Mom of Multiples – Shweta Ganesh Kumar

There comes a time in your life, when you are down to the rocks and need all the inspiration you can find to hoist you upward. Last year, when I was struggling to be a parent of two children under two, I found comfort and inspiration on the internet. Not through books or written guidelines, but through mothers who were balancing the fine art of parenting more than one child and their lives with realistic ease.

Mom of Multiples is a series of such feature stories and the first to feature on it is Shweta Ganesh Kumer a.k.a. Times of Amma. An expat mom with the Sridevi like charm and travel stories that make you want immediately pack your bags, Shweta is an author, fitness enthusiast and a Malayali who loves finding her roots even on foreign sands. Her style of parenting her two children and the ease with which she connects to mothers across the world makes her the perfect start for this series. Find out more about here in the interview below:

 

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1.Rewind to the day your second child was born. Were you prepared mentally for the shift in scenario? How did you prepare your daughter for the newborn’s arrival?

As an only child and an absolute bookworm, one of the first things I did to prepare for my second child was to arm myself with any and all available literature on the subject. I read up on coping with two and mothering two and handling two and so on and so forth. I adopted the same strategy with my daughter as well, by sourcing story books about welcoming a new baby and becoming an elder sibling. I also included her in the process from early on by taking her to the ultrasounds and letting her talk to the baby bump and make the “baby” talk back to her. For her, the baby was a real part of our lives even before he actually arrived. That being said, no matter how mentally prepared you are, welcoming a child home is always an emotional experience and it is hard to be completely ready in all aspects apart from being ready for whatever it is that life will throw at you.

2. As a mother who has been moving from country to country, what is your biggest challenge of parenting away from home?

I feel that my biggest challenges are cultural as I’ve lived in countries that do not have a sizable Indian or rather Malayali diaspora. As an expat kid who grew up in Muscat, I was brought up speaking Malayalam and watching Malayalam movies alongside Hindi. But I struggle to get that balance with my kids as it is mostly just me trying to give them a taste of their roots.

3. Nuclear parenting or parenting with elders around? Which do you enjoy the most?

Whilst I love it when my parents and in-laws are around so that my husband and I get time to ourselves and it is also wonderful for them to get that bonding time with my children, I prefer nuclear parenting. My husband and I have our own sensibilities about religion, LGBT and gender rights and politics and we feel that nuclear parenting works best for us as we try and bring up our children our way without having to fight for our right to parent in the way we choose.

4. Managing work, home and children without help (maid/nanny). What is your breaking point and how do you regain composure after it?

My breaking point usually comes when my husband is away. He has to travel quite frequently for work and that is when I have to take on the kids, my work and the house alone. Being in a foreign land, where we don’t have as much support as we used to, I also find myself stressing about imaginary “what ifs” – For example : What if I slip in the bathroom and break my leg and who will take care of the kids till my husband comes back?

I know that worrying is pointless and I do try and push unnecessary anxiety away by burying myself in work, but it always plays on in an endless loop in the back of my mind. When my husband comes back, I blow off steam by either having a nice long self-pitying cry or a hot bath and some chocolates.

 Mundane solutions that do the trick.

5. What is the one trick that you would like to share with moms of multiple children who manage household and children on their own?

One of the things that I learnt the hard way was to reduce the number of things on your to-do list. Pare it down to the absolutely essential.

There was a time when I used to impose unrealistic expectations on myself and try and keep every ball in the air. I failed miserably and spent a while beating myself up about it. I realized later that it is ok to give myself a break and that not everything needs to be done right away.

In my case, housework comes last – so I just do maybe one household related thing a day – like cleaning the kitchen on Mondays, vacuuming the corridor on Thursdays and so on instead of trying to do it all everyday and collapsing.

6. Parenting is also the father’s game. How much does your husband contribute in raising the two kids and what do you like the most about his parenting style (presuming that both of you have different approach towards parenting)

My husband is a very hands-on father and a feminist one at that, which I love. I like how he lets the kids take the lead with activities unlike me, who prefers having a list or at least mental note of activities that I would be doing with them that day. He also inculcates in them the art of slowing down by making time to just sit and observe or loll about in a park or laze around. This is diametrically opposite to my own nature of wanting to maximize the day and keep at it. I also love how he is so very serious about their vegetable intake. Left to my devices, my children would grow up on dairy and carbs. But my husband makes it a point to get them to taste new foods and have a certain amount of vegetables per week.

7. What’s your ‘me time’ like? Do you take time off from kids and the home to recharge yourself? Workout/spa/dinner with friends? 🙂

Much as I would love to make me-time a priority as I advice other parents to, it is hard for me to translate that into big ticket items like spa time or dinner with friends. I feel like my son is still a tad too young and I am also the kind of person who genuinely enjoys hanging out at home rather than heading out to restaurants and parties.

I take my me-time in small doses throughout the day in the form of two fifteen minute low-impact work-outs and quiet cups of coffee. I’m not afraid to admit that I use the big guns of Netflix and YouTube to attain these me-time oases, but I feel it’s a worthy price to pay for my well-being.

