What? Another blog?

Ok I know its becoming ridiculous, but I just can’t help myself! I love slaint and can’t imagine giving it up, but I also need a place that I can focus on travel stories and writings apart from all my regular ramblings about life. Cian always says “no back home” and when I was thinking about starting a travel focused blog I decided that would be the name. It took a while for it to really gel in my head, but it totally works and makes sense to us! So…

Welcome  No Back Home

I have already transitioned some of my ‘travel’ type posts over to no back home and will hopefully continue adding stories, travel tips/tricks and our local LA explorations. I don’t know where the blog will lead me, but I feel I need a place to get all of this information out there. We do so much here in LA and have already done so much traveling with a baby/child that I want to share some of our tips and tricks. I want people to feel like travel with kids can be fun and not stressful, even if it’s just to grandma’s house. And it gives me an outlet for my two major passions – my child and traveling!

I don’t think I will post all of those blog posts on Facebook, so if you want to keep up on that blog as well, please subscribe from the homepage or check back often.

I know I haven’t done it the “right” way of waiting to reveal once all of the kinks are worked out, but I feel like I have spent a lot of time waiting in my life for things to be just perfect and then I realize I have missed the boat. So instead, I ask you to join me and try to overlook the bumps in the road as we experience them together.

I would love to have help and input from friends, so if anyone has local (or not local!) activities that they want to write about or want to share with me, please get in touch.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

My Lessons in Potty Training

As soon as you have a child your world becomes a lot more focused on bowel movements. DSC_4713More than you would have ever guessed. You will talk poo to anyone. What color is it supposed to be? Is it too runny? He’s constipated, so what should I do? And so on. It’s just one of the many joys of parenthood that no one tells you about in advance!

It’s all fine and dandy when your kid is in diapers and you can pontificate about their poo, but wait until your child starts approaching age 2 and all of the sudden you as a parent begin to feel this weight on your shoulders about potty training.  It’s not just the internal stress parents begin to feel (and put themselves under), but the stress of schools requiring potty training by a certain age, the chatter of family members chiding you on when you are going to get started, etc. etc. etc.  ”What? You haven’t even thought about it and your child is 2?! You have missed the window, you need to get moving NOW!” This is some of what you might hear from family and friends. IGNORE them! Seriously.

I am on a million online mom groups, go to a million mom meetups and have talked potty training with moms from India, the UK and all over the US. The overwhelming consensus from those who did it “right” (in their eyes) and who did it wrong (also in their eyes) is that you HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL THEY ARE READY!  Did you hear me screaming that at you? Seriously, WAIT until they are ready. If you do, you have a much greater chance of saving yourself a lot of heart ache, poopy pants and tears. But as we all know, nothing is certain in parenthood!

I have only one child, and as all parents believe about their kids, I think he’s extraordinarily special. Ha. No but really, we had a really great time with potty training. I was dreading it since I had heard so many horror stories, but we ended up being shocked at the fun we had. For posterity I thought I would write out what we did in case it could help anyone else along the way.

Getting Ready for Potty Training

  • Set the scene through books/videos. Our son’s favorite was “Diapers are not forever”. He seemed to connect with the fact that the children in the book also had pets like he did.
  • Wait until your child shows signs of awareness/readiness of their urination. Kids often show signs of when they are going poop, but when they begin to tell you that they are going pee or grabbing themselves or maybe even telling you that they have a wet diaper, then your child is probably showing signs of being ready. Our son began standing up in the bathtub to watch himself pee. We would try to catch him in the act and transfer him to the toilet..but you win some and lose some, ya know. Although, this was our sign that he was aware and could anticipate when he was going to pee.
  • Take your child to the shop and let them pick out their own potty and underpants. Cian played with every single potty, flushing them, making sounds and sitting on them until i finally asked him which one he wanted to take home. He then picked the most boring (and most expensive!) plain white Baby Bjorn potty.  He also got to choose his underpants. He didn’t even know who any of the characters were, but he sensed we were excited, so he was excited and took his decision seriously.
  • Read up on your resources. We used the Queen of Potty training‘s 3 day boot camp. I didn’t follow her directions specifically, but used it more as a guide. The booklet is definitely worth a read, but she says to potty train at 22 months which I don’t agree with a blanket age such as that. Like any parenting resource, take what works for you and ignore the rest!
  • Prepare and schedule 3 days in a row at home where you can provide 100% undivided attention to your child. Also be prepared that it may take longer than 3 days, so be patient and relaxed.  Prepare meals in advance, do all your errands, etc. Our son really relished this time. We did lots of fun arts and crafts, played games and did puzzles, read books and just had fun playing together.
  • If you are going to try to go completely diaper free, make sure to stock up on sheets and waterproof mattress covers – you will need them.

Potty Training Boot Camp

Methods we used

  • Lots of positive reinforcement after each potty – loudly clapping, cheering, and dancing.
  • Our big take away learning was to always say “remember to tell mommy/daddy when you need to go potty” instead of asking him if he needed to go, because otherwise the question always results in a NO!
  • Give 100% of your attention during the 3 days training. Our son was never left alone and he LOVED all of that attention.
  • If you see your child about to go pee or if they have already started, get them to the potty as quick as possible and even if they went a bit in their pants, cheer and clap just like they went in the potty. And do this EVERY TIME they go.
  • Let your child hear you bragging about them going potty to anyone and everyone. It makes them feel special.

