Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A testing Summer

My in-law's left last night to visit my sister-in-law in Australia for 3 whole months, and to help her with my nieces. This will be the first time that I will have been alone in over a year, and the first time that I will be handling both the children by myself. To say I'm scared shitless is an understatement.

Living in a joint family for the past year has provided so many comforts - there's always help with the kids, help with all the household chores, you never get lonely as you always have company, and my postpartum transition was much easier and joyful than last time. But now, I am fully on my own for the majority of the day, while husband-ji is at work.

The timing is pretty crappy, indeed. Maya is almost done school and then she will be off for the entire Summer. The babysitter that we use from time to time is fully booked by another family for the whole Summer and cannot come at all. That means I'll have both the kids to myself for the next 3 months, and until Maya starts Kindergarten at the beginning of September.

Part of me wants to find out if I can actually handle it. I mean, I can't be so reliant on other people. I should know how to do things myself. I should take full responsibility. However, deep down, I really do feel that you're not supposed to spend so many hours per day parenting alone. If my first child taught me anything, it's that you need that village. That literally, your sanity depends on it. And when you have that support, you can parent better - and your kids benefit greatly from mommy's sanity. Having a village is not a perk, it's a necessity. Looking back, I really don't know how I did it with Maya. I remember being so exhausted, starving, lonely, and generally pretty delirious. For like 2 and a half years. My in-law's will keep traveling back and forth between here, Australia, and India, so I have to learn eventually. Plus, there are lots of moms out there who have no help, and many with more than 2 children. Some even have 3 or 4 kids! I'm not sure how they do it all. I'm stumped.

I have no idea how I'll manage to cook, do any basic household tasks, have any time for myself, and what about my blog? Looks like I'll be having a few late nights. It's going to be all about survival day-to-day. I'm not sure how I'm going to get the baby to take her naps while entertaining Maya, especially since we are doing no screen-time. Veda is not exactly the flexible kind. She currently hates the car, hates the baby carrier, and only wants mom's boobs. Hopefully she won't give me too much of a hard time this Summer.

Of course, I had to give husband-ji a few ultimatums heads-up. I told him that his expectations for me - whatever they may be - need to be extremely low. Like zero. I will not be doing any cooking, and I will wash the dishes and do the laundry when I have the time - which is basically never!!! I cannot throw the trash in the alley. And that he'd better cook Maya all of her meals (since she only eats Indian food lately). The only thing I am willing to do is take care of the children, feed them, and walk to the grocery store with Veda in the stroller and do some light grocery shopping. Anything else is not a priority to me. I'm glad I told him this in advance, even though it makes me sound like an absolute diva! I am so busy with the children that it is hard for me to even eat my lunch. As soon as I get done feeding Maya...Veda wants to be fed...and then Maya needs something...and then Veda wants to sleep...and as soon as I get a chance to sit down and eat...the baby will wake up! Today I picked up my lunch at 12:30pm and it sat cold on the dining table until 2:15pm. I was finally only able to eat it peacefully because husband-ji came home and looked after the baby. So, needless to say, he's going to have to take over most of the chores because I'm in survival mode: take care of the children / eat / sleep. That's it. Everything else is secondary. My expectations are also low for myself.

This Summer will probably be filled with lots of ups and downs for me. I hope I won't get too lonely during the day. It's been hard to get out since Veda hates the car. I'm going to try to keep it simple and just go to places that are walking distance from our place - small little outings so I don't get too overwhelmed. I hope I'm able to get a hang of it, and to come out of it as a more confident mother of two, able to take on anything and everything, like all the other super-moms out there. I hope husband-ji and I are able to work efficiently as a team. But mostly, I hope he feeds me! Ha ha!

One thing's for sure: I certainly do miss my in-law's! Even though it's only been a day...


Thursday, June 8, 2017

Veda: 4 months old!

I can't believe my little muffin is already 4 months old. It has just gone by so fast, and it makes me a little teary-eyed. Both me and Maya wish she would stay a baby forever!

A lot have changes have taken place, more than usual.

First, Veda rolled over. This was arguably her first big milestone! The day after she turned 4 months old, she got up in the morning and she decided to roll over. And then she did it again and again and again, and fussed when she couldn't roll back. She did it for about an hour and then got tired and was ready for a nap after all that exercise! She is now looking at the world from a different angle and she likes it. She prefers to be on her tummy all the time, rather than her back. She is ready to get going places, this girl!

Now she is waking up a bit at night because she rolls over in her sleep and fusses because she can't roll back. I also think she's going through a growth spurt again.

