Friday, October 28, 2011

Asha at ONE YEAR!!!!!

I really have no idea where the time goes. I just managed to write her 9-month update and it seems that the next day I have to write her one year update. I cannot believe that she is a toddler. I would like to say that I deliberately skipped her 10 and 11 month updates but it would be untrue. However, I do not regret it much because now I think I will start spacing her updates apart a little more.

Motor Skills

Though she is not walking yet, Asha spends more time on her feet, holding on to furniture or even balancing without help for a minute or two at a time. She usually takes one step and then sits down. She is a master at crawling up to tables, pulling herself up and then proceeding to take everything off it and throwing it on the floor. She can also crawl all the way up the stairs now which scares me. She has also been picking lint off the floor or our clothes and putting it into her mouth. That should tell you all you need to know about the condition of our house. Asha continues to be fiercely independent and refuses all help in walking. If you try to take her hands and make her walk, she will shove your hand away and sit down.

Her fine motor skills are amazing. She picks up the tiniest objects (and usually puts them in her mouth). She is great at manipulating toys and has been playing more complex games lately. She has been clapping and waving lately (for about a month). She will clap if you say "Clap" and wave if you say "Hi" and "Bye-bye".

Verbal Skills and Comprehension

Asha clearly has “mama” down in terms of saying it. She has said “dada” a few times, “baba” a lot more and recently “gigi” or “gaga”. The weirdest thing is that she mostly says “gigi” when she is trying to play with Giggs. Though she has uttered it in his absence, I am convinced she is trying to say his name because she mostly says it around him. She will be super vocal for a while and then stop. Now she is testing different pitches and inflections which include everything from a questioning voice to ear-splitting screams.

She understands a lot more than she did before. Now she knows her cereal and will get it for you if you ask. She also understands (and usually obeys) “Give it to me” and “Put it back”. She will touch your nose if you ask her “Where’s my nose?” though she refuses to touch her own nose.


What can I say? We finally phased out her middle-of-the-night bottle – doing it gently over 7 nights. We did this just after she turned 10 months. We had hoped things would get better but she was still getting up once (on a good night) and twice every other night. She would stay up for about an hour each time. She sat in her crib, chewed on it (we have crib teether guards on all sides), played with a toy for a few minutes, then cried till we went in and soothed her. This would go on for an hour. Then she went to sleep.

In desperation, at about 10.5 months, I started cutting down on the rocking before bedtime. Usually she needs about 15 minutes of rocking and a bottle to get drowsy. She is always put into bed awake but I thought maybe she should be less drowsy than she is. So I started rocking her for no more than 10 minutes and putting her down. It took about 15 minutes of screaming but then she passed out. Well, I don’t know if that did it or whether it was no more bottle at night, but she has slept through the night since then. I am praying that I am not jinxing myself here. She goes to bed around 9:30pm and gets up around 5:30am for the day. That is the weirdest thing about her. I have heard that babies get up around the same time, no matter what time they go to sleep. That is absolutely not true for her. She has an 8 hour body clock. Put her down at 9:30pm and she is up at 5:30am. Put her down at 8pm and she is up at 4:00am. You could set the clock by her.

In exchange for sleeping through the night, she has started taking two naps of an hour each. Not enough time to get anything done but oh well!!! I will take it – sleeping through the night is so much more important to me. Now that we have mastered that, I am working on making her stay in bed till 6am. Even if she wakes at 5:30am, I would like to get out of bed and have a cup of coffee before we start the day. So, I want her to stay in bed till 6am. That is not going very well but I am working on it.


Certainly, her play has become more complicated. She has started nesting her stacking bowls and cups. She is also imitating a lot more. Gregg’s mom bought her a teapot and teacups and she imitates drinking tea from the cups – and then starting chewing on the teacups. But it is so cute. She also takes my coffee mug after I finish drinking coffee from it every morning and tries to drink from it. Since it is one of those latte mugs, her manipulation of it is not great but it is funny to watch. Unfortunately, her favorite toys are everything she should not have – our books, Giggs’ leash, shoes etc. Slapping the TV is also high on her list as is banging on tables, chairs etc.

Reading remains something she enjoys. We read to her every night and at least once a day if not more. When we let her crawl around in her room, she usually goes to the table or bookshelf, pulls down the books and flips through each for a few seconds at a time.

Taking her to restaurants is something we have been doing since she was 5 months old. But it requires a lot of prep. She is never still or quiet and will bang on the table the entire time we are there. So, we need toys, bottles and extra straws to keep her busy. I refuse to only go to “family” restaurants since the quality of food is always worse there. My favorite experience was taking her to a tea room. She wanted to play with the teapot and teacups since they look like her toys. But imagine a baby with china!!!! It was a whirlwind experience keeping things out of her reach.

Dancing is also a favorite activity. We do not let her watch TV but Gregg usually keeps a game on after 7pm. Well, one day, Gregg and I were too tired to resist and we put on an episode of the Big Bang Theory (we just started watching this show). To our amusement, Asha started dancing to the theme song. Since then we play it often (just the song, not the show) and she dances to it every time. It is adorable!!!


She got her first tooth FINALLY. That was a terrible experience – crankiness upped about 10 times for a few days. This tooth finally popped when she was 10 months old. I was so relieved. I thought she was going to be one of those babies who are toothless on her first birthday. Since then, it seems as if she has not stopped teething. FIVE more teeth have popped out in the last two months. After her first tooth came out, I would always say to her, “Time to go brush your tooth!!” Cannot say that anymore. I will miss her toothless smile though.