Day to Day rundown

Day 1 of the boot camp will probably be the hardest, it was for us. I personally felt completely deflated by the end, thinking he was never going to get it. But I kept positive for him, there were never any tears, anxiety or any negative feelings around going to the potty or even accidents. We decided to forgo nap time diapers, at least for the training to see how he would do. He wet the bed during nap on the first day, but he didn’t seem to be upset about it and we changed the sheets without any fuss.

Day 2 for us started off much the same as the first day, but by lunch time we started to turn a corner. He asked for the potty for the first time himself and from that point on he has had almost no accidents. He even slept through his nap without an accident. We still used diapers at night during training and for a few weeks after, but quit  by our sons request.

Day 3 for us was not done the traditional way. We had already planned to take him to his normal drop off class, and thought we should try to stick to his routine a little bit. If he hadn’t had done well at the end of Day 2, I would have reconsidered. We loaded him up with extra pants and informed the teachers about what was happening. We were also prepared to stay if they felt we needed to. We were super nervous about how this would go. Would he wet his pants and be embarrassed in front of the other kids? Would that set us back?  I was a nervous wreck. But when I picked him up he was wearing the same clothes and didn’t have any accidents. YAY! But he also didn’t go potty when he was there. He said he wanted go at home.

Post potty Training

Now that you have your little one potty trained, you might feel a little nervous to leave the house for too long or too often. Depending on your success, you might stick close to home for a few days, but stock up on some of these great potty accessories to ease your mind and get back out there!

  • Potette Potty has been invaluable when we are out and about. It  can be used on top of toilets or as its own toilet if there are none available.
  • PRI potty which is smaller and easy to carry in your purse if you no longer carry a diaper bag.
  • Piddle pad for the car seat
  • A change of clothes and a towel and a wet bag for the car

Perhaps our potty training experience was just random good luck, but I really believe it was because he was ready. I wasn’t, but he was. He was ready much earlier than I anticipated and I have friends’ who’s kids are ready much later than they had hoped. But you just have to be patient and follow their lead.

Don’t be scared to try it out occasionally in a stress free way and see how they react. If their interest increases or their awareness increases, then try to move to the next step, but my opinion is not to push it on them on your schedule or some other external schedule.

Good luck!

Posted in parenthood | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Indianisms that are hard to break

After living in a country for a long time you tend to pick up habits from the local culture. Obviously when you are in that country you don’t notice your adaptive behaviors since you are surrounded by others doing it on a daily basis. Although since moving back to the US we have slowly started to become aware of some of our “Indian-isms” that followed us here. And honestly I’m not sure that we would even want most of them to go away. But it is interesting to look up and realize all of the things that we do that those around us probably don’t do! I am sure there are many more that we had initially that have now disappeared and many that we still don’t even notice!

Food

  • Spice! We have become addicted to spice and just can’t seem to get enough of it (in the correct form).  To make up for the lack of spice in our everyday western foods, we tend to use a lot of cracked pepper or pepper flakes. Not the same obviously, but we do what we can! When we eat out, we always ask for the spiciest curry and so far we haven’t found anything we couldn’t handle. And by the way, you just can’t seem to find any real India Indian food here!DSC_8540
  • Eating with our hands. Paul eats ALL of his food with his hands (Can we really blame this on India?? I am not so sure, but I will give him the benefit of the doubt for now!) but I tend to just eat things that would be eaten with bread or roti with my hands. I find myself subconsciously putting my left hand down in my lap or away so that I only use the right even though no one here would know the difference (besides Indians).
  • Buying “western” groceries in bulk. I could only find things like black beans occasionally in India so I would buy everything on the shelf just in case they weren’t there next time. I find myself almost doing that here with things, but then have to remind myself that they WILL be there next time!
  • Going to the market. I don’t actually go to the market anymore, I go to Trader Joe’s, but that is what I say when I have to go. Not sure if I actually miss shopping at Pali Market or not :) Although I do miss my veg walla(s) – it was always so nice to see them, not have to haggle and see them pick out my staples for me. No one at Trader Joes does that for me!

Health

  • Water. Paul dries every wet dish completely because he’s worried…hmm worried about what? He forgets that he can drink tap water here and that he won’t get sick if there are a few drops of water on his glass.
  • Jala neti or the neti pot as people call it here in the US. We still do jala neti every single day. I love it and hope to never give it up! I wish everyone would do it. I know it is one of the simple things that helps keep us healthy.
  • Delhi belly. Paul always thinks he has Delhi belly because of something he ate.. well it is the food, but it is more likely to be the 8 chocolate bars that you ate today dear, not bacteria!

