Sunday, September 9, 2012

Cookbooks

So, as I have said before, I love cooking. I read about it, try different techniques and watch cooking shows. Of course, with everything else going on now, I have had much less time than I would like. However, my all-time favorite cooking shows, recipes etc. come from America's Test Kichen. I subscribe to both Cook's Illustrated and Cook's Country. Their recipes are foolproof and scientifically tested and diverse. So I just bought two of their cookbooks - Slow Cooker Revolution (http://www.cooksillustrated.com/bookstore/detail.asp?PID=489) and The Cook's Illustrated Cookbook (http://www.cooksillustrated.com/bookstore/detail.asp?PID=506). I have not recieved them yet but I am very excited. The slow cooker one has 200 slow cooker recipes which is great because I feel that slow cooker recipes are either bland or too similar to each other. But this one has slow cooker entre├ęs as well as desserts and I trust their recipes will not be bland. The second has a mammoth 2000 recipes of all types. If you have the Joy of Cooking, it seems to be a compilation on that level. It will be an indispensable resource.

How do you decide what cookbooks to buy? Do people even buy cookbooks any more? Or do they get all their recipes online? I love cookbooks but usually buy themed ones - healthy dinners, Indian food etc. But these promise to be so much superior!!! Any favorite cookbooks that you want to share?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Update on our Summer

Mira Bella Lindskog was born on May 29th at 4:02pm. Her birth story is long and complicated and too much for me to write now (I am sacrificing my two precious hours of sleep to write this). She came 9 weeks early (the day after Memorial Day). Why I went into labor so early is still a mystery. She spent 6 weeks in the NICU. Walking out of the hospital without her was the hardest thing to do. For the 6 weeks she was in the NICU, Gregg and I were effectively a single parent household. Mira had one parent in the hospital with her while Asha had the other. The best part of our days were holding her in the NICU and the worst ones were when she would stop breathing (usually during feeding) and go limp and blue. Gregg and I got so good at bringing her out of it that the nurses would simply come and stand quietly behind us when her alarms went off.

Mira came home on July 9th on a heart monitor. They diagnosed her with severe GERD which they conjectured was causing her to stop breathing. Our schedule is easier now that we are not frantically driving back and forth from the hospital. Mira does have a lot of issues - low red and white blood cell counts, GERD, apnea etc. We are swamped with doctor's appointments - to a pulmonologist, a hematologist, an opthamologist and a GI. Oh and her regular pediatrician too!!! She is not really allowed out of the house except for these appointments due to her compromised immune system and susceptability to germs. Life inside the house is made more difficult by the fact that she has to be near an outlet at all times to keep her monitor plugged in. This limits our mobility and makes simple things like cooking and diaper changes difficult. In addition, she eats about 2oz every 2 hours, day and night, and so Gregg and I average about 3-4 hours sleep every 24 hour period. Our oldest, however, is sleeping 9:30pm-5:30am - problem is, we have been up most of the night when she gets up and her nap is a total of 30 minutes. The last couple of nights Mira has eaten 3oz every 3 hours and we hope this trend continues.

Asha has adjusted to Mira fabulously. She wakes up excited to see the "baby". Any noise from the baby and she runs to inform her parents. She kisses and hugs her. We have to watch out for over-enthusiasm - she tries to share food with her by stuffing it in her mouth, tries to give her the pacifier and pick her up. There is a 19 month age gap between the two. Asha also LOVES Gymboree and we have been trying to take her there every day. Her language is coming along well. I will write her 2-year update in a few weeks.

The new semester is coming up. Asha will go to daycare for 5 hour/day. Gregg and I coordinated our schedules so we can hand Mira back and forth. This is when I am to apply for tenure. How I will do that, I do not know. The file is due November 1st. So...a lot of stress. But all said and done, we are just hoping and praying that Mira continues on the mend and that slowly we can get rid of the monitor and the 5 meds she is on for GERD.

What a summer!!!!!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Pre-School

I cannot believe I am writing about this but it seems the right time to research pre-schools for Asha. She will not actually go till Fall 2013 because she will only be 22 months in the fall of this year. So by the time she goes to pre-school, she will be around 2 years and 10 months. Is this too late? I have so many questions about pre-school. I have been looking at the ones around here and some cost almost $7000 for the year (5 days/week, 2.5 hours/day). This seems like an awful lot of money. On top of that, does she really need to go every day or is 2-3 days/week a better option? Is the Montessori method the best? Should we choose a pre-school that feeds into the kindergarten she will be attending? Is that more important than the type of education she gets there? How did you make (or plan to make) your pre-school decisions? At what age would you send your baby? How much is too much to pay? This is all happening too fast!!!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Asha's 18 Month Update



I cannot believe Asha is already 18 months old. On one hand, I still think of her as being a baby while on the other, she is doing so much she did not before. In some ways, I feel relieved because at least, she is becoming a little more independent. Plus, it took her so long to sleep through the night etc. that I really do not regret not getting up twice a night for 11 months. But she seems so much older now and I cannot believe it.

