A Letter to My Blog

Dear Days, Life, Dreams,

I’ve ignored you for some time now. There has been a battle in my head over which direction to take with you, and that has led to my not giving you any attention at all. I’m sorry.

I love writing, I really do. You know that from the nearly 500 posts you contain, dating back to February 2008 when I wrote my very first post. At first, I wrote about my family, my kids, and our life in India. I enjoyed writing all that, even though I know it was only read by a select few, mainly family.

And that is what I’ve forgotten over the past 6 years – why I started this blog in the first place. My only goal was to let my family (and anyone else who was interested) know what was happening in our lives. It was a few years before I discovered other mommy blogs, memes, blogging groups, etc. At first I got sucked into thinking I had to do what everyone else was doing to get a large following, blah, blah, blah. It drove me crazy trying to keep up, especially before you had this one place to call home and your contents were spread over 3 different blogs.

I’ve come to realize that I miss the relationship we had in the beginning. I miss posting short things about my kids and the rascals they were, or just putting up a picture or two and not worrying if I didn’t have a topic to write about.  So, my dear Blog, I am coming  back to you as me, not as anyone else. I will again write like I used to, just enjoying the time we have together. I will visit you when I feel like it, not according to some timetable. I don’t ever want to get so overwhelmed with “blogging” that I forget you are also my friend.

You listen to what ever I have to say. You don’t complain. You don’t judge. You are just there for me.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart,

Me

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Christmas Can Be Magical – With or Without Santa

You know all those petty wars that tend to circulate and grow on the internet? – Moms bashing moms for everything under the sun, from parenting styles to play dates, food issues to fitness – you name it, there is probably a war on it. Well, Christmas hasn’t been left out, because there are wars on that too.

The topic? Santa, or more specifically, whether or not it is okay to teach kids to believe in him.

I read two posts on this topic this morning, and I couldn’t believe the comments! People who want their kids to believe saying those who don’t let their kids believe are ruining their childhood, and those who don’t want their kids to believe saying that those who let them believe are straight-out lying to their children, and ruining their childhood. Basically, either way you are wrong.

There were so many opinionated people saying everyone else was wrong because no one else agreed with their personal decision on how the idea of Santa was handled in their household that I opted to not say anything on those posts because I hate getting into such debates. But I figured it wouldn’t hurt to post my thoughts on the topic here on my own blog.

Here is what I feel: whether or not you teach your child to believe in Santa, either the idea of him or that he is a real person, is purely a personal decision. Your choice on this should be what you feel is right for your family, based on your upbringing and personal beliefs, not what the media, your neighbors, a stranger in the grocery store, or the blogosphere thinks you should do. And when you read a blog post or news article from someone who holds an opposing view from yours, you shouldn’t feel the need to bash them for it!

My husband and I were both raised knowing Santa wasn’t real, so for us it was natural to pass the same belief to our children. This doesn’t mean that they don’t know who Santa is. They watch movies and read stories with him in it like any other child would, but as they’ve  gotten older and began questioning if he was a real person, I told them he was like Micky Mouse or Winnie the Pooh – just a story character, and that he represents the spirit of giving.

Since we live in India and Christmas is not a major holiday like it is in other countries, there is no concern that they will blurt out that Santa isn’t real and ruin it for some other kid. I don’t think anyone here teaches their child that he is. I may be wrong, but I have yet to find someone here who believes in Santa.

This year I plan to take it further and find the story of St. Nicholas. I will let them know that Santa is based on a real person who lived long ago, and who’s secret giving helped those in need. I will also prepare them for when we move to Canada by telling them that some people do believe Santa is  a real person, and that if they should meet someone who does, it’s okay to pretend along and not ruin it for them. I think that is the considerate thing to do.

Of course, since we don’t believe in Santa, there is also no Elf on the Shelf, Easter Bunny or Tooth Fairy in our house. I don’t think my kids are missing out on the magic of childhood just because they don’t believe these characters are real.

So how do we make Christmas special without Santa? Well, we’ve created our own traditions.

– The first thing we do is to decorate the house and tree at the same time each year, either on or as close to the 1st of December as possible. A weekend is best since there is no school, and we can make a day of it if necessary. Of course, this was the first year they were big enough to truly “help”. I still did most of it.

– Another thing we do, that began the year Logan was 2, is to countdown the days until Christmas. The first few years we used a simple poster that we printed out from some website and put together. They loved pulling a number off each day and having a small chocolate.