Household Cleaning

I guess I should preface this section by saying that more than anything I miss having a full time maid who cleaned my house SPOTLESS 6 days a week, watered my plants, fed and took care of my cats, etc.  I guess having to look after myself one day a week and during holidays took it’s toll though ;)

  • Dishes. I have a dishwasher but I still do 99% of the dishes by hand, 3 or more times a day. I just can’t seem to get into the habit of doing dishes in the dishwasher. This one is extremely weird because I didn’t really do the dishes in India, Collette did! ha.
  • Hang drying clothes. I still hang dry almost all of our clothes even though we have a great dryer that can dry things without shrinking them and at a variety of temperatures. It actually probably is better for your clothes and the electric bill, so I won’t try to change this one just yet!
  • Floors. I can never seem to get my floors as clean as they were in India. I sweep and mop at least the kitchen every single day, but it’s still not up to the standards I had in India! Can I bring Collette here to live with us? I daydream about it often!indian bobble

Language

  • The head nod. Paul still does the head nod when he speaks to anyone from India or about India. Cracks me up! I just get the accent back. The funny thing is that the Indians we do that with don’t even notice that we are foreigners doing it. Maybe they do later, but they never seem to notice at the time.
  • Hindi. I still say “jaldi jao” “bus” and “chalo” when I need to say “go fast” “enough” or “lets go”. A friend thought jaldi was Cian’s middle name the other day because I kept saying it to him. At least Cian will know a few hindi words when he grows up! For the first few months I didn’t know how to tell someone to go straight without saying “sidha”.
  • More Hindi. I will randomly start speaking in Hindi if I happen to see an Indian. I won’t actually even talk to them, but will switch to Hindi in my conversation to Paul or Cian.  Pani chahiye? (do you want water?) I see myself do it, but then I’ve already done it, so I might as well continue!
  • Repeating words. Jaldi jaldi. bus bus. This is a big India habit and I mostly only do it with Hindi words now, but sometimes I catch myself doing it in English too.
  • Indian-isms. In India things are said in a particular way and after 8 years of closing an email or letter with “Please do the needful.”, you just can’t remember how else to say it! I have not actually written any of these things, but I do have to think for quite a while how someone in America would state that. Some of our favorites: time pass, the needful, like that only, kindly revert, and out of station.

Clothing & Personal Hygiene

  • I still take off my shoes when I go into our house and almost all houses. (unless it’s super dirty at my house and then I have to put on house shoes!) Cian does this as well. People are always  shocked to see him enter a house and take his shoes off!
  • Ahh scents! I forget that I can wear perfume and scented lotions again. I couldn’t for 8 years due to the mosquitoes. Maybe now I can work my way through the massive stock I acquired through the years!DSC_3581
  • I cannot wear socks. I just hate wearing any shoes that require socks. I literally wore socks for less than 1 month every year for 8 years and that was only when I traveled to the west in the winter. Cian also seems to have acquired this habit. He can’t stand socks, except his Irish rugby socks. He also doesn’t even like wearing shoes and didn’t wear shoes consistently until he was in the US for about 4 months! (see photo) I can tell you that fellow parents did not like to see me letting him roam around shoeless. oh well!
  • Revealing Clothes. I was covered up for 8 years in India. I feel naked now if I wear a tank top that has thin straps (not even bikini straps!), wear a short skirt without leggings or wear a low neck shirt that might show cleavage!  I just can’t get over how skimpy clothes are here. Where is my burka?!
  • Kurta and leggings. This was my dress for 8 years. It was comfortable, cool and close enough to the Indian style of dress that it was appropriate. But here it is not that fashionable. Leggings are worn (incorrectly i might add!) as pants by many in LA and baggy long shirts are not in anymore sadly.  I am slowly building up my wardrobe with western clothes, but I really do miss the comfort of my kurta and leggings.
  • Shorts. Paul forgets that he is ‘allowed’ to wear shorts when ever he wants. He is so used to only wearing shorts at the beach or the pool that he forgets that in LA you can wear them to the grocery store, to the park, to Cian’s school, anywhere!

As a friend said to me yesterday, you can take Karilyn out of India, but you can’t take India out of her! It just gets under your skin and won’t let go!

I’d love to hear some Indianism’s that my other repatriated expat friends are dealing with these days. Phir Melange friends.

Posted in expats, india ramblings, mumbai | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The road to great sleep

I read an opinion article in the NY Times yesterday that discussed sleep and ADHD. I found it to be quite interesting mostly because it validated one of my long held views of how important sleep is for a healthy person. The article suggested that one possible culprit of the increase in ADHD in recent years could be due to lack of sleep. Interesting…And two, the author suggests that kids these days are just not getting enough sleep, which I totally agree with. My motto from day one (of having a child!) has been sleep begets more sleep.

OK I don’t profess to be an expert on sleep. I only know what worked for our one child. And to be completely honest, my son did not sleep  through the night consistently until he was 10 months old. But he currently, at 2.5 is the most amazing sleeper with no fuss or drama in regards to nap or bedtimes. Is it learned behavior or genetics? Can’t answer that one, but I can tell you what we did and you can test it out yourself ;)

For new parents, I often recommend the book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child which I loved. But I have found that people who are not into reading research or medical type writing don’t seem to enjoy this book as much as I did. Granted his writing style and organization of the book isn’t the easiest, but it’s the content that I found to be the most helpful and the fact that so much of it is science based. I read probably 3 or 4 sleep books and this one seemed to be closely aligned to our son’s natural sleep patterns, so we decided to follow along with many of his suggestions and philosophies.

People ask me how I got so lucky to have such a great sleeper. I don’t quite think it was all luck, although it could be partly due to good sleeping genes as both my husband and myself enjoy sleeping! In trying to think about what exactly we did do, I’ve come up with this list of what I think contributed to Cian’s good sleep habits.

