Brown Girls: Moms--The Original Green Pioneers

Thursday, April 30, 2009


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I recently finished a 5 day "juice cleanse." It wasn't a pure fast, since I am nursing, but for 5 days I drank a juice for breakfast, a juice for dinner, and ate a salad for lunch, as well as snacked on almonds and fruits throughout the day. I essentially did a week of "raw food" eating.

I had my doubts about this project. My husband has long been an advocate of having your diet consist of mostly raw food--his good friend Dhrumil is at the forefront of the raw food movement. Me? I like my Taco Bell. And spinach pie. And pizza, bagels, wine, cheese, potato chips...

But I was feeling so tired and, out to dinner one night with friends, in between my 10th and 20th glass of champagne, I somehow agreed to "just try it" for a week. What mom can't use more energy, I reasoned. What's the worst that can happen right?

Well...: I have more energy than I have had in years. I can fit into jeans that I couldn't wear 5 days ago. I don't need coffee to get me going in the morning.

Egg on my face! I have pretty much made fun of my husband every day for his health-nut-ness. Now I am asking for tips...daily...! Dhrumil one time posted this about me on his raw food blog. What a difference a 4 years and 3 kids (and 10 extra pounds) makes!

I am now trying to figure out how to incorporate the benefits of the cleanse into my everyday life. I cannot live as a raw foodist. I like my bread and cheese too much. And the cleanse made socializing pretty difficult--I met my cousin out for dinner at an awesome SF restaurant one night, and as he chowed on cornbread and swished his Chianti, I poked at a little salad...and pouted...! So the entire "lifestyle" is not for me, but I can't deny the benefits. I was thinking about how funny it is that, in all the posts so far on this blog, not even one has been related to health and fitness. Telling no? So tell me: Have you guys tried cleanses? How did you feel on them? What worked, what didn't? Did your diet and lifestyle change post-cleanse?

Beautiful Things

Tuesday, April 28, 2009
How do I love thee, let me count the ways. As promised, I am showing you some of the stuff I covet weekly. And believe me there is much to choose from...! I always have a pair of shoes I "need" in the back of my mind...and my need for these is serious...

Why do women love shoes so much? There is an almost hypnotic allure to putting on a new pair of "perfect" shoes. And killer heels take my mind to fanciful places, allowing me to envision dancing till dawn under a starlit sky, strolls in Venice after a midnight glass of Chianti, kicking of said killer heels and jumping onto a perfectly styled bed...

Plus shoes are just aesthetically beautiful. Something about the proportions and the slope of a heel--they are art. Alas, I will never have these shoes...but--and I sincerely mean this--I'm glad I get to experience their aesthetic genius.

Penelope Cruz confesses: "I have never been able to study a new role until, alongside the director, we choose the shoes which the woman we are about to bring to the screen will be wearing. Everything starts down there."

I know it's a recession. I know we aren't buying stuff. I know we shouldn't judge a book by its cover. But taking a page from PCruz, I have to agree that the way we portray ourselves is indeed an indication of our character--for better or worse. Style, and feeling good about the way we look is recession-proof. As is appreciating beautiful things.

Monday Musings: That's What Friends Are For

Monday, April 27, 2009

We had such a great weekend--the perfect combination of time with the kids, time by ourselves, and time with friends (at a secret Dave Chappelle show in Oakland no less!). I spent much of Sunday in that cozy, fuzzy cocoon that, if you had to label it, would be called gratitude. Not much of a phone person, I even mustered up the energy to pick up the phone and call one of my best friends from law school. She and I are on constant contact on email but, obviously, there is nothing like a real conversation, where you hear someone's voice and where topics proceed in real time versus the weird timing of emails back and forth. I hung up the phone with a buzz--that is what time with good friends does right?

Apparently, it does more than that. According to this article, strong friendships may actually better your health and increase your life expectancy. Among the many mind-blowing statistics in the article: Women suffering from breast cancer who are without close friends are four times as likely to die from the disease as women with 10 or more friends. And, this anecdote blew me away as well:

Last year, researchers studied 34 students at the University of Virginia, taking them to the base of a steep hill and fitting them with a weighted backpack. They were then asked to estimate the steepness of the hill. Some participants stood next to friends during the exercise, while others were alone.

The students who stood with friends gave lower estimates of the steepness of the hill. And the longer the friends had known each other, the less steep the hill appeared.

“People with stronger friendship networks feel like there is someone they can turn to,” said Karen A. Roberto, director of the center for gerontology at Virginia Tech. “Friendship is an undervalued resource. The consistent message of these studies is that friends make your life better.”

Take a second to digest that: Friendship can actually change your perception of adverse situations!