Eating has been a disaster. She has been pickier and pickier. Yogurt and bananas are her staples. The only other things she eats are oatmeal and mac and cheese. But of course she will not eat just any mac and cheese. She ONLY likes Kraft Homestyle – the one with bread crumbs etc. She hates even juice – we tried grape juice once and she dribbled it out of her mouth. She likes the banana cookies made by Gerber and animal crackers and Gerber cereal. One of the things she does which I love is that she tries to feed you her food. While she is playing with her food and frequently throwing it on the ground for Giggs, you can go up to her and say, “May I have some?” She takes a piece and extends it towards you and will try to put it in your mouth. Giggs has taken to sitting beneath her high chair as she feeds him anything on her plate. I still have to feed her since she never eats anything when  left on her own.    


As I said, she is fiercely independent and active. She does not stop for a minute and is very easily bored. I am sure most toddlers are this way. However, what bothers me is that the tantrums have already started. Just take away something she is not supposed to have and it leads to screaming, crying and even hitting. The hitting and scratching started a month ago and she tries to do it whenever she is upset. The first time she did it, I was nonplussed. I must admit, I was also very angry. But after reading up on this behavior, this is what I do. I hold her hands to prevent her hitting and say, “No Asha, do not hit. It is very naughty to hit.” Then I redirect her attention to something else. Isn’t she a little young for the “Terrible Twos”?
She is super social and loves going out and being around people. She gets seperation anxiety when we are not with her but if we are holding her, she will smile and random people even in a grocery store. We try to get her out of the house at least once a day.
Month 11 has also been a health nightmare for Asha. It was like a storm of illness after 11 months of being well. First she got a stomach bug which lasted a week. Just as she was getting over that, she got a HUGE cold with a low-grade fever. Since Gregg and I had the same thing, no one slept for about 4 nights. It took another week for all of us to feel better but Asha was well for only about 2 days before she got a higher fever (102F). This turned out to be a double ear infection (her first ear infection) and the poor thing was on antibiotics for 10 days for it. We just stopped those a few days ago but since last night, she has been holding her ears and shaking her head. I am hoping this is not another ear infection but she is not feverish yet and we have a doctor’s visit on Monday anyway.


I plan on writing a separate post about her birthday.

Having Asha has been such a ride!!! I cannot believe that she is a toddler. My favorite moment of the day is when I go and get her out of her crib in the morning and she gives me a dazzling smile and puts out her arms to be lifted up. In spite of my exhaustion, in spite of the fact that it is the crack of dawn, it makes me smile. When the fussing or tantrums make me want to tear my hair out, I always try to remember that moment when she is delighted to see me. I do not want her to get to an age when she will not need me to lift her out of her crib. That is the best moment I can imagine with her. Yet, watching her grow and develop is also fascinating. Yes, I have been this ambivalent about her turning one for a long time. And finally, part of me is delighted to say, “We made it!!”

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Adventures in the Kitchen - BAKING!!!!

I have never been a baker. I do not like baking. I am awful with dough and I hate measuring things out. All my cooking consists of estimating amounts. Gregg, on the other hand, loves working with dough. He makes the dough to make his own pizzas. The dough was usually made in our bread-maker which we got as a wedding present in 2007. In fact, though we made some bread in our bread-maker, it primarily served as a dough-maker. Well, this piece of equipment which has been with us for over 4 years, broke about a month ago. It moved with us from Charlottesville to Farmville to Lancaster to Lititz. After mourning it for about a week, Gregg and I started talking about replacements. I wanted another bread-maker but Gregg suggested a KitchenAid Stand Mixer which we have always wanted but never bought. However, there are a few reasons why we hesitated:

1)      It is expensive.

2)      How much do you need to use it to justify the purchase?

3)      Since we only make doughs for pizza, it does not seem worth the money.

However, we saw one on a huge sale at Kohl’s and bought it anyway. We bought the black 4.5 quart artisan one and saved over a $100 on its actual price. Then, against Gregg’s inclination, I bought a very cheap loaf pan. Now all I can say is: how did we ever live without this gadget?

In the last month, Gregg has made 3-4 pizza doughs, I have made 4 loaves of white bread and 2 of banana bread. The bread from the bread maker was definitely inferior to store-bought while the bread made from the KitchenAid recipe book is definitely superior. This loaf comes out evenly shaped and baked and is great for making sandwiches. I also made banana bread for the first time – this recipe is from epicurious and I really like it. It is not too banana-y. We also made a gingerbread cake from scratch – I say “we” because it was Gregg’s idea and he did most of the work. It is absolutely amazing. It uses both fresh and ground ginger which gives it a bite which ground ginger alone does not. However, the beer and the brown sugar balance the ginger wonderfully well. This recipe is from Cook’s Illustrated. Gingerbread cookies are next on the fall baking list.

My next venture will be pie crusts and pastry – since I need them to make home-made samosas and apple pies. I usually buy them from the store but I want to stop that. We have a cheap $20 pasta maker and Gregg has been making the pasta dough in the mixer too. I must say, in spite of the costly nature of this purchase, I think we may end up saving money in the long run. Bread, pasta and pizzas as well as pie crusts are expensive at the store.     

One of these days, I want to list my favorite kitchen gadgets. But this one will definitely be one of them. I am so excited. I have always loved the smell of a house with fresh baked bread, cake etc and I want it to be one of Asha’s memories too. Love love love this purchase.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Artsy Craftsy Projects for Artsy Craftsy Dummies

I am TERRIBLE at anything arty. Seriously, I could not draw a stick figure. Asha can draw better now than I can – and she cannot hold a pencil properly. This has never really bothered me. I do not like artsy-craftsy projects. I do not even like decorating my house. However, since Asha has been born, this has bothered me. I have not even made a baby book for Asha yet.

