Month: March 2009

don’t forget a sense of humor

Traveling with your family can be a test of patience, planning, and practice. It doesn’t matter how far you are going. It could be a 3 hour car ride, or a 20 hour plane ride…it is all stressful and hopefully all worth the effort.

Last week our family headed to Florida for 3 days to visit my in-laws. Not exactly a month long trek to India, but a family vacation nonetheless. It had been a while since the four of us packed up, took a flight, and went away as a family. The economy, our family size, and lack of free time have really put a dent in our “family vacations.”

What I had forgotten in our lapse of traveling is how it takes almost twice as long to pack as it does to travel. Diapers? Warm clothes? Cold clothes? Spare shoes? Bathing suits? It is overwhelming to try to cover all your bases and make sure you have every necessity you could possibly need. Not to mention, with all the extra charges the airlines are heaping on, it could double your cost of the trip if you wanted to bring enough diapers, wipes, socks, hats, swim goggles, floaties (you get the picture) to get you through the trip.

Years ago, pre-kids, my cousin got married in Mexico. It was a wonderful wedding, but one planned by two people who did not have any idea what it would be like to travel with kids to a remote location in Mexico. I have to admit, I didn’t even have a sense that not being able to keep milk cold, wash clothes, or buy fresh fruit could really ruin a vacation. I was still of the era where running out of Corona or Tequila would ruin my vacation.

The sister of the groom, however, knew exactly how hard it would be to travel 8 months pregnant with a 15 month old in tow. I don’t want to take away from the wonderful wedding, but cockroaches in the bathtubs, rusty water, and no food service between the hours of 7pm and 10am could really do a mother in. But it didn’t. She laughed, she smiled, and she honestly enjoyed herself.

So as I was preparing to go to Florida (hardly a remote location) I kept thinking about what was the most essential item to pack. And thank goodness, I remembered it. A sense of humor. Following the sister of the groom’s lead I was able to laugh off the little setbacks that we experienced on our trip. No shoes for the little girl? No problem. Stomach bug for the little boy? We’ll get by. Rainy day in a senior citizen community with nothing to do? We can handle it. Luckily for me, there was no shortage of Corona, Tequila OR a sense of humor on this trip. And a good vacation was had by all.

palaces and playgrounds

Does it get more difficult to travel with kids as they get older? Are there certain ages that are more difficult to travel with than others? How much more difficult will it be to travel with two kids than with one? Since our first fabulous trip to Europe with a then 9-month-old Zoe (which I blogged about here several months ago) we have been asking ourselves all of these questions. On that trip some friends told us that we should enjoy it while it lasts because once she started walking she’d no longer be happy to go along with our activities and travel would become much more difficult. But we haven’t found this to be the case. We’ve found it nothing but pleasant to travel with our now 18-month-old. Now people are telling us that our travels will end this summer when we add another little one to our family. Yes there have been challenges (mainly the flights and the time changes!) but overall we look forward to more trips with Zoe this summer and after that with Zoe and her sibling.

Zoe’s second trip to London was a success. We all had a fantastic time. The main purpose of our trip was to go to a wedding but we also got in a lot of time with Zoe’s Great-Grandma Nita, saw lots of other family and had a lot of fun around London and some great dinners out. There is a lot to be said for traveling East with a baby -she didn’t get cranky at our 8pm dinners because to her it felt early and I got to sleep late for the first time in nearly 18 months!

For our last day in London we had gorgeous weather. It was in the 60s and sunny. We started the day at Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guards because this is one of my greatest memories of trips to London as a kid (granted I was a little older than 17 months so we’ll have to take her back in a few years). After the guards we went to St. James Park which was absolutely gorgeous. We found a great playground which Zoe thoroughly enjoyed.

At Trafalgar square we took a replica of the picture we took last year of Zoe held up in the air with her belly exposed. We saw a great Picasso exibit at the National Gallery which Zoe napped through. One of the great things about traveling to a city with a baby that still needs sleep during the day is that we never had to worry about how to get this sleep in -we just went to a museum or other activity that she wouldn’t mind missing while she slept in the stroller. When we took Zoe to Costa Rica we spent a lot of time in the hotel rooms while she napped and her naps often dictated our day’s activities.

I often hear that kids don’t usually eat as well while traveling as when they are home. We have definitely found this to be the case. I have wondered why Zoe doesn’t seem to eat much on our trips since we always find her favorite foods and she eats well in restaurants at home. I just try to remember that kids will always supposedly eat enough to get the very minimum of nutrients that they need. The only meal Zoe actually ate on the entire trip was at The Rock and Sole Plaice which is the oldest fish and chips restaurant in London. We couldn’t blame her as it was excellent!