Under the advice of our doctor, we also started her on some solids due to her hefty size and good neck control. It's hardly what you could call solids, since it's so watered down with breast milk. It's more like flavored breast milk! Feeding her solids with a spoon was so exciting. She really enjoyed it and she was very happily pleased that we fed her something extra. Maya also helped feed her and it was all very fun. She was much easier with the spoon than she has been in attempting to give her a bottle. She still refuses to take a bottle or a pacifier at all!

It's been really hard to go out anywhere or do anything because I never know when she will get tired or hungry. I have hardly taken her out that much and been mostly home-bound. We did take her for her first trip to the beach and we had so much fun! It was great to go somewhere as a family, rather than doing stuff with the kids separately. I only try to avoid taking her out too much because I get tired easily, and I don't really like to breastfeed in public. I really like to lay down in my bed and breastfeed her so I can also get some rest too and fall asleep beside her. My mother-in-law says all the Indian ladies do this!

She's beginning to establish what seems to be a more steady routine. She has 2 waking hours, followed by 60-90 minute naps. The last nap of the day is usually only about 45 minutes or so. In total, she has 2-3 naps. I love lying down beside her and watching her sleep, or reading, or sleeping myself next to her. When she wakes up in the morning then I can vaguely plan my day. I try to avoid making any plans because I don't know what the timings will be on any given day! Sometimes she likes to sleep in the car seat, so I can time going out with her naps. She does not like being taken out when she is awake. She gets a little grumpy because she prefers to explore on her new tummy position!

Whenever we do go out, everyone always comments on her hair. "That hair!!!" they say. It has indeed gotten even longer now...it seems to be growing like a Chia Pet!

She loves to hear any news programme on the radio or TV. She gets very animated and excited. We have been watching CNN in the mornings to see all the latest daily Trump scandals, and Veda absolutely loves it...with her grumpy self! I bet she will be some kind of lawyer or social activist or something.

We also had to go to Ikea to buy a crib for her, since she was too tall for her bassinet. The crib is in our bedroom, but it's a bit farther from our bed which gives her a sense of her own space. One side of the room is our bed, and the other side is her nursery.

Until next month....!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Maya: 5 years old!

My little darling is five years old today...and I can't help but think, where did the time go?! The days are long, but the years were so incredibly short. My firstborn little baby is five. FIVE!!! It's all been a blur. Her birth feels like it was yesterday - I remember when they put her on my chest and she looked at me for the first time. It's all been a blur of a million moments, in between.

It has been the greatest blessing seeing Maya grow up. Teaching her things, and having her teach me things. I think she's been the biggest teacher to me...

Being my first baby, I've had no idea what to do half the time. I've had no experience. Every day, as a parent, it's venturing into the unknown...and just praying that you're doing a good job. Every day, the only thing I know what to do is just to love her. Make her feel loved. Make her feel important.

Sometimes she feels like more of my best friend than my daughter. I don't know why. I just love spending time with her. I haven't been able to do much of anything else for the past five years, because anything I want to do seems less important than just being with her. Sometimes I get scared of how close we are...I think, what if I say or do something that hurts her? But I can't not be close to her. We are just like that, us two.

Aspects of her personality have unfolded to reveal an even greater beauty in her. Something so familiar to me, something that reminds me of my grandmother - who she is named after. Her spirit is truly carried on in these children, especially Maya.

Just like how my grandmother was, Maya is so helpful. Everything she does is to help others. Whenever anyone is upset, she immediately runs to their side and offers her help. She takes such a delight in being caring towards others. I think that's what makes her such a great big sister - she's a great help with the baby. She doesn't have a jealous bone in her body. Recently at school, she stood up for one of her friends who was getting teased. I was so proud of her. I always pack a snack for her after school and she always wants to share the whole thing with all of her friends.

Boy, she has so many friends. She is much more social than me or Maddy. She gets along great with all of the children in her class. The majority of her friends are boys, who are all just nuts about her!

She is also a wonderful teacher. She is very advanced with her writing skills so she is helping her teacher give printing lessons to the other students at school.

Maya loves to dance and she loves art. We have a little art easel in our living room and she does about 5 drawings per day. She draws the same things over and over in different variations. I save them all in a folder. When she wants to know how to draw something, she comes to us and we show her. She can copy something identically to the way we showed her. She also loves music and she has specific songs that she likes. Her favorite songs are diverse: she loves "Rock Lobster" by the B-52's, "Umbrella" by Rihanna, "Brown Eyed Girl" by Van Morrison, and the Moana theme song. And of course, Raffi!

