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!

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! 🙂

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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!

Do me a favour – Part 2

So, I finally got help. After months of deliberation, I met a counselor to discuss my issues. What issues? For months now, I have been having mood swings and tides of low moods that have been causing a great deal of distress. If you have been following me on IG, you would see me talking about it.

Well, who discusses such things? I mean it’s natural to have a child and find it difficult to cope, but who goes to meet a doctor about that? Don’t say ‘no one’, because sometime help helps. After a good three hours of talking and sobbing *drama queen much?* I ended up feeling much lighter and happier.

Firstly and thankfully, I do not fall under the category of depression. What I did suffer from was anxiety. Now, if you know me (in person or online) you will think that I am a HIGHLY confident individual who’s just managing everything like a piece of cake. That might be true to some level, but I have been battling a lot of low self-esteem issues of late.

You see, what happens to women when they become mothers is that their world radically tilts and shifts. You could have a battalion of family and staff support but still feel like shit. Birthing a child and providing for it can be a huge challenge. This change also makes women vulnerable. Women who are new mothers (first, second or third time moms count too) can be very sensitive and touchy. They could be feeling cornered for no reason, but it isn’t their fault. Babies don’t come with an instruction manual. It is hard to figure them out initially. Why are they crying? Why do they need the boob so often? When will I sleep? and so on. The questions are endless and the answers aren’t readily available. A lot of trial, error and tears give you the answer. By then, you are exhausted; sleep deprived and sanity deprived. At such a juncture, the last thing you want to hear is some grading you as a parent. ‘You could do better’ is like a poison dipped knife slowly being thrust into your sides. AGH!

That’s exactly and almost what someone who barely knew me told me. Let alone one, I was balancing two kids when someone sweetly stepped into my life for a whole of ten minutes to tell me that I should be putting more effort into loving my children *MAJOR EYE ROLL* . Well, major eye roll now, but back then it hurt, stung and killed any iota of self-confidence that I had. Was I being silly? No! But here’s my take away from all of this.

A mother, new or otherwise, is working overtime. Whether she’s a homemaker or a working mom, she is putting 100% in order to keep everyone happy and the house functional. What she needs the most is acknowledgment of what she is doing and appreciation of that. Remember, it’s not a sacrifice that she’s making but it’s her choice. But going through with this choice is hard without appreciation. If you can’t say something good, don’t say anything at all. We hardly know the life of that mum behind the scene. We only calculate her ‘motherhood’ score based on the two coffee dates and twenty Instagram posts that she puts up. That’s bloody unfair.

That’s all I ask. Say a good word or say none at all. With that, hundreds of mothers out there will walk with an additional spring in their step and their head held high (no matter how sleep deprived they are). Is that doable?

 

Does your three year old enjoy engineering? ?

Remember my last post on the kind of toys that we would like to choose for our kids and what influences the decision? This post is a follow up on that thought.

When L turned 1.5 years old, we were constantly asked about his induction into a playschool or a day care and our answer was that it was too soon for him to be involved in any sort of structured learning.  It was then that we chanced upon the concept of homeschooling and alternative education. 1.5 years since that conversation, we are doubly sure that for both L and I, we would provide as much open ended exploration as we can. This, until the day they ask us to enroll them in a school (if at all).

Educating or providing a source of learning for your child on your own can be a challenge. Where do I begin? What do I focus on? What is the core requisite at this age? These are a few questions that I asked myself. It was then that I learned about STEM learning. It is an acronym alright, but it is also the stem that will hold together the whole plant of learning.

STEM is Science Technology Engineering Mathematics and is usually introduced at the age of seven to children. But you can lay foundation for STEM learning based on pre-stem activities. Now I can see you thinking what is a three year old going to do with engineering at this age? Remember, that him stacking up blocks or fixing the clogs in a gear set up is engineering too 😉

STEM requires logical thinking and brings about the concept of possible outcomes based on a primary action. This is why I started looking up toys/activities that are inclined in this pre-STEM learning and Skola reached out to me at the same time. Why Skola? Their pre-STEM learning tools are great in encouraging of fine motor skill development, thinking skills and of course, increased concentration. These attributes make STEM learning easier as the child approaches the required age for it.

Nesting Hens

Locking Blocks

Be it the Cascade Cars that introduce the concept of cause and effect or the Building Blocks that introduce concept of construction using various shapes or the Locking Blocks that explore the concept of patterns and pairing, Skola toys are designed to grow with your child’s growing needs. As a young learner, any toddler would benefit from these handpicked, finely finished toys that are both attractive and effective.

