Book Review, Books, Parenting

Book Review: Finding Audrey (Sophie Kinsella)

I always turn to Sophie Kinsella’s books when I’m in a mood for some mindless funny read. Few days ago I was feeling under the weather and needed a cheerful book to perk up my mood. I rummaged through my unread books folder and picked Finding Audrey. I had no idea about the plot but Sophie Kinsella’s name was enough for me to decide. 

Finding Audrey is far from mindless and much deeper than any of her other books.
It is the story of a 15 something girl with severe social anxiety and her crazy family. The book has interesting characters – there’s Frank who’s obsessed with computer games, Felix who’s young and innocent, Mom who’s a neurotic and worries too much for her children, Dad who wants peace more than anything else and Frank’s gamer friend Linus who wants to know Audrey better. As other Kinsella books Finding Audrey is also witty, heart warming and funny. Especially some situations between Mom and Frank are so realistic yet funny that I was laughing out aloud while reading.

What I especially liked about the book is the little mystery that the author maintains about what really happened to Audrey to trigger her anxiety. Audrey keeps referring to it but doesn’t share the details. Another thing that I liked was that her recovery is discussed and shown in logical baby steps and not in a heroic sweep of love or bravery.

The book feels very happy overall. I was smiling and laughing through most of it. It’s one of her best. 

Happy reading!


Crafty baby, Disciplining your child, DIY, Parenting

DIY Calming Bottle/Glitter Jar

As darling daughter is getting older she’s growing more sensitive to the idea of time out. If I ask her to go in a corner she sulks and pouts and outrightly refuses to do that. But there are times when I do need her to calm down for both her and my sake. In order to make time out fun for her I considered making a calming bottle. Of course there was added advantage of doing a craft together which is darling daughter’s most favorite thing to do!

Things we used :

  • Empty glass bottle (I used glass bottle that came with Starbucks frapuccino)
  • Glitter glue 
  • Extra glitter 
  • Confetti and assorted beads/tid bits
  • Hot glue gun (to seal the cap close)

How we made it :

  • We squeezed out one part glitter glue in a bowl and added 2 parts hot water. 
  • Whisk it together until there are no glue lumps in the mixture. 
  • Pour it in the clean bottle and add confetti, beads and more glitter as per your liking. 
  • Let the mixture cool down. Once cooled, close the lid and seal it with hot glue gun. 

Now give it a good shake and enjoy the glitter floating in the liquid. Your glitter jar is ready!


  • It would be advisable to use a plastic bottle when making it for young kids.
  • If the mixture is not completely cooled before you close the lid, the plastic bottle may shrivel and ruin your efforts when it does cool down. 
  • Adding too much glitter glue would make the mixture too thick and glitter won’t settle down.
  • Closing with hot glue gun is important so the child doesn’t spill the contents while playing. 
  • This glitter jar is not perfect because the glitter does take a little long to settle down. I’ll experiment with other mediums and keep sharing my experience. 

Darling daughter enjoyed making the jar, she carefully chose stars and snowflakes from the confetti mix I got from Walmart. We used her favorite Frozen themed acolors and she was thrilled with the results. It’s another thing that we haven’t needed to give her a time out since we have made the calming bottle so I can’t really comment on its effectiveness… 😃

Do try this fun and easy project with your little one and share your experience with us!

Happy crafting!



What Scares Me Most About Neha Rastogi’s Case

I was forwarded a news article on Neha Rastogi’s story with the caption “why read fiction when real life is equally disturbing”. Neha Rastogi worked with Apple at a fairly good position, she was married for 10 years and was abused right from the beginning. She now has a 3.5 year old daughter who has witnessed the husband’s violent behavior and would possibly be affected by it. What I read rattled me and I couldn’t read until the end. Then I got to know there is a video that she had recorded and presented as evidence. Oh my! I heard it and can’t get over her helpless voice saying “please don’t hit me.”