Then I decided to use Shutterfly. I love that site. It allows me to use our pictures of Asha to create all sorts of things which look beautiful. So far I have made one birthday card with it, invitations to Asha’s first birthday and am working on making three different calendars for 2012. The calendars are the biggest project I have undertaken – all three use different photos and layouts.  It is taking me hours to collect all the photos I need, upload them and organize and arrange them. However, they look awesome on my computer. I am also planning to make her a photo book for her with people she should be able to identify. She loves pictures, so the picture book would be a present for her.
I also discovered that there are websites that allow you to custom make family cookbooks. This is something I plan to work on in the future – I think it would be a very cook project.

These websites are made for people like me – people who are not artistic and yet, want to commemorate occasions and events. People who do not scrapbook but would like to do so with the least amount of fuss. These projects require time and trouble but they do not require expertise. I love these websites and the end products I have received thus far are great.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Separation Anxiety

When I went back to work 6 weeks after Asha was born, I was relieved!!! This was the first time in 6 weeks that I had taken a shower before 7pm, the first time in 6 weeks that I got into a quiet car and turned on my own music, the first time in 6 weeks that I was getting adult interaction during the day. You get the picture!!!! Of course it helped that this was also the last week of classes, the next week was exam week and then I would get another 4 weeks at home with her.

When I went back to work 4 weeks later, I felt much worse. This would be a whole semester and I would leave her home every day. By this point she was about 2.5 months old and over the worst of her colic. She was starting to smile and focus on us more and it was much more difficult leaving her. I thought about her all the time I was at school and called about 5-6 times during the day to check on her. Gregg was just starting to get irritated when my parents arrived and they were only too happy to fill me in on all her gestures, sounds, bowel movements etc. every time I called. Shortly after they left, school was done for the semester and I did not have to irritate Gregg for long.

The last few nights have been very difficult for us. We phased out Asha’s middle of the night bottle because it was clear she did not need it. She was drinking a maximum of 4oz at night and then spent another 45 minutes pulling our hair, smiling, examining our teeth etc. She just wanted to play. She has not had a night bottle in the last 4 nights and while she still wakes at least twice, she has stayed up only 15-30 minutes each time. However, I find myself waking up at 4am and unable to go back to sleep. This is very bad because we go to bed around 11pm, we get up with her twice and so waking and staying awake at 4am means I get almost no sleep. I wondered why this kept happening even when I was exhausted. Then it occurred to me – this is separation anxiety. I do not want to leave Asha home on Monday. She is now 10 months. She is crawling, standing, saying mama. She loves me to sit on the floor so she can crawl over me and around me to grab toys I hide. She loves playing hide-and-seek. She loves grabbing my leg, pulling herself up and hanging on while I take mini-steps. She is making new sounds all the time – testing different inflections with the same word. I will miss all this while I am at work.

I have never even considered being a stay-at-home mom (and not just for financial reasons). I love my job and love adult company and interaction. But now I know why they make this decision. I do not want to miss her milestones. I miss her company. It is getting more difficult to leave her as she grows because I love her company and her personality. Oh well!!! I am trying to console myself with the thought that when she reaches an age when she will not want my company, I will feel glad I kept my job!!!!     

Sunday, August 21, 2011

New Year is Here!!!!

While most people see January 1st as New Year’s Day, any teacher’s New Year is the first day of the fall semester. New Year has always been bittersweet for me. It lacks the unreflective delight with which I treat Thanksgiving. The New Year always makes me look back as much as forward – assessing the past year, its successes and failures and all that I did not accomplish or did accomplish. I have the same attitude to the new school year. I usually become aware of it through an increasingly tight knot in my stomach. This knot first manifests itself around the beginning of August and makes its way from my stomach to my throat by the back of my throat. It is the stress of the new school year – easing back into a life flooded with emails, grading, teaching, committees, etc. It is the thought of the time you squandered during the summer. I taught summer school this year and started a syllabus for a new course. However, the syllabus is incomplete and I have to finish it and submit it during the first couple of weeks of the semester. Even the small things seem insurmountable – for instance, I need to sew buttons and hems on a number of my skirts and shirts and I need it done before the end of next week. I had all summer to do it but….here we are.

In today’s world, teaching is not a 9am-5pm job. Students email you at all hours of the day and expect a response accordingly. Activities have to be held after school. Most importantly, any and all research has to be done after school. Increasing class sizes do not help. This semester, I have some 175 students in my classes total. That is a lot of grading (no TAs or RAs). Teaching political theory makes it worse because you cannot have multiple choice exams in that subject. Grading 175 papers and 175 essays 3 times in the semester takes up an enormous amount of time. Everything is increasing – students, advisees, grading, committee work etc. Yet, without the research, all these things become boring, mundane and outdated. To be frank, the time to do research is so limited during the semester. Whoever thinks that teachers work part-time for 9 months out of the year never taught a day in their life.
The academic New Year is here and I am going to make a few resolutions here (publicly) in the hopes it will help me to keep them. Some of these I am really good at, others not so much. So here goes:

1. Answer all emails within a 24-hour period
2. Complete all grading within 2 weeks of receiving the exams
3. Get the syllabus for a new class completed and turned in by the end of September
4. Read 5 dystopias for my dystopia project
5. Use fall break for making quizzes for each class and uploading them online

If anyone has any other new year suggestions/resolutions they make for the academic year, please feel free to share. How do you feel about the start of the academic year?