Motor Skills

She is a little too good in this area. She climbs up on the dining table chairs routinely and has fallen off more than once. She got a concussion while playing with Giggs. Thankfully there was no internal bleeding though it did lead to a 5-hour ER visit and a lot of throwing up. She runs everywhere and will not hold anyone's hand. She is trying to walk down stairs now instead of crawling backwards as she used to do. Asha loves activity and so she goes to the parks and swings a lot. Otherwise, a sure cure for ennui is letting her play in the backyard. We used to take her for walks but it became nearly impossible because she refuses to hold our hand and goes up to stranger's cars or up their sidewalks. So we only go to the backyard now - never the front. She is now able to put on her shoes by herself - though she occasionally gets it on the wrong foot. Unfortunately, she has been trying to climb out of the crib but fortunately, she is not tall enough yet. I really do not want to transition her to a toddler bed till she is at least 26-28 months.

Verbal Skills and Comprehension

This is the area where I worry about Asha. But in the past 2 months, she has been picking up words and using them within context. Here are some of her favorites: please (said as peas), hi, bye, mommy, daddy, Giggs, eat, up, hot, mine and home. In addition, on occasion, she will say morning, night, baby (I am trying to introduce her to the idea of the baby), out, pretty and hello. She says her name (according to her, it is Aga) and that of her favorite tv show character - a little boy called Calliou. In the past few days, she has even started saying a few phrases like "Hi Daddy" and "Bye Mommy" and her current favorite "Eat please". I was so worried about her that I got her tested but the specialist said that they look for at least 15 words at this age and since she has more than that, there is no cause for concern. Plus, her comprehension skills are fine - she knows and obeys 2-step commands without gestures and knows the names of most household objects. That helped me a little though I am still a little concerned.

Sleep 

This one is tricky - it changes so much. At present, she sleeps from 9pm-6am and then takes an hour-long nap during the day. I don't think this is enough sleep because she also routinely takes one catnap in the car when I drop her off to daycare. But she seems happy with this. I have tried moving her bedtime to 8:30pm but she invariably gets up at 5:30am and that is too early for me. I have been trying to keep her in her crib till at least 6:15am but that is hit or miss as she tends to shout Mommy or Daddy so loudly that it renders sleep/relaxation moot. Though I get up with her most mornings, Gregg has found he cannot sleep in either. We have a ritual - I help her out of the crib and she cuddles with me in the glider for a couple of minutes. Then I let her down and she runs out to our bedroom, stands next to our bed and screams "Daddy" until Gregg lifts her into bed. Then she cuddles with him and plays on our bed for about 10 minutes till he gets up and carries her to her changing table and then I change her diaper. I have tried shutting our bedroom door to let Gregg sleep but then she simply knocks and cries till he opens it. So it is a 6am wake time for us all.

Play

Technology!! She is clearly her mother's daughter in her love of Apple products - iPhones, iPods, iPads etc. As long as she is given one of those, tantrums end in a jiffy. The problem is that I do not believe in rewarding tantrums. So, she only gets to play with the iPod if she has been good. Sometimes, Gregg lets her watch her cartoon on his iPod while he watches sports. However, she can unlock them all. She also operates the tv like a pro - using one remote to turn it on and another to change channels, volume etc.

Her favorite toys remain things that make noises, sing or light up. Still no interest in dolls. I have been trying to get her interested as people said it would help her adjust to the new baby but she takes them and swings them by their hair!!! Not a good start. Her concentration span for books seems to have decreased too, so we are trying to read to her more but in shorter bursts. Her favorite books now are ones that come with musical buttons on the side which you can press during the story. She also has a book of songs where you can press buttons to hear the song and it comes with little sticks that act like drums when you strike the book with it. She loves that book. She also loves playing with household objects - forks, spoons, bowls, blankets etc. In fact, we prevent her from entering the kitchen now precisely because she got into every drawer in there (breaking the supposedly child-proof locks we installed).

Her favorite tv show is one called Calliou - on PBS. Her friend in daycare likes it and that is how she started watching it. It is about a 4 year old boy and she loves it!! I have multiple videos of her singing (or chanting or screaming) the tune and dancing to the opening song. However, this has triggered a new hassle for us. Till now, tv was not for her. But now, whenever she is bored or cranky, she will shout "Calliou" demanding her show. So we have had to institute new rules. First, no tv till she has been awake about an hour. I read somewhere that kids tend to wake up earlier if thy think they can watch tv immediately and we have enough issues with her sleep. Second, no more than a 15-20 minute segment at a time. We try to limit to 2-3 such segments/ day but I still worry that this is too much tv. How much tv do your kids watch - including your shows and theirs?