The first thing that comes to my mind is why would someone so successful and intelligent be willing to put herself through such torture on a daily basis? When someone with that kind of education, financial standing and social independence cannot break away from her abusive marriage, how do we expect any other woman to do the same? In the last few months I have come to know of 2 women who are in abusive marriages. One is staying because she just had a baby and fears the social stigma that will come with divorce. The other says with her average education she won’t be able to support her children’s current lavish lifestyle if she were to separate. I have tried to understand their reasons but they don’t seem convincing enough to me. Since I am not in their shoes I have tried rationalizing it in my head – maybe if they were more secure financially, maybe if they were stronger mentally, maybe….. What struck me most with this news is that when a person like Neha Rastogi took 10 years to finally take an action, how ordinary women would find the courage to raise their voice with their limited resources.

The husband is a beast, a monster in the garb of a human, a disgusting loathsome creature. What makes him worse than all uneducated men hitting their wives is that he is a man who is expected to have some civic sense because he is well educated and worked with the top notch professionals in a progressive country. Education is not just about academics, it also exposes you to finer things in life, makes you aware of the nuances of society and basic etiquette, teaches you to respect fellow individuals and disagreeing with grace, makes you a gentleman from a mere human being. It’s unfortunate to see that education and exposure didn’t teach any of this to the despicable Abhishek Gattani.

Education also teaches one to be strong and independent, to understand what is right and acceptable and what’s not, to learn when to bear and when to quit. Neha Rastogi failed many aspiring girls by not using her education for THE most important thing it was supposed to do – to empower her to be in control of her own life. I can’t help but ponder over the whys and whats. Why did she tolerate it for so long, why did she not separate, why did she bear the beatings helplessly, why did she not oppose and hit back, what was she thinking  by bringing a  child in the picture, what made her so docile, what was the reason for her weakness and submission to the violence…. The questions bothering me are too many.

As I think about the possible reasons I wonder if maybe our culture is to be blamed for it. Are we teaching our daughters to be ‘just a little bit’ adjusting and submissive, and pumping egos of our sons ‘just a little bit’ just because they are born with a Y chromosome? Are we unconsciously giving them different toys to play with, enrolling them in different extra-curricular activities, expecting different behaviors from them and preparing them for different social roles? Is this what made Neha Rastogi suffer for so long before good sense prevailed?

One may say things are changing and our culture is evolving, but is it really? Let me share a small seemingly-insignificant conversation I had with a college senior last week. So this person was my senior during MBA, is now connected through Facebook but we are not otherwise in touch, nor have I really known him as a person even during college. In relation to something on Facebook we struck an offline conversation. He asked me where I am working these days and I told him I am a full time mom. His response was “Thats cool! And must be the busiest job you’ve ever done.. Lol”. I gave him the benefit of doubt, ignored the “Lol” at the end and replied “Yes it is the busiest and craziest time of my life so far.” What he said next infuriated me. He wrote back “Yeah yeah… Lot of time to read and watch movies… Hectic indeed.” I have hardly had a personal relationship with this man, we went to college together which means we are (or were at that time) on the same intellectual spectrum, he knows nothing about my life yet had a negative opinion he wasn’t ashamed of sharing. Even as an outsider he felt he had the right to judge and comment on my decision with respect to my career and personal life. I felt sorry for his wife, thanked my lucky stars that I am not married to someone who identifies with such thought process and quietly unfriended him. It is not directly related to the case I was writing about but it is an example of the kind of misogyny women in India have to go through every day. Patriarchy still exists and somewhere, to a large or small extent we have succumbed to it.  It is the impassive acceptance of it that probably made Neha Rastogi suffer quietly and the deep internalization of patriarchal principles that made Abhishek Gattani assert his superiority over his wife and abuse her.

As I agonize thinking about this incident I can’t help but worry about my daughter. I am raising her to be smart and independent, giving her the best education and exposure I can, but then Neha possibly received the same. How do I make sure my daughter doesn’t let what Neha let happen to herself? How do I make sure she’ll be strong and courageous enough when it’s most required? In this unfair world with its lopsided scales how do I let my daughter out of my sight?