The next day we headed out to Waddesdon where the wedding was. The wedding was beautiful. It was in the dairy at the Waddesdon manor which is an amazing house built in the late 19th century for the Rothchilds. In England it seems to be pretty common to bring kids to weddings and Zoe had a great time playing with her cousins and soaking up lots of attention at the wedding. For me it was a bit exhausting running after her in heels and I prefer the New York way of hiring a sitter when going to a formal event!

Stay tuned as we find out if travel gets more difficult over the years.

brazil and soccer

With Tea Collection’s launch of its Brazil line, instead of daydreaming about warm, sandy beaches or Mardis Gras and Carnival, my mind wondered to soccer. Let me explain … I have a preschooler in the house.

Our son will be four in a few months, and this fall he participated in soccer school, which involved a 30-minute group lesson once a week. The program was offered by Soccer Shots (, and he absolutely loved it. So much so that he asked his grandparents for soccer cleats for Christmas. The shoes did not disappoint—shiny silver with red accents; I want a pair in my size, and I could be the world’s worst soccer player. To round out the outfit, my husband and I added a Francesco Totti jersey and shorts. (Totti is apparently a star player for Italy’s SA Roma team, which of course I didn’t know.)

Sometimes, we spot soccer games on television, occasionally with international teams. Our son is starting to understand what a country is and where a few are located, as we work his world map puzzle (made by Mudpuppy) on the floor a few nights per week. The puzzle has great imagery for kids, including a soccer player situated where Brazil would be. The puzzle does not name countries or include borders; it only names the continents and oceans, which saves space for all of the colorful graphics. It is helpful, though, that soccer is so beloved all over the world, because I have an excuse to explain to him that the game he enjoys so much is also adored by children and adults in almost every other country on the map. I am actually looking forward to next year’s World Cup, both as an opportunity to watch fantastic soccer with my son, but also as a shameless excuse to sneak in some geography lessons. Goooooooooal!

how do you say “mother”?

Parvati (Hindu Mother Goddess)

At 4 months, Kai started to call me “Uma”, his version of the word. This sparked my interested in the linguistic origins of the word “mother”. It derives from the root “mater” which means measure. Other words with this common root are: matriarchy, maternal, and matron. Did you know that the word mama means “breast” in Latin? Go figure.

Check out the word “mother” in other languages:

– Mata (Hindi)

– Ma (Mandarin)

– Madre (Spanish, Italian)

– Imi (Hebrew)

– Okasan (Japanese)

– Makuahine (Hawaiian)

– Me (Vietnamese)

– Mamma (Swedish)

– Ina (Tagalog)

No matter what, the word “mother” in any language is powerful. Ask any child, I’m sure the word conjures up comfort, nourishment, and authority.

How do you say it in your household?

gather the women

A few weeks ago, I received an invitation addressed to “All My Amazing Women Friends.” I have to say I was honored to be on this list of women with a 50 year span of age, representing many different careers, religious beliefs, and family structures.

We met for an afternoon tea to discuss our roles as women in the world and to consider studying a book together by Jean Shinoda Bolen called “Urgent Message from Mother: Gather the Women, Save the World” with the intention that the power of this group would do just as the title instructs and predicts. In the book Bolen says, the “energy of women together is generated by a mix of love, outrage, ideas, comments, infectious laughter, and a desire to make a difference.” From my experience at our recent gathering, this is indeed the case.

Bolen insists that there is need for women to work together to ensure the safety and security of our children and grandchildren as “more than half of the world’s children of more than one billion suffer extreme deprivation because of war, poverty, and HIV/AIDS.” When we can end the cycle of violence and neglect that allows a half billion children to be uncared for, traumatized, disempowered, and killed, world peace and sustainability can become a reality.

Sunday, March 8th is the 98th International Women’s Day. The day was established to celebrate the social, economical, and political accomplishments of women of the past, present and future. This year’s IWD theme is “women and men united to end violence against women and girls.” Why not use the occasion to take a bold step forward for world peace and an end of violence towards women and children by honoring this day? Even the smallest intention or action will make a difference. Light a candle, write a letter to Ambassador Susan Rice, representative of the United States to the United Nations, to ask for a 5th International Women’s Conference sponsored by the United Nations, or better yet invite all your amazing women friends to gather with the intention that peace and humanity can prevail on earth.

st. petersburg, russia with two toddlers

I grew up in Missouri. My husband grew up in Russia, and this is where his extended family remained. Now we live together in the Bay Area with our kids. In 2008, we packed up our 3 and a half and nearly 2 year old children and made the trek (24 hours door to door with two toddlers is officially a trek) to Saint Petersburg. Though the trip was not without its challenges, it was wonderful to experience Russia with the kids.