  1. Swaddling. We loved swaddling, but some people just aren’t into it. We did it for every nap and sleep until our son was close to 6 months old. After he continued to break out of the swaddle, we switched to sleep sacks until he was around 2 yrs old. Some people believe that their child doesn’t really like to be swaddled. Perhaps, but I think they don’t like it because they know how effective it is! As soon as you swaddle a baby they will be out like a light. If you find they keep putting their arms out, you could try just swaddling one arm. But the point of swaddling is that it helps keep their limbs from moving around when they are asleep, thereby waking them up. And yes sometimes they will struggle when you wrap them up tightly, but stick with it and they will get it.DSC_3207
  2. Put your baby down before s/he falls asleep, when they are drowsy. This is not always easy when breast feeding, but we would try. Often our son would wake up a bit when being transferred from the breast feeding pillow to the diaper changing pad. For us, this was  good, because it enabled us to put him to bed drowsy and he was able to learn to self sooth. Occasionally we would have to pat his tummy a bit or his head just to let him know we were there and it was ok to go back to sleep. But we tried not to do this consistently so that it would create a dependency.
  3. Pay attention to your baby’s sleep signs.  At infancy, babies all have different sleep signals, so you will have to pay close attention to your baby to figure out what are the signs they show before they are sleepy. It is really important that you catch them in that perfect period before they become over tired. As long as you can do that, you will have no problems getting them to sleep and it should all be tear free (so says Dr. Weissbluth in Healthy Sleep Habits and we found the same to be true as well.) Some examples from our experiences are distant eyes, quiet lull, rubbing eyes, yawn, heavy eye lids. Now with a toddler we find that he gets hyper instead of mellow when he is becoming tired.  Along with sleep signals, I read somewhere that you have 3 yawns to get your baby to sleep. Your goal should be to get your baby ready and in bed before the third yawn! It is really important to avoid getting your child over tired. As soon as they become over tired they will cry and resist going to sleep.
  4. More sleep begets more sleep! I know some people have a hard time with this, but babies and children NEED a lot of sleep and the more sleep they get, the better sleepers they will be. At one point in my son’s early life he went to bed at 5:30 pm! We found that if he went to bed at that time he would sleep until 1 or 2 a.m. uninterrupted, whereas if I tried to wait until 7 he was over tired and would wake up every 1-2 hrs. He now goes to sleep anytime between 6:30-7:30 p.m. I prefer the earlier side, but it’s not always possible with the busy life of a toddler :)  One thing people often say is “oh we need to push bed time to 8 because otherwise we don’t get to see our child before bed”. Nope. You can wait. S/he NEEDS to go to sleep earlier. If you don’t make it home before their bed time, then you will have to just see them in the morning.  Mean I know, but whenever I hear people complain about how wild or grumpy their kid is when they come home from work in the evening all I can think is that their child probably should already be asleep. Sometimes as parents we have to sacrifice things that we want with what is best for our child. And trust me, sleep is as important as good nutrition.
  5. Don’t wake up the baby unless it is to keep to the schedule, but also don’t go out in the car between nap times knowing the baby will fall asleep in the car! I see people make this mistake all the time. “Oh I need to go to the grocery store” well if your child will sleep in the car seat, then wait until it is nap time to go and let them sleep on the way and then sleep while you push them around thDSC_6462e grocery store, but do not go when they are supposed to be awake! Use their awake time to be interactive.
  6. Create a sleep ritual and be consistent with it from the beginning. At infancy, we would feed our son, change his diaper and then swaddle him before every sleep. This ritual has pretty much stayed the same for the past 2.5 years. As Cian got older and began having regular baths his night time ritual became dinner, bath, books, sleep sack and  sleep.  Our current ritual even with a toddler looks quite similar with lunch, potty and then nap or dinner, bath, books and then bed. He knows exactly what is coming next and is ready for it without any fuss. We stick to this routine even if we are running late. We will shorten the bath or read fewer books or whatever we need to do, but this is the nightly routine. Now as a toddler, our son walks into his room, shuts the door and gets into bed himself for nap. These are the habits you want to create.
  7. Minimize the sleep aids. I always wanted our son to be a good sleeper anywhere, not just in his bedroom. So for that reason we did not prescribe to black out curtains, white noise machines, rocking chairs, swings, vibrating chairs, etc. If you can’t take it with you, then don’t do it, or at least that was my philosophy.  We have ended up having 2 sleep aids that have developed organically over time. Cian had a music box in his room that he liked to play with in his crib. Now that has become something he likes to take with him and play before he falls asleep at night. Luckily it is small enough that we can travel with it, otherwise we would have to toss it! And the second is a lovey that someone gave us. He initially used it to cover his face while sleeping (scarily enough at a young age even!) and now still likes to have it when he goes to sleep. Otherwise he doesn’t need the room to be dark, quiet or even be in his own room. As long as he has even one of those two things, he will be asleep in a flash. (And often he will go to sleep with neither because he has left one or the other in another room!) Don’t create sleep aids for your child – if they develop them on their own, then go with it, but don’t decide what you think they need.
  8. Crib. Obviously parents into co-sleeping wont agree with this, but I personally feel it’s really important that the baby gets used to sleeping by himself from the beginning. Cian slept in a co-sleeper type pack-n-play next to our bed for 7 months, but he was always in his own flat surfaced bed. He then transitioned easily into his crib and then into a toddler bed.  If they get used to sleeping next to you, or even in a swing, they are going to want to always sleep next to you or in a swing. Remember what ever habits you create now, will last for a long while!
  9. DSC_4623Don’t be quiet! Don’t feel like you need to be ultra quiet around your sleeping child. they will adapt to noise, trust me! Our son was born in India during one of the loudest festivals with bands playing all day long, fire crackers and yelling and screaming, er I mean singing! By the time he was 4 weeks old another major festival occurred with LOUD firecrackers banging up against his window for 3+ days straight. Not a peep out of him. Here (see photo) he is around 5 months old sleeping in an auto rickshaw as we did a treasure hunt around noisy Bandra. Currently his room is right next to our living room where we watch TV at night and it never ever wakes him up. Shockingly, he even sleeps through the smoke alarm that often goes off right outside his room (we have no exhaust over the stove!).
  10. Do not to over dress your child. I had heard and found it to be true myself that kids will sleep better when they are cooler. Cian always had an air conditioner running in his room in India and now without one, we adjust his clothes to the temperature so that he will sleep well.