Samsung

This year we made something new – a chart that has a Christmas activity for each day leading up to the 25th. Some of the things I put on the chart are making cards, baking, reading stories, simple craft projects, a treasure hunt, and watching Christmas movies. Some of the activities repeat, such as the stories and movies, but that way we can cover a number of different ones.

Eventually I want to make one of these in cloth so I can trade up the ideas every year, but I’m waiting ’till Canada where I can get a sewing machine. Hand stitching is a lot of work!

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– Another tradition my kids enjoy is opening their stocking on the 25th morning. They know they can open it right away without asking.  I make sure to include a toy or activity and some treats – chocolate, cookies, etc., – something that will keep them happy and busy until everyone is up and ready to open gifts. I hand-stitched our stockings 2 years ago. You can read about it here. (And now you know why I don’t want to hand stitch a countdown chart.)

– At least once during the season, I read them the story of the First Christmas from a children’s Bible or storybook. We also put out a manger scene of some sort. I’ve used the above flannelgraph (found here) a few years in a row, and this year we are making a paper one. (Still working on it – I have to do 99% of the cutting, gluing and folding. Next time I’ll just buy one.)

– I like to bake fruitcake, since I love eating it, so I make enough to give some as gifts. We wrap and deliver them to friends and teachers. (You can find my recipe here.)

The cakes I made last year.

The cakes I made last year. And here is the funny story of how I ended up with too many cakes.

– A new idea I had this year was to have a simple treasure hunt. It will be done as one of the countdown to Christmas activities and the treasure is a new Christmas story book, wrapped up, of course. If they enjoy the game, and I’m sure they will, I will make it an annual tradition.

I look forward to incorporating more traditions as my kids grow. Traditions are fun and important because they help build memories. I don’t think it is necessary to believe in Santa in order for Christmas to be special, but I also don’t think you are wrong if you do. Christmas is supposed to be about joy and peace, friendship and families, and creating magic for our kids, not fighting over who’s tradition is the right one.

 

Now that that is all out of the way, tell me what your favorite Christmas tradition is, or what your kids look forward to?

Rethinking My Writing Commitment – Doing it Right

I can’t believe it’s been almost a month since my last post. So much for my commitment to write regularly. I’ve just not been in the mood, nor did I have any ideas about what to write.

I read a lot of other blogs, mostly mommy blogs. Each one is kept up in a way that is particular to the person writing it. And that’s a good thing. What’s bad is that I’ve felt the need to be like those who post several times a week, who never miss a post, who can keep up with all the various memes and link up’s that are out there.

I tried doing that back some time ago when I had 3 separate blogs, before they all got mixed together here on this one.  My childcare/parenting one was a source of continual stress for me, which is why I eventually discontinued it. (You can find the posts from that blog on my page Mommy to Mommy and on the tabs under that page.)

But why do I feel this need to follow the crowd? My blog is my own and should be kept up for my own reasons, not anyone else’s. I think I just need to get back to the original reason why I began this blog: keeping my family up-to-date on the kids and our lives. If I write anything, it should be what I want to write, not what I think the mommy blogger community as a whole would like.

Life has kept me busy lately and that is, I think, more important than trying to come up with the perfect blog post. I’m doing better in some of my other commitments. I got more exercise this month. We are trying out new meal ideas. The house is cleaner because we finally hired a maid. The kids are learning. They love school time so much that they want it every day.

By the time I have time to sit and blog, I’m tired. I’ve tried writing tired before. It doesn’t come out that great. So this reminder is more for myself – just write what you want and leave the rest unwritten. Don’t try to keep up with anyone. Stay true to your own commitments.

Time to Recommit

I’ve been in such a writing funk lately. This seems to happen to me every so often – I just don’t feel like writing so I don’t. And then stories and ideas pile up, and before I know it, I’ve got backlogs of stuff that I wanted to share and never did, and then I don’t because more time keeps passing and the stories become dated.

I’ve got to stop doing this! Deep down, I really want to write, but I allow my busyness to get in the way and stop me. Just like I’ve committed to exercise and eating gluten-free (more on that another time), I need to commit to writing on this blog.

So this is my commitment. At least 2 posts a week, unless there is good reason not to.

I haven’t told many people about this, but I want to become a freelance writer. What’s been holding me back? Lots of things. For example, what do I want to write about? Who do I want to send pieces to? Where do I even begin? I’ve been reading up on it from some specific writers blogs, and I have learned a lot. I just need to get over whatever is really holding me back, and get started.

I figure keeping up with my blog is the first step. Then maybe I should try guest posting on some blogs that I read regularly who accept guest posts, just to get in the practice. I’ve just got to do it! Who knows where it could go from there? Obviously I’ll never get paid to write if I don’t ever write.