8. The most challenging part of being a mother who works out of home is to find the time to work. How do you prioritize your time and also spend time with the kids effectively?
I make a list of things to do and I make sure I go back to it whenever I get patches of time during the day. I work around my daughter’s school timings.
And I try and get maximum of the auto-pilot work done when there is only one kid to manage – so that means work out, folding the laundry etc. I work on my writing when my son naps and after the kids are in bed. I put my kids to bed comparatively early – they are asleep by 8:30 and I’m very disciplined about this for their sake and mine.
9. Finally, If you were to share a message to mothers out there (mothers like me who are currently walking on the tightrope with two small children) what would it be?
I’m trying to think of something that doesn’t sound like a cliche and I realize I can think of nothing.
So, all I am going to say is, maybe our parents did not tell us that this is going to be this hard because they didn’t want to scare us away from this amazing journey. But it is hard and frustrating at times but it’s the hard days and the smiles at the end of it that we will remember when our kids are grown up and no longer our’s to mother. So, hang in there and ride it out. Ask for help if you need it and always know that you might not be the best mother in the world, but you will always be the best mother ever to your children. Cherish that privilege.
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I would like to thank Shweta for immediately agreeing to be a part of this feature, because it means a lot to me. Does her story inspire you too? Do you know of a mom who is winging parenting two kids or more with ease? Tell me about them so we can get them featured here as well and inspire more moms like me and you!

Joining the sustainability movement – my contribution

Let’s talk periods. Actually not. Let’s talk sustainability. In our own small ways, many of us are taking steps towards becoming sustainable. We try to use less plastic bags, not take straws while ordering juices, carry our own water wherever we go and so on. This is great! Because it is high time we started picking up after our own mess. As a homemaker, I am in charge of amping up our sustainability game inside the house, right? Here’s how I have truly learnt that ‘Charity and everything else, begins at home’.

If you live in a community set up, you would have been handed two dust bins or a letter that asks you to segregate your waste – decomposable and non-decomposable. At first, it felt like a hindrance. ‘Why can’t I just chuck everything into the bin together? It’s all waste anyway!’ is usually the initial thought. But slowly, you turn conscious about how much you are wasting and how much of it is the kind of waste that does no good to the environment.

For me, as a mother, this enlightenment happened when I discovered cloth diapering in 2015. My in-laws had never warmed up to the use of disposable diapers. My mother-in-law and mom were game on washing dozens of nappies, because they felt it was the best for the child. I know so much laundry sounds exhausting, but the winning point is the eco-friendliness and baby friendliness. With Lishaan I cloth diapered everywhere we went. I sort of became an evangelist of the CDing movement. It was a great high. You were reusing, not adding to pollution and of course, finding cuter bum cover options than the regular whites. If this was for him, then what about me?

IMG_20180217_081003-01.jpegPeriods every month meant close to 15 sanitary napkins. This multiplied by several months and years sums up to a towering number. SCARY! I remember discussing a menstrual cup with my gynecologist at one point. I got pregnant with Isha so I never got around to using the cup until about three months back. And i decided to jump the sustainable menstruation wagon this time for sure.

Before I talk about how cool reusable pads and menstrual cups are, I must admit I am guilty. I couldn’t cloth diaper Isha as I wished because it was too much handling two kids as it is and I really didn’t like the scene of dirty diapers waiting for me to wash them clean. I went the disposable diapers way and I think my idea of equating that imbalance was to join the sustainable menstruation movement.IMG_20180217_080949-01.jpeg

For about three cycles now, I am what people call a ‘cupvert’ and it has been a liberating experience. There’s very less to go wrong with using a cup and if you get the basics right, you literally feel period-free. The cup holds almost a day’s quantity of  blood and is pretty leak free. The best part is that you can pick a size that would suit you in terms of height of the stem and the cup size. One cup can last you years. I am a newbie cupvert, so I suggest you read THIS to know more about menstrual cups. Apart from it being convenient, it also is healthy and very safe. Again, if done right, you can enjoy a stress free cycle and involve in activities that you wouldn’t have thought of while on a pad. I must also add that younalmyou forget that you have your periods because there’s no bulky wet mess moving side to side in your undergarment  nor is there the fear of overload and leaking.

IMG_20180217_081045-01.jpegThe pads? They are leakproof cloth pads made by EcoFemme (you get many other brands too) and I am using them as a backup to keep any leak in check.o

Together these save you money & embarrassment (well, I felt queasy with the hiding a pad, using paper to dispose it silently or even worrying about someone seeing a flashy green plastic in my bag) and of course the sustainable menstruation movement helps you do your bit for the world you live in!

 

~ The Lazy Parent

Choosing Clutter Free Toys – A guest post

The internet is a strange place! You end up meeting people with ideologies similar to yours, even without you ever actually having met them in person! One such person is Anjana (namesake ahoy!) of Mommy Republic and we both seem to have the same vibes about clutter free toys. Anjana Bhartia is a mommy blogger on MommyRepublic  and MyHealthSuraksha She describes herself as an imperfect mom stumbling through motherhood, discovering the joys of natural and attachment parenting along the way.

Read on to see what her suggestions for clutter free toy management!


How to keep your house clutter free from your kids toys!

With kids, at home, you always have too many toys spread around the home – in every nook and corner! You organize everything hundred times a day and still, everything is on the floor, sofa, chair!! Didn’t you clean that?!?! How kids manage to get toys and food inside every nook in the house is beyond me!

It doesn’t even matter whether you work or are a stay at home parent, if you have kids at home- a lot of toys keep on pilling up – and you keep putting them back – and on and on it goes!  When we look at our homes, we can find baskets overflowing with toys and our feet painfully discover Lego blocks every now and then!

No matter how much we try to remain clutter free – there is always something left behind. Clutter usually starts small but if we leave it unattended for a long time, it will eventually becomes a stressful task, doesn’t it?!?

Everyone wants to have a clean home, here by the word clean, I mean neat and clutter free home. But it’s difficult getting there, isn’t it? Here are some tips I follow while selecting clutter free games for kids.

#1. Less is more

No matter how hard we try for a minimalist lifestyle, we keep on purchasing something every week! It is important to say “no” to ourselves while buying something just as important it is for the kids as well to hear that! Our habits have a great influence on our kids too, so always look for the toys which your child is interested in. Don’t buy toys just because you are getting it for a good price or you might use it in future.