It reminds me of a scene from the Sex And the City Movie (which I didn't even really like...) Remember when Miranda calls Carrie on New Years Eve? The scene of Carrie getting up and rushing over to Miranda, telling her "You aren't alone," that beautiful version of Auld Lang Syne playing in the background--it's one of the best miniatures of what friendship means that I have ever seen...

Ever since I became a mother I have appreciated my friendships so much more. The simplest acts of human kindness make me well up now (why is that? do they inject cheesiness when they take out the baby?) so the wonderful, loving friendships I have in my life bowl me over, when I really think about it.

But here's the thing: It seems like lots of us have stopped making new friends. Think about it--when is the last time you met somebody you connected with and really got to cultivate a new friendship with her? We all have the usual rigamarole of why this is so, not the least of which is that--um--we are moms and are therefore busy. But is that it? Do we just not have time for new friends anymore?

According to this clip it's more than that. Entitled "Why Is It So Difficult To Make Mom Friends," this video chronicles women who explain their stumbling stones in finding kindred spirits amongst other moms. To wit: There's even an eHow post on the topic of "How to Make Mom Friends."

It can't be just time, can it? Are moms too judgmental to become close with other moms? Are our social interactions too focused on children to give friendships a chance? I wonder if that part of us that is curious to meet new people and experience new things gets dimmed a little post-children. Because of fatigue and time limitations, yes...but also because of complacency...we don't need new friends anymore, like me might have in college, or when we moved to a new city. We are fine with how things are...

I vacillate on the take-away from this though. On the one hand, I never feel like i have enough time for the wonderful friends I have. Perhaps the goal, then, should be to make more time for our friends in meaningful ways. Don't just play catch-up and replay the same jokes over and over again. Engage. Learn. Grow.

On the other, who wants life to be crystallized exactly where we are right now? We have to live and learn and change (hopefully for the better) and that means meeting new people and not being static. And though it's harder to make new friends now than it was in college--when the magical perfect storm occurs, and you do actually meet a new friend with whom you can laugh and cry as if you have known her can it be amazing.

Plus, it just might lower your cholesterol...!

Weekend Links

Friday, April 24, 2009

Got gum? Snap away--gum may be healthy for you.

Eureka--one piece of furniture your kids can draw on! And the coolest crayons ever with which to draw.

Check out this good, do-able advice on how to get out of the mac-n-cheese rut.

Need a beauty pick-me-up? Indian Makeup Diva teaches you how to look polished in 5 minutes flat.

Brown Girls: Tweet Tweet

Thursday, April 23, 2009

I Am a Horrilbe Mom, No Seriously, I Mean it!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I got an interesting email from a reader last week, asking for my take on this article, entitled "Bad Parents and Proud of It." I read the whole piece with interest, as it dovetails with something I have been thinking more and more: We live in an age of confessional parenting. Even before I read the article I was starting to notice that more moms were writing essays about their "dirty little secret" that they give their kids sugar/are anti-extra curricular activities/use their children as child labor...! According to the article, traffic on certain sites increased exponentially when content involved "mommy confessions." Why is that? Is it simply that we want to hear what other people in our situation are saying and doing? Perhaps. But part of me thinks we like to read these things because it makes us feel better about ourselves. Jerry Springer for the mommy-set.

Somewhere along the way, it has become cool and almost necessary to downplay the things we do for our children. I am as guilty of this as anybody else. Whenever anybody gives me anything resembling a compliment about my children, I find some way to undermine it or give some apropos of nothing example of how I'm a "disaster" as a mom. And maybe I am a disaster. But that's not the point. At least not of this particular post...!

When did it become uncool to take pride in our parenting?

I am all for breaking down the walls of parental judgment. Your kid isn't sleep trained and is 4? So what. That wouldn't work for me, but hopefully it works for you. Your 3 year old isn't potty-trained? Guess what, mine either. But this article indicates a trend that goes deeper than this. It indicates a sort of badge of honor that parents are starting to desire for doing things like pushing over their toddlers and letting their kids watch 6 hours of tv a day. Now, can't lie, there have been days when D has watched so much tv his eyes are glazed over. But I am ashamed of this. I want to fix it. I don't want a plaque, or a slap on the back with the corresponding "we all do that" speech.

Like most thing, there is a thin line at play here. I happen to own every "mommy book" that references cocktails. "Sippy Cups are not for Chardonnay," "I laughed I cried I drank a Margarita"--all that stuff. So clearly I am firmly in the camp of people who never will be and never want to be Miss Perfect Mom. Playdates are better with a little champagne. That being said, I do feel proud about some of my parenting, some of the little ways I am raising my kids. And I hope to accumulate more little nuggets of pride as they grow older and need more guidance. Will we be living in a world where, even to my friends, I won't be allowed to express that pride? And, as the article points out, what will it feel like if and when our children hear or read the way we are talking about them?

