Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Patented MamaSaysSo Weight Loss Plan

After my first pregnancy, the weight loss didn't come easy. Getting back to work with a young baby at home left me with no time to exercise or watch my diet. I did eventually get back to a size that I was happy with but I never came within spitting distance of my pre-pregnancy weight and there were a few pants from the old days that didn't fit me. Of course, then I went and got pregnant again...

My experience with post-pregnancy weight loss was very different the second time around. For starters, I breastfed for a whopping 23 months so that gave me a much longer 'grace period' where I didn't have to worry about my weight or control my food intake. But even after this, I didn't really have the bandwidth to consider my size, busy as I was with two kids and minimal domestic help.

A few months after I was done with breastfeeding, I started getting comments from people I bumped into - family and friends who had seen me when I still had all the baby weight. A lot of people remarked on how skinny I had become. I decided to dig out the clothes I had put away after my second trimester and try them on. To my surprise, I fit into everything with the exception of one pair of jeans from my college days that I have hung on to with foolish optimism. I even fit into the pants that didn't fit me between pregnancies. And my weight was down to just a couple of kilos over my pre-preggers weight.

I had not dieted a single day, or done anything that could be classified as formal exercise but yet, it was as if all that fat had simply melted away. Of course, that is not the way it really happened. So without much further ado, here is my list of surefire weight loss tactics:

  1. Move from Mumbai to a smaller city. Overcompensate for your years of living in small flats by moving into the biggest possible house you can afford, preferably a duplex flat for extra impact. Make multiple trips up and down stairs of duplex, thereby taking care of your daily cardio needs
  2. Not just any smaller city, move to Hyderabad, where finding a needle in a haystack is a walk in the park compared to finding reliable household help.
  3. Enroll your kids into a school that does not provide food or employ school buses. Wake up at the crack of dawn to prepare tiffins and act as personal chauffeur to your brats.
  4. Have on hand a clingy toddler who wants to be carried around a lot, and that's your weight training taken care of.
  5. Go through a parade of unreliable, unprofessional and unacceptable cooks and then decide to take on cooking yourself. Ignore the fact that you have never so much as sliced an onion before. Spend hours standing in the kitchen chopping and cooking simple meals that experienced cooks could probably turn out in a third of the time.
  6. Eat your own cooking. This one is a right appetite killer if you are a novice cook, especially if you don't have the bandwidth to cook separately for the adults and the kids with inbuilt spice sensors.
  7. Bring all your obsessive-compulsive tendencies to your current stint as homemaker. Beds must be made, dirty dishes must not be stacked overnight, kids clothes must not be ironed by dhobi, toys must be put away and so on. As a result, spend most of your non-cooking hours on your feet as well.
And voila! Before you know it, you will be back to your svelte, pre-pregnancy size with no extra effort. Just the other, unavoidable efforts of running a household.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Say Hello to Angel

I can't believe I have gotten through four posts without introducing you to the newest member of our family. So without much further ado, let me present Angel.

Yes, we got a dog. Obviously, running a home and raising two bratty kids, with a domestic help situation that tends to range from unreliable to non-existent, was not challenging enough. So I brought in another creature that depends on me (and Jai) for food, exercise and love.

It wasn't really a planned move. Sometime in January, I happened to come across a tweet about an abandoned female Labrador that needed a home. Now if you are a Twitter regular, you would know that tweets of this nature are pretty common and I had seen more than my fair share of them in the past and never felt the imperative to act. For some reason, I decided to enquire about this particular dog. I was put in touch with the organisation that had rescued Angel, Caring Hands For Animals (CHFA).

I called them, my chief concern being the dog's comfort levels around children. I was told that she had an extremely gentle nature, and that had earned her the name of Angel at the shelter. We decided to go and visit Angel with the kids in tow. She was staying at the home of one of the NGO's volunteers. She was terribly skinny but very sweet and let the kids fawn all over her. As we were leaving, Jai and I looked at each other and said 'Yes'.

She came home a week after that, on 28th February to be precise (Ayaan has marked the date for future birthday celebrations). These are her pictures from that first day.

As you can see in the picture above, she was literally skin and bones. To give you an idea, an adult female Labrador is supposed to ideally weigh in at 30 kgs. She was just 21 kgs when she came to us, and this was after more than a month of rehabilitation at the shelter. I shudder to think what she must have looked like when they found her.

The back story on Angel is that she had been abandoned and left tied to a No Parking sign. By the time she was rescued, she was severely deprived of nutrition and hydration. Out of desperation, she had taken to eating mud and had more or less collapsed. When she was brought to the vet, they were less than optimistic about being able to save her. But against all odds, she survived. But thanks to her time on the street and the mud that she ingested, it has been a long, slow journey to normalcy. She could eat only puppy dog food for three months and suffered from extreme constipation. She is better now but she is still prone to frequent tummy upsets and is on an ongoing dose of probiotics. Her age has been estimated at 4 years and the vet says that she has had multiple pregnancies, leading us to believe that she was a breeder dog. (When we spayed her recently, she was found to have ovarian cysts so maybe her reduced reproductive capacity led to her abandonment?). She also has calluses on her elbows (or whatever you call the mid-leg joints that jogs have) which could have come from being tied up a lot on a hard floor. A pox on her previous owners and others like them.