Sales and discounts entice people into thinking that they’re going to get a very good deal and they end up buying stuff which doesn’t get used!  Re-evaluate the toys which make your kids happy – and you’ll discover that out of the 200 toys that he has he enjoys playing with only 15 of them! Also avoid the childhood memories revolving around toys and focus on gifting your children memorable experiences.

#2. Put a cap on it!!

This can be done by organizing the toys and limit your child’s access to them. So, only keep those toys out which your kids play with frequently. Hide away half of them and keep rotating them so that the toy becomes “new”. These rotations of toys will ensure that kids play with everything periodically. Once in a while give them the privilege of and choosing and taking one game or toy themselves. This will show them the importance of these “special” toys!

#3. Always buy low clutter toys

 When it comes to kids toys, always be choosy what to buy. Before buying a toy for your child always ask the question to yourself “Will your child love this?” and “For how long? ” and “Does this toy allows my child to be creative? There are some toys like Legos, wooden blocks which are open ended and kids can use them creatively. Open ended games for kids helps to unlock your child’s imagination and are more beneficial than flashy battery operated ones!

#4. Buy Durable Toys
Before buying a toy, check for the durability and the quality of the toy. It may require you spending a bigger amount initially but when it comes to quality it is better not to compromise. Eventually, the toy can fetch good resale value too.

Here is a list of some Low Clutter Toys which has a good life

  1. Lego
  2. Chalkboard
  3. Art Supplies
  4. Kinetic Sand
  5. Felt Books
  6. Wooden Boards
  7. Colouring Books
  8. Playdough
  9. Train Table
  10. Board games

Outdoor Toys

  1. Trampoline
  2. Bats and balls
  3. Bubbles
  4. Kid’s bow and arrow set

Indoor and Comforting Toys

  1. Soft toys like animals, teddy
  2. Child-sized reading chair
  3. Blanket

#5. Don’t hoard – give away or sell them off!

Sentiment is good, but not all toys can hoarded in the name of sentimental value. You will make life difficult for yourself if you have more and more things to organize. Carefully evaluate which toys your child has outgrown and give them away. Or if they have good resale value, then sell them off. Let another child enjoy the toy that is going to collect dust in your storeroom!

Lastly, try to keep everything organized. Everything has a place, ask your, child, to put the toy where it belongs too. This will reduce a lot of work as it is also a great way to motivate your child to be well organized.

18 for ’18 – Goals and not resolutions for the year ahead!

18 for 2018! Sounds interesting right? Well, thanks to the Wearerealmoms network, I got thinking about this as well.

It started when Katrina of OneUPbaby got talking about realistic goal setting for the year ahead, as part of the December challenge of WARM. What I loved about it is that she stuck to the basics and gave ample scope for not just one, but many goals in 2018. So, without much chatter here are my 18 for ’18:

Folllow more about my goals with the hashtag #TheLazyParentGoals2018

 

Goals for me:

  1. Clean up – Right from photos to toxic people to unnecessary junk around; clean up your act. Best to do it in the first few months when you have the energy to push yourself harder.
  2. Love yourself – 2017 was an eye opener for me. From ignoring myself to literally making myself invisible, I had lost the plot. So, this year is more about loving myself for what I am, as I am. Simply because a happy me = a happy family.
  3. Make a solo trip – technically, read above 😉 But this one is on my mind for a few weeks now. Even if it means heading out for just 2-3 days, I want to get out on my own. No friends, no tag-alongs, nothing. Just me on the road/plane/bus/train/car.
  4. Get fit – Personal goal! Big one! Three years of bearing and raising babies has taken a massive toll on my shape and morale. Time to fix that. I don’t want to look my 2007 self, but I know I want to feel that way for sure!
  5. Learn an art / craft – I have modern lettering on my mind. I also wish to get back to painting. Let’s see how that goes!
  6. Get behind the wheel – High time I did it, don’t you think?
  7. Decide where I want to go – This is a mighty emo one. Will elaborate soon. But, it’s about making a space for me.
  8. Get offline more often – I think I have hit a saturation with Social media in terms of the amount of stuff that you get whether you like it or not. Here’s to lesser ‘general’ online presence and a more concentrated one.
  9. Get down to serious writing – No, I don’t want to jump the author bandwagon but I do have to document my mother’s life as a book/published work. This year it will take shape.
  10. Work on my temper – Yes, it needs a LOT of work despite my current efforts.
  11. Make money, save money – I am quitting my day job, so from now on every penny made is every penny saved.
  12. Wake up early – Gosh, I love sleep so much (especially the early morning time) that I end up waking late. I know it’s not criminal, but I really want to be someone who starts early.
  13. Practice humility. Enough said.

Goals for the family:

  1. Live well – In the chaos of raising two children back to back in three years, husband and I have given up good living. We make do with what’s available. Be it food, sleep or love. We just kept pulling on so that the wheels turn smooth. But what we forgot is that ‘WE’ are the essential aspect of the whole mechanism. If we aren’t healthy or happy, the kids wouldn’t be either. So, here’s to eating well, loving each other a lot more and enjoying a good life.
  2. Grow plants – Nurturing life is a beautiful feeling. Our new home has enough space for me to give my green thumbs a flex. Plus, the excitement of homegrown produce should get to the kids too right?
  3. Connect better – This isn’t a tangible goal, per se. The idea is to be more in touch with people around. My sister visited India this December and I got an abysmal 1.5 days with her. No time for proper conversation and a choked goodbye made me feel the need to connect more with my loved ones.
  4. Invest in the children – Lishaan is 3 and Isha is 1. They both are like a super absorbent sponge right now. I need to give them as much as they can take in and enjoy at this point in life. Travel, experience, learn, enjoy. (We are undecided about schooling yet, so it’s on me this year!)
  5. Have what you need, not what you want. Another aspect of decluttering. Minimizing to essentials and living simple, but living well.