 

 

 

While I pick toys that would work for both the children, do check out Skola’s ‘Learning Journeys’. It beautifully explains and categorizes the various journeys a child undertakes as an early learner and how you can aid the development better.

 

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. 

What’s in your toy basket?

Have you ever told people to not buy gifts for your children? I know that sounds rude, but I have tried to be very diplomatic in explaining to family and friends that a) he has enough toys and b)we don’t want to buy him toys that he doesn’t understand the use for. It’s a task, let me tell you. People get offended or even worse, think that you are very high maintenance. Truth is, it is not true. Ask any parent with toddlers at home and they will tell you that it is a tough task to be selective about toys. I remember for Lishaan’s birthday, getting three boxes of the same toy. What would I do with the same toy? I upcycled two of them and gifted it to someone who would have better use for it.

This is why I am worried about the kids’ upcoming birthdays. We are going to be given chug along trains, walking dogs, plastic cooking sets and what not. Please don’t get me wrong, but I do appreciate the thoughtfulness. I do appreciate the fact that you are taking out time to pick up a toy for the child, but let it be something that’s of use to them. I say this out of exhaustion of clearing up their play pen and wondering where  all this came from.

Added to this, my husband has a huge thing with plastic toys. While I argued about how ‘non expensive’ and colorful they were, he stuck to wooden toys that provided more scope for learning and also were more ‘close to nature’. Well, I do see the point. Wooden toys are natural, giving more scope to open-ended play and are better for motor skills. The shapes are far more refined and it is a different ball game than your 199-a-box plastics.

So, when I sat down to clear the children’s stuff as we get ready to shift another city in two weeks, I removed almost ALL their plastic toys. What remained and what will be added are some wooden blocks, stackers and the sorts. Lishaan’s approach to these definitely was different than his approach to other toys.

I was reading up about this a while back and found an article on the NewYorker. In the article, author Amy F. Ogata quotes from her new book, “Designing the Creative Child: Playthings and Places in Midcentury America,” that “Among the educated middle and upper-middle classes, wood became the material symbol of timelessness, authenticity and refinement in the modern educational toy.”

It is in this search for toys that allow open ended play, are all natural and are definitely timeless, which both my kids can use and share without damage, that I found Skola. Toys from Skola are designed for children to explore their motor skill. Working on lines of the Montessori methodology of learning, these toys allow for multi-sensory development. With the child’s growing age and curiosity, these toys also allow for freedom in exploring creativity and muscle memory. So, if you want to invest in a good toy for your child, you know where to look!

While you read this, please understand that while I love your intention to gift the children something for their birthday, I just say make it worthwhile. Hey, this applies to me too. So, if I have bought your son or daughter a toy that’s been more of a space eater than a partner in their exploration, I will make up for it this year 😉

My First Year with two under two

Isha turns one in a month and the whole ride so far has been blurry. Like the kinds where you are on a motorcycle on top speed and the wind is blowing in your face. Where it’s all hazy, but you accelerate nevertheless, waiting for the haze and the wind to pass. Such rides are adrenaline pumping; they give you a LOT of feel good feels, but the haziness, the parched feeling in your mouth and the bleary eyed moment can make you wish the wind settles down soon!

My year as a mother of two children has been exactly like this. There have been really sweet, special moments but for most part of it I feel like I am running a race with no idea of the finish line. I still maintain that managing one child, however active it may be, is very doable. But when you have a toddler, a newborn and postpartum blues sitting inside the mixer, the cocktail leaves you with more than just a hangover ?
So, instead of talking much about ‘how it feels’ I am going to tell you what you can expect as a parent of two children under three.

Month 1: Newborn cuddles tiny cries and of course pangs of anxiety of the love being shared between your firstborn and the second born.

Month 2: Sleepless nights thanks to growth spurt nursing sessions. Toddler bonding with the baby, overly sometimes. Shuttling between baby and tot, engaging, satisfying and loving them both as much as they need.

Month 3: Pure unadulterated sibling love. The baby smiles at the brother, the brother helps in massaging the baby, they co-sleep without fuss. Total heart melt.

Month 4: Baby tries to move. Slowly, toddler gets confident with baby, hands over his toys, dirty shoes and more to attract the baby. Panic attacks of toddler trying to feed the baby gems.

Month 5: crawling baby tails the older brother around like a shadow. Another episode of rushing happy hormones watching the two bond.

Month 6: Toddler tantrums at the peak and baby tantrums to match the brother’s. You & your husband sit like zombies in the middle of the night, wondering where the mistake happened.

Month 7: The two start spending more meaningful time together and you can take a leak in peace. Yes, you get 2 minutes of uninterrupted bathroom time! YAY!

Month 8: baby wants brother’s food. Brother wants to feed the baby. More movement, more toys. LESS bed space!

Month 9: Sibling bonding stage 3 – hugging, cuddling, kissing, jumping together on the bed (at 11:30 in the night). Toddler becomes a bigger toddler, starts bonding emotionally with you. Even wipes your tears of fatigue and gives you a quick kiss.

Month 10: MONKEY ALERT! The siblings gang up finally and beat your husband and you! No escaping them. Blocks land mines, squeaky toys under the sofa, food inside water bottle and more. All possible, thanks to the tiny sidekick who keeps you occupied while the older brother makes master moves.

Month 11 & 12: Accept defeat. They have their tactics in place. First they will rile you up the wall, and then they will cuddle each other and melt you into a puddle. Ha ha ha!

Frankly, this one year has been MAJORLY taxing both mentally and physically, but what keeps me going is the love that I see them both share. It gives me the assurance that I have done something right. They survived this far, I am sure we will get better! 

 

**** I would also like to take this opportunity to introduce Dilpreet Kaur Dua who blogs at www.bhangrababies.com You can check out her blog to read her thoughts on this as well!  ****

 

Text as you pop! ?

Who texts their friends from the delivery table, dilating well past 5cm? ME ? I was extremely lucky to have a bunch of beautiful friends who were super pampering and caring during my 2nd pregnancy. They were extremely excited about the delivery and even had bets running on the gender of the baby.

 

It brings me immense pleasure to share that I, along with 23 other bloggers are celebrating #9daysofwomanhood throughout Navratri. I thank Sanjivini for introducing me. I loved her blog on the prompt for today. You can read it here.

As for the rest of my story, read on!

14th November 2016: 9 days away from my given due date, I was wondering and hoping the baby would make a late appearance on its dad’s birthday (24th November). My mom was in town, we had all things (Lishaan’s) washed and ready for the baby when it comes. I had made a decently elaborate lunch and had just started working on a hat that was a puff stitch beret of sorts. It was very frustrating because I couldn’t get the start of the hat right. One coffee later, the hat was 3 rounds down already and I was in a flow.

So, closer to the last couple of months my husband made it a practice to come home for lunch so that I had a little extra time to cook. Every day, I would call him to tell him that lunch was ready and that he can start (his office was 10 minutes away). That day, I called him and told him the same thing ‘Lunch is ready. Come off soon’. Just like any other day, I took my toddler to set him down for a nap. I had just plonked him in the bed when something felt funny. I knew it then that the baby was on its way. So, I rang up my husband again and asked him to come as ‘it was time’. My mom sprung into a half panic – half alert mode and quickly gathered essentials in a ‘ready to go’ mode. By then 20 minutes had passed and my water had started leaking. FUN! Baby on the way. We waited for my husband to get home, woke up the toddler, told him baby was coming, fed him lunch and started for the hospital.

I remembered to take a GOOD shower (my dear friend told me that it was a very comforting and soothing way to get into the labor mode). So, off we went to the hospital.

Within minutes, I was taken to the labor ward for preliminary checkup and was asked to stay put. ‘Walk, do whatever, just be here’ they said. Mega moment: I was discussing with a mom about what carrier she should go for and what she should be trying before she made a purchase 😛 My mom literally threw a fit and asked me to hand over my phone!  Later, my mom and the toddler were comfortably settled into a room and the husband kept running up and down, checking on both parties. Meanwhile, my messenger kept buzzing with messages from this mom-friends-bunch and the usual Whatsapp groups, as usual. So I thought, why not surprise them all. From 2:30pm in the afternoon till about midnight, I played along and kept the whole deal a secret. I think I finally put my phone away when they moved me to the delivery table and my senior doctor said ‘what the hell are you doing with a phone right now?’ in a quizzical tone. So, no one knew about it and I remember after Isha came out, we went back to our room and in the middle of the night, I texted them ‘Girl or boy?’ and everyone started jumping! It was super exciting and definitely a very special welcome for my baby girl. My friends probably thought I was insane, but hey! An addition to any family should be a pleasant surprise, right? ?

 

**** I would take the opportunity to introduce Dilpreet Kaur Dua who blogs at www.bhangrababies.com You can check out her blog to read her thoughts on this as well!  ****