Even aside from her health, her assimilation into our household has not been an entirely smooth process. About two months into her stay, she suddenly started snapping at the kids. There were 3-4 incidents in the course of a horrible week in April, including one where she bit Ayaan near his eye and actually broke through his skin. I called CHFA and they were very supportive. They offered to take her back but I didn't want to give up on Angel so soon. They had a few suggestions, revolving around teaching Angel that her position in the household hierarchy was below that of kids. This was because we all agreed that much of her behaviour could be attributed to the fact that she felt that the kids were competition for our attention (she only ever chewed their toys, ignoring shoes lying carelessly around and usually acted out at times when both kids were at home and awake).

In addition to correcting our behaviour, we also decided to get professional help. So after going through a couple of unimpressive candidates, we found a trainer to help us work with Angel. The training has been really helpful and is an ongoing process.

Soon after the biting started, she also went on heat. Once that was over and done with, she went back to being reasonably calm and we have not had any serious incidents so there might also have been some sort of doggie PMS at play.

Lastly, she has finally started bonding with the kids. She has developed a genuine affection for Ayaan and comes running to greet him when he gets back from school. He has gotten over his earlier tendency to pester her (that is a privilege he currently reserves for his younger sister) and is the biggest advocate for her being let free when she is tied up for being naughty. She returns the favour by barking at me if she suspects I am going to smack him. Tarana she, more or less, tolerates and is usually pretty good-natured about receiving her less-than-gentle ministrations and affections.

Health-wise, she is now largely okay and her current weight is optimal. Here's another aerial shot, where you can see how the bones are no longer visible like they were when she first came. (This was taken a couple of months back, she has got a teensiest bit chubbier since then)

She still has a tendency to get over-excited when the kids are being hyperactive. But I have learnt to identify the early signs I usually remove her from the situation and tie her up before things can escalate. As a result, we haven't had any biting incidents after she finished her heat. And we got her spayed last week so hopefully we won't have to worry about the increased irritability we saw in her last time.

I won't lie. There have been times that I have regretted bringing her home. The biggest of those moments was when she bit Ayaan but also during phases when I had absolutely no help and I felt like I had bitten off more than I could chew. But thankfully, these niggling doubts have passed and overall, I am happy with this decision. I always wanted my kids to have a childhood that included having a dog and overall, Angel is growing into that role pretty well.

Here's a parting shot. This is her favourite spot in the house - on the broadest step on the staircase. It's her vantage point from where she can keep an eye on what's going on on both floors.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

And here we go again...

I'd like to know if there is a single parenting dilemna that the experts have not managed to completely confuse and muddle us on. The latest bit of parenting 'research' to hit the wires is that sleep training techniques are not harmful.
"For wiped-out parents wondering whether or not to sleep-train their restless babies, a new study in Pediatrics has some good news: strategies that let babies cry it out for limited periods while teaching them to sleep on their own can help families sleep better in the short term without causing long-term psychological damage in kids or weakening the bond between babies and parents."
My, have we come full circle on this or what? My mom sleep trained us as babies on Spock's recommendation but the extended cry-it-out method has fallen out of favour over the years and even the updated editions of his classic parenting manual don't recommend it any more.

When Ayaan was a cranky, sleep-deprived infant, Dr. Richard Ferber and his controlled crying method was at its height of popularity. So that is the way we went and I wrote about our experience here.

By the time Tarana was born, the tide had shifted yet again. A British parenting expert claimed that crying it out released toxic stress hormones in babies' brain and could cause long-term mental damage.
"Ignoring baby cries during sleep training is linked to all kinds of problems later in life –ADHD, antisocial behavior, lower IQ. At the root of these claims is the idea that the stress of crying and the absence of a responsive parent release intense levels of chemicals that alter a child’s brain development."
This obviously totally messed with my head and I dithered for a while and then went for a gentler method of sleep training with very limited amounts of crying - detailed here.

And now, the experts have done another turnaround and say that it's not harmful after all. So all that guilt I suffered about sleep-training Ayaan was futile. But then much of the guilt-tripping that I indulge in as a mother usually is.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Of Unnecessary Apologies

A couple of days ago, this picture went viral on Twitter, by some accounts being viewed over a million times.

It is a note, accompanied by a goody bag, which parents of twin infant boys handed out to their fellow passengers on a flight. It reads:
“Hello! We're twin baby boys on our first flight and we're only 14 weeks old! We'll try to be on our best behavior, but we'd like to apologize in advance just in case we lose our cool, get scared or our ears hurt. Our mom and dad (AKA our portable milk machine and our diaper changer) have ear plugs available if you need them. We are all sitting in 20E and 20F if you want to come by to get a pair. We hope you have a great flight!”