At the end of the day, as a sleepy parent you just need to do what you have to do to get your child to sleep, but try to keep in mind that whatever habits you start your with child, you will have to either wean them from or deal with for years to come. Pacifiers, noise machines, baby swings, black out curtains, silence while they are sleeping, sippy cups, you name it. And what ever good habits you start from a young age will stay with your child through the ages (self soothing, sleeping on a hard flat surface, sleeping alone).  Sleep well!

Posted in parenthood, ramblings | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

To be or not to be…an only child

Lately I have been thinking a lot about being an only child and what it means in today’s world.  Its been on my mind more probably because we seem to get a new announcement every day from friends who had babies around the same time as we did, that they are now expecting #2.

I am an only child and for the most part I never thought much about it. Sure, growing up there were times when I was bored playing by myself and wished I had someone else around, but I also was pretty good at keeping myself occupied. I remember feeling grateful that I didn’t have to share my toys or fight with siblings.

Having to be alone a lot also helped me become very independent and adventurous even from a young age. When I was maybe 9 or 10, I found stray kittens in a drain a few streets away from my house. I would ride my bike to the nearest 7-11 to buy cat food to feed them every day. I did this for weeks before I ever told my parents! It was just one of my many adventures I had on my own.   As I got older, I was still really good at being alone. Even though I was always known as a social butterfly, I enjoyed living alone, travelling all over the world alone, having my quiet “me” time.  And this is one of life’s hardest lessons – how to be alone – and I learned it from the beginning.

And yes, here it comes, I was spoiled. I like to think that I didn’t act spoiled, but I do remember my friends coming over the day after Christmas and literally adding up the thousands of dollars my parents must have spent on me. I just thought it was normal. But, I also remember getting a barely functioning beater car when I learned how to drive. (to this day I still have never had a new car). I remember working at least 1 job, often 2 jobs since the age of 15 and while attending college full time. I remember scouring library resources looking for scholarship and loan opportunities to pay for my undergraduate and graduate tuition.  I was taught the meaning of money, and that even though I often got whatever I wanted, that life wouldn’t always be that way. As I got a little older, I would get mad at my mom for spending too much on me and would try to “spoil” her to make up for all the years she did that for me.  So somehow, even being spoiled, I learned the good lessons.

At the end of the day, I think a lot of the generalizations about only children just don’t add up.  A UT (my alma mater) researcher, Toni Faldo, actually set out to investigate the only-child experience. Faldo and Polit conducted a meta-analysis of 115 studies of only children that looked at adjustment, character, sociability, achievement and intelligence. They found that only children were not measurably (aka scientifically) different from other kids, except (along with first borns with one 1 sibling) they scored higher on measures of intelligence and achievement.  They also stated that only children tended to do better in school and have more education (probably because they are spoiled! kidding!).  Faldo also conducted a study on personality traits of only children; again she found that only children were not distinguishable from ones with siblings. So…now that the myths of only children are debunked (to read more about debunking the myths, see Lauren Sandler’s article in Time) where does that leave us?

Will the experience of being an only child be a lot different for my son than it was for me? I was the only, only child in my friend group growing up. But I also was the only one with SUPER young parents, so I was always a bit odd in comparison to my friend’s families. I look at a section (albeit getting smaller by the day) of my current friend group and see parents who had their first child much older than we did and so even if they want a #2, it isn’t necessarily a given. I also see families who seem to have chosen the only child path on purpose. So perhaps our son will have many friends who are in the same situation and won’t feel so alone in that regard.

Then again, people always tell me that our son would be a great big brother, that he would love a sibling, etc. They are probably right.  He loves babies, he is very gentle (well sometimes!), he’s good at sharing and caring for others and is super social. But he also LOVES being momma’s baby and would probably like that other baby to go home at the end of the day!

Now that I am older, I have started to wonder a bit about what it would be like to have a sibling. I do sort of wish I had someone that I could call in the middle of night no matter what. I wish that Cian had cousins from my side to spend his holidays with like I did. I spent a good deal of time with my cousins growing up, even if it was just for holidays or for short spurts. There were even times in my adult life that I was so close to my cousin’s that I considered them to be like sisters. But Cian won’t necessarily have this since his (first) cousins all live in Ireland. The grass is always greener though isn’t it?