Sunday, August 7, 2011


Being a teacher, I wonder if anyone has ever heard those comments: “Oh, you only work 9 months out of the year.” Or, “you only teach 3-4 hours per day? What do you do the rest of the time?” “You are so lucky to get 3 months off during the summer.” I mean, haven’t the Republicans been saying that the crazy debt we are in is because of teachers unions who extract a lot more money and benefits than is necessary for a job where we stop working at 2-3pm and get 3 months of “vacation”? This is the perception of my profession. This always drives me crazy.

There are two types of exhaustion – physical and mental. I always find myself mentally exhausted at the end of 3 continuous hours of teaching. (Physically exhausted too but that is only because I pace through all 3 hours of class). Anyone who has taught a class knows that a teacher cannot space out mentally for even one minute. That is the minute when someone says or does something stupid. Three hours of total focus is mentally exhausting. At the end of a day like that, I can spend time with Asha and she actually proves to be relaxing. She is physically exhausting to be around but not mentally exhausting (unless she is having a cranky spell which are, thankfully, infrequent).

Problem is that this summer I have spent each second around Asha. She is physically exhausting but not mentally so. However, I get no “mind work” when I am around her. She has learnt to stand and so if my laptop is on, she spends all her time slapping it, pressing random keys and deleting it. If I try to read, she grabs the book and crumples the pages. I do not watch TV around her. So, it can mean hours of grabbing objects and naming them (“ball”, “dog”, “table”) and reading baby board books. At the end of a whole day of this, I am happy to read some fiction and fall into bed. But then I spend all night making lists of things I have to do – syllabi, school prep etc.

I prefer mental exhaustion (without physical exhaustion) to the other way round. At least I feel productive. After watching Asha, I should feel productive and like a good mom, but I do not. I feel like I should not spend time thinking of the other things on my to-do list. I feel I should get more done. I am neither concentrating on her nor on my work. UGGGGHHHHH!!!! Balance is so difficult.

This brings me back to my irritation at those who think of teaching as a 9-month profession. It is not!!! I get paid to work over the summer. Research, proposing a new course to submit to the department, summer teaching, prepping a new course and committee work. This has to be done over the summer. And I have done none of it. During the school year, it is not merely teaching and office hours. We also have committee work, grading, answering interminable (and often inexplicable) emails, research, advising etc etc. The budget crisis is making things worse. Class sizes are larger (I have over 175 students next semester and equivalent grading), the number of advisees keep increasing, the number of committees keep increasing and research time and conference time and money keep decreasing. I guess we are just lucky to have jobs at all. But in two weeks, school starts again. I will have all the mental exhaustion I need then. And I will miss Asha like crazy. It will be more difficult leaving her at home now since she has started crawling, standing and saying mama and baba in the last few months. If I lack balance now, how will I achieve balance then?

This is the problem – everyone has to balance all aspects of their lives. Some are better at it than others. I am not good at it. I either do one thing or another. I am a multi-tasker but find myself unable to do that with Asha. I want to be a good teacher, a good academic, a good mom, a good wife and have some free time to be a well-rounded person. I am coming to the conclusion that this is impossible with a 9-month-old. Maybe it makes sense to wait till she is a little older to impose these expectations on myself. I like balance. I like routine. I like checking things off my to-do list. Asha, unfortunately, does not like any of these things. Oh well. How do other moms balance?

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Asha at 9 months

Asha turned 9 months last week. Where did the time go? I still feel like she was just born and here she is, 3 months away from being a toddler. I have not posted much this month and you will know why on reading this one. In one word, it is due to sleep. Or lack thereof. But more on that later.

Motor Skills

Asha’s motor skills continue to develop rapidly. She now stands almost all the time and has started cruising, walking while holding on to furniture (or your legs). She no longer abruptly lets go and falls to the floor. She deliberately lowers herself to the ground. In the last couple of days, she has managed to let go of furniture and stand by herself for a couple of seconds. However, the second she is aware of it, she collapses to the ground. Just a couple of weeks ago, she started to crawl up the stairs. She can crawl up the first two steps but then gets stuck. She is able to pick pasta and cheerios now but rarely eats them. She brings it to her mouth, licks it and chucks them on the floor.

Verbal Skills and Comprehension

Though she has been saying mama all day, every day, for the last couple of days, I do not think she knows what it means. She says it to me, Gregg, Giggs or her bottle. This may be a phase like last time, when she said nothing but mama and baba for a few days and then stopped for weeks. Now she is back to it. She still prefers expressing herself through yells and screams and oooohs and aaaahs.

However, she has started understanding more words I think. She has a dog called Violet (that is what LeapFrog calls it, not my name choice). Two days ago, she was screaming for my laptop, so to distract her, I asked, “Where is Violet?” To my surprise, she looked at Violet. I have repeated it since and she clearly knows Violet, mommy, daddy, Giggs, milk and “up”. We have been working on “no” and she clearly understands it. However, getting her to obey is another matter. She will stop what she is doing for a second, then resume it. I think “no” is going to be my most-uttered word for the next few years.


So, I most definitely jinxed myself after saying she was sleeping OK in my last post. I should have known better. She started waking up twice a night soon after and then we took a trip to CT to see Gregg’s parents. Since we have been back (almost 2 weeks now), she has gotten up at least twice a night. The first time, she usually stays up about 45 minutes and the second time about 30 minutes. But for the past two nights, she has been waking every 2 hours like clockwork. It has been exhausting. Yet, she is not teething or sick or anything. I hope she stops soon. I had hoped she would be sleeping through the night by the end of summer, so that the fall semester would be a little easier but no such luck!!! If anyone has any suggestions, I would be glad for them. I have tried everything I (and anyone else) could think of but to no avail.