**Thanks to Atul for the link to the article!

Check Me In Please

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Would you want to check into a "post-partum recovery center" after you had your baby? Instead of going home after the 2 nights in a hospital, you go to a hotel of sorts where you rest and are taken care of (along with your baby). And you stay there for a month! According to this article, this practice is growing in popularity in certain Asian cities, where the month after a baby's birth is called "the sitting period" and post-partum mothers are supposed to stay inside and generally be resting.

The idea would be akin to science-fiction to most of my non-Indian friends and it seems bizarre to me too in the sense that you don't return to your family. At the same time, I can remember after I had my first son that my parents thought I should stay inside; rest; not venture to social events and whatnot. In retrospect, this model did more harm than good for me--the moment I started to feel confident as a mother was when I was allowed to re-engage with the world and do simple things like take a walk or go to the store with my newborn. Trapped inside my house, I felt isolated, overwhelmed, alone. Obviously, though, my parents didn't want me to feel like this--it was their cultural mores and their love for me that caused them to give the advice they did.

Right about now, when there are at least eight times a day when all three of my kids are whining or crying, checking into any place that is not my home and being taken care of has a massive appeal. But I can't help but think the idea--just like the idea that you should stay inside for a month--is a bit escapist and, in practice, might delay the whole process of starting to live your life post-baby.

What about you? Were you told to stay home for a period of time after you had your baby? Did you do it and was it beneficial to you? Would you go to one of these recovery centers if you didn't have family around to take care of you during "the sitting period"?

Monday Musings: Good Stuff

Monday, April 20, 2009

A funny thing happened on the way to the forum, er, grocery store. I think I saw D begin to learn abstract thinking. We were playing the "you know what else is good" game (what, you don't know this one?!?) It goes something like this:

D: Trees are good, right Mommy?
Me: Yes, trees are very good!
D: You know what else is good?
Me: What baby?
D: The sky!
Me: Yes, D, the sky is very good!
D: You know what else is good?
Me: What baby?
D: Pirates!

This can go on for hours. But yesterday, on the way to the supermarket, D changed it up on me and, after proclaiming all sorts of tangible objects that we passed by as "good"--trucks, the road, a gas station--D said "you know what else is good Mommy?"

"What baby?" I said

"Love is good mommy."

I was taken aback.

For the millionth time I realized that we don't give our little ones enough credit. In between breakfast, lunch, dinner, bath, thirty minutes of educational television (heh)--amidst all the noise, they are becoming these people. What I wouldn't do to get to visit D's mind and brain processes right now! The stuff he is starting to say these days (not counting the constant repetition of what he "needs"--candy, apples, toys)--some of it is actually poetic. The other day we were sitting on the roof, basking in the warm sun of a perfect Berkeley evening.

"It's still beautiful day right Mommy?" D said, looking over to the hills that were starting to get dark. "Beautiful day" is what he calls the morning.

"Yup, it's still beautiful day."

"It's not dark yet?"

"Nope, not yet."

"The dark is over there but soon it will be with us right Mommy?"

"Right D."

"And sometimes the dark comes to the whole world but we can still remember the beautiful day right Mommy?"

"Right D."

I want to remember the beautiful day and these beautiful moments. These little snippets of dialogue. Of insight into a nascent, sponge-like mind. It's become true to the point of cliche that the best way to experience the simple joys in life is to see the world through a child's eyes. To appreciate how green a tree is. To laugh from the belly over the fluttering of a moth. For me, I find wonder every day in watching D's mind evolve, his thoughts become complex. Seeing him make connections and articulate his (amazing, hilarious, bizarre, wonderful) ideas.

"Love is good, right Mommy?"

"Yes, D, love is very good."

"Do you love me mommy?"

"Yes D I love you very much."

"Good, that's good Mommy! You know what else is good?

"What D?"

"I love you too!"

Beautiful Things

Friday, April 17, 2009
Aren't these rocks, adorned with gold-foil motifs, awesome? In my utopic world, I imagine them with abstract images, "carelessly strewn" as part of some sort of tablescape. Or how cool would it be to create place settings, with the first letter of your guests' names in thick gilt? Might be a fun DIY project for you and the kids this weekend--check out step-by-step instructions on how to make these, from one of my favorite blogs, Design Sponge.

Brown Girls: Slow and Steady Wins the Race...

Thursday, April 16, 2009

iLove iPhone

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

D. and I had a successful playdate with some friends yesterday. The tantrums were kept to a minimum at the museum; D. only demanded seventeen toys; and, at the restaurant afterwards, we all managed to eat without (1) garnering angry stares from other diners; and (2) being kicked out. See? Success!