What do you think? Do you have similar goals too? Which ones do you think are doable. Any tips? Tell me all about it!

~ The Lazy Parent

Surviving Singapore- A guide to enjoying an overseas holiday with kids under three.

It has been a month since and I blogged!! I finally got time to sit down and write about our maiden overseas trip with the kids! Benefit of having your in-laws nearby is that you can pack your toddler away for a good chunk of the day, while you get work done as the mini sleeps! 😉

So, let me come to the point of this post (before my daughter wakes up). December has been a monumental month for us because we finally took our holiday skills to the next level. Why? We managed to travel overseas for ten days with two kids. I know, some of you may say that it isn’t rocket science. But believe me it’s nothing short of that! At this point, I would like to record my respect for parents who travel with kid(s) on flights that are more than 5 hours in duration. *falls to ground, kisses it*

They say that if you are traveling abroad for the first time, Singapore is a great place to pick. It is easy in terms of transitioning from India to Singapore and you can do a lot of stuff in peace. I agree! I would recommend that as well. Lishaan’s 3rd birthday was coming up and the past two birthdays have been quite a story to remember. This year, we wanted to do something special for the boy and with good airfares, we nailed down the plan to S’pore town! So, without much story, let me tell you how we planned a holiday with two kids and on a budget of 80,000INR. That’s right!

(Photos of the trip right at the end of this post 😉 Just so you read!)

STAY:

This was the biggest deciding factor for us. A dear aunt of mine lives in Singapore and she’s been calling us over for a holiday for years now. Two babies later, the plan finally worked! With stay sorted, we had less to worry about in terms of comfort for the kids, basic food and of course, familiarity.

If you don’t have family or friends who can spare a couch for you, then Airbnb is a great option.

Word of advice: You will be spending MOST of your day (and night) outdoors. So, spend minimal on your stay. Unless you plan to stay put at the Marina Bay Sands 😛 That’s another story altogether!

AIRFARE:

We booked our tickets in September and managed to find a great deal on Air India. From friends who travel often, we heard that Air India was good and fuss free. I would second that. We had a comfortable travel, with good food for the kids and us. Even better, we got a bassinet seat for Isha on the way back (though my monkey never slept in it). Tickets came up to 35,000INR for two adults, one child and an infant. Yup, the half ticket got a separate seat!

Word of advice: As opposed to most airlines’ guidelines, Air India does not recommend breastfeeding or bottle feeding your baby during take-off and landing (pacifiers are alright). This came in because of a choking incident the airlines faced recently, I gathered.

SIGHTSEEING:

Fuss free tourist work thanks to strollers on rent

The best thing about Singapore is that you don’t have to be a tourist. You can just explore the city on your own and not be worried about missing out on fun. I did my research and spoke to a couple of friends with kids to figure things we could do there. There are enough options to explore for mom, dad and kids (individually as well). Most of these tourist spots have a website and an online booking facility. Even better, there are packages that give you max benefit for your money.

I skipped some fun places like the National Gallery and the Art & Science museum for obvious reasons (my monkeys would have brought the place down).

Word of advice: We made a list of places we wanted to visit. Zoos, malls, Ikea and the likes. It’s good to have a list, because you can then make sure you’ve covered all aspects of the city.

COMMUTE:

Our mode of survival for the whole trip. Buses were quick, frequent, less crowded and easy!

The best thing my aunt did (among keeping a whole stash of good food ready for the kids) was that she got us the EZ Link card ready for travel use. The best way to get around town is to use the bus or metro services. They are VERY easy to figure and you can just about go hopping from station to station without much trouble. We explored a lot by bus (because of our choice of destination) but the metro is great too!

My transport Singpore is a great app that helps you plan your journey and suggests bus routes/trains as well.

Word of advice: Have your EZ Link card loaded or carry enough change. The bus stops have a chart that tells you the distance you will cover and the charges for it. The drivers speak less and it’s essentially to cut out unnecessary chatter. Figure the distance, have exact change on hand and hop on. Simple!

CLOTHES:

Singapore is a humid humid place! I did the mistake of carrying clothes for a chill climate instead. So, I ended up looking sweaty in almost all pictures. Carry comfortable cotton clothing and keep your layers to the minimum (That’s why most folks wear shorts and a tank top there!). Do keep a good pair of walking shoes in hand because you will be doing a LOT of walking wherever you go (if not to the destination). Keep an umbrella handy too. Lovely showers in this city!

FOOD:

From what my aunt tells me, the city has warmed up to ‘pure veg’ food in the past couple of years. So, you shouldn’t have a problem finding comfort food. However, please ask if your food is all veg. A KFC in Sentosa was kind enough to alert me that the fries weren’t fried in separate oil. Most places have a great food court with plenty of food options. You won’t go hungry while you are getting all touristy 😉

The local food is amazingly interesting. From the Malay Laksa to their Satays to the glass noodles, there’s plenty to explore. I being a vegetarian found comfort in pasta in most places (I KNOW! Don’t give me that look :P). As for desserts their street food ice cream sandwich in wafers and their red bean pudding on milk ice is YUM! Don’t miss that for sure!