Naps are soooo short!!! She takes a 30-minute nap in the morning and max. an hour in the afternoon. She wakes at 6am and goes to bed at 9pm – and on a good night, wakes up twice for at least 30 minutes each. It has been increasingly more difficult to get anything done these days since she is awake most of the time and refuses to play by herself for more than 10 minutes at a time.


Her play has certainly gotten more complex. She still likes tearing up papers but she also likes to manipulate things. She is getting more fond of Violet but other than that, she is not yet a doll person. She loves playing with trucks and cars and anything that lights up and makes sounds. We just bought her some boats to float in her bathtub. They are stackable and she adores them. The funny thing about the paper play is this: she tears them up into tiny pieces and then tries to chew on them. If they go into her mouth, she screws up her face to show how much she hates the taste. Here is the thing: when I give her pieces of pasta or cheerios, she plays with them, tears them up and rarely puts them in her mouth. If she does, she screws up her face in the exact same expression and then spits them out. She NEVER spits out the papers. I have to take them out of her mouth. Why doesn’t it occur to her to spit out the inedible papers but she spits out the edible pasta????

Her other favorite play is my favorite: books. If you give her a board book (where she cannot tear out the pages), she will stay in her crib and turn the pages for about 5-10 minutes at a time. Sometimes the book is turned upside down but still, this is my favorite of all her play.


Finger foods have been a disaster. She throws everything I have given her onto the floor. To be fair, things have been a little better recently. When I first gave her finger foods (pasta, bananas, teething biscuits, baby cheerios etc), she did not put a single thing in her mouth. In the past two weeks, she has been putting it in her mouth and spitting it out. Today, she ate about half a piece of pasta and no cheerios. So maybe we are making progress.

Asha HATES her high chair. I think it is because she dislikes being strapped into the chair – she likes movement and restraint is irksome to her. Yogurt is her morning snack and she loves it. She does not dislike cheese. The turkey did not help her sleep through the night though. But I cook it with onions, peppers, cheese, thyme and rosemary. Pretty much everything but salt. Of course, then I puree it. For vegetables, I have been giving her everything from peppers, mushrooms, cauliflower, broccoli, anything we eat. I do not want to end up with a kid who refuses to eat anything but mac and cheese. She is a picky eater and I do not want her to think that she can whine her way to eating anything she wants.


Wow, she is determined/stubborn happy little person. Once she wants anything, she leaves no question in your mind about what it is and it is extremely hard to distract her. As a rule, she is happy. I love her morning smiles and whenever I lift her out of her crib. She is very good in public places – she does not cry when strangers talk to her but mostly stares and hides her head in our shoulders. It is very easy to take her to restaurants and malls and grocery shopping.

Driving to CT with her was a disaster. She screamed and yelled the whole 5 hour ride. This was very unusual for her (she usually sleeps in the car) but again, I think it has to do with being strapped in. So, on the way back, we left CT at 9pm and arrived home at 2am. This time she slept the whole time. We are planning a one-day trip to VA with her to visit some relatives – we will see how it goes!!!

Asha has started giving kisses sometimes. But she must have learnt kissing from Giggs and not from us. It is more like licking than kissing. She opens her mouth as wide as possible and puts it on our faces. Then she sometimes closes it – thereby licking every part of our face.

We stopped watching TV around her except for 30 minutes of sports at night (Gregg) and some news (due to the debt crisis). We did this because she was clearly in love with John Stewart. Any time she saw The Daily Show, she would put a finger in her mouth and laugh while staring at the TV. Colbert did not have the same effect. So, we stopped watching all TV around her (including both Stewart and Colbert).

Other than the sleep issue, the past month has been a lot of fun. In a later post, I want to cover our CT trip where Gregg and I got to watch Harry Potter and spend some time by ourselves. I have so many thoughts on that trip – and on Harry Potter. But that is for another day.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


This mundane topic has been a source of discord in our house for some time now. Gregg and I are not cleaning-oriented. Yes, we square away (sometimes) and make the bed. We always do the dishes and Gregg does all the laundry. But vacuuming, dusting and hard core cleaning has always been a chore we both tend to avoid. It used to get done more regularly BC (before child) but has been done less and less since. Gregg mows the lawn and does all the yardwork generally and the laundry. We both do the dishes (we have a dishwasher). I cook, square away, clean the kitchen, pay bills, make beds etc. I probably do more of the childcare but Gregg watches her when I am not home and sometimes when I am. Neither one of us cleans or wants to. The difference is that, while Gregg frets about it and complains about it, I let it go. My attitude tends to be: “I will do it just as soon as I am done doing the other million things I have to do.” Gregg complains that this is unhealthy, unsanitary (just to be clear, our house does not look like a pigsty) and sets a bad example for Asha. We have to “find time” according to him.

But if there is a secret to this, I would love to know it. How can a person (or two) hold down a full-time job, take care of a baby with zero help, do basic upkeep of a house, cook and clean? Either I am very lazy or others are super productive. But we have to do something. I have started vacuuming one room every morning after Asha wakes up but this sets her off and she screams and yells at the loud noise of the vacuum cleaner and at being left to herself. Currently, I am reading a book on feminist (she objected to that characterization) Charlotte Perkins Gilman (of “The Yellow Wallpaper” fame) and starting to like her idea of state-aided housework. Not the cooking (I like that part) but the cleaning.

Seriously, any ideas on how to balance cleaning against everything else? What cleaning is essential on a daily basis and what is not? How often do you clean the house from top to bottom?

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Asha at 8 months

Asha turned 8 months old on the 24th of June. She has grown and changed so much. Everyone tells you that babies grow fast but it remains a mere clich̩ till you witness it Рthen it is simply astonishing.