This was in part because of my trusty iPhone. I am so beyond wringing my hands over whether it's right to use television and video to assuage my toddler. It's right as rain. (What does that mean?) At the first hint that D. was going to take a sugar packet and throw it at our waitress's face, out came Youtube on the iPhone; D. watched some random 9 minute "Fireman Sam" clip; and the only face that sugar was thrown in was mine. (Success! is relative...)

Apparently I am not alone in using the iPhone as a parachute. Check out some of these great applications made just for toddlers and be better armed to face restaurants, lines at the airport, the grocery market check-out wait, and other facets of everyday life that have become nail-bitingly suspenseful in our post-baby days! While ABCWheels seems like it will grate on my nerves as much as D.'s tantrums, I confess to being psyched to try out Lil Pinata and BubbleWrap myself!

Do you have a great idea for an iPhone application? Something that you know would work to appease your child, perhaps? Apparently there is a growing number of people trying to strike iPhone gold by creating these sorts of things and, in terms of content for kids--who could be better than moms in creating this stuff?

We all make fun of the "baby industrial complex"--the ever-growing array of products, good and services catering to parents. And, yes, there is much to bemoan (wipe warmers come to mind). But I see the opportunity for good here. Imagine creating the most perfect diversion for crying children ever! The iPhone is only going to be the wild wild west for a little bit longer. If you have an idea, get to it ladies. Moms-- and restaurant owners-- across the country will thank you, buy your application, hold parades in your honor.

"Remember When..."

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

How many times have you joked, after your child bumps his head or after you forget to pick up the treat you promised him, "At least he won't ever remember this"? I've said it so many times I can't count. When D. couldn't go with his Bapu on the airplane back to Michigan and he screamed bloody murder; when S. became cognizant that he was sometimes being left at home when I would take D. to the park, and he would (note the theme) scream bloody murder; when littlest S. got her first shots and...that's right...screamed bloody murder. "At least they'll never remember this."

But when do they start remembering? I just read this amazing article on just that question--about how a child's memory works, and the evolution of a newborn's brain.

Reconfirming what many of us already thought, the article spells out that, until 3, kids are really only capable of short-term memory. This is, in part, heartbreaking. Some of us have gone to great lengths to do things like take our infants to India so that they know where they come from; some of us have lost parents and our children will never know these grandparents. And even putting that sort of grandeur to the side--we all do quite a bit of living in those first three years, from first trips to the playground to first days at school. But, for the most part, there is no getting around the fact that children are not wired to store these sorts of memories. Plan the elaborate 1st birthday party with Swarovski crystals on the cake if you want--but don't expect Junior to remember it.

Except: It is not quite that easy. For instance, according to the article, if you teach your 2 year old how to hit a tennis ball he may remember that for the rest of his life. And, while your kids might not remember the hours you and your mom slaved away baking almond cookies for their daycare with them, it is possible that, years later they will have "warm feelings" towards almond cookies. (Think Proust and those blasted Madelaines that made him wrote sooooo many words...!) As the article puts it: "The brain has more than one record button."

For the over-achievers amongst us ("My son can remember everything from when he was sixteen months old"...spoken in an Indian Auntie accent of course...!): Researchers have found that the way parents reminisce affects their kid's memory. For instance, a child's memory will be stronger if you "help her put together a story and make connections between things (for example, "Remember what we saw at the park last week? Yes, a dog! And what was the dog doing? He barked loud and you started to laugh!"). As opposed to asking repetitive questions that don't involve much detail ("What did we see? Yes, a dog! And what else did we see?"). When parents flesh out a story, rather than just go after simple facts, memories can find their home in a child's mind.

Add to the to-do list: Make connections about things with the kids...

But, take heart, even if you don't get to that action item, chances are that all is not for naught. As the article explains:

[T]he unconscious memories that [children] form right from the start may be the most important ones. These are the emotional patterns that we learn — that we are safe, that when mom picks us up we feel happy, or that when we knock over a tower of blocks and turn to look at dad, he will be smiling back at us. This is why many people say that the first few years of life are the most important — because way in the back of our brains is where we learn (unconsciously) that the world is a good place.

Which makes sense, and is a relief. Our hard work is for something. So remember to smile warmly...even when your kids are screaming bloody murder...

Monday Musings: The Long and Short of It

Monday, April 13, 2009

I've been thinking about J. Alfred Prufrock quite a bit lately. He's an old friend of mine, whose words I re-visit often. And more than ever, it seems like I am measuring out my life in coffee spoons. It's a necessary evil of being the mom to a newborn that the world becomes small, and that life gets parsed out into 3 hour intervals. I should be used to it. But even now, going through it for the third time, I find myself baffled by how monotonous and commonplace life can seem at one moment...and then how grand it can seem the next...