I always thought education is the answer to most social evils. I believed education will empower us and make us superior culturally and intellectually. I hoped education will bring awareness and equality. Today I am sad for Neha Rastogi but feel worse with the knowledge that education is not a cure for animals, that education cannot correct the deeply ingrained social behavior. It is something we need to do at a whole different level.  We have a huge responsibility, let’s take that seriously. Let’s raise our daughters and sons equally, and by equally I mean not accepting that girls are softer and more suitable for activities like dancing while boys are stronger and should pursue a sport, not buying dolls for girls and cars for boys because we feel they should play with such toys, not believing that boys are born rowdy so need not be disciplined when they play rough, that girls are not supposed to talk loudly and be the dainty little thing everyone adores. The change has to begin from us. Let’s not create more Neha Rastogis.


If you haven’t read about the case yet read it here

Bedtime, Parenting

15 ways to ask your kids about school 

Starting school is a big milestone for a child as well as the parents. It’s the beginning of your child having a life independent of home and family. Most parents look forward to this big step and almost all parents are anxious to know what their little ones do at school. Parents religiously ask the child what he learnt at school only to receive vague replies, if anything at all. 

What I have learnt over the last couple of years since darling daughter started school is that children get bored answering the same “What did you do at school today?” everyday. If we want detailed answers from them we need to get creative with our questions.

Here are some tips and questions to get your child talking about school and more:

  1. Make it a point to know the names of other kids, all teachers and nannies in your child’s class/school van. With random names ask questions like Did your friend XYZ come to school today? What color was Miss ABC wearing today? 
  2. Did you have fun at school today? When the child answers usually it’ll be accompanied by what made the day fun and vice versa. If not, you can ask what made the day fun.
  3. Did you play any new games at school?
  4. Kids are usually very excited about birthdays. You can ask if any of their friends are having birthdays in the next few days. 
  5. Who did you sit with today? Did you enjoy sitting with this friend?
  6. Did you learn anything new from a friend today?
  7. Did you learn anything new at school today?
  8. Did you learn a new word today?
  9. Did anyone get a timeout at school today? Why did they get timeout?
  10. What was the best part of your day at school today?
  11. Did anything make you sad at school today?
  12. Did you help someone at school today?
  13. Did someone at school helped you today?
  14. What did you play most with today?
  15. What was the best thing your teacher did today?

These work well if asked at bedtime as well since many kids are usually chatty just before they sleep. Don’t go about asking all the above questions in one day, pick a few randomly and play it by the ear. 

Do leave us a note on the tactics you use to get your kids talking. 


Crafty baby, Parenting

DIY Diwali Craft – Paper Marigolds 

Every year we make Diwali decorations at home. This gives me an opportunity to get darling daughter excited for the festival and spend some more time with her. A decorated house is a bonus that we all enjoy 🙂

Marigold Flowers: 

When I think of Diwali marigold flowers are one of the first things to come in mind – bright yellow, orange and my favorite maroon ones. I do see marigold flowers in farmers market sometimes but their availability on Diwali is highly doubtful so I usually make paper marigolds to use for decoration. Last year I made these. They came out pretty well and looked real. This time I wanted to make marigolds another way just for the sake of trying a new technique. 

Method: Take a paper napkin (already folded in square) and fold it in smaller square. Put 2 staples in the centre in the shape of a plus + sign. Now cut the corners to get a nice round circle. Just do a freestyle cutting rather than drawing a circle and cutting. Make small incisions about 2-3 mm apart on the outside periphery of the circle. Now take each sheet of the tissue and crumble lightly in the center. Continued to do one by one until you finish all. Your lovely fluffy marigold is ready. 

I have used combinations of napkins to make more colorful flowers. You can do that by layering them before folding.

These are very simple and quick to make. I did until step 4 myself and asked my 4.5 year old daughter to crumple them as per step 5. These marigold are flat at the base so can be stuck on a ribbon or used as a rangoli on the floor or table. I have tried with different color combinations. Make whichever color you like best. Stores are flooded with red, orange and yellow colored paper napkins to celebrate fall so you’ll not have any trouble finding the supplies. 

Happy crafting!!



Second Child: Falling In Love All Over Again….

The thought of having second child terrified me. I was scared of not loving him enough. Lately I have heard the same thing from many other moms. It’s only natural to feel this way. 

Recently I came across this beautiful piece of writing by a mother who had the same doubts but learnt how easy it is to love your children irrespective of the order of their births. It warmed my heart to read my own feelings put into words, hope you love it as much as I did. 

“So, this is what it feels like to fall in love so hard, all over again….
I loved your dad with all of my heart. He filled up my heart from corner to corner. My heart shined every time I looked at him. I felt so complete.

Then, your brother came along…..
He rattled my heart. He stretched and shook it till I couldn’t breath. He made my heart bigger and settled himself right in, and every time I looked at him my heart skipped a beat. It’s a side effect of having your heartshaken so hard, I guess.
My heart was so full of love for your dad and your brother that it couldn’t possibly fill in any more or it will explode. There’s just no more room.

Then, you came along….
How can this be? My heart…. It’s beating so fast. How can someone so tiny have that much strength to open up my already filled heart and stretched it out even more? I thought I would need a new heart for each one of you. But mine just grew.

You looked up at me, searching…..
I took your tiny little hand and reassured you that all is right and that I would do anything in this world for you. You squeezed my finger and relaxed. I trembled and closed my eyes as my heart grew from out of me and shined on my face with the warmth of its sunrise.

– By Fam Chiem Saechao”

Mundane musings, Parenting

Stop Telling Your Daughter She’s Pretty

Ever since Darling Daughter’s birth, I am witness to people constantly telling her how cute she is. Everyone who met her commented on her appearance, her dress, shoes, hair style. Initially I thought maybe because she’s a baby people didn’t have much to comment on. Soon she was a smart and active toddler. She was a good talker and before long you could have a meaningful conversation with her. Still people continued to compliment on how pretty she looks. It sort of bothered me but I never took it too seriously until Darling Daughter started giving a lot of importance to how she’s looking. She was old enough to understand and smart enough to process that she received more compliments when she looked more girly. As a result there came a time when she refused to wear anything but dresses. She still refuses to tie her hair up because she feels she doesn’t look very nice that way.

I have been guilty of giving such compliments myself. I understand its a habit we get into because our culture expects women to look beautiful before they can be termed smart or intelligent or creative. Media also reinforces these stereotypes. Around an year ago Darling Daughter was watching a cartoon about a dinosaur family she had not watched before. She told me something the Mumma dinosaur said or did and I asked her how she knows it’s the Mumma and not the Daddy dinosaur and my daughter who was all of 3 years that time told me because she has longer eye lashes and pink cheeks!! 

We may think they are too small but they notice the tiniest things. I was so unhappy with the animators. Why did they have to beautify female animals for a show meant for kids? The books of opposites often have picture of a boy with shabby clothes under ‘Dirty’ and a dolled up girl under ‘Clean’. I am yet to see a book that has the reverse pictures.

This is what we are feeding into our children’s minds unconsciously and it’s extremely unhealthy. During my short stint as a Pre-school teacher I first hand saw many little girls’ aversion to paint, sand, mud… Anything that would make their hands dirty. Hardly any boy was concerned about dirt and appearance. It can’t be all genetic, somewhere we are responsible for it.

Seeing how Darling Daughter is affected by so much importance to vanity has made me change the way I talk to little girls now. I have also started requesting family and close friends to tone down their appearance-centric compliments and focus on her other qualities. Whenever she says something about looking pretty or beautiful I tell her that being kind and smart is more important than being pretty. On every possible occasion I drill into her mind that people who are kind and polite always look good no matter what they wear, but people who are not very kind don’t always look nice despite wearing lovely clothes. 