Motor Skills:
Asha certainly focuses on her motor skills. She started crawling at 6 months and 3 weeks and now zips around the room. She can sit up no matter what position you put her in. She loves holding her own bottle and will snatch it from you. In the past two days, she has been pulling up on the furniture and can easily get to her knees. If she is holding on to a hard surface like a table, she can pull herself up and stand. Every morning, when she wakes up, she is standing up in her crib when I come in to rescue her. She has also perfected the pincer grip and can hold a ball in each hand and bang them together.

Verbal Skills and Comprehension:
Asha’s verbal skills have exploded in the past couple of weeks. She made a lot of sounds and loud noises but, till a couple of weeks ago, all her sounds were vowel sounds – aaaaas and oooooos!!! Then about 10 days ago, she started saying “mamamama”. She was obsessed with it for about 3 days. Now it has tapered off and she only says it when she is very very frustrated. Of course!!!! Now she seems to be obsessed with “bababa”. I am so happy that she is starting consonant sounds though – I tend to be obsessive about milestones and she is supposed to say them by 9 months.

She understands a few words: “Daddy”, “Where’s Daddy”?, “Milk”, “Up”. She does have stranger anxiety. She does not cry a lot with strangers but just watches them wide-eyed without a smile. She must be developing separation anxiety because she does not stay in a room by herself for one second without screaming and crying.

Still not a good sleeper but much better than before. In the past month, she has gone from sleeping for a 3-hour stretch to a 6-7 hour stretch. She sleeps from 9:30pm-4/4:30am, gets up, feeds, gets her diaper changed and then sleeps again till 6/6:30am. Nothing like the 12-hour nights which most kids seem capable of at this age but I will take it!!!! This change is relatively recent (only been about a week), so I hope I am not jinxing anything. Her naps are unpredictable. Mostly, she takes a 30-minute catnap in the morning and then a 60-90 minute nap in the afternoon. I used to be able to put her back to sleep if she got up in less than an hour but now that she can sit up and even stand in her crib that is impossible to do.

Her new favorite toy – crumpled up newspaper. She likes to take them and tear them into tiny pieces. This, in spite of the many toys she has. However, her most favorite toy is anything she is not allowed to have – cell phone, tv remote, laptop, even my kindle. We even popped out the batteries from one of our remotes and gave it to her. She likes it but always tries to snatch the one I am holding. She also loves family pictures being pointed out to her. As we go up and down stairs, I point out pictures to her – Mommy, Daddy, Giggs – and she always laughs or smiles. She likes her jumperoo too but really only wants to pull up and stand rather than play. She never plays by herself. Currently, she likes the VTech table since she can stand at it.

I hate preparing her food (it is so bland and mushy) but love watching her response. She is a picky eater and will not try anything new unless she has something she likes mixed in. So far, we have tried bananas, apples, peaches, apricots, squash, zucchini, peas, avocados, butternut squash, carrots etc – to name just a few. She eats anything with bananas or squash and zucchini mixed in. Peas were a disaster. She will not eat anything with the faintest pea taste. Chicken was OK – she is not extremely fond of it but does not dislike it. I am hoping that once she starts turkey, she will sleep better at night. She loves to hear me belt out the words of any song from “The Sound of Music” while she eats (what I do cannot be termed singing). That and “Old McDonald Had a Farm” always gets her to open her mouth. I make dog, cat, horse, chicken sounds and she loves it.

Asha seems a very determined little person. No matter how many times she falls over (often without a tear), she will pull herself up. No matter how many times you refuse her, she will try to grab your phone. Generally she is happy and smiley in the morning but gets crankier as the day wears on. She is always happy after her 30-minute morning nap but very cranky after her long afternoon one. She loves car rides and has never behaved badly in a restaurant (then again, we did not take her to her first restaurant till she was almost 5 months old). As long as she has something to play with or chew on, she can stay at the mall or go shopping for 4 hours if needed. It has been so much fun watching her develop a personality. I cannot wait to see what turns it takes (though I am sure I should dread some potential traits).

She has some expressions which I love and which help me anticipate what she is thinking. Just when she is getting upset about something, she curls up her nose upwards and her upper lip. I call it her "Little Piggy" face. When she is excited at seeing something she has never seen before, she makes this high-pitched squealing noise almost as if breathless at the magnificence of the world. When she wants to be picked up from her crib or the floor, she lifts up her arms and gives the most adorable smile.

It has been so much fun watching her grow in the past months. Though it has gone fast, I cannot help but anticipate what will come next. Yet, I do not want to reach her one-year birthday too fast – after all, she has been so much fun since she started crawling and sleeping!!!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Overcoming Boredom and Stagnation

Everything can become stagnant at one point or another – relationships, work, hobbies etc. This has seemed especially true after Asha’s birth. So much energy goes into the newest family member that I seem to have no energy left for anything else. We do not have a babysitter or daycare or anything. Gregg and I are her only caregivers. We had a break when my parents were here and we get help if Gregg’s parents come to town. Otherwise, it is just us. So, we are barely making it when it comes to anything other than childcare. This has been especially the case when it comes to food. I am too tired to cook really which is a shame because it is one of the only two things in the world that relaxes me (the other is reading). When I was pregnant, Gregg got me a subscription to Cook’s Illustrated and Cook’s Country. I love those magazines – it is not simply recipes but they TEACH cooking – what works, what doesn’t, why, the science behind food etc. But they have been piling up while I cook the same old roasts, everyday Indian food or lasagna. Sometimes, we simply eat (cold) sandwiches. I did not try anything new for 8 months.

