Archive for the ‘Bringing up Baby’ Category

What’s cooking?

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

Nothing much really, that is why I did not post anything for sometime. Our schedule changed a lot too, my son goes to full time school now, I also got some work to keep me occupied and so blogging took the last of my to do lists.

Adjusting to the new schedules, making it to school and work on time was the top priority for the first few weeks. I did try some new recipes for work pot lucks which I will post in the next few days.

One of the restaurants we have been visiting a lot as a family is the Maharaja Bhog restaurant in Houston. This is an elaborate Gujarati/Rajasthani/North Indian vegetarian thali place. The food is served as a sit down meal and though R just loves to taste a little bit of this and that from my plate, his favorite activity is to play with the huge thali itself! The other part that attracts us to this place is their veg meal boxes to go! Try it out if you are in Houston!

I also wanted to share couple of activities I have been doing with R at home these days. Now that he talks and can point and name things he sees, I thought it is a good time to buy some crayons/paint/chalk for him(all are washable of course). His favorite thing to draw is the wheel(boys, huh?) or just a line or two with a circle and he calls it a car!

While we do some gardening or chilling out in the garden, we give him the chalk to draw on the pathway. Indoors he draws on chart paper with crayons. I also try to make prints with washable paint. I also give him a big stainless steel plate filled with either dry beans/rice/any kind of flour so even as I cook in the kitchen, he sits near by and makes some patterns with the beans or rice. This is also easy as he can bring the beans/rice together again in the plate and make any shape he likes the next minute.

See you all soon with some new recipes.

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Quick Brown rice BBB and baby language development classes

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

Looking at the regular South Indian dishes it is mostly associated with rice in one way or the other- idli, dosa, adai, sevai(rice noodles), pongal, rice upma, variety rice dishes etc., Though eating white rice is delicious, we forget about the risks of diabetes when we indulge it. Having grown up consuming it, it is rather tough to stop cooking with white rice too.

After reading a post from Madhuram I switched over to making variety rices with brown rice. I feel that the flavors mix well with brown rice in those dishes and it sort of masks that it is made with brown rice if you are not too fond of cooking with it. But I have not yet tried making brown rice as a substitute for regular rice for rasam/sambar. Better options for brown rice are in khichdis, bise bele bhaths and using it instead of regular rice in adai or dosa batter.

You may find that brown rice BBB is a bit chewy than regular rice BBB but this is really filling and you won’t feel the need for a late afternoon snack if you have this BBB for lunch.

I have made brown rice BBB with long grain rice and with brown basmati. Long grain takes about 5 whistles in the cooker to cook through but basmati is much easier to use.

The rest is the same recipe, use 1-2 cups of mixed vegetables, 3/4 cup rice, 3/4 cup lentils and regular, usual Bise bele bhath powder, add water and cook like regular method for BBB. Madhuram’s recipe is here and my recipe for this bise bela bhath in slowcooker/cooker is here.

For the baby sign language part, I have received emails asking me if I know about places that teach these signs. In Houston it is taught at Motherhood center. This is only for babies who can hear. This place also teaches various classes for parents- from pregnancy/birthing classes to teaching the art of Infant massage to these sign language classes, and also they have a special session called watch me grow. You can also read through their website and incorporate your ideas if you live in a different state.

The appropriate links are:

Parenting: http://www.motherhoodcenter.com/parenting/

Children’s classes: http://www.motherhoodcenter.com/children-s-classes/

There is another useful website called Aid to life, which is operated by the North American Montessori Teacher Association. They have a beautiful way of putting together articles and materials that are age appropriate(12,14,18 months, 2 years, 3 years) in categories like communication, self discipline, movement, Independence(dressing up, doing chores on their own).

The link for communication is this one, you can hop onto their other pages though this : http://aidtolife.org/communication/communication.htm

As you may notice, this is an ad free blog and I am not associated with any of these places. I just share information I know and have found to be useful. Hope this helps!

See you soon with our activities with shapes and colors!

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The natural language of babies and activities associated with it- Part 1

Monday, June 11th, 2012

What is one of the tough jobs in bringing up babies? Understanding what they say- as R’s mom I can perfectly understand what he says though it is still baby talk with some clear words.But there are times when I feel wish I could interpret what he is trying to say. If I cannot understand what he wants he will take me to that place and point it out but it is a frustration for the child. Think about it, if you are lost in a place where they do not speak the language you are used to, how would you feel?