Now to get started…

Mommy Equals Love

They call me mommy, but I am more than that.

This word – mommy – embodies many roles. It refers to one person, and the many she becomes.

To be a mommy, you have to be everything else as well.

 

I cook 3 times a day, plus prepare snacks. I am a chef.

I wash mountains of laundry – mountains that refuse to stay away. I am a washerwoman, and a mountaineer.

I wash never-ending piles of dishes, dishes that magically appear out of nowhere. I am a dish-wash machine come to life.

I pick up messes, messes, and more messes. Where they come from nobody knows.  I am a maid.

I take my children wherever they need to go. I am a chaperon. (I don’t drive or I would be a chauffeur too.)

I bathe my children, wipe their butts, change diapers, brush hair, brush teeth. I am a personal attendant.

I teach my children what they need to know in life. I am a teacher.

I tend to ouchies, cuts, bonks and boo boo’s. I make them take vitamins and medicine. I am both doctor and nurse.

I make sure they eat healthy food. I am a nutritionist.

I buy their clothes, shoes, and toys. I am a personal shopper.

I sort out fights and arguments, and cool hot tempers. I am a diplomat.

I run the house. It is my job to make sure everyone else is where they should be, doing what they should do. I am a boss.

 

But a mommy is so much more than all of those, for she is the one the children cherish, the one they run to when they are sad, in pain, or need comfort. They come to her for advice, for hugs and cuddles, for encouragement. Even though their antics may drive her insane, at the end of the day, it is their sweetness that keeps her going.

For children, mommy equals love.

35, Alive, and Truly Happy

Tomorrow is my 35th birthday.

Time has flown so fast. I feel like my childhood was only a few years ago and now I’m mid-30’s. How did that happen? Where did all those years go?

There was a time when I couldn’t imagine reaching 16. It seemed so old. Then once I was past 16, 25 seemed ancient. I remember thinking my mom was so old when she was in her late 40’s. (Sorry, mom. It’s true.) But now that I’m here, 35 feels so young.

For a long time I felt like I had wasted my best years, my 20’s, by doing so little of nothing in particular. I spent time as a nanny and preschool teacher, but I didn’t feel that was my life’s calling. I traveled, trying to find a place where I felt like … I don’t really know. I wanted to belong, to live, not just endure.

When I came to India 10 years ago, I wasn’t sure how long I’d be here. I spent a lot of time working with kids. It wasn’t bad. I know I was helping them, teaching them, caring for them, etc. Deep down the thing I wanted most at that time was my own family. I spent almost 4 years here before I met Glad. At that time I was ready to leave the country, but now I’m happy I stuck it out.

Everything changed when I started having kids. The past 6 years have been a blur – pregnancies, newborns, toddlers, diapers, feeds, messes; in short, insanity. But you know what? Exhausting as it was, I loved it! I finally felt like I had found what I was looking for.

Now that my kids are getting older, I’m realising that my best years have not been wasted; they are just beginning! The 20’s are about finding yourself, figuring out who you are and what you want out of life.  I spent most of those years worrying that I would never find a husband or someone to love me.

I never gave a thought to trying out a different line of work. I stuck with child care because I was good at it, but it wasn’t what I truly wanted to do. I’m taking time now to figure out what I really want to do. I know I want to write. And I love to create with my hands – crafts and such. With our pending move to Canada, a whole new world is opening up for me.

I feel more relaxed about the way my life is going now that I am in my 30’s. I force myself to stay positive, to stay away from worry or negative thoughts.  I exercise, make time for myself, and feel like I am truly enjoying life. I can honestly say that right now, I am the happiest I’ve ever been. I’m happy with my life the way it is.

While there are always improvements to make, I don’t stress over them. I’ve always been the shy type, and I spent years trying to be outgoing, just because others told me I had to. I tried to will myself to change into an outgoing person, but the stress exhausted me. Now that I’ve accepted myself as I am, and no longer listen to those who tell me I have to be someone else, I’m happy.

This year I’m looking forward to our move and getting settled in what we hope is our permanent home. I look forward to getting settled in a job I enjoy, teaching my kids about a new country (they’ve never been out of India), and seeing my family again.

What do I want for my birthday? Nothing really. There isn’t anything I need. My only desire is a happy, healthy family, and perhaps a solid nights sleep. 🙂

So 35, I’m not afraid of you. I’ll see you soon.