So some days I wonder, do I need to “sacrifice” to give him a sibling? (this is the feeling I get from many people when they say why they are having #2 – they “need” to give their first a sibling).  Then I think of friends from school, who literally couldn’t stand their siblings, who I see on Facebook seemingly so loving and close.  So do I deal with upteen years of bickering and fighting just to give him the possibility of someone to lean on when he is older or to help him take care of his aging parents?  Would he be happier having a sibling or would he feel short changed that he was the star of our world for x amount of years and then all of the sudden he has to share the limelight? No clue.

Or do we keep in mind the fact that by him being an only child, we will be able to, financially and emotionally, give him the world. We can travel, we can pay for the best schools available (if necessary) and stock away money for his future education. We can support and nurture his interests, again financially and emotionally. He gets our undivided attention, not having to share it with another child (unless you take into account the screaming cats or the iphone whom he has to compete with!) and he gets many amazing and unique opportunities than he might not otherwise get with siblings.

For me it’s a toss up. And I can compose list after list and neither “side” ever really wins out. So I guess you just have to go with your gut and do what you think is best and try not to judge others for what they think is best.

Thankfully, there are a few holdouts like us out there. For now, I am content that at least one friend of mine who had her baby at the same time we did, still doesn’t seem to have baby #2 on her radar. It makes me feel less alone. Of course it would be nicer if she wasn’t on the other side of the world!

And I am sure I will continue to analyze this to death in my mind. It’s one of the few things that I wonder whether I will regret. I love being a parent and wouldn’t mind a house full of kids (who got along and slept all night!), but I also know I would regret not getting to give my kids the best of everything, which just may not be possible with more than one. So be warned, if we strike it rich, I may be adopting kids left and right ;)

Posted in ramblings | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

I finally got around to seeing this movie last night.  I found myself writing down quote after quote because it just felt like they were talking to me, about me or about where my life is right now.

“India is an assault on the senses. It’s like a wave; resist and you go under, ride it out and you arrive at the others side.” – Evelyn in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

We have so many memories wrapped up in India. I can smell diesel fuel and I think of India. I smell a slight scent of “curry” in the air and it takes me back.  Sometimes seeing or hearing a certain type of motorbike makes me think of India. I looked at a plane today and I just longed to be on it flying 24 hrs across the earth. When you get into Mumbai’s airspace, before the plane even lands you smell this smell…it’s the smell of Mumbai. It’s pollution, petrol fumes, burning plastic/trash, BO and who knows what else.. but it always was the first signal to me that I was home.

I asked Cian the other day if we should go visit India for a week or if that was too short of time. He said “too short”.  So I need to find more time to go for a visit apparently (and according to Paul, I need to find a job so I can find the money to go!).  I keep feeling that i ‘need’ to go either now for mango season or go in July before Cian starts preschool, even though it will be super rainy and wet out. But I just want to wander around Bandra/Khar in the height of summer (April -June) heat and humidity, I want to be part of the excitement of the first downpour of monsoon, I want to watch Cian stomp puddles, ride in rickshaws again, see an elephant walking down the western express highway, see our old household help Collette, Kavita and Dilip.  I want to eat Kareems and introduce Cian to all of our favorite foods (again). And most of all I don’t want Cian to forget these smells and sounds and feelings of India. He still seems to remember some things, very random things so I want to keep that as long as we can.  One of the characters in the film said he’d not been back to India for 40 years since he grew up there. That he said every year he would go back, but then looked up and it was 40 years later. I really hope that doesn’t happen to us, but I can see how easily it can happen when you don’t have actual family members living there to ‘force’ you to visit every few years.  It really was our home for so long. It is the backdrop of Paul and I’s relationship and where I became who I am today. So I hope the promise I have made to myself about getting back there as often as we can, doesn’t end up being 30+ years from now!

“All we know about the future is that it will be different. But perhaps what we fear is that it will be the same. So we must celebrate the changes.” - Evelyn

Our life right now is so different than it was last year at this time. Last year we were preparing for Paul’s green card interview and staying at a friend’s place for our last few weeks in India.  I still feel that our decision to come back was the right one and was for the best, and now that we are totally immersed into LA life, it feels like home. Crazy how that can happen so quickly.  I do find myself thinking every day how lucky we are to be where we are now, that the changes that have occurred are immense and so positive. So we will continue to celebrate the changes and how different life is today than it was 1 year ago. but at the same time I can still reminisce about our nomadic life and the craziness of living in India, which leads me to the next quote I wrote down…

“There is no past that we can bring back by longing for it. Only a present that builds and creates itself as the past withdraws.”  - Evelyn

This is something that I think I really needed to hear since I have been longing so much for India in the past few weeks. Not that I want to move back there or bring back that life, I just miss it and so many aspects of life there. This is the danger of being an expat – you find so many amazing things about the different places you live that you try to figure out ways to bring them all together and I’m not sure you really can. We are working on it, but i’m not sure what the end result will really be. We are in LA building our present, clinging on to aspects of our past with the hope that our future is a wonderfully complex and complete international landscape that bridges our time in India with our time here in the US and with Paul’s Irish heritage. An international balancing act!

Evelyn: ”Nothing here has worked out quite as I expected.” Muriel: “Most things don’t. But sometimes what happens instead is the good stuff.”