I found a simple solution for this issue, though I started late in implementing this, it is such a wonderful bridge in the language barrier between grown ups and babies. And this is the natural language of babies-the sign language! Forget about teaching them English or the language you speak, start listening to what they convey to you though signs and you will be amazed as to how much information they take in and talk back through signs.

My son understands both English and Tamil very well, and when he started talking around 11 months, he spoke couple of words in both languages like hi,bye, catch, nana(banana),kanumae(peek a boo), innumae(more),nanname(enough/no). But I started signing just before he started talking as my main reason in learning the baby sign language is to understand/interpret what he was signing to me. But originally it is used so that babies can sign to their parents from around 6 months on what they need. I missed that age as I was traveling with R in India and I could not do teach what I wanted to. But now my son and I talk(!!)in all three languages, English, Tamil and Sign language.

Is it a crazy idea for a perfectly hearing/talking baby? Not at all. I have seen the positive outcome of it- let me just give one example. Whenever we take R to the malls/crowded areas he would tap on his head or pat it or keep touching it. I thought probably the noise is giving him a headache. But from the sign language books I read I realized that he was signaling crazy. Obviously, with so many grown ups moving so fast, not bothering to look around, talking, walking- it is too much for a little one to observe and absorb and what he saw was one crazy world!

Much easier signs for the babies/toddlers to learn and sign(and you can see this if you observe the child as some are natural and spontaneous) are: All done, More, Please, Hug, Water, Teddy Bear(or the doll they are close to,) Milk(or bottle), eat(or food), book,ball and flower. The universal sign that everyone can see is when babies put their arms up and ask to be lifted up. Isn’t that a good example that babies can sign?

The book featured here is one the first ones I read, called Baby sign language for Hearing Babies by Karyn Warburton, a Montessori teacher and from then on with references from books and websites, I could make out what he was saying through signs and we created couple of signs of our own for things we use at home. Naturally as you read this you may wonder- what if they do not talk because you sign to him? Well talking will come on its own and this is only going to help him talk more.

To teach the baby sign language you will need lots of patience and you may have to repeat it couple of times for them to understand it. It does not matter to the child if we are way too educated or have 10 different professional titles behind our names. Even if you are a scientist, you will have to simplify what you are saying to the child and repeat it with the same enthusiasm the first time, 10 times or even 100 times for them to connect to it. We are not learning it to show off to the baby how educated we are. Do not rush it, start with one word at a time and see how it goes. Babies can totally sense what is going on even if they do not communicate in words so if you hate what you are doing, they will too.

Signing is natural when we play with the child. Don’t we sign in and out, up and down, jump or fall when we sing rhymes and songs? For starter’s let’s see how we can play a game with signs and rhymes :)

With songs : Song 1: Head shoulders knees and toes. Do not just sing the song, take your time, stand up and make sure that the child can see you. I first say the words and point- say eyes and show where my eyes are and touch R’s eyes and repeat eyes. Then I start acting out the entire song slowly, giving enough time for him to see and understand. These days he joins in mimicking for the entire first paragraph. You can play it any way- sing and ask your baby to show where eyes are or stop at a point and let them lead the way.

Song 2: Thumbkin Thumbkin where are you? This is one of my favorite songs as I remember doing it with my mom and it teaches about fingers with a fun game as you take the hand back and front, point and for the child it is a combination of hide and seek and learning.

Song 3: Teddy bear teddy bear turn around. Again, you turn around, point to shoes, act like you are putting it on, touch the ground and sign as you say the word.

These are just examples, but if you want to count numbers you can say five little monkeys or five little ducks-I don’t bother about anything when I am playing with my son- I just act like a duck, say quack quack and it is useful as he can understand ducks make the sound quack quack when we repeat the same word and same sign in Old Mac Donald or the animal sounds song. The surprising and rewarding part is that,for the past couple of days every time we sing old mac donald, he joins to sing the E I E I O too.

With books: When you read a book, get into the character and act it out, make the sounds that character will make. I always pick books with minimum number of pages, easy to hold and turn the pages, easy to understand, not too cluttered with pictures(so that his attention is focused) and has words that I can sign and we use everyday.

His favorite books these days are the sesame street collection, I got all of it for a good deal(just a dollar) at Target when a sale was going on. With the bubbles book we make signs like everywhere, float on top(he blows as though bubbles are flying up) and then comes the favorite part of bubble time-popping them- then I introduced counting 1-2-3 with signs as we pop the bubbles.

With nighty night book, he started signaling sleep when he is feeling sleepy and gives me a hug before going to bed!