At first, I thought it was sort of cute, albeit in a needy sort of way. But the gushing response from multiple quarters got me thinking about it and then I started to get a little irritated.

Here's a typical example of the response this photograph got on Twitter. (Don’t miss the fact that this was retweeted by 2357 people at last count)

Mainstream media was not far behind with their praise for the parents’ gesture. A sampler of the verbal applause:

In case you haven't guessed it yet, I am not a part of this ever-expanding laudatory camp. Why did these parents feel the need to be so apologetic about flying with their kids? I could still have understood it if they had done this in a fine dining restaurant or a movie hall or any other place where other adults are perfectly justified in expecting a kid-free environment. But when it comes to airplanes, babies have as much of a right to be there as the next person and anyone who thinks otherwise can cough up the money to fly business in one of those airlines where children are only allowed in economy.

Many words have been used to describe this gesture. Brilliant. Awesome. Thoughtful. Considerate. Polite. I have my own set of words. Needy. Defensive. Apologetic. And most of all, Unnecessary. I see absolutely unnecessary no need for us to have to apologise for our children doing what normal children will do, in a place where they have every right to be. And we definitely should not feel the need to have to bribe people to ‘placate’ them for having to ‘tolerate’ our kids.

This increasing intolerance of children in public spaces is starting to get pretty bothersome. The idea that we should keep our kids away from these places or feel apologetic or defensive about their presence there is bordering on the ridiculous.

From the responses to this note, it is pretty clear that many people do think that it is an intolerable imposition to have to travel with a young child on the same flight. And that the fact that these parents chose to compensate them for the impeding ordeal is not only admired, but enough people have suggested that more of us should take a leaf from their book. 

In my opinion, stuff like this just sets a bad precedent. It plays into their belief that they are being imposed on by us lot. I personally refuse to feel defensive or apologetic about flying with my kids. If having babies on your flight bothers you, bring your own ear plugs and comfort foods.

Monday, September 10, 2012


So, the day after I decided to revive my comatose blog, this article appears in the Hindustan Times talking about the fading presence of mommy blogs.

I wonder if the universe is trying to tell me something :)

Also, they mention my blog as one of the active ones. They obviously have a very low benchmark for what passes as 'active' :)

Saturday, September 08, 2012

*takes a deep, fortifying breath*

Hello, there. Or those of you who still come around here looking for a new blogpost. Or continue to have this blog on your Readers. It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I just checked. It has been a little over a year since I wrote my last proper post – one that did more than just announce a friend’s book launch.

It’s not that I didn’t want to blog. Not a week went by without me missing this space and resolving to write something, anything to keep it going. But it never happened. It’s not been an easy year. The Hyderabad move seriously messed with what my friends used to call my ‘good maid karma’. With no nanny, no cook and a veritable parade of highly unreliable cleaning ladies, I have found it hard to get any time for myself.

And it’s not just this blog that has languished. I think I have read far fewer books in this year than in any other year of my life (since I was able to read, that is) and that includes the manic years when I was preparing for some big examination or the other. My personal care regimen, meagre as it was previously, is down to essentials – I haven’t worked out in ages and I am lucky if I find the time to moisturise on a daily basis!

It has got better, especially in the last few months. I have finally found a reliable cleaning service. I have become quicker and more efficient. And three days ago, I hired a part-time cook. But I usually feel so drained by the end of the day that mindless TV watching is the only thing I seem to be capable of before crashing into a dreamless sleep every night.

There’s also been the vicious cycle of procrastination. The longer I went without posting, the longer and more complicated the ‘what have I been up to since I blogged last’ post has gotten, and scarier to write. I have decided to get around that by not writing it at all. The important bits will probably feature in one way or the other in future posts.

Yes… future posts. I have resolved that there shall be more of them. I have wanted to post so often in the last few months and never gotten around to it. With a little less timepass on Twitter, reduced TV viewing and a better use of my limited kid-free hours, I hope to squeeze out a couple of hours every week to blog.

I have never been a very frequent or regular blogger.  In the past, I ruminated over posts for days before committing them to text. As a result, my posts tended to be about what I saw as the bigger issues/ questions/ thoughts I had about motherhood. That is something that is likely to change. Firstly, because I don’t think I have the time or mental bandwidth to write well-constructed, thought through and comprehensive posts. But also because stay at home motherhood has a tendency to drown you in the minutiae of bringing up your children and I’d rather blog about that than nothing at all.

So there it is. Expect to see more of me, but keep your expectations low. As of now, I plan to blog by the seat of my pants – it could be about a children’s book that the kids and I read, or something I cooked up in the kitchen or even just a bunch of silly anecdotes from our days. And who knows, maybe the brain fog will lift and I might just end up writing something somewhat more though-provoking.

See you soon. Really soon.