We all want to be these amazing parents, we all have these wonderful hopes and dreams for our children and can envision picturesque scenes of what family will look like 10 years down the road. But, for now, we are nursing children, pureeing vegetables, agonizing over "play based" versus "academic" preschools.

We all want to be wise. Soulful. Grounded. We all want perspective. These are our lofty, long-term goals.

But, in day to day life, we get angry, we are short-sighted. We "sweat the small stuff"...

How to balance the goals we have for ourselves as the people we hope to become, and the challenges and mundanity of the everyday?

On the eliptical machine last week (for the first time in, oh, 2 years...!), I was thinking about perspective. Taking a step back and seeing the bigger picture. Perhaps I was influenced by the Zen-like 60-somethings at my gym who exercise for joy as opposed to me who just wants to fit into my jeans! I don't know, but for some reason I found myself thinking about our vantage points on the world, our frames of reference, and how we go about achieving perspective on our surroundings. To me, it comes down to short term versus long term...

In the short term, this recession sucks. It is oppressive and it is sapping our contemporaries not only of money but also of hope. But, in the long term--we are likely gaining an appreciation for the things that matter--friends and family, most of all--in a way we can't even articulate yet. (Plus, according to every analysis of the recession that you read, people are "staying in" more and playing tons of board games...which, in my book, is always a good thing...bring on the Scrabble...!)

In the short term, breaking D.'s horrible eating habits and, as a byproduct, watching him not eat for meals at a time is breaking my heart. In the long term we will all be happier.

In the short term, nursing my baby seems shackling. Long term, I know I will be proud that I was able to do it and--who knows--I might miss the feeling of her little body against mine.

In the short term, I am itching to DO SOMETHING. In the long term: I know I will.

I came upon an article recently that set forth a "process" by which to make decisions and it sort of dovetails with the long term/short term divide that sprung from my 29 1/2 minutes at the gym. The process is called the 10-10-10 model. When you are confronting a choice, you ask yourself: How will my decision affect me in 10 minutes; 10 months; 10 years.

Should I have that second (fifth) glass of wine? In ten minutes: Yes I would be glad that I did. In ten months: Who will remember this night. In ten years: Seriously? Decision: Have it...!

Okay, seriously: Should I embark upon a new and slightly scary business venture. In ten minute: I will feel uncomfortable and fish out of water. In ten months: I will be stretched even thinner than now and might be frantic. In ten years: If it works out I will be so happy and proud that I took the plunge. Decision: Hmmm...

Try it. For real, just try it. Should you take the pay cut for the job you love? Should you splurge on the concert tickets? Should you go out or work on that novel?

10 minutes, 10 months, 10 years...

If you're thinking that this "model" seems simplistic--I agree. But, the hook of the article introducing it tugged me in: "Have you ever gotten the feeling that you're not living your life--it's living you?" Yes, yes I have. Plus, for me, the gimmick just works. It's a template to superimpose onto situations and that lends a structure to large and amorphous things. Which for me is good. And which, for me leads to that magical land called perspective.

Let us go then, you and I...

Weekend Deals

Friday, April 10, 2009

In case you are in the mood for some retail therapy this weekend:

Everything old is new again. Save 30% at Marion Mercer, one of the most meticulously curated collection of vintage clothing and accessories on the web. We're talking Versace, not Value Village. Discount code: PEOPLE

It's time to finally, finally clean out that closet (and make room for new things??). Save 25% on everything at The Container Store. Discount Code: CLUTTERCREW.

Oldie-but-goodie Prescriptives is offering a free "False Eyelashes" mascara and free shipping for any purchase over $35. Discount Code: STYLE

Go ahead, buy the rhinestone-encrusted thong. And by "rhinestone-encrusted thong" I mean "fluffy bathrobe." $20.00 off purchases of $100 or more at Victoria's Secret. Discount Code: 09SPRING

What's better than a closet full of Marc Jacobs and Trina Turk? Getting it on sale of course. If you live in the Bay Area, head to Iniam's trunk show on Saturday and snag a brand new wardrobe at a fraction of the price. 30% off the spring collections of MJ and TT. Also treat yourself to discounts from Deliciouz shoes and up-and-coming jewelry designer ila&i (very soon you will be able to say you knew her when...)

Brown Girls: Juggling and Balancing Stuff

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Beautiful Things

Who doesn't love beautiful things? I'm not ashamed to say that my breath can be taken away by both a beautiful sunset and a rockin necklace. Beauty is everywhere right?

Thought I would share with you some of the things I am loving every week. This might be a pair of shoes that I literally dream about, a clever storage ottoman, a Sunburst mirror, an Etsy painting, an antique spool cabinet. Just things that make me smile. Oh yes, and covet...!