With eyes, nose, fingers and toes- we learnt signing body parts, movements like wiggling and shaking. We also repeat it at bath time- asking questions like can you show me your right hand? Your left hand?

What next? I always tend to stop when we do a bit of singing and signing before he gets bored. Likewise, before it gets too much, I will stop with this part and continue with the rest in another article.

For a change from posting recipes I wanted to post about activities for babies and I did not find the time to sit and write it. This weekend was my birthday and N took over all the chores(best gift ever!!) and so thanks to him, I was able to share this article. This has been a truly wonderful year for our little family, starting from the New Year we have been celebrating every occasion with something special.

And so, part two of this article will be posted in a week. I will share about making books/flash cards at home and about other useful books with links to websites for activities, songs, signs etc.,
For a dictionary on baby signs and resources for parents this link is one website I often check as there are videos and printable charts.

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Simple, Sensible and Wallet friendly activities for toddlers and stay at home moms

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

Well, first thing is that I am a stay at home mom for now(most of the time, if I can add) and when I meet other moms who stay at home, we often exchange places where we took our kids to and the activities we do. So I thought, why not share it here, it might be useful to someone else who needs support too.

Being a stay at home mom is a challenging job, it does not imply that we sit at home all day, watch movies and sleep. If you google stay at home mom’s worth, you see anywhere between $60,000 to $100,000 a year because of what they do at home. I chose to be a stay at home mom simply because N asked me to. My mom was a stay at home but N has been in daycare(the Indian daycare centers nearly 3 decades ago) and so N was firm that our little one will go to school till he learns to talk,eat on his own and can understand what happens around him to a certain extent etc., So I did my research and many authors recommend an age of 18 months as a acceptable age to leave them at schools all day. And besides I wanted a break too, so I ended up being a stay at home. If you think I am complaining, think again, from R’s birth to now, it is one of the best and joyful times of my life as I have spent every minute of it with him. From setting up our own routine to playing games to touring the city with him it is truly rewarding, honestly I should say I have been to many places and made many friends from Houston after R’s birth :)

One cannot compare kids who stay at home and kids who are in daycare all day. Both have their own advantages.

By staying at home, luckily R has escaped from the usual cold,cough and ear infections that most kids who go to daycare often suffer from. But on the other hand he is missing out on socialization and making friends of his own age group. The other thing is that though he is perfectly capable of doing things that a toddler will do on his own, his mommy alarm goes off every 10-15 minutes if he can’t see me in the house, next to him. But kids in daycare get used to that environment of a classroom setting, right?

I have mommy friends whose kids go to day care and they keep telling me what all their kids could do at R’s age. Sometimes I feel like saying,”Yeah, ofcourse you are paying for that, aren’t you?”

The issue that I feel he misses the most is making friends and socialization. Babies are born to learn so I am not worried about him singing a perfect Twinkle Twinkle little start at this age. It is just the challenge that I face- to find activities that interest him, will keep him occupied, will teach him something, lets face it, even if I do not pay the $800 average cost for daycare here in Houston, I have to find/fix activities that are as good as a school’s but at a comparable cost. Here are a couple of suggestions that I have tried and have worked and are almost free.

Again I think twice before writing anything about R as I have seen the opposite effects. I wrote that I give him all kinds of vegetable mashes when he started solid food and shared the recipes here. When I was visiting people last year in India, there was this place where I had a cup of boiled okra and a cup of boiled mashed peppers as baby food. Why? See, I wrote he eats everything right? What else could I do at that situation other than accepting that I am was so naive and wrong in bringing up my baby 😉

So, if you want to use this article for good purposes please do so and share your tips and activities for others to use as well. Just to find fault if you read, it is not worth anyone’s time, is it?

So the freebies come first:

Network-Network-Network: Yup, it is not only useful to find a job but it is very useful to be connected to moms in your area. Try to find some local mom’s groups(most of them are free to join) so you get to know about playgroups, play dates, meetups, activities, pizza parties, water activities, picnics, camping as a family at kid friendly places, advices and sometimes a friendly face to look at who has been in your shoes before :) I joined one of our city’s mom groups because of my friend TN and both my son and I have made many friends because of that. Especially when N travels I need friends where I can take R to and who can come home with their kids to give us some cheer!

Libraries: Most libraries have toddler times as well as Mother Goose time, Story time(or something similar depending on where you live) where you can take babies(0+ months to 2-3 years). Libraries in Houston also have movie time every second saturday for the entire family and it is free! Taking your child to library at an early age is a wonderful beginning, though they may not actively read from the books they can look at pictures, see what older kids do and try to follow them. Though R is not making sentences yet, he is using lot of words to describe the pictures in the books.