Since day one, Dmitri, my husband, has always spoken with the children in Russian. They have a Russian nanny and many local Russian friends. So, the kids both speak in Russian as well as they do in English. It was such a pleasure to watch them naturally and easily interact with their extended family in Russian. They played games, laughed at their grandfather’s jokes, and chatted endlessly with their slightly older Russian cousin (age 8).

We enjoyed long strolls with the whole extended family in the beautiful parks in St. Petersburg surrounded by canals. We went to the zoo. We played in the neighborhood playgrounds. We ate yummy treats. Max discovered a pretty serious passion for Russian apple juice boxes (not really unlike juice boxes in the U.S., but in plentiful supply and at his reaching distance in his grandparents’ pantry), and both ate a considerable amount of Babuschka’s (grandmother, in Russian) borscht soup. It was a toddler paradise. The jet lag was a little crazy. Visiting almost the exact opposite point on the globe pretty much flips night and day. The kids got a little turned around. They’d be up one moment playing enthusiastically with their cousin, and then moments later crash into deep sleep. I was beyond exhausted, but I have to smile as I recall the trip. This is what it means to be a little citizen of the world – to be equally at home on either side of the globe at the tender age of 2.

indian food for babies

We started giving Moushumi our homemade Bengali food a few months ago. My mother was key in making this happen. She taught me some simple recipes that I ate as a little one – along with probably millions of other Indian babies! Everything is very mild, without any chili powder, but still packing lots of delicious flavors. I wasn’t sure what Moushumi would think, being used to Earth’s Best jarred foods, which are quite good, but comparatively less exciting. She loved it! Now she eats Indian food twice daily and even though she puts up with eating a jar or two when we’re out, it’s obvious that she prefers the food I make for her.

If you are looking to broaden your child’s horizons, and yours if you’re not used to cooking Indian food, here are a couple of easy recipes for you to start with.

Daal – Indian lentil soup (eaten with rice and vegetables)

1/2 cup red lentils

1/4 tsp turmeric powder

1/4 tsp salt (add more to taste, but a bit less than your taste)

2 cups water

Clean the lentils by washing them three times in cold water (just like rice). Add the water, salt and turmeric and bring to a boil. Turn to low and let simmer until soft and cooked – approximately 30 minutes to an hour, depending on how you like it. You may need to add some more water (boiling, if possible) if it seems to be getting too dry (or you can put in less water for a thicker daal). You can let it cool and blend it in the blender for a smoother texture if desired.

We boil some peas or green beans with some carrots and potatoes; flavor it with a dash of salt and mash it up to eat with the daal and soft-cooked basmati rice. My mom always says to add a smidgen of butter and taste it – “it must taste good to you!”

Basic Bengali Chicken curry (chicken in a flavorful sauce, eaten with rice)

One boneless, skinless breast

1 tbsp olive oil

1 pinch of whole cumin seeds

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp turmeric powder

1/2 tsp coriander powder

1/4 tsp cumin powder

2 tbsp finely chopped onion

1 tsp grated ginger

1/2 tsp finely chopped garlic

1/2 small tomato – chopped

chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

Cut chicken into small cubes and mix with salt, turmeric, cumin and coriander powder. Let marinate for about one hour. Heat oil on med-high and when hot, throw in cumin seeds (if you can’t find cumin seeds, just leave it out). Let them sizzle for a few minutes and then add onions – with a pinch of salt, and fry them until golden brown. Turning the heat down a bit, add the garlic and ginger. When you can smell the lovely aroma, add the tomato and cook until it all mixes together. It’s hard to be precise, but approximately after 10 minutes, you will see that it’s very mixed up and looking shiny, because the oil is separating from it. Add the chicken and cook until no pink is visible. Add some boiling water to cover the chicken and lightly boil until the chicken is soft. You can add the chopped cilantro at the same time. You can also add a handful of peas, baby carrots and potatoes when you add the water if you want some veggies in the curry. Let cool and blend if you need it to be a smoother texture. By the way, if you would like to make this for adults, just add some chili powder to your marinade, a fresh green chili with the onion and do not add water. Just allow the chicken to release it’s own water while it cooks and voila – you have the sauce.

If you find this to be overwhelming, trust me, after you do this a few times – you will become a pro! Also, I make enough to last for several days so I’m not spending too much time cooking. And, of course, you can change it around to fit your taste buds – a little less cumin, a little more coriander, etc. I hope that your baby enjoys these recipes as much as mine.