HOW WE DID IT WITH TWO KIDS:

THIS is the main part, right? 😛

Lishaan is 3 and Isha is 1. Between my husband and me we planned the kids’ duty like so:

  1. Husband is in charge of Lishaan completely and I am in charge of Isha. This includes food, pee, potty, water, tantrums.
  2. We didn’t have a stroller (most tourist spots happily rent strollers). But we had our carriers and that was a live saving idea! No way could we have walked with both kids in tow or taken buses like we did, without babywearing. Dhana carried Lishaan in a Soul Cherry Linen Full Buckle and I carried Isha in the Neon Linen Soul AnoonA. Only two carriers for the entire trip and it was the perfect choice. Sweat free and hassle free.
  3. My aunt had stocked up on finger foods and snacks. So, we’d pack enough little snacks for the kids to munch on in between destinations.
  4. Water in Singapore is free. I mean that you have refilling stations at many places which give you cold, fresh water. So, invest in a reusable bottle and refill as you go.
  5. Minimize Luggage. We travelled with one large suitcase and one smaller one. This + 1 backpack. The large suitcase was the kids and me, while the smaller one was for the husband. The backpack was a roomy one from Fastrack that I picked up during my post pregnancy days. It held a diaper bag, two bottles, my emergency meds kit and wallet + some random stuff.
  6. Plan in parts. The first day was a stretch at the zoo. We kind of maxed out on our kids’ patience levels and got the result of it later that night. So, ideally break your day into two parts. Singapore is a city that comes to life at night. Most malls and shopping areas look stunning after sunset. So, we planned activities in two bits – mornings for sightseeing and evenings for a casual stroll around town.
  7. Google maps was a huge savior. Apart from just helping you plot a map of where all to go from where you are, it also recommends bus routes and train options. VERY ACCURATE. I survived on maps for most part of the trip.
  8. This might come as a pinch, but Singapore (and I think a lot of overseas destinations) straighten you up. Cabs function super punctually; you can’t cross the road wherever you want; no tossing garbage wherever you please; no line cutting; no nonsense, basically. It makes you respect the city and what it gives you.

Places I LOVED:

Ikea for the food :P, The River Safari, Marina Bay Sands and Orchard road. Given a chance, I would love to go back all by myself and enjoy all of this without a baby at the boob! 😀

So, that’s our trip and how we survived it. Tell me if it helps you and do share it with your friends too! 😀

MamaEarth Bamboo wipes – Review

It takes a mum to know a mum. Well, this is one philosophy I will definitely agree with sans doubt. Being a parent in today’s world has given me the scope of giving my children what’s really best for them. From carriers to wipes, moms have covered it all! When a mom puts her head into bringing the best for the parenting community, you know there’s a winner of a product.

That’s how MamaEarth came to be a part of my everyday essential list. With a child who’s not yet diaper-free and a toddler who LOVES mess, I always am looking for something to wipe them clean with. Wipes? Yes! I remember discussing with my dear sister-in-law (across time zones) about making our own wipes. The lavender oil and the baby shampoo did sound interesting, but hey! Practically I couldn’t even figure out a bottle to put them all in! So, readymade wipes was the choice. Then again, choices are aplenty. Each wipe claiming to be softer on the baby’s skin than the other. Which one do you go with? Well, I had the chance to try two brands, with one of them being Mama Earth and we have a winner hands down.

Now, this isn’t something I am writing just because they sent me a box of wipes to review. I genuinely believe that their wipes are SO much better on Isha’s skin and mine than the other brands in the market. Here’s why:

  • MamaEarth diaper wipes are made of 100% organic bamboo as opposed to polyester. How do you check? The wipes from other brands tend to feel gruff and tense against your skin.
  • Their diaper wipes smell just amazing. We parents get a lot of cuddles and roll-overs from the littles ones and the last thing you want is a chemical smelling bum! MamaEarth scores there too!
  • Resealable packs! If you have a poop-losion, the last thing on mind would be to gently open the pack of wipes and pull them wipesters out! I have ripped many tabs like that and later regretted it because the pack of wipes dries out. Thanks to their resealable lock packing, the wipes are damp, soft and intact use after use.
  • They don’t dry out soon even when left out. It’s my favourite hack when I need to cool down; to place a wet wipe on my face and sit under the fan. The cool air and the fragrance immediately works on my senses, bringing back mom Zen.

Enriched with Vitamin E, Shea Butter, Almond Oil and Aloe vera, MamaEarth wipes have no dyes, parabens, sulfates, mineral oil, synthetic fragrances etc., making it just perfect for your baby and you. I could just go on, but you must try one yourself! Go shop for these wipes and more on www.mamaearth.in! <3

Making baby food easy – Yaazh Foods review

Food is essential; especially when it comes to food that we give children. We want to give them the best. Sourcing fresh ingredients, making everything ourselves so that we can ensure 100% goodness. Each parent does their best in this process.

But many a times, we can’t do it all. For example, take me. With two kids to manage, I found it challenging to cater to my infant’s needs for porridge-y meals. Yes, she did not take to baby led weaning like her brother and we respected her choice. So, cereals and porridges was the way to go. Me being me, I really couldn’t make these mixes myself. Let apart the complexity of mixing them to the right consistency and proportions, I had a tough time even finding the right recipe.

That’s when Yaazh foods happened (another reinforcing fact that Instagram is a good space filled with lovely people). Anitha of Yaazh foods was a friend on Instagram, who sweetly decided to bail me out of my baby food situation. She sent across four combinations of mixes (Sprouted multigrain mix, Groundnut Poha mix, Dalia Elaichi mix and Dry fruits mix) that were just what I wanted for my 7 month old baby.

What I loved about Yaazh?

1. It is made super fresh. At first, I expected the package to be at my doorstep in 2 days, but when I learnt from Anitha that it is literally made to order, I was happy to have waited.

2. The flavor is all natural. They don’t add jaggery or sweeteners. So, the child isn’t consuming anything you wouldn’t want them to – no salt, no sugar.