This has been life since we left India or even since we decided to leave India. If India taught me anything, it’s that life will work out the way it’s meant to. And as stressful as it is to go through trials and tribulations, it will all work out in the end, and if its not worked out, then you know it’s not the end (another quintessential India and Best Exotic Marigold Hotel quote). And really you have to be able to look at the bright side of things, which we do try to do every day (sometimes after we pout and wallow in self pity for a bit ;) )

India becomes part of your soul. I always heard that you either love it or hate it and usually both at the same time. It is true. India is a country of contradictions, of assaults on your senses and sensibilities and it teaches you something every day about what life really is. I miss those aspects of India. It’s too easy to live in a bubble here and forget the realities of the world, the suffering and sadness as well as extreme happiness especially in people who have very little.  India will always be a big part of who we are, but for today I will “enjoy all the pleasures of not being in India” (as a friend told me the other day.).

Posted in expats, india ramblings, mumbai, mumbai musings, ramblings | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

All about the points

If you are around me very much you will surely hear me talk about “the points”.  I am a total Weight Watchers convert. We did it in India after I had Cian and I lost 30lbs and Paul lost 50lbs. Granted, we also had a personal trainer and worked out 3-5 days a week, but the crux of it all was WW. It also helped us completely change our eating habits. We almost never ate fruits or vegetables before WW (besides potatoes), but now every meal we have is at least 50% fruit or vegetables.

When we moved back to the US we had unfettered access to TONS of fatty foods and restaurants that we had missed for years. The pounds piled on quickly as they do these days. So we finally buckled down after Thanksgiving and got back on the program. My initial goal was to lose 20 lbs before the 3 month WW “trial” was up. I made a deal with myself that if I managed that, I would continue with the program through the year and see if I could shed all of the weight I put on in my 8 years in India.  It has been 4 months and I have lost more than 20+ lbs so far with a few setbacks around the holidays and my birthday. But overall i am quite pleased with the progress…and this is without doing much exercise. I know if I get busy on the treadmill, the pounds will shed a bit quicker… but one day at a time is all I can manage for now!

In India we only managed to do the program consistently for about 4 months before we starting loosing our way. I realized the same thing was happening to us again here.   I think it is boredom. We eat the same foods over and over again with little variation. A throw back to our days in India I am sure when we didn’t have wide access to a variety of foods.  But this time, we have a new weapon, enter: Skinnytaste.com.  I am in love with this website and so far everything I have made has been excellent. All of her recipes have the WW points plus values already listed, so I know in advance if I should even look at the recipe! It has been really great adding variety to our diet and in getting me (and everyone here) to try new things and giving me a little excitement in the kitchen trying out new recipes.

If you have an iphone/ipod/ipad you can download the app ziplist which connects with skinnytaste.com (and many other food websites) to save your recipes and produce shopping lists. I wish this app had the ability to share recipes with other ziplist users – I would be adding people left and right!

I have also been trying to mix up our breakfast routines with smoothies, some of which come from my friend Jaime’s instagram posts or from her recent article on Babble.   I usually alter the smoothie’s just a bit to make sure I have the least amount of points as I can manage without ruining the taste or “fullness” quotient. I try not to exceed 4-5 points for breakfast. Our most recent “Jaime smoothie” as we call it,  was the peaches n cream smoothie from her babble article. I took out the honey and added a banana instead and also left out the antioxidant powder because that added another 2 points.   Everyone here loved it. Maybe next time I will take out the flax seed and try the antioxidant powder. Choices choices.

I also try to keep lunch around 4-5 points so that I can have a more filling dinner. Since I don’t eat much meat, it makes it harder to find recipes that aren’t high in points, but offer good “value” for fullness.  So here we go back to my love of Skinnytaste – today we made Gina’s Mayo-less tuna salad which was pretty great. Although I do have to say that I didn’t feel as full as I would from some of my regular lunchtime meals. I think the way it is, is perfect for a party or as a pot luck dish. It is 7+ points, which is on the higher side for lunch. But it sure was good!

And tonight we had an entire Gina meal – Bangin Grilled Shrimp with Skinny Buttermilk Mashed potatoes (our first potatoes in MONTHS!) and Roasted Parmesan Green Beans. All of these flavors might not have been the best together, but each individual dish was EXCELLENT! Seriously I’m in love and cannot wait for her cookbook to come out next year.

 And just to keep sharing the love, our other favorite dishes from Gina so far are:

  • Thai green curry shrimp. At the end before serving, I mix in some steamed broccoli and carrots as well just to add a bit more ‘weight’ to the dish.
  • Butternut Squash and Leek Spaghetti. This is my favorite favorite so far. I always want to cook with butternut squash, but never do for some reason. I love that I can buy pre-cut packets of it at trader joes (and the local Albertsons) which makes this an easy quick dinner that everyone enjoys. Luckily I have sage growing in the yard, so I don’t’ have to worry about getting other ingredients. Also a good trick is to keep frozen leeks in your freezer so all you need to pick up at the shop is the squash.
  • Cheesy Spaghetti squash. This was my first time making spaghetti squash. Gina’s instructions were great and easy to follow. My only recommendation on this one would be to strain and wring out the spaghetti strands before mixing it with the cheesy sauce. It was a little watery when hot and when we reheated it for left overs.

I could probably ramble on for ages about all of the new meals we are trying, but that should get you all started for now. Happy Eating!