With one exception!!!! I cook all of Asha’s food myself. But truthfully, while I love watching her response to it, I HATE cooking it. It is all mush – bland, tasteless. Which I often pretend to eat in order to entice her. So I am both eagerly anticipating and actively dreading tomorrow when I plan to start chicken with her. Ground chicken with no seasonings in a puree!!! YUCK!!!!

Anyway last week, Gregg and I made a deal. Every Saturday, he would watch Asha for as long as it took me to try a new recipe. We also decided to systematically cook our way through the piles of magazines. This idea was suggested because we just watched the movie Julie and Julia. Took us 4 days to find the time but we were inspired. Undertaking all of Julia Child’s recipes is too gargantuan a task for someone as time-strapped as I am (to say nothing of the fact that some ingredients are not only expensive but very hard to find). The magazines seem more of a doable task. So this past weekend was the first experiment and the stuffed pork tenderloins were delicious!!! And very easy and relatively quick. See this link for the video on Cook’s Illustrated. Click on Grilled Stuffed Pork Tenderloin. I especially liked the porcini-sundried tomato stuffing. I cannot post the recipe online as it would be a copyright violation.

I really like this idea. It makes the rest of the humdrum boring week bearable. Slowly, I plan to work this change into every aspect of my life which feels stuck in a rut. Make one small change here and a tweak there. Make a couple of hours sacrosanct for one activity. That way, maybe I can be a little more productive. Any ideas on how to be productive with a 8-month to take care of?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Kindle

This may sound like a contradiction but I love technology while being extremely technophobic. Our household has a laptop, a netbook, a desktop, 2 blackberrys, an ipad, 3 ipods – you get the picture. I am on Facebook, Gregg on twitter. However, we both worry about the impact of technology. I worry about the lack of distinction between public and private; about the death of print media; about the inability of kids to learn without visual entertainment etc. This is why I was hesitant about getting an e-reader – they seem convenient but another step along the road to the death of print media. Plus, I do not travel a lot and so their best feature (portability) is not really an attraction. But my tech-loving, curious and very acquisitive nature overrode the technophobic part and I decided to get a Kindle. Before I could acquire one, Gregg’s parents presented me with one for my birthday/Mother’s Day. I have to say that it has been a wonderful gift. Here are the things I like best about it:

1. Cheap: I love old classics and they are sooooo cheap. I bought the collected works of all the Brontes (including Patrick) for $0.75. No way I would get that in hard copy.

2. Portability: OK, I know what I just said but as I said before, I tend to prefer classics. And works like War and Peace, A Suitable Boy, collected works of whoever are heavy. Add a diaper bag, a huge purse and a baby and car seat and it is like practicing for a weightlifting competition. The Kindle is lighter and holds hundreds of books.

3. Convenience: I bought the Bronte collection at 3am after Asha had kept me up all night and I was tired but could not sleep. I also LOVE their “Sample” feature which allows you to read the first few pages (sometimes up to 50 pages of a book) without paying. Then you can buy it if you want like it.

4. Lack of Clutter: Though I am not an adventurous reader (I tend to stick to classics), I do buy books from time to time which turn out to be less than stellar. Then they sit on my bookshelf adding to the almost 500 books Gregg and I already possess (we counted when we moved last June). Now I feel like I can experiment without cluttering up my house.

5. Other Features: Instant dictionary access is wonderful – just point at a word and click. Also love that it has two dictionaries – American and British English. I have used their “Notes” feature too but not yet tried to export to MS Word. I love the nightlight which my Kindle cover has – perfectly bright but never wakes Gregg when I read at night (not that Gregg wakes due to much – he can even sleep through a screaming baby sometimes). Love its long battery life too.

I promise that Amazon is not paying me to promote their product and I do have some things which I dislike:

1. I miss holding and touching actual books. I miss the new book smell and turning the pages physically. The Kindle is easier to read with Asha because she crumples any paper near her but books have a feel to them which cannot be reproduced.

2. I miss turning pages as I said. Ibooks actually lets you turn pages but it is a silly imitation and much more problematic when you have a 8 month-old constantly touching the screen and changing the page. However, I still sometimes reach out as if to turn the page on my Kindle and then catch myself.

3. I have promised myself that if there is anything I read on the Kindle which strikes me as a classic or even particularly good, I will buy a copy of it for the bookshelf. That way, I feel like good books get rewarded.

Having said all this, let me say that I am still against the voice-read (Text to speech) feature. The one on the Kindle is awful but I would never use it anyway. The only time it would be useful would be on long drives but I would prefer books on tape for that. Otherwise, I think it is best to avoid those features and learn to actually do the difficult job of reading for oneself. I saw these books in a toy store that reads to babies. Now, if you like these books, fine!!! Each parent is different as is each child and I am not the one to teach anyone parenting. But I refused to buy those because a) I can read to her and b) she should learn to read for herself. Use of such gadgets sometimes when the parents are busy and the baby is fussy is one thing but often it becomes a habit instead of a last recourse. I like the idea of looking at words and trying to figure them out instead of letting the spoken word wash over you and absorbing some but not all of what is said. I see students who really do not know what reading entails and it worries me that having recorded books only reinforces that lack. So the Text-to-Speech feature will probably never be used on my Kindle.

Do any of you have e-readers? Would you get one? Why or why not?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

My Two Babies

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Asha and Giggs when she was not yet mobile!!!