Christmas Eve 2012

It’s come round again, and so quickly too. Wasn’t it just summer? Didn’t my kids just have their birthdays? Where has the time gone, and why does it seem to fly by faster each year?

Christmas Eve – Since the 1st my kids have been asking when Christmas morning would come. When could they open stockings and gifts? When could we go to the mall to see the decorations? When would school be out and holidays begin? Now it is the 24th and I am still wondering what happened with all that time I thought I had.

Today we took them to the same large mall we went to last year. There was only a central display, nothing they could actually do, like the train we rode last year. It was a two-story teddy bear house, complete with dancing bears, a teddy ferris wheel, bears drinking at tables, standing on balconies, and one army bear standing guard at the entrance to make sure no one went in. These bears were about 3 feet tall and dressed in party clothes (except for the army bear, of course – he wore the Indian army uniform).

Then we went over to Hamleys just for fun. They love this toy shop, since there is lots to see and even play with. Their usual strictness about not playing with all the toys seemed to be relaxed and the kids had fun touching all the displays. Logan found a mat drum kit and had a ball with that, while Lila drove a scooter around and Scarlett tried out each rocking toy. If it could be played with, they did it.

After ice cream and a short walk around the mall, we were leaving when I noticed Santa was in the toy shop, so they went over for a treat and Hamleys badge before we headed home.

We spent the afternoon at home, playing, eating, napping, and lots of t.v. In fact, because of their naps, the girls weren’t ready to sleep until late. It was 11 p.m. before I got them into bed. Then I decided to do some prep for tomorrow morning. So the strawberries are washed and ready, the biscuit dough is made, fruitcake is cut and cookies are ready to be put out. The children are all now sleeping soundly, as is daddy, who fell asleep on the couch with the t.v. on and Scarlett in his arms.

Which brings me to why I felt the need to write a post after midnight.

As I filled stockings and laid the gifts around the tree, I felt just a twinge of sadness. My own stocking will remain empty and there won’t be any gift for me under the tree. As a child I always looked forward to opening gifts and seeing what unusual surprise there would be in my stocking (like the year when I was around 13, it was full of stickers that needed to be colored). Now that I am the one doing the buying, wrapping, and filling, it seems weird to put out gifts I bought myself.

Actually, I have yet to get myself a gift this year. I did buy two tops but I needed them right away for the cooler weather so I’ve been using them already. Sometimes it’s hard being married to a man who hates shopping so much that he refuses to go get me a gift, even if I give him ideas about what he could choose. I can’t remember the last time I had a surprise gift for either Christmas or my birthday.

So this is one thing I am looking forward to in moving closer to my family – gifts! Ha! No, I don’t mean it that way, it’s just that it’s nice to get a surprise instead of something I pick for myself, and coming from a Christmas-loving family, I know they will do it. At least I hope you will. 🙂 (I love you guys.)

I guess most mothers face this, at least until their kids are grown enough to go shopping on their own. I plan on training mine to each get me something so that, come Christmas morning, I will have at least 3 gifts instead of none. It will always be a dream to get a gift from my husband, but maybe one day it will come true.

So tell me, ladies. Does your husband/boyfriend buy you gifts or expect you to get your own? Men, do you buy something for your wife/girlfriend even if you hate shopping?

Fifty Shades – My Take

Spoiler alert: If you haven’t read this book yet and are planning to, you may not want to read this.

Just last night I finished reading “Fifty Shades of Grey”, the currently popular novel by E.L. James. I only heard of it recently on one of my favorite mommy blogs, and from the discussions in the comments, I had mistakenly thought they were discussing a sex manual. So I was rather shocked last monday when my husband bought it and said he was going to read it. He said his sister had recommended it. Ha. That should have been a tip off. Well, he gave up on the book about halfway through – too much detail in the sex department. He doesn’t like reading stuff like that. I finally picked it up friday night and completed it by saturday night.

Now, I normally don’t go for those types of novels. I much prefer mystery and sci-fi, and will still read Hardy Boys and Sherlock Holmes if I can get my hands on them. But of course, this held my interest, and not how you would think. Yes, the sex parts were interesting, discriptive, informative, if a bit far-fetched. I mean, how many men can come twice in a row?  What kept me going was this: I wanted to hear more about his past and why the hell he doesn’t want to be touched. What happened to him to make him not want to be touched? That mystery part kept my going and maybe I will just have to get the next two books to find out.