Posted in food | Tagged | Leave a comment

RIP Kuldeep

How is it that some things just hit you so hard. I’ve been trying to write a few posts on our repatriation experiences and just now I get an email from a friend telling me that a sweet sweet boy we had known has died. He was HIV positive and was left as a small child to crumble away in a government hospital. I cant remember exactly how he found his was to Nareshwadi, a rural boarding school my friend Stacie was working with, but thankfully he did. She was doing a health program there and after multiple illnesses it was discovered that Kuldeep was HIV+. I remember doing so much research on kids with HIV and how we could help this little boy. I had no affiliation to Nareshwadi, but this little boy just melted my heart.
DSC_7425
It was January 2008 and Kuldeep was at KJ Somaiya hospital. I don’t remember what exactly was wrong with him, but he was sick and the hospital didn’t have the medication he needed (I vaguely recall that it was adrenaline), so Stacie myself and Paul drove all over Mumbai from chemist to chemist looking for this medication. All I remember is that he would die if he didn’t have it. No one else seemed to be that bothered, but we couldn’t stomach the thought of him needing this medicine and not having it. We finally found it at a chemist on the other side of town. Stacie was driving her boyfriend’s car and it was crazy traffic because of some festival perhaps. We all felt this great sense of urgency, but no one else in the whole of Mumbai felt it and they just carried on with their day. That’s how life was in Mumbai. Life just went on, no matter what. People live and die every single day there and to the city, it was no great cause for rushing.

It breaks my heart that he didn’t win his battle. He was doing so well and thriving at the school. I could barely recognize him in a recent photo. I don’t know the story about how he died or what happened, but at least I know that he did get an extra 5 years since that day in the hospital where he melted my heart.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

New Start

It has been WAY too long since my last post and instead of trying to rehash everything that has happened in the last year and a half, I think I will just start anew.  As most of you know, we decided to leave India after 8+ years (10 for my husband) when a few things came together at once and it ended up being a pretty quick decision. We raced through the green card process, got the cats ready for their travel and shipped all of our belongings and set off to a new life in America. We started in San Francisco, then to Oakland, then to LA where we have now been settled for the last 8 months. What a transition. I wish I would have written all these months because it was not always easy and I’m sure the information could have been useful to others moving from abroad, but for now I will just focus on life here in LA.

Family portrait, carsland @ California adventure

We are having a great time in LA. We are finding our groove and spend as much of our free time exploring this massive city as we can. We are doing things we never could do in India – going on hikes, playing in parks, going to Disneyland, exploring cultural areas of LA and just being perpetual tourists! But man do I miss the elephants and cows walking along the roads and the totally normal to us, but insane to the rest of the world weekend getaways in palaces and beach huts. Onwards and upwards to new adventures!

I have no idea what this blog will turn into now, but I plan to use it to share about all of our adventures here in LA and wherever life takes us, share about our journey in parenthood and who knows what else!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

1 year is complete!

Wow. I can’t believe I have survived the 1st year. Yeah! Congrats to me! haha. I am not sure why we give the baby so many presents for the first year of life.. I think all of the love and adoration should be given to the mommas and pappas. Its tough making that transition to parenthood, figuring out your new roles, schedules, lack of sleep, organized meals, etc.  So we are ecstatic that we made it.

And it hasn’t been all easy. But I am so grateful for the wonderful friends I have here in Mumbai who have been such wonderful lifelines. I couldn’t have done it without them for sure. And my online mom’s group has been amazing – doctors when i need them, mommies who have been there done that (recently!), inspiration to try new things, courage to do what i believe is best and not what others say i should do, and most of all, encouragement that i can do it all! And of course our families have been great – they are so far away, but being able to share all of Cian’s milestones over skype on an almost daily basis has been great as well. Thank goodness for Skype!!

And Cian.. what a first year for him! He has been on 22 flights, has been in 6 countries (including India), has been to the beach, has been to Indian’s holiest river, has been to two weddings, has been to Ireland twice and the US once. He’s had 4 international visitors to Mumbai. He is definitely an international baby!  He has friends all over the world and here in Mumbai he has an international set of friends who he adores.

And now on his first birthday, he celebrated internationally too – we did our first video conference call with my mom and paul’s parents. We didn’t want anyone to miss seeing Cian’s first cake and candle, so this was our solution. it worked pretty well actually! And we managed to also video it – which will be uploaded on the video page shortly.

He’s a busy little bee at 1 years old. His current schedule is playgroup on Monday with about 15-20 kids ranging from birth to 4, Indian music class on Tue, soon to be swimming as well, western music class on wed, just a casual friends meetup on thur and gym class on friday followed by another play group with all the 2010-2011 babies in Bandra. Wheew. He’s a busy boy!

Our favorite memories of the year —

  • all of baby led weaning (BLW). We all survived BLW and it seems to have been great for all of us. People are still shocked to see that Cian’s favorite foods are tofu, broccoli, asparagus, zucchini, etc. maybe he’s just not a fussy eater, or maybe exposing him to so many of these fresh veggies first was the best thing to do. Who knows, but we just hope that his good eating habits stick around!
  • taking a 4.5 month old Cian on a rickshaw treasure hunt around Bandra
  • Cian wearing traditional Indian clothes at Kevin & Tj’s wedding
  • Going to the beach for the first time
  • Going swimming
  • watching him play with his best little friends Isla & Martha
  • laughing – his new ‘trick’ that is just hilarious!
Anyway.. i’m his mom, so I can go on and on about all the adorable things he does, but that is good for now.
its been such an amazing year – challenging in so many ways, but so rewarding too that we can’t wait to see what craziness comes from the land of toddlers!
Happy Birthday Cian!

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment