Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Here in America

Today is Deepavali (or Diwali to most). And if this was Malaysia, there would be a frenzy of preparations. We  would clean our home and make a gazillion varieties of cookies, snacks, and dishes made from memory, not recipes, that we serve our guests during the open house, where friends of all races and family gather to celebrate the Hindu Festival of Lights. Except this isn’t Malaysia.

Here in America, we don’t see any signs of the celebration unless we travel into the heart of Little India, on the little strip of Devon Avenue in Chicago. Granted, it’s only a ten-minute drive from our place but we’re still out of its festive range. My girls will be oblivious to the event while my family half a world away feasts on dishes I’ve not had in years. It will be a raucous affair. And we will miss all of it. 

Instead, here in America, we will choose to perhaps make a small meal after work or just go to one of the restaurants on Devon Avenue and eat together as a family of five, not – jeez, I lost count - twenty? Thirty? Forty?! My mom will quietly have her modest feast with us as she usually does, although I know where her thoughts will travel because mine will be there too.

Here in America, it will be Halloween soon, and we’re surrounded by its reminders as we spot synthetic cobwebs and plastic gravesites on neighborhood yards. Headless bodies hang garishly from porches and obscene amounts of candy flood the aisles in grocery stores – all PSA on childhood obesity in moratorium. There’s money to be made!

Here in America, our older daughter learned to carve a pumpkin; her first Jack O’Lantern. And she is eager to parade around in her Halloween costume. One that matches her baby sister’s. (I couldn’t help it. I just had to before they can make their own decisions and defy mine.) She will go trick-or-treating, and she will boast about her massive candy haul. She will then give me a million reasons why she should finish her candy in one sitting. And I will come back with a million and one as to why she shouldn’t. There will be a hyper kid on a sugar rush, but eventually, she will succumb to the crash.

Here in America, I’ve not experienced any of this myself, but I imagine that’s what it will be. American TV has taught me that much. My daughters will not know the Deepavali celebrations I grew up with but they will have their own traditions, however alien they are to me.

Here in America, “Happy Diwali” is uttered in tiny little pockets throughout the country and “Happy Halloween” will resonate in almost every household. I chose to plant my roots and raise a family here, and so Halloween will now be part of our annual celebration. I will learn the tricks, and I will find the treats, if it means giving my girls the sense of belonging that I felt when I was growing up. Even if it’s not familiar to me. Even if it means leaving behind the celebration of my childhood. Assimilation has its price. But you know what they say, “when in Rome…”

Except we’re here, in America.



Have a safe and wonderful weekend, tricking or treating.

And for what it’s worth, Happy Deepavali to those of you who celebrate.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Weekending: Punkins! (Part One)

As parents, we learn that we don’t have all the answers. In fact, we realize that the longer we’re at this gig, the more questions we have. Here is our latest:

Why do we go to a pumpkin patch / carnival just to procure a pumpkin that we could get for much, much cheaper (because it doesn’t involve carnival rides and overpriced doughnuts) at the neighborhood grocer?

Oh right. It’s for the pictures (and a pretty fantastic time). Hey, at least we know the answer to this question.

Bounce baby bounce


My very own hell’s angel, although I use the term, angel, loosely

Horse-drawn cart in corn field. Yes, we’re in the Midwest. How can you tell?

Little Miss loves rides with her daddy (the braver parent)

Her favorite part – she did this twice!

No rides for this girl, but she’s still happy in her grandma’s arms


Not a whimper, not a fuss. This baby is cool like that


She picked the shape (kitty) and the color (pink, of course)

The requisite pumpkin shot


Time to head home for the carving (part two, coming soon-ish)

How was your weekend?


Linking up with Amanda at the habit of being.

Monday, October 17, 2011


This is where we all begin…










But this isn’t where we all end up.

If you’ve observed infants who are just discovering their world, you know that it takes them awhile to master their hand-eye coordination. At four months, Thumper is beginning to reach for the object you place in front of her, but she often overshoots it. With jerky hand movements from her nascent motor skills, results of her attempts are never consistent. Sometimes she gets it. Sometimes she doesn’t. But the thing is, when there is something in front of her, she always tries to reach for it. It doesn’t even occur to her that it might be too difficult or too far.

Her modus operandi: Object in vision. Raise hand to reach. Almost by instinct.

Watching her, I realize it’s really an admirable quality in infants. Their attempts are never deterred by self-doubt. It makes me wonder when that starts to seep in to influence their actions. When they acquire language? When they begin to not just decipher the meaning behind words, but feel the weight of them as well? Like…

You’re too small. Too big. Too short. Too tall. It’s only for boys. It’s just for girls. It’s not for kids. You won’t understand. You won’t get it. It’s too hard. Too complicated. Too cumbersome. Too much work.

How much do these words influence our behavior? Make us second guess ourselves? Hold us back from trying something new, achieving a goal, realizing our dreams?

More importantly, why do we let them?

This is my 200th blog post. My blog is not much different today than what it was when I published my first entry. I had intended to keep it small, to record the growth of my first daughter and my journey in motherhood. But secretly, when I found a larger community of like-minded bloggers who had popular blogs, I began to have bigger dreams. Maybe I could grow my readership. Maybe it would be wildly successful. Maybe I could even make a living out of it. Maybe I’d become a writer!

But in reality, I was afraid. The seeds of doubt peppered my vision. What if I can’t? What if I’m not good enough? What if I fail?

And so I convince myself that this is it. This is all I want it to be – a little blog to capture memories of and for my family. I figured if I don’t have a lofty goal, I won’t fall. Right? But here’s the thing: I’m also not much further now than where I was when I first started. And I’m not sure this is where I want to be either.