The truth is that Asha prefers running outside in the backyard or being physically active to playing with toys. She also needs an outing at least once a day - otherwise, she gets very fussy. I am considering joining Gymboree music classes for the summer since she loves to dance to any music. Any other suggestions? What do you do with your toddlers all day?

Food

This has been very difficult lately. Asha seems to go through phases - sometimes she will try everything and sometimes, she refuses everything. For the past 3 weeks, she will only eat 3 things: oatmeal, yogurt and apple sauce. Yet, before that, she was eating everything from asparagus to aioli. I do not know what has caused this change but it is very difficult to deal with. She still likes bread but even rice and pasta is leading to tantrums. Bananas, her favorite fruit, have also been rejected. I am really concerned about nutrition - yogurt and apple sauce and oatmeal are not bad for you but some more fruit and definitely some vegetables are so necessary for her. Any suggestions on how to combat this? I have tried everything - hiding stuff in apple sauce or yogurt, pureeing, mashing, but if there is a whiff of a different taste, she refuses a single bite.

To make matters worse, even what she does eat is very time-consuming to make. For instance, the only bread she will eat is the home-made French loaves that Gregg makes. I bought a loaf of "artisan" freshly baked bread from the store and she rejected it. The only other food which she eats occasionally is rice and beans. I have been cutting vegetables into miniscule pieces and throwing it in and she will eat that. Problem is that she refuses to eat rice and beans unless I make it from scratch with dry beans and fresh (not frozen) vegetables. Canned beans are rejected. Of course, like all kids, she never rejects french fries. She will reject chicken nuggets (though she seems to like them generally) but never ever french fries. She also loves ice cream and we take her out to get ice cream once a week or every 10 days as a treat. We do not keep ice cream in the house anymore because I refuse to let Gregg have any since it makes her sad to not share. In fact, Asha far prefers eating off our plates than her own - one of my rituals with her on most mornings is to curl up on the couch, break a potato chip into teeny pieces, and then eat it very slowly while cuddling. And, yes, I am a bad mommy to introduce her to potato chips this early - but I love the cuddle time. 

Personality

Well, Asha continues to be a determined person. She is friends with a 2 year old boy who is in daycare with her. The problem is that she wants to do everything he does and gets extremely frustrated if she cannot imitate him. In fact, this is the key problem with her - she wants to do stuff which are too advanced for her and gets very upset when she cannot; lots of her tantrums start that way.

She can be stubborn but finding language and our implementation of certain discipline techniques have helped. We have realized that you cannot simply take something from her hand or forbid her to do something. She prefers an explanation for everything - though she does not understand it, it calms her down.

On the other hand, she is very sociable and happy. Tantrums in public only happen if we are walking in the front yard. She loves watching people and since she learnt hi and bye, she says it to every stranger in the grocery store. Taking her out is not a problem - it is getting her back into the car that is the issue. We took her to a childrens' museum near our house. She loved it but spent the entire time going up to other children (even 5 year olds) and trying to play with them. Then when we tried to get her out of there, she completely lost it and kicked and screamed the whole time. She even threw herself on the sidewalk and cried. We ended up taking her out for burgers and fries and though she refused the burgers, the fries placated her.

On the whole, Asha is so demonstrative now. She gives us actual kisses (not the doggy licks anymore) and in a good mood, will hand out kisses like candy on Halloween. She can communicate when she is hungry or thirsty or wants help with something. It really makes things much easier. Running in the yard will cheer her up. I cannot believe how much she has grown and how much easier it has gotten. People say that each stage of a child's life is a challenge for the parents and I get that, but it is undeniable that being able to communicate with your child makes life easier. I love you more each day Asha - and each day I think it is impossible to love you more than I do.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Major Decisions

For over a year now, I have been eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship. This has caused some soul-searching for me.To me, an application for citizenship has to be for the right reasons. I know people who want U.S. citizenship because it would help them apply for their family members or because they think they can get a better, government job or some other reason. In some cases, these people do not seem to have even assimilated into American society - and they do not want to. They want the benefits of citizenship without the burdens of it.

Certainly, I do not "need" to be an U.S. citizen. I am happy with my job and I have no family members that I want to sponsor. I certainly have no intention of running for office!! But I have been living here for the past 13 years (almost) and I do feel strongly attached. I have tried to assimilate - on a merely superficial level, anyone who sees my attachment to burgers, fries, apple pie and baseball can attest to that. I would love to be able to vote. Most importantly, I have one American daughter with another on the way.