I'm currently on a home-furnishing kick. I am notoriously decide-o-phobic about buying things for my home--each purchase just seems so permanent, it's as if you are agreeing to marry that sofa or chandelier! My current approach to whether I need a particular piece is supremely absurd and I may be exhibiting my borderline mental illness by sharing this with you, but I'm feeling particularly vigilante today...!

-First, I try to forget about the piece.
-Then, if a few days go by and it is still residing somewhere in my mind I find it online and keep that window on my computer open.
-The window stays open for a few days.
-In that few days I often go and look at the piece and often close the window with a tremendous sense of accomplishment.
-If that is not the case and I go to the window after a few days and still feel my heart race faster, I press the magic button: "Add to cart."
-Then, I close the window.
-Then, the next day, if I feel that sort of panic--that sort of "What if it's not there anymore? What if that was the last one? What will i do?"--then and only then do I (a) purchase the piece; and (b) come up with an explanation for my husband as to why we need an electric blue armoire/Arc lamp/curator nightstand...!

Life is about the journey folks...!

Here are some of the the beautiful thing I am currently going through my process with. As you will see, I am all over the map in terms of home-furnishing. Sometimes I want ultra-modern, sometimes the more bric-a-brac the better. I call it a love of juxtaposition, but I know full well that others may call it utterly confused...

I love this embossed metal Raj chair and can imagine it tucked away in an alcove or being one of many mis-matched chairs around a modern dining room table. The problem is: I don't have an alcove. Or a dining table with mismatched chairs. But these are minor points.

I want to keep this typewriter on the console table in our entry way so guests can leave messages when they leave. A perpetual guestbook!

My friend L. hung panels of this in her home to create three separate spaces out of one room--it looked magical. I would love to use them as decorative wall panels.
This is just cool--check out this site, actually, for all sorts of witty accessories for the home, including one of my all-time favorite purchases, this "Pearl Necklace" mirror.
Finally--simple, modern bunkbeds:

I've been trying to justify this telephone-table for 3 months. Perhaps I can use it as a crib?!?

And how do I even begin to describe what I like about this entire room? The word the comes to mind: DROOL. Totally practical set-up for a family with 3 kids under 4 right?

Obviously shopping isn't on the forefront of anybody's mind in this economy. But that doesn't mean that we can't develop our own sense of style and appreciate the things we find beautiful. For me, there is a joy in discovering treasures amongst all the junk out there. Plus, I get inspired by things of beauty--they make me want to create myself. Half of the things I love are aspirational--either because I could never afford them or because they just doesn't make sense in my life--but even these sorts of objects can inform my still nascent and always-evolving tastes and aesthetic...

Case in point? Just because I'm not going to own that sequined telephone cabinet doesn't mean I didn't, last night, attempt to sequin a pair of old shoes...!

The Newest Euphemism: "Consensual Living"

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Last night, once again, I attempted to feed my kids dinner. Key word, of course: "Attempted". The younger one is easy enough, but with D., it's the 5:00pm epic battle that confronts me every day. Shields were worn, fighting words were had and, in the end, there were no victors. After much back and forth, and 2+ years of pretty much forcing D. to eat dinner, which entailed sitting with him for hour upon hour as he squirmed and did anything but eat, we are finally trying the "they're not going to starve themselves" model. A part of me calls this failure on my part. But others, apparently, are calling it consensual living:

Founded in 2006 by some North Carolina families, consensual living is an alternative parenting model in which kids are equal partners in family life. In these non-hierarchical families, it is all about understanding each other's feelings and finding mutually agreeable solutions where everyone's wants and needs are addressed. In a consensual family, the smallest child's desires are equal to those of the parents and, unless it involves safety, nobody makes anybody do anything they don't want to.

Hmmm. Lets learn more...

Per the Consensual Living website (warning: there is annoying music when you click the link): There is no such thing as "have to" in the consensual living world. If your kid hits somebody on the playground, you can discuss with him what you would do but he does not "have to" apologize. Rewards and punishment for good and bad behavior are considered "tools of manipulation." And there are testimonials and sound bites about about how much more free and pleasant the family dynamic is once the parents give up traditional notions and structures of authority.

Wow. It's like some sort of Walden Pond utopia movie writ small to fit into a household. Communism for the suburbs? One the one hand, the idea that my 3 year old has the "self-determination" (a consensual living buzz word) to decide whether he wants to eat his broccoli does dovetail with the current approach we are taking to the horrible eating habits we have let him develop. We are now presenting him with food at proper times and letting him decide if he is going to eat, as opposed to trying every trick in the book to get him to take one measly bite of food. Is this a "consensual living" approach? We are done telling D. he "has to" eat his dinner. Consensual living?

