great team.
Seeing myself and husband-ji evolve into such a great team as parents has been really heart-warming. When we had Maya, we were confused about our roles and didn't know who was supposed to do what. Now we are so busy with the children that we don't have time to argue about who's going to do the next diaper change. If I'm busy with the baby, then he will handle Maya - and vice versa - and there are no questions asked. We just plow through and have been functioning like a well-oiled machine. This time around, there's no bullshit - only efficiency.

Your second child fits into your schedule.
When you welcome your first baby, it's like OMG....we have a baby, our world revolves around them! And you change your whole life to accommodate your baby. When you have a second child, they join your family structure. There is already a little dictator a child in the house, who has her own routine, and you no longer have the patience to stop your entire life for a little sleepy baby. I've heard from a lot of friends that because the second child joins the family, it makes them less demanding from the get-go.

It's a real balancing act.
I'm still trying to figure out how to spend time with both of my children equally, make time for my husband, and make time for myself. I will probably be trying to figure this out for quite some time, and that's okay. Some days I do a great job in the parenting department, but not such a great job in the "me" department. Other days, I decide to take a break from my children to have a luxurious hot bubble bath, and then I'll miss out on story time or something precious like that. Every day ends with me thinking that I could have managed my time better - because there simply isn't enough of it to begin with. However, tomorrow's always a new day and you win some, you lose some.


What about you, dear readers?
What have you noticed about going from one child to two?


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Veda: 1 Month Old!

Here we go again with the monthly pictures! These are one of my favorite things to do, as kids grow so fast. I did these monthly pictures for 24 months with Maya...can I do it again? Maybe not for 24 months, but at least I'll aim for 12!

This month has really been a whirlwind. With every childbirth, I feel like it's a re-birth of me as a mother. Everything changes, everything shifts. Veda's spirit has really brought a new energy to our house. She has such a unique personality, and also a unique look. When she was first born, she looked like Maya, but now she looks very different. While Maya has an external, bubbly personality, Veda is more serious and internal. She is very observant of her surroundings. She is quite zen and calm, but she does have a temper. In terms of personality, she's more like husband-ji. Veda and Maya get along so well, I think, because they are so different. Opposite sides of the same coin. (P.S. Don't you just love her black "Elvis" hair?)

I feel like I've spent the past month in shock and awe that we actually have had another baby. This time has been a lot different compared to when we had Maya. I was very anxious and I did too much, too soon. This time, I have done basically nothing other than rest as much as possible and focus on the baby, and I'm happy to say that both her and I are thriving because of it. Both her and I are so incredibly well-taken care of by my mother-in-law, husband-ji, and my father-in-law. And I'm also much more conscious now of my own limits and I'm taking care of myself better by asking for more help when I need it - eg. getting husband-ji to pick up Maya from school! Once you have two children, you simply can't do it all by yourself.

Veda was a big baby to begin with, but she is also a big feeder. She loves her milk! Breastfeeding is much more established now and Veda is become a more efficient feeder - feeding more regularly, latching well, and able to extract more milk in a shorter amount of time. This basically makes me extremely exhausted due to the amount of milk my body is producing to satisfy her appetite. It makes me very tired, and very hungry. I am eating more now than I did when I was pregnant and the calories are just melting through me directly to the baby. I feel like one of those skinny b*tches who can eat whatever they want without gaining weight! Breastfeeding is quite demanding, but I feel a lot of joy doing it. I've become one of those annoying moms who lovingly gazes into the baby's eyes as they drink milk. How embarrassing. But I don't know what it is exactly - there's something hypnotic about it! I feel like the breastfeeding has made a huge difference in my mood and has helped keep my postpartum hormones leveled out (for the most part!). I have maybe had only two meltdowns so far, which is A LOT less than last time...let me tell you!

Husband-ji was off work for two weeks, which meant he took charge of Maya's routine by doing all the school runs and taking her to her extracurricular activities. He was pretty tired out by being Maya's chauffeur every day but I was secretly happy that he got to see how much work it actually was! The week he went back to work was extremely stressful for me, as I had to resume doing all of that - with a newborn in tow. For the first couple of days, the baby and Maya were both fussy in the car which left me in tears myself. Luckily, the baby got used to coming with us everywhere; Maya started dressing herself for school and learned how to talk quietly when the baby was sleeping; and I figured out that I needed to feed the baby fully before taking her out anywhere! Adaptation on all fronts. By the end of the month, the baby was feeding more regularly, so I fed her and left her at home with my mother-in-law while I did the quick school runs, which is much more convenient.