Of course, there are aspects of myself which I cannot change. I still love Indian food - goat meat and all!! I do not understand the American obsession with high school drama/movies like The Breakfast Club(or is this just Gregg)? I think cheerleaders should be removed from all sports (Indian sports have adopted them too but there is more of a social outcry in India against this practice). But in most things, I have either adapted to or joyfully adopted this country's practices.

The second issue is: should we get a lawyer? For the green cards, we did - both times.And it cost us about $ 12000 overall (including the fees to the government).This was for a very easy straightforward application. (We really should fix the immigration system but that is another post).This time we have decided against it.The process itself costs $680 and we cannot afford more for a lawyer. I will do the paperwork myself.After all, I have never done anything illegal, I have a decent moral character (this is actually a requirement), I pay taxes and do not even have a traffic ticket. Gregg says this may be a stupid decision but I really do not want a lawyer this time. It is way too expensive with a second kid on the way.

This decision to apply for citizenship brings another question - should I change my last name? When we got married, I decided against it for a number of reasons - I was also starting a new job, I needed to apply for a green card and a name change would complicate the paperwork, the idea of changing my name on bank accounts, credit cards, passport, visa etc was daunting...
Then Asha was born and in the hospital, babies are given their mother's last name. So, her hospital bracelet and crib said "Baby Bagchi". For some reason, this seemed to annoy Gregg a lot which I could not understand.What's in a name after all? Then she came home and her official name of course is Lindskog. Now I know why it annoyed Gregg. Not having the same last name as your child is complicated. It seems to distance you from her when you are in public. I do not like it any more than Gregg did. So I have decided to take this chance to change my name.You have that option when you get citizenship and I will take it. It is certainly cheaper and less time consuming this way.

So, two big decisions rolled into one.The entire process takes about 6-12 months. I will update about it as I go through it.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Technology Issue

A very exciting development occurred recently – I got an iPad!! No, I did not pay for the new one – this is for the purposes of teaching. Gregg has had one for a while but I never had my own. I have been trying to be more productive and not having to haul my laptop around has certainly helped a person who already carries a massive bag, a diaper bag and frequently a child and a half!! But the minor problem has been that my home laptop and school computer are both PCs while the iPad and my phone are not. So the question has been – how can I work from both a PC and an iPad? iPads lack MS Office and powerpoint. Thus far, I have found Dropbox and an app called Documents to Go Premium that supposedly work together very well. However, I have not found the courage to pay the $17 that the latter needs. Nor the $20 that people recommend for QuickOffice. Instead I got the free app Onlive Desktop and am using it for now.  Any suggestions anyone? Have you worked with any of these products? Do you have an iPad app you would suggest?

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Discipline

Everyone says that toddlers go through the "terrible twos." I always assumed that this started when the kid was around two years old. Asha, on the other hand, seems to have started her tantrums at around 13 months. At first we tried placating her. Then some gentle scolding. But it did not work. Finally, we took to reading everything we found on whining and tantrums. In the last couple of weeks, our discipline method seems to be working - finally!!

This is what we do. Unless she is doing something that can hurt her, we try not to raise our voice. We firmly say "no" but without yelling. Often this requires us to get down to her level and force her to look at us while we say it, otherwise she would just ignore us and keep going. When she is at the "throw myself on the ground and cry" stage of a tantrum, we merely walk away. If this happens in public, we remove her from the situation immediately. And if she insists on repeating the bad behavior more than three times, we put her in timeout - for about a minute. All of this without yelling. After she calms down, we try to sit her down and explain the reasons for our actions.

Consistency seems to be key here. Repeat, repeat, repeat!!! We also let her make her own choices on things which are not important to us and we have Asha-proofed the house in a way that minimizes conflict (as Gregg says, there is baby-proofing and then there is Asha-proofing). This includes removing almost all furniture except a couch from our living room.

This style has been working (we think and hope). But it is exhausting. It requires constant attention and certainly cannot be done while looking up from a book or from making dinner. At the end of even a good day, I wish there was an easier way. But Gregg has been reading a book called Bringing Up Bebe (I just started it) and we do like some of the precepts in it very much - some, not all!! I will write more about it when I am done with it but one of the main points it makes is that children have to be family-centric instead of parents being kid-centric. In other words, if children are taught that they are the center of the universe (not in the emotional sense but in the sense that everyone will drop everything for their momentary gratification), they will behave accordingly. If they are taught that they are all part of a mutually supportive family, they will also tailor their behavior to that expectation. Therefore, the French apparently think less about "discipline" and more about "education" broadly conceived.

Do your kids whine or throw tantrums? How often? How do you handle it?