Day 20 – Weekday evenings

21 Jan

Before we had Bandar, the husband and I watched a fair amount of TV, both together and alone in the evenings after work. We switched on the TV as we prepped and ate dinner and watched a few shows each day. I ,then went to the bedroom and proceeded to watch more  TV ( reality shows  when I am alone always!) while I drifted off to sleep. And the husband worked late into the night, sometimes with a show playing on the side. 

When we had Bandar, we simply stopped having time for that much weekday evening TV as before . The first year is definitely a blur but we had some family help and still found it hard to give up on all our pre-baby TV viewing. So we did watch a few of our favorite DVR’d shows that year. But then family left, we became just a family of three for the first time and we buckled up and got responsible. Our evenings were filled with getting Bandar fed, ourselves fed, Bandar bathed and finally put to bed. Exhausted ourselves we then sat down to work most nights and only occasionally the TV went on. We both managed to keep up with our favorite shows on our own time, mostly on tablets and laptops , but not really sitting together to watch as many shows as before .

With Bandar now four years old and quite independent and also the fact that we no longer cook everyday, we recently found ourselves reaching out for the remote on some weekdays around 7 pm. Bandar is usually fed by then and playing around before bed. We usually went to our favorite cooking competitions and started watching , with Bandar showing some interest too. While this was a fun activity to do as a family, I have over the last week put an end to it due to a few reasons.

 Firstly, even a one hour show results in a much later bed time for bandar . She is not as fresh as a daisy in the mornings after watching TV till around 8 pm. There is a stark difference in her morning behavior when she is well rested. 

Then on top of this, we are not  huge fans of screen time for children to begin with ( maybe with conditioning through my childhood and the husband’s ) Bandar watches 20 minutes of TV on Friday, Saturday and Sunday  which add up to one hour a week. This is a specific show that she likes.Sometimes we will let her watch the only Disney movie she cares about – Frozen in a weekend in exchange for two of these days. And with her watching MasterChef with us on weekdays, even just partially watching , it all added up to way more TV than I was comfortable with in a week for a four year old.

 Then finally this evening TV watching put a lot of stress in getting the remaining bed time activities done faster . This made me miss the quality time I actually enjoyed with Bandar in the evenings prior to restarting this habit. It usually takes us 45 minutes from the point we go up the stairs to actually switching off the light. So taking Bandar upto bed at 8:15 pm instead of 7:30 pm definitely added stress to the routine .It meant I couldn’t find time to be silly with her as we brushed our teeth and often wanted to cut the conversation short in bed to have lights out by atleast 9 pm. With no TV in the picture, lights out usually happened by 8 or 8:15 and Bandar and I were both more relaxed as we cuddled in bed.Goijg to bed later also obviously meant she slept later and just even took longer to actually fall asleep, maybe the extra stimulation TV viewing before bed provides. This also stressed me out as I had a dirty kitchen below to clean and office work to get to and I couldn’t get to any of these till she actually fell asleep . I ended up falling asleep before her and woke up to piles of work and a dirty kitchen at 5 am.
So with all the above reasoning , I cut out our evening TV viewing this week. Bandar asked me after her dinner if we were going to watch big people cooking and my “No, not today”  answer didn’t upset her. She proceeded to play an imaginary game with her dolls and I joined in with a side role. ( Always the assistant teacher, never the main one )

So this week she has been sleeping earlier and better. I can truly say I feel a sense of peace cuddling her in bed . Our mornings are rushed anyway and I always want to feel the three hours we spend each evening together are relaxed. We might still watch a cooking competition together occasionally, but it won’t be on weekday evenings.

Day 19 – Getting our weekends back

20 Jan

Till about last September ,our weekends were a little crazy around here . This was mainly because Bandar was enrolled in a bunch of classes. She had Ballet on Saturday mornings, followed by swimming and then on Sundays she had soccer.

 The reason we had all her classes on the weekends was because for full time working parents and a child who is in preschool followed by daycare from 8:30 am to 5:30pm every single day , a week day evening activity is really hard. I am.not calling it impossible as I know some parents do it, but to me it’s not worth taxing the child and yourself after a long day with a class. For a short time in the summer , we had Bandar enrolled in swimming at 5:30 PM twice a week on weekdays. This involved me rushing to leave work at 4:55, get to Bandar’s school, get her changed and ready for swimming class, drive to swimming class in time, find parking and literally pull Bandar out of the car and take her into class. Though the twice a week class , immensely helped Bandar learn to swim, the whole process was too tiring for everyone concerned . So we moved Bandar to a Saturday swimming slot instead. 

But three classes over the weekend , got too tiring for everyone again. For one getting up early on Saturday and making it in time for ballet was a stretch in itself. Then the second class on Saturday with a snack between them was an ordeal. Plus, she now clearly disliked swimming and only agreed to go as we pushed her. After a few weeks of this, I decided to withdraw her from ballet in favor of having just one class to get to on Saturdays. Swimming we strongly felt was an important life skill she should stick with. Alas, winter came and Bandar fell sick a few times . The pool was an outdoor one and though the water itself was heated , seeing Bandar shivering before and after class and the multiple infections she caught made us stop swimming. We were then left with only soccer.on Sundays. Again, we had enrolled her to get her running and we felt the sport had really strengthened her legs. Bandar.was also fairly good at all the exercises and drills they did at the early stages . However , when the games actually started , Bandar had no intention of running behind the ball and tackling other kids to get control of the ball.It wasn’t that she didn’t understand the rules as we assumed at first, she just didn’t want to play. So then it became a bit of a drag to coax her into even going to class and sticking out in the field for one hour. In the end, Bandar and I had an India trip to take and decided we would review the situation once we returned. Once we got back, we realized we love our Sundays freeish and are just a very lazy family to begin with , and we never made it back to the field.

Having our weekends now wide open, especially the ones when the husband has not had cricket has been refreshing. We have had more family brunches, cuddling sessions late into the morning , more Skype sessions with the grandparents, home made breakfasts at home , been able to make weekend morning birthday parties and so on. We might restart one of these classes soon , maybe swimming if we find an indoor pool , and will be back to atleast one hurried day of the weekend. But until then, I have enjoyed our break from the madness.

Day 18 – Of summers gone by

19 Jan

I think all my summer vacations  from the age of 8 to 19 were spent at both my grandparents’ houses in Chennai. As my parents both worked, I was often shipped off alone after exams to spend time with my grandparents and aunts and uncles. Thinking back , I don’t think I really looked forward to the time much due to a few reasons. For one, there was much scrutiny on what I wore. My shorts and ratty tees were never allowed to be packed and instead I had to take the pants , longer skirts and dreaded few salwar kameezes that I owned. Secondly , I never enjoyed being away from my parents , especially those first few years from age 8- 12 when they started this for me. My parents were also a protective shield for me from mean, nosy relatives in the extended family who I invariably had to meet when I went to Chennai. The summer after I started wearing glasses was especially painful as I endured a lot of questions on what my number was etc that pissed me off no end. Then another year ,I remember begging my mom to have me back in Bombay by the time class 10 board exam results came out, as I couldn’t bear the humiliation of having to find out my results in Chennai as they might be lower than those of cousins from eons ago.( Of course, no one would take into account I was in a relatively tougher board where getting “centum” is almost impossible).

Anyway , despite these few depressing moments that I associate with my Chennai trips, I now look back as special time I got with my grandparents.I now have only one surviving grandmother and  realize my time with that generation was so limited and I am honestly thankful for those summers.

So here are the happy things I remember. At my paternal grandparents’ house, my grandfather would always have a small bar of chocolate ready for me, usually a five star. He continued doing this well past me being in college. My sister who is 9 years younger to me, got one and I did too despite being 19 years old. He would also have my favorite orange cream biscuits ordered and in a tin for me.The old guy who sold puffed rice ,( pori in Tamil) who went from house to house since the time I was two yesrs old,  would be summoned specially for me. My grandmother would have her special ginger lemon squash made for me and I actually tried to get her recipe as I grew older but almost fainted when I heard how much sugar was needed for the sugar syrup! I had full access to a mini library of Enid Blytons and Tin Tins that my dad and his siblings had amassed over their childhood memories . I simply lay on the Diwan in the hall  for hours each day with my cousin’s dog at my feet and devoured the books and the goodies alike.My holiday homework which always involved drawing would be assigned to my older cousin who would grumble but do it eventually. My grandfather insisted the swings be brought out of storage and installed in the garden and balcony during my visit and I spent a lot of the day on those as well. I walked the dog with whoever was taking him and often got ice cream.My grandparents always insisted on giving me money during my visit for a special something – sometimes a dress, once a calculator when I started engineering , the Oxford dictionary when I was in high school. 

At my maternal grandparents’ house , I got the remaining of my summer homework completed by other cousins. One was an awesome pulley system for my Science project on simple machines that blew my teacher’s socks off. I used to love sitting by my grandfather and listening to stories of the freedom struggle.I wish I had written them down. He also taught my rummy and we played game after game of this each day.  My grandmother never sat for a minute, she was on the go from 4:30 am to 9 pm. My grandfather however had one big role in the morning , bringing in the milk and making the morning coffee. After that it was all my grandmom. Tiffin twice a day , a scrumptious lunch and dinner to boot. Every evening my grandparents had some fixed Tamil serials they watched. I remember making them a time table each time I went there , so that they didn’t miss a show and blame each other. My grandmom always commented that I looked grubby , so once she brought in the ends of a coconut and scrubbed me well at the bathroom, especially my black knees and elbows. She also insisted in giving me the best oil massages twice a week . My grandfather instilled in me a sense of financial responsibility. He explained the types of accounts to me and after accompanying him once , he sent me off to handle bank transactions on my own – at the age of 8 / 9! The bank was across the street and quite safe. As I grew older, I helped him organize his financial investment files and typed and printed out cover pages for each file for easy reference.There was an apartment building next to my grandparents’ house and ever evening I crossed the wall ( never through the gate) and went over to play with my friends. Every floor had kids my age and I was pretty much gone 4 pm to 9 pm. Occasionally my grandfather’s younger brother brought his granddaughter over to play and we had a great time despite minor fights. My grandmother fed an army of stray cats each day and one summer was particularly adventurous with one wild kitty entering the house and jumping on everybody and everything . My grandparents were the most hospitable people I knew and were forever hosting a bunch of relatives. So sleeping arrangements each night were in different rooms for me. I ensured though that my grandmother was close by each night, irrespective of whoever else was around. I remember being a bit of an insomniac most nights and listening to chimes of my grandparents’ hall clock every 15 minutes. My cousin who was in medical school was usually studying late and I would lie awake till she wrapped up. She would then come to bed and tell me a few stories before I drifted off to sleep. Gifts each summer from my maternal grandparents and aunts was customary too. I remember going shopping with my aunts for dresses and coming back with bagfulls to show my grandparents at home. Their eyes would light up when they saw the purchases. The vacation between class 4 and 5 when I graduated to ink pens was especially fun. My aunts and grandfather all got me a beautiful fountain pen each! 

Phew ! What a truckload of beautiful memories. Going to Chennai is not the same now after my grandparents’ passing. The houses stand, partially let out, partially occupied by family but sadly the warmth and joy is gone. My parents ask if I will send Bandar over for summer vacations to India and my answer currently is a firm no. I cannot bear to be separated from her by miles for days on end then I wonder if I am denying her and them and my in laws special joys of a lifetime and I need to reconsider as she gets older.
What are your favorite memories with your grandparents? Do you send your children to visit their grandparents without you ?

Day 17 – The dads behind the moms

18 Jan

I work with a lot of women who are all moms. Apart from being a truly fun group to work with, we are all bonded by the common issues that plague most working moms. The biggest of these is the preschool and public school holidays that are usually not corporate days off. Take MLK this year for example. Our kids were all off, while we were at work. So all the 6 moms I work with had left their kids at home with their husbands who had either taken time off to support their wives or were officially off or in one case were stay at home dads !

In our own household , the husband was off from work that day, but had tons of work to finish up. As Bandar is fairly independent, he was able to do his work uninterrupted most of the day but if course fed her   and it worked out well. But this is just one of the many ways he comes through as a great dad. I am not elaborating on the several things he does , but a few include – making Bandar and my lunch boxes , Bandar’s baths , Bandar’s hair – perfect every time, feed Bandar breakfast, make perfect dosas …The list goes on . These should basically be things every dad should do , but of course when I see a lot of desi dads in our friend circle and families  who are mere sperm donors and nothing else, it makes me feel blessed.Glad I did something right in marrying this guy !

Day 16 Fast food

17 Jan

Some of favorite memories of my first two years in America as a Grad student are those clandestine visits  to meet the Husband, then the boyfriend.During one of those visits he introduced me Taco Bell on his campus and oh man, did I pig out ! Chalupas, crunch wraps and the fire sauce. Taco Bell is clearly one fast food chain that has some veggie options and this starving grad student was a fan. Anyway years have passed ( 9 to be precise ) and I would think twice before going to a Taco Bell now. Mainly because of the questionable hygiene ( maybe an issue only in my imagination).

 We live a stone’s throw away to pretty much every fast food option in America . Chic fil a , McDonald’s, Taco Bell, In N Out, El Pollo loco ( this one cracks Bandar and me up as we translate it with our limited Spanish knowledge into ‘ The Crazy Chicken) – they are all represented. 

As these fast food joints are in the same strip mall as our grocery stores , we pass them most evenings after work and school .The drive through line at these places on any night is insane ! I am amazed at the number of people who settle for fast food every night in this country. I get that it’s affordable, fast , tasty and convenient  and appeals to all age groups. At the same time though, I am appalled that folks don’t mind filling their bodies and feeding their families poor quality food night after night. 

I love shows like one Jamie Oliver did a few years ago pushing showing small town America how to really cook at home and at schools.Sadly these shows are too few and far between and people are either ignorant or truly don’t care. I also  live in a fairly decent sized city , so these problems  are not limited to just the small towns. Thinking about the population in my neighborhood, I am assuming it is mostly working professionals , majority being college educated or the older generation. Clearly good jobs and education don’t impact food choices. Our extremely well educated friend recently told us quite frankly that his kitchen is never used and he pretty much lives off fast food.

I don’t want to appear holier than thou with this post by any means. If and when I get over my cleanliness hangups , I will probably make it into a Taco Bell sometime in the near future.But even then , it’s not a choice I recommend to anyone more than occasionally or for a treat, if that’s your thing.

Day 15- Happiness on a Sunday

16 Jan

– Waking up hungry but being too lazy to go down immediately and fix my breakfast, I asked the husbadoo to just add some milk to my bulk made mueseli and heat in the micro for me. Instead he surprised me by going the extra mile to add the freshly chopped strawberries and serve it to me in bed ! Perfect start to the day

– Bandar slept in till almost 10:30 , after being up past midnight entertaining friends last night. This let me get the kitchen spic and span after the get together the night before . Love pristine counter tops!

– Enjoying 15 minutes of self pampering after months with a clay mask that promises to minimize my pores! Bah humbug!

– Convincing the fam to go out to brunch at my favorite place and enjoying a beach view vegan brunch . Soyrizo tacos for the win!

– Watching Bandar tower over the smaller kids and stand her place with the older kids  in the playground by the beach and rejoice at having an independent 4 year old. 

– Returning home to have a worrisome home owner issue be actually non existent. Thank the Lord for online neighborhood forums and services on call on Sundays and a spouse who sees eye to eye on new to us home maintainance issues.

– 30 minutes if relaxing sticker fun with Bandar !

– No cooking Sundays.

– A late start Monday to look forward to . Though I have to work on an actual public holiday , I am actually looking forward to getting shit done.

Day 14 – Cooking galore !

15 Jan

In our mixed household , we have slowly started celebrating a few festivals in our own way. Pongal is one festival that I only have very hazy memories of celebrating at home with my parents. For one, I have never been in Chennai to celebrate this , so I have no idea how my extended family celebrates this at all. Our small unit of mom, dad, sister and I definitely had a yummy lunch , courtesy mom . On occasion it has been a simple  dinner of pongal if it fell on a working day like this year. The next day , mom, sis and I would quickly before work and school lay out old pongal for the crows with red rice and yellow rice( from kumkum and haldi ) and bananas . My mom told us this was to feed our brothers from previous lives. She also gave us Rs. 10 I think as was customary for this festival. And that was usually our pongal. 

So what I do at home here is essentially the same . Both types of pongal – sweet and savory. Sometimes I have made a poligotsu and / or chutney.

Today however we had plans to have  guests over for dinner and the evening menu was Ragda Pattice and Bhel . So since morning I have made – both types of customary pongal ( proud of myself for just enough for one meal measurements here ) , coconut chutney , baked masala vadas – all the above for brunch.

For dinnerprep I made – Ragda , Patties, all the prep for bhel including chutnies. Now all I have to do is make the pasta for the kids and entertain our friends.

This is more cooking than I have done in three months and I am now exhausted .I leave you with a picture of the baked vadas – A in taste and C in presentation .