But let's go further. There are certainly things that D. does "have to" do. While we are probably on the lax side of the parent-strictness-spectrum, I truly cannot imagine how certain events (e.g., D. going to bed) would happen unless there was an axiomatic line in the sand, an authoritative mandate that This Has To Happen Now. Haven't we all heard time and time again that children need boundaries? I accept that as true primaly--do we need to re-examine that idea?

No, I don't think so. I mean, seriously? I am 31 years old and I still do things out of deference to my parents. At this point I think it's the way it should be--as my dad would say, "Love the young, Respect the Old."

It's interesting and almost novel to think about a family model that involves respecting the opinions of everyone equally. It seems very p.c., like discussing with you child his view on toilet paper ("pro? con?"). But, here it is... I am going to hold out till D. can do things like wipe his own butt before I give equal play to his ideas of how the world should work. Cue the violins, here comes the Czarina...!

Do You Eat Flesh?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Are you vegetarian? Are you raising your kids to be vegetarian? Our kids are vegetarian thus far but we are not completely sure, yet, how important it is to us to raise them as strict vegetarians. I am one of those born-and-bred veggies--both of my parents are vegetarian and my sister and I were raised in that tradition. This was in the 80s in Michigan so you can imagine the confusion of those around us.

"Wait. You don't eat any meat?"
"Not even hamburgers?
"Well of course we eat hamburgers, just not any other meat, don't be silly."


Now firmly-established in Berkeley, it is less weird to be vegetarian that it is to be the kid who eats sugar instead of agave nectar. Definite cultural shift. Across the country it seems that more people have warmed to the vegetarian lifestyle. And, while I never really chose to refrain from meat, I have come to embrace the lifestyle and I came upon this article that, at first blush, made me feel proud and responsible to be a vegetarian which, in turn, made me more committed to raising vegetarian kids. According to the article:

If everyone went vegetarian just for one day, the U.S. would save:

● 100 billion gallons of water, enough to supply all the homes in New England for almost 4 months;

● 1.5 billion pounds of crops otherwise fed to livestock, enough to feed the state of New Mexico for more than a year;

● 70 million gallons of gas -- enough to fuel all the cars of Canada and Mexico combined with plenty to spare;

● 3 million acres of land, an area more than twice the size of Delaware;

● 33 tons of antibiotics.

If everyone went vegetarian just for one day, the U.S. would prevent:

● Greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 1.2 million tons of CO2, as much as produced by all of France;

● 3 million tons of soil erosion and $70 million in resulting economic damages;

● 4.5 million tons of animal excrement;

● Almost 7 tons of ammonia emissions, a major air pollutant.

My favorite statistic is this: According to Environmental Defense, if every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetarian foods instead, the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off of U.S. roads. See how easy it is to make an impact?

Like I said, at first blush, this article had me fluffing my feathers. Look at me, eco-conscious mother of the world. I'm all for anything that paints me to be a world-savvy, responsible person--it's nice to have delusions about ourselves...! But, upon a little more contemplation, these statistics seem--well--for lack of a more scientific term: totally whack. Obviously, even if the entire world went vegetarian tomorrow, we wouldn't just stop feeding cows would we? And what about all the people in the meat industry--what would become of them? And why doesn't the author cite any sources for such sensational statistics?

In some ill-defined, nebulous way, I do think being vegetarian makes sense and if I had to choose right now in a gun-to-the-head moment (oh the irony) I would say, yes, I want to raise my kids to be vegetarian. In part because it seems better for the environment and it appears to have health benefits, but in part, also, because it was the way I was raised and as I have said many times, I think we often come to see our childhoods as the Holy Grail of how things should be done. But, my husband is not vegetarian. And I am well-aware of many vegetarians, such as myself, who often load up on carbs and dairy--which doesn't seem particularly well-balanced or healthy. I also happened upon this article, which claims that kids who are raised vegetarian are at greater risk for developing weird eating issues later in life. Go figure: You can find statistics to support both sides of this issue. Quel surprise.

Thoughts? Many Indians are vegetarian--are you? Is your spouse? Do you want to raise your kids to eat flesh?!? (Yes--I know it is a loaded way to phrase the question...!)

Monday Musings: Daddy's Girls and Mommy's Boys

Monday, April 6, 2009

I am an unapologetic "daddy's girl." Not in the way that my voice goes up ten octaves when I say "dad" and not in any sort of MTV "Super Sweet Sixteen" way. I didn't ask for and wasn't given ponies when I was a kid. But, nonetheless, part of my heart belongs to my dad. ( For what it's worth, almost everyone who meets my dad wants to give him part of his or her heart...but that is for another post...!)