This post is probably going to make some people mad because it is a comparison between my almost 8-month old daughter and my 3-year old dog. But, first, I want to give a shout-out to Giggs who has been wonderful with Asha. When she first came home and slept in our room, he tolerated it for about 3 nights. Then he decided he had enough screaming and crying during the day and did not want his beauty sleep spoilt at night, so he started sleeping downstairs in the basement. Broke our hearts. The sly thing would come into our room and beg to get into bed with us every night. Then after we gave him his nighttime treat, he would jump off and stay away. He basically stayed away from Asha except to give her an occasional lick if she was crying or fussing. She, in turn, fell in love with him and would stop crying the second he walked into the room.

Things have gotten more complicated since. He has returned to sleeping with us once we transitioned her to her room at 11 weeks. But since Asha started crawling at 6 months, 3 weeks, she follows him everywhere. Worse, she cannot coordinate what she does, so she constantly pulls his hair, his tail, his ears!!! Now he runs away whenever he sees her. She tries to keep up but cannot and always starts crying. He has taken to hiding in his crate in our room (he has literally never slept there in his life). He still licks her but stays as far away from her hands and legs as possible.

Here are the main similarities between these two babies of mine:

1) They both scream/bark when something is not to their liking.
2) He likes her toys and she likes his – and they both put the toys in their mouths (this has led to constant chasing after them both)
3) They both root through their food and chuck it when it lacks what they like (bacon for him and bananas for her)
4) I have to hide from them when I am eating – he wants the food; she wants to hold the plate and smash it against the nearest piece of furniture.
5) Neither one listens to anything I say.

I do wish I had more time for Giggs though. He is our first kid and used to 100% of our attention. Now he is lucky if he gets 25%. He hardly gets any lap time. I am hoping this will change when Asha gets more independent – he has been so good with her, he should get some reward.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

More pictures of Asha

Enjoying some pool time on a very hot summer day - June 9th, 2011

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Asha Pictures

Asha and I when she was about 4.5 months

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Monday, June 13, 2011

Recapping 20 Months....

Is that even possible? But so much has happened during that time that I will try:

Sept. 2009: dissertation defense
Dec. 2009: Trip to India (lasted 3 fabulous weeks)
Feb. 2010: Found out we were pregnant (complications already started)
April 2010: Complications seem to be dissipating
May 2010: Trip to London with Gregg and his parents (took the heart monitor along)
June 2010: Closed on a house in Lititz, PA (spent the rest of the month moving which is very difficult when you are 24 weeks pregnant)
August 2010: Trip to Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota to attend Rob's wedding and see Mount Rushmore (including 3 days in a car driving 15 hours/day at 33 weeks pregnant)
August 2010: Back to work full-time (and work till the day before Asha arrives)
Sept. 2010: Finally start the nursery and register
Oct. 24, 2010: Asha arrives - little to no sleep since
Dec. 2010: Trip to CT to see Gregg's parents with a 2-month old (Asha meets Santa)
Jan. 2011: Back to work full-time with a whole new prep for a new class
Feb. 2011: Asha's first stay at a hotel for her Uncle Aaron's wedding (the wedding was lovely, the hotel stay for Asha was a total disaster)
Feb. 2011: My parents arrive
April 2011: My parents leave
June 2011: Finally start sleep training Asha out of desperation - still a work in progress

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Asha Alexandra Lindskog was born on Oct. 24th, 2010. In the last eight months, I have learnt many lessons. But everyone tells you the lessons that kids teach you and I will do so at some other time. For now I want to focus on the two habits that Asha is teaching me to unlearn.

1. MULTI-TASKING: I have always been a multi-tasker. I do two things at the same time all the time. Literally. I read email while watching TV. I watched TV while I wrote my dissertation. I cook while I read. I am simply incapable of doing one thing at a time. Yet, Asha demands complete attention. When she is crying or playing or anything, there is absolutely nothing else I can do. She requires complete attention at all times. Even at eight months, she rarely likes to play by herself. She also started crawling around 6 months and 3 weeks. We are yet to babyproof, so I have to watch her to make sure that she is not getting into anything she shouldn’t. Suffice it to say that I have to battle my instincts to multi-task. I sit there with her while she is screaming or crying or playing or crawling or eating and make lists in my mind of all the things I should be doing right now. This is what my mind looks like:

Will she sleep soon? I should take Giggs out. But the kitchen is a mess too. I cannot do anything till she sleeps. Poor Giggs needs someone to play with him. When can I make the bed? What about downloading her pictures off the camera? How about that report which I have to finish reading by tonight? What should I make for dinner? But I cannot do all this unless she sleeps for an hour at least. Will she? I should start by washing her bottles…

2. LACK OF CONTROL: This stems from the first point. I am a control freak. I like to know what I am doing, when etc. I used to make a to-do list every day and check it off as and when they get done. No matter what list I make now, it simply does not get done. It is not an easy lesson to learn but I am trying to adjust to it. You would think that a long and difficult pregnancy would have taught me about lack of control!! But clearly not enough. Lack of control does not sit well with me. Going back to school has helped a little but I have entirely stopped staying at school to work. I am only there for classes, meetings and office hours and come home as soon as I can. Then I wait till she goes to sleep at 9pm to prep, grade, read reports, write, do the bills etc. Days and nights lack all routine. Some nights she sleeps from 9pm-6am with only one 30-minute wake-up in the middle. Other nights she is up by 4am or gets up 2-3 times at night and refuses to go back to bed. I am usually up by 3am waiting for her to wake up. This lack of sleep makes for terribly unproductive days. But by 9pm, I am wired, because I still have a lot to do.
Asha makes me feel unproductive sometimes (which is weird because she is my biggest, most tangible, most ever-present production).

These have been my hardest battles in adjusting to life with a baby. Just starting blogging again is one of the ways in which I hope to assert a tiny bit more control. We will see how successful this is.