I guess we could learn a thing or two from babies. Object in vision. Raise hand to reach.

Because if we don’t, how will we ever know how far we can really go?

* * *

This is my 200th blog post, dedicated to Thumper, who may not be the reason why I started this blog, but she’s certainly why I’m still at it, and to My Guy, whose own attempts to reach are a constant inspiration to me.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Who says you can’t be spontaneous with kids?

Columbus Day was a holiday for both Little Miss and me this year. After realizing how much I’ve missed just spending time alone with her since the arrival of her baby sister, I thought it was time for some one-on-one with my firstborn. On this particularly gorgeous Fall day, it felt like the perfect time to take a walk to collect leaves of different colors around our neighborhood while her little sister stayed home with my mom for her nap.


Armed with a toddler-sized basket, Little Miss got busy gathering mementoes from the season. Just as we reached the elevated train tracks, she asked if we could take ride on it. I looked for a reason why we couldn’t except all I could think of was, why not? So we padded our tummies with some chocolate milk and blueberry pie from a nearby cafĂ© to avoid any potential meltdowns before we embarked on our journey to who-knows-where.



We jumped onto the first train that came by with no thought for destination – neither of us cared for a plan. Little Miss was especially happy just to be there. Even though she has been on a train on several occasions before, it has been about a year, which, as far as this toddler’s concerned, might as well have been the first time. When we finally decided to hop off, we picked up some Vietnamese pho for lunch at our destination and went back on the train to head home. 


As we reached our stop, I spotted a bus and made another impromptu decision to make a transfer instead of walking the few blocks home. It was barely a five-minute ride, but Little Miss was thrilled all the same. Part two of her adventure!


When we reached home, she excitedly relayed the story of her spontaneous adventure to her paati (grandma) and then again over the phone to her daddy, who was stuck at work. At naptime, we talked about our morning together as she twirled her hair, a sure sign of her fatigue.

I’ve never been on a train before.
Yes you have. You just don’t remember it.

I’ve never been on a bus before.
Sure you have. We did it once when we were at the old house.

I’ve never been on a plane before.
Err...yes you have. Many times. Again, you just don’t remember it.

Exasperated, she thought for a little bit before once again, exclaiming:

I’ve never been on a school bus before!
{Laughing} Yes. You are right.

She grinned, obviously pleased she finally remembered something right. I tucked her in, kissed her and promised her another adventure someday. Just the two of us; just like old times.

I know I won’t forget this day. Too bad I can’t say the same for her.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Unrecorded, not unnoticed

Here’s what I noticed about having two kids. One day you’re hyper aware of growth milestones and the next, once another baby comes along, you’re just happy Number One is not feeding rocks to Number Two. At least that’s how I’ve been. There’s something to be said about lowering your standards I suppose.

I used to read baby books religiously to make sure Little Miss was developing as she should, and now that we have baby Thumper, the book sits untouched. No, I don’t think we’ve graduated from the baby experience. I just think that because we didn’t, as far as we can tell anyway, break our first daughter, we have become a little more confident as parents.

I am less apt to consult a book in anticipation of the next developmental milestone and more at ease with just letting it happen according to my baby’s own pace. I think I know just enough to know when to be worried. Other than that, a baby turning over at three months, drooling profusely and reaching for objects at month four seems par for the course. Oh and of course there’s that inaugural first bite of solids that always make a food freak like me even freakier than usual.


ThumperFirstSolids1) Hmmm…  2) What the %#%$**?   3) No thank you mama.   4) “Take pictures of me!”

It’s nice to feel a little more comfortable in my parenting, like hiking a treacherous mile with well-worn and well-made shoes, but sometimes, I think I’ve become too lax, especially with Little Miss, whose growth has been the feature of this blog since her 11th month. Now that she’s a regular person – as in the kind that can articulate her angst (and increase mine) - I tend to forget that she still has plenty of growing to do.

BigBootsThese boots are made for walkin’. Just not quite her size. Yet.

A few weeks ago, when I picked her up from preschool the first week back after her summer break, she stopped for water at the cooler, and I was shocked that she didn’t need the stool to reach the spout. The fact that she’s been turning on the lights at home by herself should have clued me in that this girl was growing, growing, growing, but I didn’t realize just how many inches she has (surreptitiously, right in front of my eyes) added to her petite frame until she could now independently do something she needed help with before. Note to self: Procure growth chart.

Just the other day, I revisited the post about Little Miss’ first word, and it’s hard to imagine that same girl today, who can now spell her own and her sister’s name and even recognize or spell certain words. Without my help or rather, thanks to the iPad, she has learned to write some easy alphabets on her own. She even employs her ten fingers for some simple math. Her favorite tune has moved on from “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” to “Goosey Goosey Gander” and “Sing a Song of Sixpence” although she still doesn’t know what a sixpence is. All of this over the course of one summer, and it makes me wonder, where was I?!

These, individually, are pretty remarkable progressions, but because there’s a baby at home needing to be fed, changed, bathed and rocked to sleep, they have largely gone unrecorded. In my defense, if I spend my time taking notes for the future, what if I miss the moments that are right here, right now? Ones that don’t appear in pictures or blog posts but that are nestled in the deep crevices of my brain, waiting for a warm and surprising discovery someday like finding more hot fudge at the bottom of my ice cream sundae.

The day will come where my girls will no longer need me to mark each moment, steady their balance, clap in encouragement. They will do what they set out to do, with or without me.

I just want them to know that even if I don’t make a note of them, I always notice them.