You would think that my ability to label myself a daddy's girl, with all the stigma that entails, would make me sympathetic to the plight of the mommy's boys of the world. What's wrong with a boy being close to his mother right? I have two little boys and I obviously want to have a good relationship with them when they are adults...but ever since I was pregnant with my eldest, 4 years ago, I joked that I would do anything in my power to prevent unleashing "another Indian momma's boy into the world."

Indian Momma's Boys. Every Indian girl I know jokes about them but I can't think of one true example of the specimen. According to the NYTimes, though, they are live well and kicking--at least in India. This article--somewhat mysteriously featured on the front page of the Business section--has commerce experts weigh in on the “huge, continuing umbilical cord between mothers and sons" in India. Citing A.R. Rahman's profuse thanks to his mother during his Academy Awards acceptance speech, as well as the curious case of an Indian judge advising the feuding, billionaire Ambani brothers to take their disputes out of court and to their mother, the article paints a picture of Indian males as a uniformly doting bunch of slightly sappy little boys, constantly calling their moms.

What is it about the term "momma's boy" that makes us bristle? Obviously, if unpacking the term yields a child-man who demands to be taken care of by his wife as if she were his mother, that is one thing. We all have children to mother, we certainly don't need to take care of our husbands in the same way. But if it just means a grown man who is close to his mother, why is it so difficult for so many of us to stomach?

And is this phenomenon--of an Indian momma's boy--even true? Something about the article seems off. Like the author is trying to hitch her wagon onto the ever-growing Slumdog star. Are we really supposed to believe that these movers and shakers in present-day India are, as a rule, still so tethered to their moms that the "[h]and that Rocks the Cradle Can Call the Shots," as the article's title proclaims? If so, how does this phenomenon translate to the Indian men we all know here in the U.S.? And what is it about being Indian that lends itself to being more prone to being a mommy's boy?

As usual, I have no answers... It's my hope that we all establish wonderful, deep relationships with our children. It's my heartfelt goal to have my children love me the way I love my parents. My dad is currently in town visiting which means everything in my house has been fixed; all the toys have new batteries in them; our taxes are being done; we are going to fancy dinners; my kids are saying "Bapu" in their sleep they are so excited; I feel a sort of visceral joy and support that can only come from a truly selfless, loving presence in your vicinity. It is my fervent desire to be such a presence to my children...

But, at the end of the day, I would be lying if I said I would be okay with anybody ever labeling my sons as "momma's boys." So there it is...!

Weekend Links

Friday, April 3, 2009

Gourmet food is so last year. This year is all about gourmet sex...

End the quest for the perfect children's gifts once and for all with Gift Hero, which boasts a well-edited selection of unique toys and gifts, searchable by age.

In case you missed it, check out Padma Lakshmi getting frisky with a hamburger (dubbed the "Thick Burger" no less). Yes she's super hot...but...seriously?!?

Bored of your friends? Chat with strangers.

Cigarettes, bottles, and skimpy clothes: Welcome to French Vogue's picture of motherhood...!

Brown Girls: Misguided Aspirations

Thursday, April 2, 2009

April is Autism Awareness Month

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

All April Fools jokes aside--there is something serious and close to any parent's heart that begins today: Autism Awareness Month. Many readers of this blog have children under 5 so you, like me, must have noticed how autism is in the news more and more these days. It's not just your imagination: The prevalence of autism has increased tenfold in the last decade. Autism spectrum disorders are diagnosed in 1 out of 150 kids in the U.S. For reasons that are still unknown, these disorders affect four times as many boys as girls. Clearly indicating the severity of the situation: The Center for Disease Control recently declared autism a "national public health crisis" whose cause and cure remain "unknown."

Anybody who reads anything--from the Times to Us Magazine--knows the controversy the mere uttering of the word "autism" can catalyze. From Jenny McCarthy claiming she has "cured" her son's autism, to debate about the propriety of vaccinations, to the hushed tones about over-diagnoses as a sort of "catch-all"--the topic is rife with hullabalo and polemic. But more information is never a bad thing, right? And more information takes more research; which requires more public money; which requires more awareness.

Want to learn more? Tomorrow happens to be World Autism Awareness Day. Find out more here. Want to support with a little bit of retail therapy? Check out the ever-growing list of stores that have pledged support to the cause, and also take a look at this Judith Ripka pendant which benefits Autism Speaks (the nation's largest autism science and advocacy organization). Want to be more involved, plan a fundraiser, or attend a fundraiser? See here for more information.

The logo for Autism Speaks is a puzzle piece. The disorder truly is still a puzzle and if you don't know somebody yet who has autism, the odds are good that you will sometime soon. Autism is a mystery we can begin solving in our lifetimes. Anything you can do helps.