Another obstacle was that we were trying to figure out a way to put both of the kids to bed at the same time, since we are living in a small space. We had to adjust Maya's bedtime to a bit earlier, so that we could give them both a bath at the same time. With a lot of organization and all hands on deck, this was a success. It helps that Veda absolutely loves the bath - a total Aquarius water baby! After her bath & a good feed, she sleeps for a whole 6 hour stretch which leaves husband-ji and I feeling so refreshed. It has gotten her on to a really good routine. In fact, the whole house is asleep by 8:30 pm - kids, grandparents, and parents alike!

Other than doing minimal school runs, I have barely left the house which has been wonderful. The weather has been shitty anyway, and I'm not about to drag the baby out when it's still snowing (WTF). I am always so busy that it has been really nice staying at home in my nightgown and watching Netflix and CNN. I figured that I have the ultimate excuse to rest because I've just had the baby, so why not take advantage of it? Besides, in most cultures women don't even step out for months after childbirth. So clearly, I am pretending that I am one of those mothers! I have been delighted that we have had so many visitors this month, and even more delighted that they all come to our place, and that I can remain in my nightgown and nobody will judge me.

Now Veda is starting to transition into being more alert. She still insists on being carried or held most of the time. She is quite a little smarty pants in the sense that she refuses to sit in any rocker at all. Luckily, there are 4 adults in the house, so we have plenty of extra hands. This is when living in a joint family comes in really handy!

Until next month...!


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Introducing...our new baby!

I'm sure many of you will be wondering why I've dropped off the face of the Earth blogosphere for the past few months...and others will have suspected that we had our second child...which we did! Those of you who follow me on Instagram will have already gotten a sneak preview of our little princess.

Today she is one month old and the whole past month has gone by so quickly. I can't even believe it! I'm still in shock that I grew this beautiful baby inside of me, gave birth to her, and have had the honor of taking care of her. It has been a surreal blessing, to say the least. I'm still pinching myself! Today is the first day that I've actually had the chance to sit down at my desktop computer to a) go through insanely cute baby pictures; b) order an official birth announcement card; and c) announce the baby on my blog. And as soon as I finish this, it will be time for another feed and an hours-long cuddle where I can't simply put my little angel down!

My birth was a fantastic experience. I didn't think I could top Maya's birth, but we did. The last month of my pregnancy was very hard, but the birth went better than expected. She arrived on January 31st at 10:03pm and came into the world like a lightning bolt in a mere 40 minutes of active labour. No medication, completely natural as it should be. She weighed a healthy 9lbs even and was 52.5 cm tall. Husband-ji was amazing during my labour and did not leave my side and did all the deep breathing alongside with me. Shortly after delivery, I was up and about walking - I felt so good. Breastfeeding has also been going really well which has made me so happy and proud of myself.

We have named our baby Veda Rowan Madhavan. We wanted a short, easy-to-pronounce name that was meaningful. Veda is a historical Sanskrit name that means "knowledge" and is based on the sacred text, the Vedas. It is arguably the most ancient scriptures in the world - containing hymns, philosophy, and guidance. She was born just as all of our family in India were celebrating Vasant Panchami and honoring the Goddess Saraswati, making the name we chose even more auspicious. The middle name, Rowan, is a nod to my dear grandmother. She was so special to me that both my daughters are named after her.

Maya has just been completely over the moon with the baby's arrival and loves her dearly. I was worried about how they would bond as siblings, but it just happened so naturally and organically. Maya takes her new job as big sister very seriously and says the baby is "her baby". She pushes the stroller, watches the baby while I use the bathroom, and throws the diapers in the pail. Most of the time, she just wants to cuddle with her, kiss her cheeks, tickle her toes, and sniff her new baby smell. She even has a Polaroid picture of the baby that she puts in her backpack and takes to school with her. They have a 4.5 year age difference between them, which has worked out perfectly. Both of them have completely different personalities, but they seem to complement each other beautifully.

Husband-ji has also been the happiest I have ever seen him. I'm totally laughing at him now because I just remember him grumbling about not being sure if he wanted another child since forever. As soon as Veda came out and was placed on my chest, husband-ji started talking to her and she was searching for him. They have a very close, other-worldly connection. He has his Daddy's girl! I feel so happy for him because Maya is more of a Mummy's girl, and now he has his Daddy's girl - one of each! How blessed we are.

Welcoming a second child has been much more relaxed and anxiety-free than I thought it would be.  I thought it would be much more stressful and a hefty responsibility. I definitely don't regret it one bit. Welcoming Veda joins our list as one of the best things we have done. I feel so calm, happy and grateful to be a mom again. Our family is just as it should be. Knowing how fast kids grow up, I feel peaceful just taking everything day by day, which in my opinion is the best way to live!

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