Thankfully Darling Daughter has started to respond, and is getting more open about wearing clothes other than dresses and occasionally tying her hair differently. I’m not against her wearing clips or frocks, but the reason why she makes these choices bothers me. I know how our society expects too much from a woman and I want my daughter to overcome those expectations. I want her to feel comfortable in her skin and not be vain. 

I want her to love her body the way she is and not let anyone define the benchmarks of beauty for her. I don’t want her to look at others for approval where her appearance is concerned. The earlier generations have suffered enough, this generation needs to have healthy self-esteem and body image.

There is nothing wrong in making an effort to look beautiful and to dress well but there is a right time for that. This is her time to run wild, jump in muddy puddles, get her hands and clothes messy doing things she enjoys – not playing Miss Prim and Proper.



I Love You 


VMJ and I both love bedtime and look forward to it. Though my reasons are a little different from hers 😉

Most days VMJ is not yet ready to sleep and we end up talking. She tells me what everyone brought for lunch and that Lightening McQueen is Matthew’s favorite car and its the fastest car in the whole world, that Charlie’s mom had brought his baby brother to school and he’s so teeny tiny and so cute, that Benjamin likes to be called Ben, and all boys in her class are funny but not Ben because he’s cute. She also tells me that she was excused from the circle for a little bit because she was talking to Isabelle and that Lila shouted at her while playing in the kitchen. 

Besides all updates on her school activities VMJ loves to tell me how much she loves me. Every night as I tuck her in we thank God and then I say I love you. She takes it as a cue and starts off. 

“I love you as bright as the sun.”

“I love you as many people in the Elsa and Anna and Peppa Pig show.”

“I love you as many waves are in the ocean.”

“I love you as tall as the sunflower.”

“I love you as much as sand is there on the beach.”

“I love you as many stars are in the sky.”

“I love you as big as space.”

And the list goes on and on…. She loves to get creative with her examples and whenever I tell her to stop talking and try to sleep, VMJ says “But I love to tell you how much I love you Mumma.” 

If only words could tell her how much I love her. However much you love me darling, I will always love you more… xoxo


Motherhood, Mundane musings, Parenting

Joys Of Having a Three-nager

Soon after her third birthday I felt my daughter grew up overnight and her ways of talking, reasoning and carrying herself went through a major change. She often surprised me with her understanding of things and her clarity of expression. Sometimes her words were shocking and sometimes hilarious. It was then that I realized after adorable one and terrible two comes the three-nager stage, when they are still young but old enough to exert their personality and explore their individuality.


Initially I blamed the change on our international move and arrival of her baby brother but as I spoke more with parents of kids same age I realized it was a common issue everywhere.

As VMJ turns 4 later this week I was reminiscing about all the things she has said during the past year that caught me off guard.