3. The mix is VERY easy. Especially for a lazy parent like me, it is as easy as ABC. Quick too.

4. It is versatile. Isha crossed the cereal porridge stage at 10 months and started solids to accompany her three year old brother. So, the mixes became pancakes. HEALTHY!

5. Value and nutrition. The packages are not so heavy on the pocket and also are available in food safe packages which make it easy to store. My package of Groundnut Poha mix lasted 2 months with no issues at all.

Here’s a little about Yaazh (Yaazheegai baby foods) for you:

Why Yaazh foods? What made you start this?

Yaazh Baby Foods is second best food which you can give to all babies. We have nailed almost all famous grandparent’s/parent’s organic, healthy recipes with around 20+ plus varieties of baby food which will suite babies’ appetites and taste buds.

We don’t stock or shelf anything. Everything is made only when the customer places an order, so that it will reach the customer fresh. So our products are literally from our kitchen to your baby’s bowl.

With so much being said about BLW (baby led weaning), how is the reception for baby-porridge food?

Lots of new mothers are struggling in raising their baby without a proper person to advice or nurture their feelings. After seeing so many posts about caring and feeding babies from distressed new mothers in various Facebook Mommy forums, I decided to do something about it. I am basically from down south of Tamil Nadu. During my pregnancy, my mother started preparing everything at home like health mixes. I have been where they are now, twiddling my thumbs as what to feed the baby today, how he would react and such new-mom troubles. So, I shared all these homemade recipes with my relatives and friends.
From that point, many mothers began asking me to prepare health mixes and other instant porridge powders for their babies as it was difficult for them to prepare by themselves. Thus was born Yaazh Foods! A brand of wholesome and pure homemade baby food products, made without preservatives, added flavors, added sugar or salt. 100% Organic & Natural!

As a mother yourself, how do you manage the everyday running of Yaazh?

It is a family run business. As of now our team consists of 4 members – My parents, my husband and me. We get the raw materials from nearby organic stores. There are lots of ingredients that go into a recipe. Say our Millet and Sprouted multigrain health mix has around 22 ingredients. Each one of them is soaked separately, allowed to sprout, then dried in the sun and roasted individually as each ingredient roasts at a different temperature. Then we make powder mix of all these special ingredients. So it takes around 5 to 7 days for the overall process. My mom is the head of preparation; my husband handles sales; my dad handles packaging and shipping while I handle order and inventory management. Actually it is completely grandma’s recipe, meticulously brought to you by my family.


Tell us about how you introduce new combinations?

Being a south Indian, we have introduced many products primarily based on south Indian taste buds. It is basically demand and supply where the customer requests for a special recipe and we make it available for them. We also connect with elders from villages, to get their advice on recipes before introducing them to babies. We are planning to introduce 10+ varieties, which are still in the testing phase.

Apart from these we plan to introduce 15+ healthy cookies and healthy instant dosa batter mix as well in the month of Jan 2018.

What next for Yaazh foods?

Apart from serving customers who visit us via our website, we are planning to expand by making Yaazh products available in retail stores, organic stores and online retailers like Amazon and Flipkart.

You can shop for Yaazh foods on their website – http://yaazhfoods.com/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/Yaazhfoods/

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/yaazhfoods/

Rising above the clutter – 1

Part 1 – Making friends with toys

All things children are like rabbits; they multiply so fast that you have no idea where it all started. Clothes, toys, books, mess, just about everything related to kids accelerates within minutes. That’s my learning from cleaning up my kids’ stuff this September.

Until September, I was pretty offhanded about the things that belonged to my kids. Clothes always found space, toys always found shelves. It was almost like the Akshaya Paatra of storage 😛 I could clear everything up without ever making it look messy. The jolt happened in September when we finally found a beautiful home in another city and had an entire month to relocate. Now, an entire month as such is a very long time. But with kids, it passes by in the blink of an eyelid. So, mid-October I was sitting in a room full of things, almost close to tears looking at the colossal waste of money, time and effort – my kids’ stuff. Where do I begin? What do I sort these into? My head was spinning in circles faster than the Sudarshana Chakra.

To the rescue – pen and paper! Believe me when I say that nothing works like a handwritten list and ticking things off that list once you are done. BLISS!

So, I made two lists – one for toys/books and another one for clothes. From there it became pretty easy to sort things and discard them too. How? All hail Marie Kondo! I might not have succeeded in reading her books, but I caught onto one phrase that was life altering – ‘Spark joy!’ That’s right!

What is Spark Joy? Marie Kondo (the queen of decluttered AND joyful living) says that one should only retain what gives them joy. If you look at something and it does not give you joy, remove it pronto!

Here’s how I applied that to my kids’ stuff: (you can apply this to your life too, but I am sharing my experience mainly)

I am breaking this post down to three parts. You can read it all or just jump to the portion that you want to read:

Sorting the toys:

Gifts are the biggest reason why we have an overload of toys at home. SOMEONE must stop this gifting a toy culture unless it literally makes sense to the child. Nope, crawling caterpillar isn’t my thing.

To begin with, sort all your child’s toys into three piles – what he uses, what he might use and what is beyond his stage of development. It’s easy to break the whole dump into three piles. The hard step starts from here.

  • Pile 1: What he is done with – Rattles, teethers, pull along toys fit into this category. If you don’t plan for another kid in a year or so or don’t have another kid already, look to distribute these with people who have younger kids. Things that are hygiene based (teethers etc) can be discarded, but sensory toys might find takers.
  • Pile 3 (I will come to #2 next): What he might use. It is very tempting to stash most unused toys under this category, but see if it will hold interest for your child in about six months. If not, gift them to kids who will enjoy them right away. Six months down the line, you would have forgotten about the toys and your child would have moved to other things.
  • Pile 2: What he currently uses. This pile works on rotation. If your child has 10 toys, bring out 2-3 every few months. Rotate the toys and repeat for another few months. This way, you haven’t used up ALL the toys in your arsenal and your child can revisit a favourite with newer ideas in future.

Storing of toys:

The good thing is, we relocated to another house and here, I have planned a space for the kids to be more responsible about their stuff. Hail Ikea for ideas and products. I am not sure how much I will buy at the moment, but definitely having a set space (as opposed to an entire room) for toys makes it so much easier to plan and hey, if I can get something ready along the similar lines to my necessary dimensions , then why not? 😉

The layout at Ikea Singapore for a kid’s room. Totally love their Trofast shelves and storage boxes.

I do like how parents give their kids toy rooms. It means there’s a designated area for play stuff. But, in many cases I have seen kids (parents, honestly) go overboard with toys and ending up in a huge pile of toys with parts and pieces missing.

So, regardless of whether you have a toy shelf or a toy room, unless you have it and leave it organized children will see no point in it either. For this reason, minimal toys (thanks to rotation) ensures there’s less to mess and less to clean up. Seriously, I would rather pick up four upturned boxes of toys than fourteen of them!

Same goes with books. Many friends of mine are raising avid readers and I love how beautifully some of them have their books organized. The key idea is in keeping things accessible to the child, but also bringing in a sense of organization. I am all in for organized chaos, but NO parent wants to find lego parts under their bathroom rug or the leg of a barbie in the kitchen drawer.

Inspirations and printables:

My biggest ‘to-do’s on this holiday was to visit the Ikea store in Singapore. Why? I can see why they thrive – organization goals. Be it minimal or out in the open, they have options and I for one, am drawing ideas and inspiration from this company for my son’s toy storage.

One of the most organized toy/book spaces I have seen among my friends is Sharmilla’s. Both in Bengaluru and in Coimbatore, she had made one of the most comfortable and easy spaces for her son to play in. Here’s a pic of their Coimbatore home. The key thing that she follows is: ‘One toy at a time and all back when done’. Neat right?

I will be sharing more of how we put Lishaan’s things together in the coming few days on my Instagram handle. Until then, tell me if this works for you! 🙂

~

If, like me, you are motivated by to-do lists and items that you can tick off as you go along, here’s a free Decluttering Checklist you can download. This printable was designed for We Are Real Moms‘ December 2017Challenge – Reflect, Reset, Recharge.
 
The file has 3 pages.
Page 1 has the list partly filled in for you and you can fill in the rest.
Page 2 is a completely blank checklist and you can completely customize it for your home and your needs.
Page 3 is to record the items you have put in storage and where so you can find them easily in future when you need them. 
 
Click here to download the high resolution, watermark-free printable!

The Lazy Parent’s Guide to Parenting Zen

Parenting and Zen, like the opposite poles of a magnet. While you try to bring the two together, they spring back stronger. No amount of books, online material or groups can bring your Zen to you. They can guide you, of course. It’s easy to say ‘do ABC and you would be on the path to find your parenting Zen’, but no one except you can make your Zen mode happen.

I love to quote my wise aunt who enlightened me about children. She said ‘if you think 3 month old babies are a pain, wait till they turn one’. She said this with the straightest face there is; because she meant it. Things improve, but relatively. I think what mainly improves is your capacity to tolerate, survive and excel in parenting.

The last few months have been extremely trying for me as a mother. Raising two kids under three with near zero help has been like trying to do one of those underwater dive things; you invariably resurface sooner than imagined to grab some air.

Between giving up several times over and starting again, I can say that I have seen my Mom Zen. Not attained it, but seen it. Like the ‘beacon of light’ at the end of the tunnel, I have seen how awesome I can be and life can be when that Zen mode is turned on. So, I think it’s only fair I share my ‘thoughts’ with you.

Firstly, I started looking for my Zen mode thanks to the book ‘Yell Less, Love More’. I picked it up at a time when I was at an all-time parenting low. I picked it up at a time when I really needed an anchor to keep me going and boy, has it helped! I am not a self-help books kind of person, but this book can really put things in perspective for you. Whether or not you take up and complete the 30 day challenge, reading each chapter through the month helped me immensely. I am no Orange Rhino yet, but I have seen that side and would love to become that mom one day.

So, here’s how I keep my Zen beacon glowing (most of it is about talking to yourself):

1. Look away. Distraction is the key. When something momentarily (mostly what your child is doing) bothers you, just distract yourself for a few minutes. Count to five if you have to, because suddenly the anger will fizzle and you would be able to apply logic and sense to the situation. This comes from someone who flips the lid at the drop of a hat. Yep, THAT transformational!

2. ‎Ask yourself if it’s really that bad. ‘Lishaan don’t play in the water!’ I almost yelled third day in a row. Then I thought to myself ‘If he isn’t going to fall ill and if it manages to keep off my hair for about fifteen minutes, what harm does it do?’. So, I said instead ‘Lishaan, you get 15 minutes to play. Then we go inside.’ Fifteen minutes later, he bought five more minutes’ time and then promptly came inside. Yay! No free drama for the neighbours 😛

3. ‎Is it them or is it you? This is my favourite takeaway from the ‘Yell Less, Love More’ book. 80% of the time, I was getting worked up with the kids because of something I had to do. I had an email to send, a message to reply or a row to knit. It really wasn’t them. When you give yourself a second to see who actually is the problem, there won’t be any stress.