Freebie fun: Again through your mom networks or on your own you can find great deals on museum,aquariums and zoos in your area. Here are some of those in Houston:

Buffalo Soldier Museum – FREE admission on Mondays from 10am-5pm
Houston Zoo – FREE admission after 2pm on the first Tuesday of each month
The Weather Museum – FREE admission on Thursdays from 12-4 pm
Cockrell Butterfly Center – FREE admission any day when you check in for the first time on foursquare
Children’s Museum: Free every First Sunday of the Month

Houston zoo, as you can see is free every first tuesday of the month. R is fond of the elephants and we atleast spend an hour watching the baby elephants take bath or the bigger ones eating leaves from the trees. You can also easily convert it to a lesson- elephant is black in color, it has a tail etc.,

R also loves going to the Children’s Museum, voted No:1 in th country by the parenting magazine. Though the totspot is suitable for him now, when he gets old enough I am sure he is going to join the projects they have for different age groups there. At tot spot there are mirrors of various sizes that he can see himself in lot of dimensions(!!) and also a pathway indoors what goes up and down with lot of twists, some slides and a miniature house complete with kitchen and tea set, a doll house with a potty what actually makes flushing noise and a cute door just like the one in Alice in Wonderland- the door is as tall as R, that is it. You can either knock or ring the door bell-open the door- and there- you kiddo starts laughing and reaches for the doorbell again and again. Why? Go see for yourself if you live in Houston 😉

You can just type in top 10 things to do with kids in your city in the search engines and you will get similar deals in every state/city.
Or try to find some local farms and go pick some vegetables or berries with you child. Not only can you teach them how a vegetable/fruit grows they can see a farm too and you can remind it to them every time you sing Old Mac Donald :) Or take them to farmers market and show them different vegetables enjoy walking with your child and take your time when you walk through those places. It has to be a fun activity, not like lets tick this one off of our list and move on kind of stuff.

Visit a Pet store: Strange huh? When it is too hot to roam in the zoo, I sometimes take him to pet stores(suggested by friend A) to see the colorful fishes, parrots, hampsters, turtles, cats and puppies. If it is a dog grooming day in the store, then it is a real treat for the child- I take it as an opportunity to tell him things like, ” See that is how we take a bath, we also need to comb our hair,brush our teeth” etc.,

Show him how stuff works at home: C’mon after all can’t we show the kid how to arrange stuff? Only thing is that it will take time for the child to understand what you are tying to say and follow it. R is my little helper in most of the chores I think are safe for him to do with me. When I take the hamper to wash clothes, I let him push it from the other side, show him how to pile the clothes in the washer(sometimes it gets all over the place, but it is fun too isnt it?) If we are back from shopping, trust me, he drags the bag all over the living room and keeps it near the refrigerator and starts sorting out the vegetables and he very well knows where the slot for the milk is in the fridge! Why not sing one potato two potato three potato more as you arrange the vegetables in their place 😉

Activities that will cost around $50-$100 a month:

YMCA: I love the YMCA especially for their parent child swimming classes. Combining the actions in swimming with rhymes, this is one fun activity that R,N and I never miss out. A natural swimmer like his dad, if I put him in water my son can stay for hours in it! He is already kicking and paddling, besides swimming is also a good exercise for all of us right 😉

Most YMCA’s have a kid zone so you can drop your babies/toddlers there for sometime as you workout or do yoga!

Gymboree: This is a place that was suggested to me by my pediatrician and it is worth the money you pay for a month especially on a really hot day or a rainy day when you cannot go out. With open gym everyday and classes that teach rhymes with actions/music/art, it is something similar to a classroom with parent participation. R loves the parachute time and bubbles fun that he keeps chasing the bubbles and popping them! You can check out your nearest place through this Gymboree link .

Day care/ School around $200 a month:

If you feel that you do not want the kid to go to day care all day/all week, yet want him to socialize and learn you can try day schools run by churches. Most of them charge around $200 a month for a two day per week classes. I have not yet tried this option but some of my friends did send their children to these schools and they said it was good as the children learnt something yet they stayed at home and did other activities for the rest of the week till they went to elementary school.

So, does anybody has any more suggestions that I can add to this list so that someone searching for activities can find it? Please leave a comment and let us know! I can think according to my son’s age only so if you have older kids and you can share your experiences please tell us more about what you do!

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