I liked the description of Anastasia’s conscience throughout. All the ways she would react and what she was up to. I also like how she never signed that freaky contract. Hot guy or not, I would not have stuck around with something like that shoved at me. No way! I was proud of her for not giving in to it in the end. She truly believed Christian was capable of more, of love, even though he’s scared of it for whatever reason. Men aren’t typically thought of as moody, but boy, this guy had more mood swings than I’ve ever had. I still don’t know how Anastaisia stuck it out as long as she did.

One thing I did like about him was how honest he was about what he wanted. He was clear on it. Most men aren’t and could take that tip from him. I personally don’t subscribe to his odd sexual taste and would never be keen on being tied up, whipped, spanked, or any of that, but the talking – I’d love for my husband to do that more. He’s more the wake-me-in-the-night-in-and-out type.

I also liked Anastasia’s mother’s explanation about men and how they usually mean what they say – they aren’t trying to be cryptic like women usually are. It’s true that we do analize what our men say and often read into it meanings that aren’t there. I’ve done it. Gotta remember this for next time my husband gets into a rare talking mood.

 Just had a peek at what my husband is up to since he is never up before 9 on Sunday and it is only 6:50. He’s reading the book!!! Ha! I suppose his curiosity has gotten the better of him and he has to finish it. Anyway, a few questions.

Did I like the book? Yes, I have to say that I did, though I would have preferred less sex and more action. I suppose the only reason his secret about not wanting to be touched is not revealed is so that you will read the next book.

How would I rate it as far as romance novels go? I’d probably give it an eight. It is definitly well written, much better than those ones that are all just steamy sex but no story. It has body and the writer knows her stuff.

Would I read it again? Probably not, mainly because I tend to remember books quite well and only reread ones that I love. This didn’t make the “love” list.

So there you have my little summary of “Fifty Shades of Grey”. Tell me, have you read it? What are your thoughts on it?

My Thoughts on India, Part 7

You have read my rants before on driving in India and what the roads and sidewalks are like. Now another great topic has come to mind: Indian trucks.

Not all trucks are this fancy but this isn’t too extreme.
Personally I have an aversion to these trucks, possibly having something to do with the accident I was in back in 2005. The drivers act like their truck is the king of the road and they always have the right of way, no matter what.
But now I am going to show you some pictures of what trucks here often look like – overloaded. It is more common than you think. I found all of these on Google but trust me when I say these aren’t extreme cases. They happen all the time.
Overloaded to tipping point.
Trucks will be piled sky-high with anything.
Plastic water jugs.
Hay.
Sugar cane. See the cow in the corner?
Can’t imagine what’s in there.
Possibly cement.
Probably something soft like pillows or mattresses.
Every truck in the line is similarly overloaded.
Steel bars.
Dried coconut shells. At least they are light.
People.

Overloading seems to be something no one thinks is dangerous, except for me. It scares me. I don’t like it when people drive too close to my kids while out walking, or when the auto driver takes risks like driving facing oncoming traffic just so he can make a closer turn, or when the buses don’t stop when you are crossing the road, even though they have a red light.

Even though I have enjoyed my years in India, I am looking forward to moving somewhere where it will be safe for my children when they are walking and riding. But that is still a few years off so until then, road safety is a daily lesson.

Toys – A Source of Pain, Stress and Insanity

I was thinking today that toy manufacturers must not actually interact with children. See, I had a painful meeting of the sole of my foot with a large piece of Lego while I was carrying the baby this morning. Someone had kindly dumped their Lego’s in my room just so that something like this could happen.

Toys like that should come with a warning: “Painful if stepped on.” Sure they are educational. You learn about construction, colors, physics, and pain.

And what about noisy toys? “Will cause insanity if listened to repeatedly“.

Logan had a Nemo toy when he was a baby that sang the most irritating song, and it wouldn’t go off either, unless I turned it off. He loved it; I didn’t. Lila has a duck that used to quack. Now it doesn’t after too many trips in the washer. For Christmas I put some phones in their stockings, and regretted it by the end of the day. I was happy when those stopped working. And let’s not forget the annoying sounds that came from that walker music tray. Painful! I was so happy when that one died.

I can just imagine it: a roomful of toy designers (who are all childless) sitting around a very large table in a quiet room, discussing what they should make next.

“This new toy has to be attractive”, says one.

“And educational”, says another.

“What about loud? Kids love loud things.” quips a third clueless designer.

“I know – we can have it sing the ABC’s and ‘Old MacDonald’ in a high-pitched voice.”

“Oh, yes, kids like the songs and parents will be happy ’cause the kids are learning something.”

… and this is how noisy, painfully annoying  toys come to be.

 

They should all be sold with complementary earplugs!!!

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