4. Don’t say anything. Most of the time, Lishaan knew that he had gotten my attention when I repeatedly said ‘ Lishaann, no! Don’t do that!’. So I decided to get his attention instead. If your child is up to something you don’t want them to be doing and they KNOW they have your attention, don’t say a thing. Better still, walk away. My son immediately drops what he is doing and comes behind me asking me what has happened and why I wasn’t looking at him. Job done 😉

5. ‎Be easy on yourself. Don’t work yourself up. No one is awarding you with a medal of Honor for brilliant parenting. EXCEPT, those little ones who are constantly watching you. What you do and don’t do reflects directly on them. For me, food, laundry, cleaning and work can wait if it means that the kids are getting what they want – a mother who is available and receptive to their needs and feelings.

6. Set aside cuddle time. With two kids, I can see jealously creeping in almost every waking hour. They both know I love them equally, but each one wants more of Amma than the other. So, I set aside time to cuddle up each one of them separately. We so group hugs and bed rolls, but 10 minutes with Lishaan when Isha is asleep and 10 minutes with Isha when Lishaan is napping does a great amount of good. Gosh, all the love hormones comes overflowing when we do these cuddle sessions can be such a stress buster!

7. Make good use of your ‘Me time’. As moms, our time is the first thing we compromise on. I realized that no ‘Me time’ meant a VERY cranky Amma. So, I got the husband to take the kids out/stay home with them while I got some real ‘Me time’. Try to get out. Dress up and move your butt, literally. Take up a class, go meet a friend, go get a coffee by yourself, go to the parlor. Do something that doesn’t have to do with your kids or your house. No grocery shopping! That’s so not me time!

8. ‎Finally, express. Unless you say what you are going through, no one is going to know. Even if my husband doesn’t have the best solution available, I tell him what is bogging me down (to the grossest details) and it just feels so much better. Keeping things inside for long can have a huge volcano like effect on your emotions. Instead, constantly emptying your emo-bin helps you face the next day and the day after with better enthusiasm and energy.

I must admit that I do yell a lot less these days. So much so that even the husband and family see a stark difference in attitude. Brownie points for the number of times mid-toddler-tantrum I have told me husband ‘It’s okay Mama. Don’t react. He is just finding xxx difficult’ and my husband would give me this ‘Is that you talking?’ look ?

So, what do you think? Do these tips sound doable? Do you have suggestions that help you keep calm and carry on? Let me know, pretty please ?

Oh, and this list is bound to change as I discover better/easier/simpler ways to keep calm. So, keep checking!

What we loved most about our Skola toy!

How to keep a toddler engaged in something sensible? That’s probably the biggest challenge a parent faces in today’s world. If you were to compete with the likes of cartoon series and play doh videos on YouTube, then your chances are bleak without a strong arsenal! Alright, let me not scare you! I am just saying that to engage a toddler is quite a challenge and if you have a child who is at the pre-school stage then the need to provide something substantial to entertain and educate them is very high.

If you have been following my Instagram posts and previous blogs, then you will know that I have been discussing pre-STEM activities that Skola Toys specializes in. STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths is a branch of learning that focuses on teaching a child about the above said concepts, but in a non-text book manner.

Skola, introduces these concepts to preschoolers with their learning journeys. When we received our package from Skola, I was pretty excited to see two things – which learning journey we were about to set foot in and how Lishaan would react to it. Thankfully, both have managed to impress me as a mom!

 Bird Shadows was the toy that we received and it definitely piqued my toddler’s excitement, for he is an animal-bird lover. Suited for ages 3+, this activity was perfectly chosen for Lishaan who turns three next month.  Based on the learning journey through geometry, the activity has four pronged approach:Bird Shadows

  1. Slotting: To match the bird to the shadow, is an interesting ‘race against the clock’ activity, clocking maximum number of right combinations within a minute.
  1. Abstract pairing: Lishaan only need one look at the shadows to identify the birds by their names. Then, matching was easy and quick. For the unfamiliar birds, he went by matching the shape, the side the beak was facing and the feet to get it right.
  1. Name game: Lishaan is not familiar with the woodpecker, the ostrich and the eagle, as we only learn birds that we have seen till date. So, learning about these new birds and what they are known famously for, was interesting for him.
  1. Memory: This was our favourite bit. To keep all the slots facing up and the image cards facing downward. He would quickly turn one to the fair side and pair it with the right slot. If not, he’d face it down again and look for the next one. It was definitely engaging for a good 15 minutes. That’s enough for Amma to finish her coffee 😉

Apart from these, we explored the calls of these birds and what they do predominantly. The best bit about this activity was that in addition to this, Isha explored motor skills by pulling out cards from the slots and placing them in randomly, while her Anna took a break. Though I didn’t intend to have her play with this, I see her enjoying the colors and the feel of the slots. Double win for me 😉

Activity apart, what I loved about Skola is the care that they take in the 360 degree impression.Bird Shadows

  1. The box – Sturdy, and perfect to continue storing the activity it came with shapes that had to be colored.
  1. Crayons – the added advantage. There were four solid color crayons that Lishaan used to color on the box. This gave me enough time to explore and understand the box.
  1. A guide – to understand Skola’s point of view through the various learning journeys. Every parent shopping with Skola will feel reassured that they have made the right investment for their child.
  1. The toy – Made of wood, the box, slots and the image cards are well finished and toddler friendly. The handle of the slots holder especially is comfortably shaped for tiny hands and big ones to carry them.

In a time and age where less is more, Skola definitely is filling up our toy shelf with its unique concepts, focused activity sets and impeccable design. Overall, this has been a great experience and I surely will put my hat in this ring! 😉

~ The Lazy Parent

 

You can learn more about Skola toys from their website https://www.skola.toys
Skola’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/skolatoys/
Skola’s Instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/skolatoys/

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post, but the opinions and thoughts are wholly mine.