She is also very playful and a bit mischievous. My mother-in-law said that she's more mischievous now than when she arrived a year ago. She loves to laugh and be silly. She has a very light-hearted personality.

While Veda prefers to stay home, Maya loves being taken out. She loves going to the library, the grocery store, out shopping, or even just running errands. She's such a busy girl and she enjoys always being on the go. She's very specific about her clothes and won't let us shop for her, or even dress her. She likes to pick out her whole outfit, even down to the smallest detail!


Monday, May 22, 2017

Joint Family Life: one year later...

A year ago, my in-law's moved in with us and we took the plunge into traditional desi joint family life - something I knew was coming sooner or later. When you marry the eldest and only Indian son, it is inevitable that you will have to eventually live with his parents!

In our instance, my in-law's moved in with us after our relationship was already well-established (we had just celebrated our 10 year anniversary last year). And they also moved into our space, as opposed to us moving into their space. Those two factors made the transition much easier than the average bahu.

One year later, I'm still a big fan of the joint family set-up because it really works - for us, at least. Everyone has their roles in the household and everyone is flexible with those roles. Husband-ji works. My mother-in-law cooks. My father-in-law throws the trash and gets groceries. I take care of the kids and am the family chauffeur/master scheduler (driving everyone to their appointments, taking the kids to their classes, school drop off/pick up). My in-law's have taken the role of child-rearing support: they let us primarily parent the kids, but they are always there to help with anything from watching the kids, packing lunches, reading stories, or giving baths.

It has been very beneficial for us and it has alleviated a lot of stress. Husband-ji can just focus on work, and he's even taking a class after work to learn a new skill. I've got the daily support with raising the children, and also some company in the house. My main stress before was cooking complicated Indian meals and now my mother-in-law completely handles the cooking. Husband-ji is so happy to have all his favorite dishes. Indian food is made every day but I often eat my own food (salads, pastas, sushi, etc). Maya gets constant attention and love from her grandparents, which is so important for young children. My father-in-law says the best part is watching his grand-kids grow up every day, rather than seeing them on a screen or through a phone.

So much has happened this year - my parents' health has been failing, I got pregnant & had another baby, my mother-in-law had heart surgery - that I couldn't have done it if they weren't here. My mother-in-law had a depressive episode after her heart surgery, and I had a few months of depression during my pregnancy too. Living in a joint family is like being in an intertwined spider web where everyone is supported and taken care of. When one person is suffering, the others lift that person up. That's what I love about it the most. I try to keep myself busy with the kids most of the time, but sometimes at night I feel sad about my parents and the reality that they're not getting any better. In those moments, instead of sitting in the dark and crying by myself, my mother-in-law is there offering me a shoulder to cry on and also to lift me up with her wisdom. Both her and I definitely rule the roost! Along with my two little queens, it's definitely a female-centric matrilineal household!

Not to say we don't have any fights. I had a gigantic fight with my in-law's in the Fall, but luckily they couldn't stay mad at me because I was pregnant. All of us living in a small space makes us more likely to solve arguments quickly, because there's spatially no way to avoid each other! You also have to be pretty forgiving - give the other person the benefit of the doubt and understand that their intentions are not bad. You can't hold grudges in a joint family household. The noise level has been really tricky, especially with the kids' naps and bed times. The whole house shuts down at 8 o'clock at night, which used to be my in-law's dinner time. And everyone basically has to wake up at 6am everyday. Whenever husband-ji and I are fighting, my in-law's take the kids out for a walk. By the time they return, the fight is always over. I do miss the time alone with husband-ji - we don't have as many conversations as we used to. Now they are family conversations. We have been trying to go out after the kids are asleep for dates again to re-connect and just chat with each other. I also have mixed feelings about shutting myself in the bedroom to breast-feed. Sometimes I like the alone time with the baby, but other times I feel trapped in the other room when everyone else is in the living room. Maya has gotten even more orthodox with her eating habits, as she knows her grandma will make her whatever she desires (which is always South Indian vegetarian food!) but I can't complain because at least I don't have to cook!

We are living in an 1000 square foot, 2 bedroom busy city apartment, which sounds terrible but it's actually not that bad. Well, it was fine for 3 people...but now we are a family of 6! As of now, Queen Maya is the only one who has her own bedroom. We share our master bedroom with the baby now, and my in-law's sleep in the living room. (This is a step up from my husband's childhood home, which had 10 people living in a tiny 2 bedroom house!). We're going to be moving to our new place in the Fall which will be double the size and have a separate room for everyone. Maya says she doesn't want to move because she loves our little apartment, just the way it is. That just goes to show that more space doesn't make a happy home - it's the people in it that matter!

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