  • “This is pretend”- This was the first time I figured my little girl is not so little anymore. We were in a park and there was a birthday party happening close by. The host had called for a fairy performer to entertain the kids who all seemed to be 3-5 years old. The fairy performer had a nice costume on with glittery wings and a lovely floral tiara. As I saw the fairy in action I immediately called VMJ over to show her the fairy, expecting her to jump with joy and surprise. I was deeply disappointed when she didn’t even blink an eye and gave me a flat “This is pretend mumma”. What on earth happened to sweet innocence of childhood?
  • “Leave me alone” – I knew this would come one day but I wasn’t prepared to hear it so early in my parenting journey.
  • “Could you please not bother me” – Another phrase that came as a shocking surprise.
  • “This is not fair” – Same as above. It took me a while to digest that she can understand and express the feeling behind this phrase.
  • “Because I need to” – Her reasons for doing things have become very grown -up like. She’s started telling me she “needs” to read a book or go out or watch a cartoon. Yes, I agree that kids imitate adults but this one knows exactly when to say “want to” and when to say “need to”.
  • “I heard that mumma” – I used to feel she was still a baby and needed to be explained complex parts while reading a storybook. One day I was reading her a story and feeling it might be too complicated for her to understand I repeated the text in simpler language. “I heard that mumma” came her prompt response.
  • “I know what I’m doing” – I can’t tell her anymore how to wear her shoes or put a clip on her hair. Apparently she always knows what she’s doing. Like my friend says the typical girly ‘Know-it-all” attitude has kicked in big time!
  • “Because I was lonely” – VMJ has started understanding the concept of being lonely and refuses to stay alone coloring or reading while I put her baby brother down for a nap in the other room.
  • “It’s so boring sitting at the table without family” – First feeling lonely and then bored, this generation surely is learning fast.
  • “Papa you look cool” – Her compliments are more grown -up like too. Earlier it used to be only ” Papa you look nice” or “I like your shirt”. Now they range from cool to smart and handsome.
  • “I know that… You don’t tell me” – If I try to repeat a relatively complex concept or name I have told her before I am immediately shushed.
  • “You’re hurting my feelings” – What I took decades to tell my parents, VMJ mastered in 3 years.
  • “You are not making me happy” – This one tugged at my heart for a couple of days until I realized how VMJ was manipulating me with this. 
  • “I’m getting frustrated” – I thought the minimum legal age to feel “frustrated” was at least 10 years!!
  • “Don’t tease me” – VMJ is old enough to understand our silly banter and smart enough to tell me not to tease her. Really? Wasn’t this supposed to come a little later?
  • “Stop kidding me” – I would but darling you are very much a ‘kid’… Hahahaha
  • “Did you change your mind?”: We were playing together and I told VMJ that I was going to make Chai. After I put the pan on gas I started tidying up the kitchen waiting for the water to boil. In the meantime VMJ had got her tea set out and set the table. She asked me again “Mumma, are you making Chai?” and I told her that I’m making green tea. “Did you change your mind Mumma?” asked my darling princess. “Yes, I did.” “OK, I changed my mind too. I’ll also have green tea.” 

As she’s helping me plan her birthday, deciding the guest list, suggesting games that make perfect sense, picking the snacks and return gifts for her friends I am happily surprised at her maturity. At the same time a part of me is getting jittery of what to expect in months to come. I hope I am not writing a post about Frightening-Four the same time next year! 

Would love to read your anecdotes of having a three-nager at home. Moms of younger kids beware… you don’t know what you are in for once your beloved turns 3!


Parenting, Product Review

Product Review: Modern Twist Bib

I am not a huge fan of bibs with pockets. I bought a stiff one when VMJ was younger and it was a huge failure, since then I have regarded the whole category as utterly useless and just a marketing ploy.

However my perception changed during a visit to our relatives when my son was 7 months. Baby VSJ had recently started solids and used to make a huge mess while eating. When my husband’s cousin saw me using the regular cloth bibs she gave me a silicone bib to use which she was using with her 2 year old daughter. I was apprehensive but she insisted I try. Well, I had nothing to lose. And boy!! Was I surprised!

The amount of gunk that bib caught in its pocket surprised me. And since it’s soft silicone it’s comfortable for the baby, has adjustable buttons and is super easy to clean. I was sold!

My sister in law told me that she had experimented with a couple of bibs before zeroing down on this one, so it is a well researched option. One downside is that it is pricey. I would not have paid $20 for 1 bib had I not seen the magic but it’s worth each penny especially since you practically don’t need to buy another bib. After each meal time simply clean the bib with warm water and use a little soap in case the food was sticky, let it air dry or wipe with a tissue and pop in your baby bag if you are heading out. 


I immediately ordered mine and have been happily using since last 6 months. 

If you are looking for the right pocket bib for your bub or are struggling with post meal clean ups, Modern Twist is just the thing for you. 

– A